‘On the catwalk for Armani was my coolest assignment ever’

Picked up from the street, straight onto the catwalk. Windesheim student Sam Jesse Weggemans (22) is a model for international clothing brands such as Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein. His dream job? A perfume campaign.

For many students, life came to a standstill during the COVID-19 period, but for Sam, now a final year student of Business Administration, it life took a special turn in the summer of 2020. “My parents took me to Amsterdam for a few nights. That day we were looking for a restaurant and were walking down a street towards Rembrandtplein when a random man came running towards us.”

The man thought that Sam was still a minor at that moment and therefore addressed his parents instead. “I was leading the way and didn’t understand where they were until I saw that they were talking to someone. Then I quickly realized that it was about modeling work.”

Meant to be

It is not the first time that Sam has come into contact with a modeling agency. “I knew I had the looks to try. Through my sister’s agency, for example, she also does modeling. And a boy from my football team – who is also a model – once showed my photo to his agency. They were also interested.”

Sam has been wanting to try it for a few years, but needs the meeting in Amsterdam to be convinced. “It always felt too early. I was busy with my studies, football and work. But this man had his own modeling agency and the next day I went straight to his studio. I was measured, test photos were taken and I signed a contract pretty quickly. I thought: this is meant to be. Now I just have to try it.”

Underwear shoot

Through his sister, Sam already knows a bit about what the work entails, and: he has been watching Holland’s Next Top Model for years. Still, his first assignment takes some getting used to. “Six weeks after I signed I got an assignment for Calvin Klein. This turned out to be an underwear shoot. All of a sudden you have to stand there in front of about fifteen men, posing without knowing what you are doing.”

In addition to the Netherlands, Sam is now also signed with an agency in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. “I have only had three or four assignments in the Netherlands, the rest of them were all abroad.”

His first assignment abroad is also one to not be forgotten. “For the German online department store Otto, on Valentine’s Day. Last minute I heard it was a gay-shoot. That’s fine, I thought. But my manager still asked if I felt good about that. As long as it doesn’t have to be completely nude and I don’t have to kiss, I’m fine with it. In the end it turned out not too bad: we only had to stand close to each other and look at each other intimately.”

“As long as it doesn’t have to be completely nude and I don’t have to kiss, I’m fine with it.”

Milan Fashion week

In the beginning, partly due to COVID-19, it was difficult for a model to get into the business. But since last summer, Sam has an assignment about two or three times a month. “I’m just busier now, so I’m also happy that I’m almost done with my studies. Then I can fully focus on modeling.”

“Planning is sometimes difficult. It is very uncertain work: you often do not know where you stand. If I get an option and I say that I am available, I may not hear until two weeks later whether I have actually been booked. But I have to take it into account while planning. That also means that sometimes I have to travel somewhere last minute.”

For example, Sam traveled to Milan last June for Fashion week. “When I was there I had three physical exams at school, it was in the middle of my exam week. That’s bitter, because those are things you have to pay attention to if you don’t want to fall behind. But you don’t want to skip Fashion week either.”

“That week was my coolest assignment ever, I walked the show for Giorgio Armani. There was a lot of press around, security guards and crush barriers were everywhere. Yes, I felt like a superstar for a bit. While I was just there for a very ‘normal’ assignment. And yet those people all think you are very special, because you walk for a high-end designer brand.”

Don’t fake

So cool, modeling. But sometimes quite lonely. “If you have to work one or two days, it’s not too bad. Then you are constantly busy: one day is all about travelling, and the next day you often fly back. But the first time I went to Spain, I stayed there for almost two weeks. And then you have had enough of it – after three days on the beach on your own. Now that I have been there more often, I have many friends abroad. That makes a difference, then I just send someone a message to go get something to eat or go out together.”

“I have become more self-confident because of this work. Sometimes I’m told to toughen up, be more arrogant. For example, if you want to work in Australia, you have to be very outgoing. But I first see which way the wind blows in a group, take it easy. I’m not going to fake to be outgoing, that doesn’t make me happy. Not everything revolves around modeling, but also about how I feel and who I am. And I will see which assignment fits that.”

On the forklift truck

The modeling work, his studies, football, a girlfriend, social life and his side job at the Hanos, a wholesale organization. For now, Sam still does it all. “That contrast is sometimes great, especially with work. In the beginning I still needed my side job for my regular income. But now I earn a thousand euros or more per assignment with my modeling work. Still, I find my part-time job relaxed for now. I am a team leader, fill shelves and occasionally drive a bit on the forklift truck: very pleasant.”

And that is not all. Sam also does his bookkeeping himself. “I studied MBO (Vocational Education) Business Administration. That is now more useful to me than my current studies in Business Administration, but I will finish it. After all, you are not a model for forty hours a week. And in your early thirties, your career is often over. An online business that I can run on my laptop, in addition to my modeling work, seems like a good backup to me.”

The modeling will be his top priority in the coming years. “My dream is a perfume campaign. They are the best paid – think tens of thousands of euros – and you get a lot of exposure. Then I have really reached the top.”

Text: Michelle van der Molen
Photos pg. 11, 13: Jasper van Overbeek

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