How Mathieu Simoneau Went From A Hiatus to Breakout Star of 2022

After a two-year hiatus dedicated to pursuing higher education, Canadian model Mathieu Simoneau made a significant return to the fashion industry in 2021, propelling himself onto’s Hot List just a year later. With an unwavering determination to make a comeback, Simoneau swiftly secured coveted campaigns for renowned fashion brands, including Tom Ford, Hugo Boss, Theory, and Louis Vuitton. Collaborating with esteemed photographers such as the visionary Mr. Tom Ford himself, Carlijn Jacobs, and Oliver Hadlee Pearch, Simoneau has effortlessly translated his captivating presence recently for publications like Numéro France and brands like Balenciaga. Beyond modeling, Simoneau has leveraged the power of social media, with a devoted following of 1.4 million on TikTok. Offering an intimate glimpse into the inner workings of the industry, he treats his social media audience to behind-the-scenes moments providing an authentic portrayal of the multifaceted reality of his career. As AAPI month recently drew to a close, the rising star reflected on his heritage, expressing, “My connection to my culture has been a personal journey of discovery as I’ve grown up.” spoke to the Breakout Star Readers’ Choice for Model of the Year ’22 about his journey from getting scouted to walking for Mugler and Boss and unveiling his ultimate skincare routine, with gua sha taking center stage.

Numéro France editorial by Cho Gi-Seok | Image courtesy of Want Management

Can you take us back to your scouting story as a model? How were you first discovered, and where were you when it happened?
I was at a music festival in Toronto called Veld. I try to attend whenever I can. It always takes place at the end of July, and I was 16 years old at the time. I was with all my friends when my mother agent approached me and asked if I was represented by anyone. I looked at him with a blank stare because I had no idea what he was talking about. I had no clue that I had the potential to be a model. He handed me his card and said, “You should reach out.” I took his card, and I just threw it in the trash that was 10 feet away from where we were standing because I was like, “This is a scam.” I thought, “Legitimate agents don’t scout for talent at music festivals.” However, on the second day of the festival, out of the 60,000 attendees, he found me again and gave me another card. He said, “I noticed you didn’t reach out yesterday. I really think you should give this a shot.” This time, he provided more detailed information about the industry. I decided to keep the card in my pocket and told myself that if it was still there at the end of the day, I would consider it. Surprisingly, it was still in my pocket after a day of dancing and enjoying the festival. That’s how I got into modeling. He has a keen eye for spotting potential. I still go to the same festival every year, and he manages to find me every time because he’s always on the lookout for tall guys like me. He recognizes the back of my head and locates me without fail.

Prior to being scouted, did you have any other career plans? Even at the age of 16, did you have any idea what you wanted to pursue?
Absolutely. In fact, while I was modeling, I took a break for nearly two and a half years to pursue other aspirations. It may seem coincidental due to COVID, but I actually went back to Canada to become a university student. That was my plan. I attended the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business, and let me tell you; it was incredibly challenging. Those two years subjected me to the most intense academic pressure I’ve ever experienced. However, when the opportunity to return to modeling presented itself, I thought, “Why not? Let’s give it another go.”

You’ve also amassed a significant following on TikTok. What do you believe is essential for cultivating an authentic digital community and connecting with your audience?
Well, some aspects are just common sense, such as posting content that resonates with your audience. If certain video ideas are working well, it’s best not to abruptly shift gears and completely change your content. Additionally, for me, live-streaming has played a crucial role. Although I rarely go live on Instagram, I do it more frequently on TikTok. Live-streaming allows for a more personal connection with your audience since they can see you more easily. When I’m live and reading all the comments, I make an effort to respond to almost every single one, especially if there’s an interesting or personal question. It helps foster a stronger connection. Live streams feel more authentic as well because it’s just you, sitting in your room and having conversations with people. I believe that’s what has truly helped me connect with my audience.

