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“Having me on the runway was more of a risk than an advantage.” Meet albino model Stephen Thompson

 

Modelling since the 1990s, Stephen Thompson is one of the few faces who’ve added a little originality and difference to men’s fashion. Photographer Roberto Patella went to Berlin to meet him for Numéro.

 

 

Shaun Ross at Alexander McQueen, Ralph Souffrant at Yeezy, the cult of difference and individuality seems to be slowly creeping into the world of designer fashion. Among those who’ve been at the helm of change is Stephen Thompson an albino man modelling since the 1990s. Art buff, accomplished jazz man and Givenchy muse, his extraordinary physique has earned him an exceptional career. An encounter...  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AT 17 HE WAS PLAYING JAZZ IN A PIANO BAR

 

About his childhood Stephen Thompson has just one thing to say, “I come from Brooklyn and everyone has a sense of rhythm there.” The musical good vibes of this New York neighbourhood led him to hip hop and rhythm & blues. At 17 he was playing jazz in a piano bar along the East River, far from the catwalks and cameras that came next. And yet it was during high school while accompanying his girlfriend to a Vogue Homme US shoot that he got spotted. “At that time people found my physique unsettling. I was offered lots of clichéd concepts where I had to embody an on duty angel,” he explains.

 

BEFORE AND AFTER GIVENCHY

 

In the 2000s, the popularity for alternative aesthetics, playing with gender and androgyny hadn’t yet kicked in. It was more the post-supermodel era where a body and face homogeneity prevailed. For Stephen it was a decisive meeting with Ricardo Tisci, the artistic director at the house of Givenchy that become the real keystone of his career. Tisci asked him to be one of the faces for his spring-summer 2011 campaign and to open his runway show the same year. This was quickly perceived as a minor revolution in the microcosm that is the world of fashion and for Stephen there will always be a before and after Givenchy. 

 

 

 

PAINTER, MUSICIAN AND… BURLESQUE PERFORMER

 

Now serenely established in the modelling business – collaborations with Steven Klein, W Magazine, i-D Magazine – he could devote himself to his two true passions: music and painting. With the first he set up various musical projects, both solo and with his band “Resolution” and released several albums including “Now to 97” in 2013. For the second he painted canvases inspired by the work of Goya, El Greco and the surrealist movement. Stephen Thompson embodies the image of that multitalented artist brilliant at everything he touches. His most recent project involves the launching of a burlesque show, “The Raunch” in which he plays the enigmatically named “Ghost Rider”.

 

COLLABORATION WITH THIERRY MUGLER

 

There’s also talk of him putting on a show in collaboration with Thierry Mugler who Stephen met in Berlin, the city where he now lives with his wife. Projects that would allow him to move away from the public opinion that he’s had to deal with as a model: “For these shows I have a very proactive role and there’s no connection to whether albinos are popular right now or not. Nobody’s judgement counts here!” That said he has just signed with the Brazilian agency OCA. His conquest of Latin America has started, carried by relentless tenacity, a dash of eccentricity and soupcon less melanin. 

 

 

By Chloë Fage, photos by Roberto Patella

Photographer: Roberto Patella

Stylist: Chelsea Volpe

Hair and make-up: Stefan Kehl

Model: Stephen Thompson

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