The ultimate swoon
PUBLISHED: 10:42 10 February 2015 | UPDATED: 10:42 10 February 2015
Billericay boy David Gandy has danced with Jennifer Lopez, stolen food from the plate of supermodel Natalia Vodianova, garnered millions of adoring fans around the globe and will be swapping Valentine's Day cards with sexy Saturdays singer Mollie King. But it wasn't always thus for the 34-year-old, explains Tim Aldred
He is reportedly worth around £10 million, a fortune amassed largely by being strikingly handsome. He’s the face of Marks & Spencer, in fact he has his own underwear line there which he strips off and models for, too.
He once starred on an enormous billboard overlooking Times Square at the height of his Dolce and Gabbana work and Vogue magazine just elected him as the second-best male model of all time.
So with that jawline, those biceps, the acclaim, the contracts, the fame and the popstar girlfriend, you wouldn’t be blamed for assuming that David Gandy was always a sure-fire hit with the opposite sex around his home town of Billericay. You wouldn’t be blamed, but you’d be wrong. While he was known as something of a campus hottie at the University of Gloucestershire where he studied marketing, nobody actually thought to tell him.
The son of Brenda and Chris Gandy, David describes himself as growing up with puppy fat. Then, when he shot up to six foot three almost overnight, as being gangly and awkward. ‘I was never the successful one with the girls,’ he says. ‘There were always guys who were more successful than me, at school and at university. I thought they were better looking than me.’
When a friend entered him into the This Morning model search, which was to ultimately become his big break, it was a surprise to nobody but David himself. ‘When other people at college heard I was doing it, they told me, “You’re known as Model Dave on campus.” That was the first I’d ever heard of it!’
The competition earned him a modelling contract with Select Model Management, which still represents him today. For five years, he had a reasonably successful career shooting mostly catalogue work. He travelled the world, had some fun, made some money, but always strived for more.
‘I wanted to be the Levi’s guy. I wanted to be in that kind of commercial. I wanted to do something iconic,’ he says. Then he was spotted by Dolce and Gabbana, who squeezed him into a pair of teeny tiny white trunks, dipped him in the Mediterranean and snapped him clambering back out onto their yacht. The pictures helped him become the face of the company for 2006.
He has since worked for Lucky Jeans, Banana Republic, Jaguar and Saville Row’s Henry Poole and Co, then became the first male to ever be nominated for the British Fashion Council’s Model of the Year.
The reason for his success, many critics say, is his willingness to go against the grain. He broke into the modelling world in an era when males were expected to be androgynous. But rather than be tempted to shed weight and lose his stacked physique, he instead carried on playing sport and building it up.
In fact, his beard has long been part of his look. But now that facial hair is much more commonplace, he says it’s time for a rethink. ‘If it’s all going right, then you go left. Why try and follow? Everyone at the moment has a beard, so I’ve actually started shaving mine off. Following the crowd has never been my thing. It’s boring.’
That mindset didn’t just take him from catalogues to billboards, it helped redefine male modelling. After Gandy and his muscles arrived on the scene, it changed the type of guy that fashion houses wanted in their campaigns.
‘I could say it was sheer brilliance on my part, but it wasn’t. You make your own luck,’ he says. ‘I was bigger than most. But I just thought, “I won’t be able to do that” when it came to the skinny figures that were popular. So I worked out and got bigger and bigger and if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have got Dolce and Gabbana.’
Despite his flawless physique, David still has his insecurities.
‘Everyone does, I’d be very suspicious of someone who says, “I’m perfect.” I’m always trying to improve on my body. I’m not doing too badly. I don’t smoke, I drink a little, I eat alright. I could probably get a bit more sleep, as I see quite large bags under my eyes sometimes. But that’s work, that’s travelling. When we shot for the Marks & Spencer campaign I was training for a good six weeks and was very proud of the result. I enjoy doing it. It’s all a part of a process.’
Insecurities or not, these days it’s not unusual to see David linked with a gorgeous love interest. Familiar names of those that he has dated include fellow models Chloe Pridham, Amanda Charlwood, Sarah Ann Macklin, singer Samantha Banks and TV presenter Laura Whitmore.
But not J-Lo, although he appeared in her First Love music video and she has since confessed to having a crush on him. He simply says: ‘I’ve met her a few times before and she’s perfectly nice. A person, like everyone else.’
He previously dated current girlfriend Mollie King for ten months in 2011, before they called it off, he says due to his perfectionism and commitment to his work. But the couple were spotted hand-in-hand later last year and he has since accidentally let slip that she has her own drawer in his walk-in closet. Now rumours are beginning to circle that he may be ready to pop the big question. Not that he’ll be giving away any clues in advance.
‘I don’t tweet my dinner or my whereabouts. I don’t like being centre of attention. I hide how nervous I am. When I turn up to a red carpet, I still get butterflies. Nine times out of ten, I want to say to the driver, “Just keep going, I want to go home.” I’m just naturally private.’
Find out more
David Gandy for Autograph is available at Marks & Spencer.