I definitely think with TikTok, what resonates with people is being more personable and just not having anything that’s so highly produced essentially and really connecting with people one-to-one.
Yes, I agree. There are a lot of brands out there that still haven’t quite figured that out, and they try to post things from their perspective of their brand instead of their perspective of a person. And that’s really what TikTok is all about, just the perspective of a person. That definitely helps my videos because it’s all coming from me instead of coming from a larger entity like a brand.


That Fashion week crunch #model #dayinthelife #parisfashionweek

♬ Sunday – HNNY

Would you say that you also give advice to upcoming models if they ask you questions?
Yes, I definitely did more often in the earlier videos that I made, but I might rehash what I said in new videos. But yes, there are a lot of times when people ask me, “How did you get into modeling?” So I tell them the scouting story about the music festival that I just told you about. There are definitely other things that people ask me over and over that I’ve already made videos about, but I might just make videos about them again because as my audience grows, fewer people have seen my older content.

You started 2023 with a bang. You landed a campaign for Tom Ford by Emily Lipson. Considering how you’ve been a recent muse for the luxury brand and appeared in three campaigns, can you share your experience working with such a renowned brand? Are there any memorable highlights or behind-the-scenes moments with Tom Ford’s team that you can share with us?
Let me just say that describing me as a muse for Tom Ford might be the biggest compliment I’ve ever received in my life. Not many things make me blush as hard as a sentence like that these days. It’s been a dream because when I hop in Tom Ford’s clothes, there’s a different feeling I get when I put on Tom Ford’s suit that they tailored to me, and there’s no other feeling. It’s an overwhelming sense of confidence, and that’s not true for all brands, but it definitely is for them. The experience working for the Ford team is very laid back, but they also bring that confidence out of you. A good story I have is how Tom Ford – I don’t know if everyone knows this, but he’s super hands-on with the brand. So before all the shows, Tom Ford himself comes out, brings all the models together, sits them down, and has kind of a pre-game speech, as a coach would do before an NBA game. He talks about how everyone in the crowd should desire to be you, and you should be your most confident self on the runway, and how he looks all of you in the eyes. He says, “We’ve chosen you, and there’s a reason that you’re here, so you should strut your stuff and really leave it all out there.” How can you not feel an overwhelming sense of confidence after that and put together your best walk out there on the runway? It’s crazy. Another story I have is about the lookbook I shot for them in LA. When I arrived at the set, I was excited, thinking, “This is going to be cool, a Tom Ford lookbook; this is going to be sick.” Then he walked in, and I thought, “Oh, that’s great. He’s probably here overseeing things.” I put on my first look, got up there, and someone prepared the camera settings for him and tested the lighting. And then they just handed him the camera, and he proceeded to shoot the entire lookbook himself. It was such a crazy experience to have Tom Ford himself photographing me for the lookbook.

Did you know that he was going to shoot it beforehand, or did you just come to the set thinking it was going to be another photographer?
No, I definitely thought it was going to be another photographer. And not only did he shoot it, but he also basically styled it himself. He took control of the entire process and said, “You know what? I’m going to do it, and it’s going to look great.” It’s quite rare to see that level of hands-on involvement from people in the fashion industry.

Tom Ford Pre-Spring 2023 by Emily Lipson | Image courtesy of Want Management

As we just celebrated AAPI month, I wanted to ask if you actively embrace your heritage as a model. Do you have any specific ways in which you celebrate your cultural background or advocate for greater inclusion and representation?
This is an interesting question because I am half Korean, and I strongly identify with that part of my heritage. However, my Korean mother is adopted, so my connection to my culture has been a personal journey of discovery as I’ve grown up. Lately, I’ve been placing great importance on exploring Korean culture. For instance, during the Cho Gi-Seok Attraction Fatale story for Numero France, which was shot in Korea, I had my first opportunity to visit the country. Although I didn’t have much free time apart from the studio and the hotel, I made it a point to experience authentic Korean food by going to Korean restaurants whenever possible. Every time I was in a taxi, I couldn’t take my eyes off the window, taking in the sights of Seoul and all it had to offer. Additionally, I’ve been engaging with other Korean models to deepen my connection to my own culture. Regarding advocating for inclusion and representation, I think we are fortunate to have witnessed significant progress in recent years. If we compare the Hot List or the Model of the Year awards on from ten years ago to today, the change is evident, and diversity has become much more prominent. Overall, I don’t have many complaints, but there are instances where I’ve felt like the token minority on set. In such situations, I question whether it truly reflects genuine representation. However, I believe we’re heading towards a more beautiful form of inclusion and representation than ever before. We have built a solid foundation that goes beyond being just a passing trend for a few seasons. Having been in the industry from 2018 until now, with the exception of my two-year gap for school, I can see the staying power.

