At the mention of Alabama, you may start humming the tune of Sweet Home Alabama; but if you are like me, normally the image of tall, sleek, handsome, and ripped male model does not come to mind! But maybe it is high time!

I do not know much about Alabama, but the State has produced a long list of celebrated individuals throughout history: Booker T. Washington, Nat King Cole, George Washington Carver, Helen Keller, Jessie Owens, Rosa Parks, Willie Mays, and many more!

Well, now a stunning young model, to whom Alabama is Sweet Home, has hit the runways of his nation’s capital.

So, I would like to introduce you to John-Roland Barnes, whom I met at the Menswear Collection Show of the recent DC Fashion Week.

Let’s begin talking about your family…
I come from a large, close knit family. While I only have a younger brother, (Brandon, age 15) I was raised in conjunction with about 20 cousins on both sides of my family. My dad, John Jr., has 5 sisters and 1 brother; and my mom, Felieicia, has 5 sisters, not to mention my grandparents’ siblings and children (chuckle). The funny part about all this is that, everyday, I saw at least one member of my family other than my parents and brother, because the area is rural and we all attended the same schools. My Cousins and I all had to be “little angels” in school because everyone knew our family and what was expected of us.

Wow! And where did all of this take place?
I was born and raised in Phenix City, Alabama, a small town located on the “squiggly” point of the Alabama-Georgia border, right outside of Columbus, Georgia. Phenix City is the type of place that you love to say you’re from but always want to move from. Life was typical for me in Phenix City. Everything I needed, my family could and would provide. I was the average child, energized, and fun to play with. I love my hometown!

What caused you to leave and go to DC?
I moved to Washington DC in November of 2009 to pursue my dreams of being a model. I chose DC instead of New York or Los Angeles because I wanted a location that was as busy as the big cities but not as expensive—kind of like a starter course (chuckle). I’m doing pretty darn good if I say so myself.

When did you start modeling?
I began to model while in high school—nothing major, just a few high school shows and things of that nature in my area.

What actually launched your career as a model?
I got my start from my father, actually. He told me of an opportunity to model with a casting agency; we ended up going on a wild goose chase that led nowhere. While attending the casting call, I was told that I had a “look” and that I would make a good model, so my dad approved and allowed me to pursue it. From the feedback I received, my build was great for the runway and print work, and I wasn’t shy in front of a camera.

Were you confident at first?
It took me a while to grasp the fact that I was able to model. My parents have always supported in any goal; but at the same time, they’d tell me if something was worth doing. They, along with the rest of my family, gave me positive feedback, giving me the courage and a sense of pride in what I was doing. I had to be told that I was handsome and my family stepped right in!

Tell me about your first time modeling, how did you feel?
My first job as a model was at my high school. It was charity fashion show. I was so nervous (chuckle). Why? I don’t know, because nobody came. But the show still went on. After graduating high school, I did a few shows in college, and finally dove head first into real modeling. So I can honestly say that DC Fashion week was my first “official” job.

Any current projects?
I recently completed a project with Darrell Cortez Menswear here in DC for his spring menswear collection and DC Fashion Week. Coming up are various projects, including a few photo shoots that I’’m producing myself. The next designer I’ll be working with is Andrew Nowell at this point. He was featured during DC Fashion Week. The nation’s capital is filled with designers: Emore’J Couture, Amy McNish, and Custom Looks Clothier. These are a few on my hot list that I plan to work with, if they’ll have me.

Many people think modeling is all glitter. Is it for you?
I’m glad you asked!!! The truth is, you’ve got to work. It can be glamorous, but to get to that point, you got to put in the work. Tyra Banks, Tyson Beckford, and all the others we see with the glamorous lifestyle had to work for it. So after you’ve earned it, the life of a model is just like the life of a coal miner—hard work.

What does the hard work stem from?
As a male model, we’ve got to work twice as hard to book shows. And that goes double for black male models. We already have to fit a mold of what designers find appealing for their lines; but what makes it even more difficult is the fact that there aren’t as many designers that focus primarily on the menswear in the industry.

Any other downsides apart from hard work?
The only aspects I don’t like about the life of a model are the constant need to exercise (chuckles). You’ve got to stay in shape…and the fact that there are a lot of weirdoes trying to exploit models—word of advice: not everyone with a camera is a legit photographer—I say that to women, especially.

So, what do you enjoy about it?
The things I like about the life of a model are the new places you can travel to, the experiences, and the friends you make along the way. When you surround yourself with positive people, you get positive rewards. That applies to all lives, not just a mode’s life.

Do you only see modeling in your future?
Modeling is something I see as a career,
but I also want to continue my education. A degree in Law is in my future.

Who did you model for at the DC Fashion Week?
During DC Fashion Week, I walked for Durkl, Andrew Nowell, Ray Vincente, Stella Bonds, and Emore’J Couture.

What was your impression of the Menswear Collection Show?
The Menswear Show during DC Fashion Week was awesome. Just the fact that there was a show just to showcase menswear felt great. I’m glad that I was a part of it. Hopefully it continues to grow and other locations will host the menswear show—the National Mall perhaps (laughter).

Photos Copyright John-Roland Barnes.

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