Let’s Do This… with Justin Leonard
In the time I have known Justin Leonard, I have always found him to be low key and gentlemanly. Perhaps it’s those famous Midwestern values. A strong work ethic and highly competitive, Justin makes bold choices and takes chances with his work. He is a man who will push the envelope and look for an adrenaline rush. From pinning All-Americans to the mat to climbing the timber tops of Michigan’s largest trees, this is Justin Leonard:
Let’s start with some basics, Justin. Age, height, hair/eye color? What is your hometown? Where do you currently reside? Who are your agencies?
Justin Leonard: I’m 26, 6’1, green eyes, brown hair. My agencies include, the Matthews Agency in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Ford Models Chicago. My home town is Webberville, Michigan. I currently reside in Lansing, but I am moving to Chicago in two weeks.
So tell us about what you were like and into as a high school teen? Could you have ever imagined that version of Justin as a model?
JL: I never imagined myself getting into modeling. In high school, I was very athletic and loved sports. I played football, wrestled, and ran track. It’s funny, because I was actually kind of shy in high school. It took me a while to warm up to people. I was very focused on athletics and competing at the division 1 level in college.
In college, you were a decorated wrestler. Tell us about that. You were also an Academic All-American in biology correct? You must have incredible focus and work ethic!
JL: In college I lived and breathed for wrestling. It was my main focus. My dream was to be a National champion. I started every year I was in college and I was a three-time national qualifier. My senior year I had a good shot making it to the finals for the national championship. I had beaten four of the guys who were all-Americans that year, but unfortunately, I was injured in my first match and blew out my knee. I tried to wrestle my next match, but it just wasn’t there. As far as academics go, wrestling helped me focus on that. Once you wrestle, everything else becomes easy.
A lot of our PnV featured models used to wrestle. Is there something special about that sport that lends itself to modeling?
JL: I think the reason a lot of wrestlers get into modeling is because wrestlers have a certain confidence. Plus, once you wrestle in front of thousands of people in a singlet, you become pretty comfortable with yourself. Also, a wrestler knows how to work out, stay in shape, and eat right.
So you fell into modeling, so to speak, by seeking out a shoot with Underwear Nation, which, at that time, was co-owned by Jerrad Matthew, who also co-owned the Matthew Agency in Grand Rapids. Was that your first test shoot? What potential do you think the agency saw in you?
JL: Yes, that is correct. And yes my shoot with Jerrad was my first official test shoot. I think they liked how fit I was, and I feel I have a different look then most people, which sets me apart.
Underwear Nation always had sexy shoots…that was a brave job for a newbie. Not for the timid. This also led to your incredible DNA Cover. Again, very sexy! How did it feel to pose for these images? How did it feel to have so much flesh shown in the very first images most people ever saw of you? You certainly garnered attention
JL: At first I wasn’t sure about it, but then I said what the hell let’s do it! I’m pretty comfortable with myself, and I figured it would be a good way to get my name out there. I feel like, at first, you try a bunch of different work until you find your niche.
You walked in a fashion show wearing a jock strap? How did you physically and mentally prepare for that?
JL: Honestly it wasn’t a huge deal for me. I just said alright let’s do this! And my plan was to rock it. I did work my butt off for it; I wanted to make sure I was in really good shape for it.
I know you shot with the wonderful Chicago photographer, Joem Bayawa. He loves aiding ‘green’ models with the portfolios as he did with you. Tell us about Joem and your multiple experiences working with him. I even recall when Joem asked our PnV twitter followers to choose the best out of 5 images from your collaboration imitating a famous Adam Levine image.
JL: Joem contacted me and we decided to collaborate. We got some awesome shots, and had a lot of fun doing it. He suggested we recreate the Adam Levine shot, and I sure wasn’t opposed to the idea.
Late in 2014, you signed with the Ford Agency in Chicago. Tell us about that and some career highlights of your experiences modeling in 2015.
JL: Yeah, it’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year that I’ve been signed with them. It’s been a great experience, and I have an awesome team helping me there. I can’t wait to live out there and see where Ford takes me in the future. One of the last jobs I did for them was for Wedding Guide Magazine, which comes out in December. I had four wives for the shoot that day. There were no complaints from me.
Tell us about your personal fashion style, Justin.
JL: It depends on the occasion. I like getting dressed up, but usually you’ll find me in a pair of fitted jeans and a v neck or henley.
Modeling and the industry itself is a rather unique world. In what ways, do you think it has changed the way you view people and the world?
JL: I have met all kinds of people since I started modeling. It’s one of the things I love about it. I’ve always liked traveling, meeting new people, and hearing their stories. Modeling has definitely opened some doors for me in that area.
So when you’re not modeling, you climb giant trees. Tell us about that.
JL: When I’m not modeling, you will usually find me up a tree. After college I started working for my friend and coach, who owns his own tree removal business. Its strenuous work, but I like it. It helps keep me in shape and it’s a bit of an adrenaline rush.
Your degree is in biology, majoring in Exercise Science. You also enjoy boxing and mixed martial arts in addition to wrestling. If not doing modeling, where would you see yourself in 5-10 years career-wise?
JL: I have always been involved in some sort of physical sport or activity. I like pushing myself physically and seeing how far I can push myself. I was actually, training for MMA and about to have my first official fight, but then I got into modeling and decided it probably wasn’t a good idea. But outside of modeling, I plan to start my own fitness program, which is actually in the works right now. I want to train athletes, as well as actors for roles they need to be physically fit for.
JL: The next move for me is to move to Chicago and start traveling the world as an international model. My dream assignment would be to model for Calvin Klein, Tom Ford, and be on the cover of Men’s Health. Sky’s the limit!
Let’s play the Flash Bulb round…quick, simple responses:
- Favorite sin snack/dessert: Pizza or sushi
- Something your friends think is always so boring about you: How strict I am when it comes to food
- Favorite US city to visit: Chicago
- 2 physical features you get the most compliments about: Abs and face
- Movie that makes you cry: Braveheart
- All-time favorite movie: Too many favorites
- % of time you leave home, dressed commando: Only if I forget a pair after working out.
- Favorite holiday: Thanksgiving
- An electronic device you can’t live without: My phone
What are the best ways for readers to reach you on social media?
JL: On Twitter (@JustinLeonard25) or Instagram (@jleonard197).