The The Attraction Fatale story for Numéro 23 was very innovative. What was it like working with Cho Gi-Seok and Lisa Jarvis for that shoot? Have they given you any advice that has shaped your understanding of the industry?
Working with Cho was amazing. He had a clear vision for each shot even before we stepped on set, and he knew exactly how he wanted to enhance them in post-production. When I got on set, there was minimal movement because he had already positioned me precisely according to his vision. The process was much faster than expected, which makes sense considering there were 20 images to capture on that editorial set. But that’s just one editorial among the many projects he handles, so he can’t spend days on a single shot. He is a wizard with computers and after-effects. I would change into a new outfit, and within minutes he would present a rough draft of the after-effects. He’d say, “This is roughly what it’s going to look like. I’ll clean it up in post.” It was incredible to witness his quick work because when you look at the final images, you would think they took days to edit. Maybe they did, but he could lay the groundwork in mere minutes. Lisa, because obviously she’s not from Korea, and so she brings all of those clothes and all of the options in suitcases, and the editorial that I shot with them was very spontaneous in terms of clothing choices. I wore a lot of womenswear for that shoot, which was super interesting and the styling just was amazing on that shoot as well.

Cho is definitely a genius, and I love his work so much. But how was it wearing womenswear clothes? Was that your first time shooting in womenswear?
Definitely not my first time, but it has only happened a handful of times. I don’t know, I feel great in it. For one shoot, I wore a Schiaparelli dress, and I was feeling myself. On set, I thought, “Ooh, I kind of look amazing in this dress.” It really fits my body well.

Numéro France editorial by Cho Gi-Seok | Image courtesy of Want Management

You had the opportunity to walk for the H&M x Mugler Global Event 2023 Show, which was a spectacular event. Can you tell us about the process leading up to the show and your involvement in it?
I basically hopped off a plane from Paris and had to go to the casting straight from the airport. It was a bit stressful, to be honest. But the team was super welcoming, which was very cool. The show/event itself was absolutely crazy. I’ve never experienced having essentially four different sets for one runway walk, and the number of cameras there was insane. It was the first time I saw the live feed from some of the cameras being broadcasted onto screens along different parts of the runway. That was super cool because as you walk, you see yourself on these massive screens behind you without it being in your direct line of sight. It was like walking by a 30-foot tall by 100-foot wide television screen with your face on it. The live performances and the dancing added to the spectacle. I would definitely describe it as an event rather than just a show. It was truly mind-blowing.

You also walked for Boss’ Spring Summer ’23 show in Miami. Do you have any highlights from that show? I heard it was raining, so how was that experience?
Actually, it wasn’t raining. It was incredibly windy. When the fountains splashed water up, it was supposed to go up and down like a regular fountain. But the wind would come in and whoosh the water from the fountains onto the runway. I had never experienced anything like that before. I’m not sure if it was intended, but it actually made the show pretty cool. As I was walking, water splashed on my face, and it felt like a scene out of a movie, like Baywatch or something. It added an unexpected element to the show and made it even more memorable. Additionally, it was the first time my hair was put in a man bun, and I really liked that look. My hair had never been long enough to do that before, so it was super cool. And of course, during the finale, DJ Khaled was there, and you could see him getting out on the runway. He also gave a sort of pregame speech before the show, and it was so him. He was like, “What does it mean to be a boss? We’re all here because we are bosses.” I thought it was amazing. I’m sure if you ask Thatcher or Anok, someone has that video out there.

