I remember my first photo shoot as a fashion model— I was nineteen years old, a good-looking kid in peak physical shape, naïve and utterly ignorant about skincare. The make-up artist was looking wistfully at the beach while searching in her mind for a solution before rummaging through her make-up kits. Under her breath, she was grumbling, and I knew it was related to our uninvited guest, and she was not pleased. “How can these kids not be professional” I could make her words out over the noise of her rustling through her bags — the culprit—a 2mm pimple that popped up on the tip of my nose earlier that morning. Understandably, I was still in my teens and hormones were in high-gear and determined to make appearances when I needed them least. I humbled myself sitting in that chair while the make-up artist’s swift movements chastised me most uncomfortably. I knew that this shoot was significant to me for the result would be delivered to one of the biggest brands in fashion as I was on Option for Versace based just on the polaroid my agent took of me two days prior. Later, I would realize that this shoot would be the most important shoot of my life— and not because of Versace as I didn’t get the job.
As Maria returned to my chair, she clipped back my hair and began to work. Mind you this was not like sitting in a barber’s chair chatting while he grooms you for graduation. This feeling was more like sitting in front of your grandmother hoping she didn’t ask you to grab a switch from the tree in the backyard. Maria began to scold me as she worked.
She continued. “And don’t get your hopes set on Versace as you won’t make it in this business on genes alone— you must take care of yourself and your skin.” I sat intently, as I could tell that she was giving me valuable information. Maria went on to ask me what I ate for breakfast and what was my daily routine. “Not Good,” she said. As it turns out everything I ate was terrible for me. She proceeded to run down a list of ten do’s and don’ts that were so complete and natural that I could tell that she had this conversation many times over.
Ten rules to keep your skin healthy
“Stick to these ten rules, and you’ll go far,” she said. That day was the last time I saw Maria, but her rules helped shape me into the man I am today. The week after the shoot when I found out that I did not get the Versace campaign, I decided to give Maria’s advice a shot.
I quit soda and fast food like cold turkey. As I wasn’t a fan of chips or junk food those were items eliminated easily. What I found difficult was drinking plenty of water, as I did not like the lack of taste, and cutting out dairy. This meant that my morning jogs on the beach to my favorite breakfast spot, “Bagel Boy,” would need to cease. No more toasted bagels with a tub of cream cheese, no more butter, no more cereal drenched in milk, no more yogurt, and no more french fries or sweet plantains. For the next six years, as I traveled the world, my diet consisted mainly of various fruits & vegetables, sushi, seafood, pasta, the occasional steak and lots of water. Within a few weeks of taking Maria’s advice my skin tone evened out, my blackheads disappeared, my skin took on a healthy glow and was no longer flaky, and I felt better. You might wonder if I strictly stuck to my new regiment for the entire six-years? Certainly not! I cheated sometimes and added mozzarella, and parmesan cheese to my pasta had a slice of pizza or gelato when in Milano, donner kebabs and chips in London, fondue, and yogurt in Paris— but when I slipped I noticed the inflammation and changes in my skin. The way it made me feel made me focus on my diet even more. I can safely say with confidence that I stuck to my new diet 95% of the time, which helped my carrier flourish and I felt better for it. So, thank you, Maria, as your advice improved my life and planted the seed that eventually led me to become Vegan—and thank you Gianni (RIP) for not booking me.
Science is finally catching up
Over the years, the dermatologist has begun to support the very lessons I took away from Maria. Over the last two decades, we’ve seen more and more scientific publications linking diet and lifestyle to the appearance of healthy looking skin. What was once just a mystery to dermatologists is now no longer a hunch as they have scientific studies which support the very claims which models have known for decades.
The lessons I took away from Maria and my years in the fashion industry opened my mind on how diet and lifestyle affect one’s appearance and esteem. Twelve years after I moved to New York I met my wife who was also a former fashion model and a skincare fanatic —shortly after we met we both turned vegan and started our own skincare business. The research was readily available and the causes of anti-ageing and how to defy and prolong healthy looking skin, to us, were clear. Diet and lifestyle was only part of the battle. As the climate and environment have dramatically changed, the metropolis’s have developed more pollution, our skin requires constant protection and help to ward off the free radicals constantly combating our skin. For these reasons, my wife developed an all-natural everyday use serum which protects, conditions and provides the skin with the proper nutrition needed to stimulate a healthy skin regeneration cycle.
If you follow us on Instagram @zeigskin, you’ll get a close look at how our family lives a vegan lifestyle. We will introduce you to tasty vegan dishes we prepare at home, discoveries on plant-based alternatives, best vegan restaurants around the globe, exercise suggestions, and the best part, you get to watch my wife, and I work to defy ageing as we only use ZeigSkin products for our skincare routine.