Barrington Orr is a stylist, photographer and model developer. He started in the industry in 2012, working with agencies in Canada, and now works in Toronto, where he helps craft the careers of successful models, both male and female. We chatted up with him, to uncover some of the industry’s secrets.

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Michael - Male Model
Michael. Photo: Barrington Orr / Elmer Olsen Model Management

How different is it to work with male models, as opposed to female ones?

That is a tricky question to answer. Some male models are VERY flirty and often think that they will get by with their wit and charm, but I am sadly a tough cookie and I demand a lot more of a male model because the industry expects them to have amazing bodies, so they tend to rest on just taking their shirt off and showing up to set.

When they realize that it is not that kind of party on set working with me, they tend to freeze because I require versatility and uniqueness on set.

Female models are a total different ball game. Female models know their angles and how to approach being on set, however, some of the female models are much harder to mold because in their mind they think they know what works for them in terms of their makeup and hair, and I have had to remind many we are trying to create images for publications, not Instagram.

Any interesting stories that have happened to you on (or off) the set with some of the male models?

I had one male model who was like super nice, super sweet, and all around a great human being, come out to me on set. It totally caught me off guard.

He and I were conversing over various topics and then he just said “I want to say something I have never told anyone before, I don’t know why I am telling you this but I feel comfortable with you”, and he then expressed to me that he was bisexual, to which I replied, “you’re only 18, you’re still on the layover flight to gay-town.”

Alex W. - Male Model
Alex W. / Photo: Barrington Orr / Ciotti Models

In Hollywood, actors are still scared of coming out of the closet, thinking it might hurt their career. What’s the situation with gay models?

It’s weird because in the modeling industry, it’s quite the opposite, as the stereotype for male models is that they are gay, so it is the reverse. A lot of male models I have worked with who are straight get quite annoyed when the creative team automatically thinks that they must be gay. This is an industry flooded with heterosexual men, selling dreams to sexually confused teenagers and adults.

Are there male models who “turn straight” when they become successful? (That is, go back into the closet and pretend to have girlfriends)

You would be surprised how many models I have shaped who I know are gay don’t turn back. I think due to the technological age we live in now, there is more awareness around what it means to be gay, and we are no longer pigeon-holed into one social construct.

People have this fantasy that the modelling world is full of sexual tension (and actual sex). How close (or far) is that to real life?

Let’s be frank, this is a sexualized business, no matter how you want to slice the cheese, this business is founded on selling a fantasy to consumers. The only sexual tension I have witnessed usually only takes place when models are placed internationally. You have to look at the variables now. You’re in a new country, new men and or women, hey it’s 2015 – I am not judging. All of a sudden the ones you used to hit up on Instagram for cocktail are no longer that appealing.

Barrington Orr
Barrington Orr

Are there models you would rather not work with due to their behavior or other issues? 

I don’t like to work with models who are disrespectful to those of different socioeconomic backgrounds to themselves. In this business socioeconomic background plays a significant factor in your climb to the top, and quite often I have been on set with models whose parents are upper middle class, and some tend to show off in front of models who have less than them by talking about their vacations or shopping sprees on their parents’ dime.

Where do you find new models? We hear stories about guys being approached on the street with a modelling offer – does that really happen?

To be honest, I find most of my models on the street. As creepy as it sounds, it is true. I recently switched up my tactic, now I stalk them at Starbucks, because it’s getting cold here in Toronto. I am the guy with a Starbucks cup in hand, with my name spelt wrong of course, running up to random men with their significant others, and parents, shouting “YOU SHOULD BE A MODEL”.

Often times, my gut is too right and the boy I think should be a model, is already signed by a neighboring agency, and then I just walk away and roll my eyes cursing the other agent for finding such a good face.

Aaron - Male Model
Aaron / Photo: Barrington Orr / Spot6 Managemnet

Some of the models you photograph don’t have the usual “twinkish” look that’s popular these days, but are more unique, handsome but sort of “rough around the edges”. Is that an intentional choice?

It is 100% intentional, I think as a male model you need to have some edge to you, something that is going to make the onlooker stop and think, you’re fugly, but hot. Is that weird to say?

Toronto is a fickle city, and each agency has their archetype of what they look for in a male model.

Some like strong jawlines, while others live for that strung out weekend with Lindsay Lohan look, while others like super commercial boys. In short it depends who is sitting behind the computer at the booking desk and who they know that will determine the course of the agencies male model look.

Where can people see more of your work?

I have a very cool Kim Kardashian inspired tape coming out for Christmas for free. So you will be seeing lots of ME. No, I’m kidding – you can check out my website that I built myself over hours spent toggling between my screen and episodes of gossip girl – BarringtonOrr.com