If you’ve been on Instagram’s Explore page recently, you may have noticed a cheeky sixteen year old with piercing blue eyes shining from beneath a shock of platinum hair. A tap on his profile would reveal—as of this writing—697k followers, although by the time you read this, there’s a good chance he’ll be above 800K. Lucky Blue Smith has managed to amass, seemingly out of nowhere, a massive fan base in just the past few months, a male counterpart to the Cara Delevingne phenomenon, but without the cameo appearances by Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Karl Lagerfeld. As the only male model signed to Next (you’ll find his card tucked into the women’s board, as there was nowhere else to put him), Smith is in many ways a sign of the future, a perfect example of the way social media can turn new faces into overnight stars with a built in market to harness. Still, Smith, who speaks carefully and humbly about his newfound fame, has been careful not to let it get to his head, thanks in part to a supportive family, including three older sisters who are all models as well. With just one show season under his belt, he’s already one of the biggest names in the industry, even if not everyone knows it yet. But Smith is just trying to be a regular teenager, one whose default attitude is that every new experience he encounters is “fun” and “cool.” Even the mobs of girls who chase him down the street. Our latest Hot List inductee talked to us after his first New York Fashion Week about Instafame, his family band, and how got his signature look.
A Models.com interview by Jonathan Shia
Jonathan Shia: How did you get discovered?
Lucky Blue Smith: My family and I used to live in Utah, and when I was about ten years old, my sister Daisy got scouted and I was with her. Alexis, the director at Next LA, said, “I want to see you in a couple years,” and I was like, “Uh, ok?” I was ten, I didn’t really care. Then when I was twelve, my family took a road trip to meet with Next. It was summer vacation, so we went in and Mimi, who’s my main agent now, saw potential, I guess. I thought she was crazy—I had braces—but she signed me and my whole family as models and as musicians too because my sisters and I are all in a band. I kept wanting to go to the beach in Orange County and the agency would say, “Wait, come to LA, we have a shoot for you.” My very first shoot was with Hedi Slimane for Vogue Hommes Japan. I didn’t really care about modeling until I was about fourteen. That’s when I booked my first job and then my family moved to LA for music and modeling. I really want to do acting too, so it was like, “Why not try everything while we’re out there and go for it?”
JS: How do you balance modeling with school and the rest of your life as a teenager?
LBS: When I moved from Utah to LA, I wanted to go to a normal high school because I wanted
a normal high school experience and I wanted to have the friends and go to the football games and everything. We ended up doing independent study, and then I didn’t want to go to school because I just kept getting busier and busier. So I go in once a week to a teacher and turn in work and get new work. When I’m traveling to Europe I just take my book and finish it. I’m graduating in two months, a year early, so doing independent study has let me graduate faster and just do what I want to do.
JS: How was your first show season?
LBS: It was really fun. When I first went to Paris for castings, I was intimidated by being in a
room with sixty guys, just waiting. I didn’t know that at some castings you have to walk in front of all the models and I was like, “Uhhhhh ok,” but you can’t say no and not walk, that’s what you’re there for. But after the first few castings, it became fun. I started making friends and I would see them at the same castings and we would all just follow each around to different cities and then I’d be on the same jobs as a lot of them, so it was really cool and fun.
JS: How are you enjoying New York? Is it your first time here?
LBS: Yeah. Last year, I did a cK one ad near here. I landed and the car picked us up and we
started driving past and getting farther and farther away and I was like, “Isn’t it that way?
There’s all the buildings.” And he was like, “Oh no, we’re going upstate.” So this is my first
time in the city. I like it a lot. It’s probably one of my favorite cities. I like not having to have a car and taking the subway. I like the energy, there’s a lot going on. In LA, it’s kind of laid back, but here it’s cool. I like it a lot actually.
JS: How did you decide to bleach your hair?
LBS: I got an editorial for Interview and Karl Templer said, “Let’s bleach his hair.” I was not
about it at all, but my agent told me they could dye it back. They bleached my hair and my eyebrows and it looked really cool in the pictures. Then a few months ago, my agent Mimi
was like, “Hey, let’s lighten your hair.” My hair is naturally lighter, dirty blond. She was
like, “Let’s bleach it white,” and I was fine with it. It seems to be working out.
JS: How did you get started on Instagram?
LBS: I had Instagram in Utah and I had like a thousand followers and just posted pictures of my
friends and what I was doing. Then I moved to LA and my sister got this music video job with a bunch of people who had millions of followers. She became friends with them and then she introduced me and then I just hung out with these kids with like 700,000 followers, 1,000,000, 1.2 million followers, 2 million followers, and then it would just naturally happen. I would be in a picture with them, they would tag me, and then I’d get a lot of followers. It kind of just built up. I got to 20k and then 35 and then 50 and then 75 and then 100, and then when I got to 100k, it just went. I got to 200k when I was in Milan and now I’m at 577k right now [end of February], so I more than doubled my following in like two weeks. An average day, I get two thousand new followers. When I was in Europe, one time I got like sixty thousand overnight. It’s really crazy, it just kind of built on its own after a while. I don’t know, I don’t see why people are so obsessed with me on Instagram. I don’t understand it at all.
