It might seem like actors, actresses, and models just have to stand there and look pretty, but their jobs require a lot of hard work, passion, and sacrifice. I was lucky enough to sit down with wheelchair user Andy Brettner, an up-and-coming model who had his first photoshoot not long ago. Andy loves the camera, and it was easy to see that it loves him back.
As with most professional careers, modeling is all about who you know. It turns out that Ethan Holt, a friend of Andy’s, had landed a modelling gig through an organization called Help Us Gather (HUG). They connected Ethan with local shop Surf Style, which has since featured him on their website and in their stores. After learning about Ethan’s experience, Andy knew that this was his opportunity. After speaking with HUG, the organization connected Andy with Surf Style, and the rest is history.
“Andy has always liked to have his picture taken,” said his mom Marilyn, “but I’m not sure that being a model was always something that he strived for.” Regardless of his initial thoughts, and even though he stumbled into his first gig by accident, this first photoshoot sparked something within Andy.
Before moving forward, I want to make a very important point: getting a call back on your first attempt is very rare. So, when Andy heard that Surf Style wanted to use him to market their brand, everything felt like it just started clicking into place. But why did they pick him? “They loved my smile,” Andy told me. Marilyn said that they called it his “money maker,” one that gives him a Tom Cruise via Top Gun kind of vibe.
Remember when I said that modeling is hard work? While Andy’s natural handsomeness shines through, his Cruise-like looks certainly take some effort to maintain. Since his skin is dry in certain areas but oily in others, this model uses Ulta products to make sure that he stays camera-ready. And even though he proclaims to be high maintenance, Andy's photoshoot went rather smoothly. From start to finish, it took a mere three hours.
As a wheelchair user myself, Andy’s natural talent is refreshing to me, but it also draws attention to an extremely important topic: there need to be more actors, actresses, and models with disabilities. After his photoshoot with Surf Style, Andy has since appeared on ABC Action News, Fox 13, and has a couple more in the pipeline. He will even be featured on a billboard outside of Surf Style’s Treasure Island location.
Naturally, this made me start to wonder: why should a company pick Andy for a photoshoot, or anybody else with a disability, instead of somebody that is able-bodied? Jokingly, he told me because he smiles more. But his drive to succeed reaches much deeper than his jovial facade, perfect smile, and sense of humor. Beneath all of that lies Andy’s passion for the art, which he wants to, “...keep doing for the rest of [his] life.” This drive to work, to create, to contribute to something bigger than ourselves is a feeling that is shared amongst a large number of people with disabilities, myself included.
You may be wondering: what’s next for Andy? Well, his current bucket list includes landing modelling jobs for Publix or a variety of shoe companies. And since his first shoot went so well, these goals are certainly in the realm of possibilities. For agencies interested in hiring Andy for modeling gigs, send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.