You were chosen as the Men’s Readers’ Choice breakout star for the 2022 Model of the Year. How did it feel to receive this recognition, and what drives you to excel in your career?
Receiving that award felt incredible, like a culmination of all the work I had put in. It was a risk for me to come back to modeling after taking a two-year break to go to school. The decision to return was risky, especially considering it was right at the end of Covid. I didn’t have any concrete plans and signed the lease for my apartment without even seeing it in person. During those first few months, I questioned whether it was the right choice to forego school and pursue modeling full-time, which everyone knows is a risky industry. So to have a two-year run and then be given the Men’s Readers’ Choice for Breakout Star was extremely rewarding. It felt good to be recognized for the hard work I had put in over the last two years, constantly striving to produce great print work, improving my walk, and staying ready for any opportunity that came my way. I feel incredibly lucky, and the support and messages from people who voted for me filled me with a different kind of warmth. It was heartwarming to see how many people took the extra step to support me.

Boss S/S 23 Show Miami | Image courtesy of Want Management

What would you say was one of the biggest challenges you faced in your career, and how have you been able to move past it?
The biggest challenge was persevering through a period when things were slow for me because I had shifted my focus away from modeling and became a student. Overcoming that and refocusing on modeling as my main priority was difficult. To move past it, I had to work hard. I dedicated myself to getting my body in shape and establishing a solid beauty routine. I also made changes to my day-to-day life and how I spent my weekends, ensuring that I was always presenting my best self. When something is within your control and it’s making you nervous, it’s up to you to take charge, adapt, and overcome it. That’s how I managed to move past that challenge.

I’m actually curious, what’s your beauty routine like?
The cornerstone of my beauty routine is La Roche-Posay. I struggled to find a moisturizer that could combat my super dry winter skin and the irritation caused by frequent flights. I tried other so-called “heavy-duty moisturizers” but they didn’t do much. Then one day, my dermatologist recommended the triple repair cream to me, and it was like a heavyweight champion in the ring. This cream goes above and beyond. It’s been a game-changer for me. So, that’s the main component of my beauty routine. I also use Philosophy face wash, apply the triple repair moisturizer, and that’s pretty much it. As for my hair care, I simply put some paste in it after showering. There’s not much else to it.

Apart from modeling, what else are you passionate about?
Back in high school and even during college, I was really into sports. Basketball, track, and volleyball were my go-to activities. I’m tall and have a good vertical jump, so volleyball was a natural fit for me. Those were my major passions outside of my work at that time. However, after high school, it became challenging to find opportunities to participate in sports since I’m constantly on the move and rarely in one city for more than a week. Currently, my passions revolve around video creation and fitness/wellness. I know it might sound cliché, but I’ve been focusing on eating better, cooking my own meals, exercising daily, and establishing a solid wellness routine. This year, wellness has become a significant priority for me. Additionally, video creation has been a major part of my life for the past three years, although I haven’t been posting on TikTok regularly lately due to my hectic schedule. But once things slow down, I’ll definitely get back to it.

Speaking of wellness, since you mentioned being constantly on the move, do you have any specific wellness routines or strategies to cope with frequent traveling and jet lag?
My wellness routine doesn’t change much when I’m traveling. I’ve tailored it to be easily packed in a small suitcase and ready to go. The key aspects of my wellness routine include skincare, which involves my gua sha routine, and hair care, where I use rosemary oil in my hair. I also have a workout routine that doesn’t require any equipment and can be done in just 10 to 20 minutes. It’s designed to accommodate my travel lifestyle, allowing me to exercise in any hotel I stay in.

Louis Vuitton Resort 2024 Men’s Lookbook by Scandebergs | Image courtesy of Want Management

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