JS: You have a lot of very enthusiastic fans. How do you deal with them? Does it ever get to be too much?
LBS: No. I did a little meet up in Paris and like 250 girls showed up and I couldn’t leave. Girls were holding on, they wouldn’t let me go. I felt really bad, because whenever I get noticed on the street and there’s a group of people, I always try to take the time and take pictures with them. I never want to be that guy who is like, “Whatever, don’t follow me around.”
Some are really nice and sweet and just want a hug, and then one girl tried to stick her hands down my pants. They can get very aggressive. Most of them touch my hair and grab my shirt, but they’re usually fine. There’s a lot of enthusiastic fans out there. You get a lot of different types.
JS: How did you decide that you want to be so interactive with them?
LBS: I just started getting to that point where I have enough followers to say, “Come meet me
here,” and then two hundred girls will show up. I noticed that a lot of people in the YouTube world are really rude and aren’t nice to their fans, even though the fans got them to where they are right now, so I was like, “I’m not doing that.” Taylor Swift is really nice to her fans and I wanted to do that. I feel the need to hang out with them a little bit and not be so snobby. I don’t want to be that kid that gets a bad reputation about being rude to his fans. I want to be nicer and be different from the whole crowd.
JS: Now that Instagram is such an important tool for fashion brands, do you think your following has helped you get jobs?
LBS: Yes. They’re all realizing how important it is. I’d say a quarter of the castings I go on, on the sign in list, they ask for name, agency, age, and then Instagram name and how many followers you have. I did the cK one ad a year ago and I didn’t have the following then, and then six months ago, I did a #mycalvins post and if I didn’t have the following, I wouldn’t have done that. It matters now, the clients want to know how many followers you have. I just did a job and they were like, “Can you post?” That’s in the arrangements now, so it does matter and it does play a role.
JS: Tell me a little bit about your band. What do you play?
LBS: It’s called the Atomics. I play the drums. My whole family got instruments one year for Christmas. I got them when I was six or seven. I didn’t touch my drums for like three years and they got really dusty in the corner, a waste. Then we started wanting to play music together. When we started, it was just for fun, and then we started playing covers of instrumental surf music, like the Ventures and Dick Dale. When I was thirteen or fourteen, we started playing little shows, like a car show at the library or the diner, really small things like that. Then when we moved, we were like, “Maybe we can do something with music,” because when I got signed, they were like, “Wait, you’re in a band, can you play?” They got us a studio and we played a cover, and they were amazed and shocked that we could play. We all play together, it just happened naturally.
Right now we’re doing an EP of originals, we want to write our own stuff. We’re holding off on gigs until we have our songs out, then we’re going to go on tour and everything. I love to play gigs because they’re some of the most fun things I’ve ever done. It’s kind of a waiting game right now. I get asked about the band in a lot of interviews, so there’s a lot of hype, everyone’s waiting to hear music, so I’m excited to finally give them stuff to listen to.
JS: And now you have a built in audience as soon as you have something ready to share.
LBS: It’s such a shortcut. Right now, if we had three songs out that I liked, I could say, “Here’s the link to our YouTube channel, go look at our music video.” They would go, I’m sure. It’s automatic fans, it’s a huge shortcut. It’d be really easy to get people to go listen and buy our music. I can tell them to buy a pen right now, and they probably would. If it was a
Lucky Blue pen, they’d be all about it. It’s really cool that we already have a bunch of people that we can get it out to.
JS: How would you describe your musical style? Who do you like to listen to?
LBS: I like a lot of music. I like the Black Keys, and that’s how I would describe our sound right now. I like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, there’s some rap that’s good, then there’s some
dance, fun music. It’s kind of all over the place for me. I always grew up having the last
chance to put my iPod in, so I’ve just listened to whatever’s on. I’m not picky about music.
I’m picky about what kind of music I play and what we release, but other than that, it’s whatever. We like the surf sound, but that won’t sell right now, so we want to have that flavor but totally modern, new, cool stuff.
JS: What does you family think about your newfound fame?
LBS: They think it’s crazy. My friends in Utah, whenever I go visit, it’s so weird, they treat me like a celebrity. I don’t think that, but my friends think it’s really cool. [Laughs] Some of
them are jealous and ask like, “Oh, post me, tag me.” My family thinks it’s really awesome I have something behind me other than just being a model. I have a following and I’m doing something else, so they all are happy for me and think it’s really awesome.
JS: You’re only sixteen now. Where do you see yourself going in the next five or ten years?
LBS: I see myself getting into music heavily, going on tour, and that being one of the main things I’m always doing. I’m not going to stop modeling, I think something could happen there. I think I’ll be doing the same thing, music and modeling, but it’ll be a lot crazier, a lot busier, a lot more jobs and gigs and shows and going on tour all the time. In five or ten
years, I know for sure I’ll have a couple businesses, I just know for sure. We’ll see.
Special thanks to Alexis Borges and Mimi at Next LA