Posted by Irene Ojo-Felix | November 24th, 2020

The Graduates

Jeenu Mahadevan

Photos by Adrienne Raquel for

Editor Irene Ojo-Felix

Since 2013,’s The Graduates series has been a visual check-in of the model hustlers who’ve cemented themselves as faces of noteworthy praise in editorial, advertisements, lookbooks, and runways. Through insurmountable rejection and just as many wins, these muses have locked down luxury clients while rising through the ranks from the Hot List to the Top 50 working models in the World. While this year was in no way normal, thanks to the global shutdown and an ongoing pandemic, an unstoppable industry has dialed up the creativity while models have rolled with the professional punches. Photographer Adrienne Raquel takes on this spirit of resilience, shooting this year’s iteration in its entirety via Zoom.

Visit Jeenu’s page and click the Lists button to favorite Jeenu and keep track of his work.

Fresh off the Milan runways, Jeenu Mahadevan’s quiet ascendancy has been a formula of success in male modeling. The Sri Lankan Norwegian has been on the rise since his debut walking for a slew of shows at Burberry, Etro, Hermes, and Alexander McQueen in the summer of 2017. His latest campaign work for Ralph Lauren and a recent L’Uomo Vogue cover, shot in his native Norway, marks his status as an industry staple. “Holy crap, that was insane,” he describes of his Vogue experience. “I never even dared the hope for anything like that. I knew all the other models, the photographer, and the stylist. I’ve never been able to work much here because there’s not much going on in Norway in terms of fashion so, just being able to work at home and speaking Norwegian with the team was just great.”

When he turned 18 he, from his own words, “randomly” got discovered on his way home from school on the bus. “I didn’t take it too seriously at first,” he laughs. “I thought, ‘Oh okay, maybe this is kind of fun, but nothing’s going to happen.’ All of a sudden my agents said, ‘Oh, they want you to fly to Paris and do Fashion Week there.’” That initial Paris fashion week season proved to be bountiful in its harvest of top-tier editorials shot by Paolo Roversi, Tim Walker, and Ethan James Green quickly following, along with billboards for H&M, Fendi, Benetton, and Adidas. Yet, his proudest moment is with Ralph Lauren, a brand that at first he didn’t have a chance of booking. “Ralph Lauren, they’re known for being super loyal to their models and normally they book the same people through all the campaigns,” he says. “I think I can count on one hand how many Brown guys are in campaigns for huge fashion brands. So having Ralph Lauren book me and then use me constantly for a bunch of their campaigns, it’s pretty much unheard of in the industry. I know it means so much to people.”

Despite his successes, Mahadevan is also privy to the unflattering side of model castings, the rejection, and how easy it is to lose oneself. “I think to just do this in the first place, you need to have thick skin,” he advises. “You need to be able to not take everything personally because not everyone’s going to like you. It’s all really superficial because you can be judged based on looks, so a crazy big brand may love your look and another small-time brand may hate it. There’s nothing you can do about it and so many people take it to heart.”