From Virginia To Paris

30 March 2016
'Just dress me and make me look pretty.'
Bam! A hadouken moment. Filling the room with his glitterball personality, Mike Winchester at PRM Models leaps into the BBG Office for a pre-Valentines day suaree. Why speak when you can sing? Lyrics are much more fun. We get the sense that Taylor Swift could be his guilty pleasure, as he reminisces about being twenty-two. With big city dreams where the bright lights obscure your sight, South Korea was a charming encounter to say the least.
Proudly confessing to drinking coke for breakfast (the American way apparently), he kindly refused the offer of good ol’ English tea. Uprooting from Virginia to Paris, Mike is creating his own city experiences full of modelling adventures and museums. With a story for every occasion including dispairingly crying out for his red Jeep and cruising around the back streets of Virginia, Mike takes on the open road.

Have you not learnt to drink English tea when you're in London?
No, I’ve only been here for three days, like come on people I’ve got to get used to it. Tea just isn’t my thing. Sometimes I drink coke for breakfast. What can I say? I’m American.
What's Virginia like?
Virginia. Well I come from a very small town, which is right outside the capital, so I just say I’m from Richmond, that way I don’t get the ‘huh, where's that’. It's a very nice, small town. It’s more of a suburban town rather then a busy one.

Instant Analogue by Cecilie Harris. Special thanks to IMPOSSIBBLE.

Do you prefer being more suburban?
Actually no, I really like the city, because I miss driving now. I really love driving around and jamming to my music. I drive a 2004 Jeep in red. I call it Big Red and now my sister drives that car and I’m terrified. My mum was like 'your sister’s driving the car this week, how do you feel about that?' Just don’t tell me, do not tell me about any of that. I got it when I was eighteen in senior year of high school, so I felt like I was the coolest kid, but I had to pay for my own gas and drive my sister around and all that, so it wasn’t like on the open road and ready to go.
What’s it like to move from a small town to Paris?
When I first moved to Paris on my spring break, the directions for meeting my agency could not have been simpler. Normally I drive everywhere, but this time, I’m walking with a suitcase underground and all the directions were in French. I got so lost and was so confused. Racking my brain for that French 101 that I studied in college, I finally turn up to the agency two hours late. I go in and sit right next to the door. My agent runs up to me and is like ‘Mike, Mike there you are, we were so worried! Come in, come in!’ I was literally crying.
It must have been scary to move to Paris.
At first it was. I remember the first shoot I had. The call time was at twelve and I got there at ten thirty, so I went to get a coffee just around the corner and I was sitting there for about an hour. Then I go at eleven thirty, knock on the door to be told they weren’t ready and the stylist wasn’t even there yet. So I was like ‘do you want to get a coffee?’ I've learnt that you don’t need to be everywhere super early and on time. You can relax and watch some real housewives. I watch them all. Literally all of them. Orange County, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, New York sucks.
What's your favourite city that you’ve been too so far?
Madrid. That’s my favourite city in terms of only being there for a week. It was for a job and I was only there for ten days, but those ten days were so fun; I’d love to go back. Then my favourite city that I’ve stayed in and grown to love is Seoul in South Korea. They are all so friendly and humble. It was definitely a culture shock when I first got there, I just kept thinking, 'where am I?'
What was your favourite thing to do there?
Our apartment was right along a river walk. Literally a ten minute walk from our apartment and if you went at night, all the bridges lit up. There're so many bridges that cross into different areas, which means every bridge is different. If you walk down half a mile, there's one bridge that’s known for its water shows. They are every hour and it just shoots jets of water and lights up all crazy colours. It’s pretty cool. There's always things happening like that along the river, because that’s what they do on a Friday night; they have a picnic and get drunk in a park.
What's the next city you want to go to?
I want to go back to Asia. I want to go to Tokyo, as I’ve heard its amazing. I’ve never heard anything bad about Tokyo. Some of the Japanese stylists and make up artists I have worked with have always been like, 'why haven’t you gone?' To which I’m always like, 'I know, I’m working on it people', you can’t rush me.
Tell me a little bit about modelling.
What I love about it is the fact that I never signed up to it to think I’m going to be the face of any brands, I just signed up to it to travel to new places that I couldn’t go to. The first time I went to Europe, I went to Paris on my spring break and I came back to the States with everyone being like, ‘ah dude, you're a model now, wow bro’. I love working with different photographers and everyone has their own style. You have some photographers that let you do whatever and then there’re others where your thumb is sticking out a little bit and they change it. It’s cool to see everyone's different creative process. Just dress me and make me look pretty.
What did you do before modelling?
I was a student at the University of Alabama. I studied for two years in an advertisement and communication major, clearly because I like to talk. Then I was scouted, which came at a good time. I was considering just taking a gap year, because I hate sitting down and learning by text books. It's funny, because I’m the exact opposite of my sister. She's the book smart, brain child of the family. This girl is so smart and I’m smart too, but only when I apply myself and really care; she’s just like bam.
How would you describe yourself in five words?
Witty, charming, talkative, brown hair, blue eyed. Oh and great face. Google me.
What would we find if we Googled you?
You would find Winchester Rifles, because my last name is Winchester, so you would see some red necks with guns in their hands. I know this, because I have googled myself before: I get bored. You’ve got to keep that ego up, like, who’s number one? I’m number one! If you’re having a slow week in Paris, I'll just Google myself and then I’m like, ‘I’ve still got it’.
What do you love most about Paris?
It’s such a pretty city and you can just walk around in your neighbourhood and find something new. Like the other day, I found this really nice park five minutes from my place and I’ve already been living there six months. I didn’t have a clue that it was there. If you go to the Jian Dan De Tuileries, and then walk down the river, you can go to all the museums. Or you can wave at the river boat tours and be like, 'hey!'
How old are you?
Quoting Taylor Swift lyrics, but I’m feeling twenty two. On my birthday in South Korea I lived with a Danish roommate. It was on a Wednesday and all I wanted to do was get drunk all day, but I had a job. So I get back to the apartment and I just down this entire bottle of champagne in the shower and I’m singing ‘I don’t know about you, I'm feeling twenty two’. Then I slipped in the shower, stand back up and bang my back on the ground, still singing ‘I’m twenty two’. I get ready to go to the shops with my flat mate, he’s stalling, then there’s a knock at the door and my agents are standing there singing happy birthday with a twenty one cake. Wrong age, but it was cute.
Longest answer ever to a simple question, but we love it. What’s your biggest passion?
I used to do a lot of art when I was in high school. I also have this diary book thing, it's not so much writing, but it will be like a scrapbook/memory thing. My mum thinks I should get it published, but I’m like 'I’m waiting till I’m famous to sell it'.
Do you want to end on a more humble note, Mike?
#GoogleMe. Whatever you're passionate about stick to it. I’m so proud of myself for sticking to modelling. Waiting in line and putting the time in. Keep on plowing away at it. The only one that's going to tell you 'no' is yourself. You’ve just got to have the right attitude.
Thank you, it was a joy. You made us laugh.

Words by Rebecca Jones-Clarkson.
Interview by Savannah Liu.

Mike Polariod
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