After a chance encounter with supermodels Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, a homeless 20-year-old skater living in Venice Beach, California is finally living his dream of being a male model.
John Economou was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and worked as a local male model for most of his life. After dropping out of college, he moved to California to find bigger opportunities for himself with nothing but his skateboard, a couple changes of clothes and a toothbrush.
Economou told Daily Mail:
“I packed up my backpack and flew from Milwaukee to LAX then just came here to the beach and I’ve been here ever since — just chilling.
“I don’t like saying I’m homeless — I like saying I’m on an adventure. I’m a traveller.”
The 6’ 3” aspiring model would survive by sleeping in the sand with nothing but a sheet for protection. In the morning he would work out and shower at a Gold’s Gym. On some nights, he would pick up girls and stay the night at their place, earning himself the nickname the “Romeo of Venice Beach”.
On one fateful day over the summer, Economou noticed a small party of people having some trouble with seagulls and decided to help. He told Daily Mail:
“I was just chilling on the beach and watching the water, minding my own business and then I see these people come over. They sat pretty close but not too close and they started having a picnic. They looked all presentable and good looking.”
“I saw bodyguards at the corner. I thought they were police at first and I thought ‘What are they doing?’. Then I saw seagulls swarming around the girls because they brought the food out and I started walking over there to shoo them away.”
“One of the girls said to me, ‘You’re cute’, so I turned around and we struck up conversation. I didn’t realize who I was speaking to at first and it finally clicked who it was — it was Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, actor Ansel Elgort, and Kendall’s manager, Ashleah Gonzalez.”
The models immediately told Economou that he should be a male model and he told them his story.
“I told them how I was a model back home and how I came here to follow my dream and try get an agency, how I’m living the hippie life, living out on the beach crashing on the sand right now.”
Jenner then insisted to her manager that Economou be hooked up with an agency. Economou exchanged numbers with Jenner’s manager, Ashleah Gonzalez, and was soon signed by Two Management under the same man who started Jenner in modeling.
Though he hasn’t had contact with Jenner or Hadid since that day, Economou had nothing but great things to say about the two models:
“They don’t have that rich-girl vibe.Gigi was bubbly and funny. She was definitely more rambunctious. Kendall was more laid back, I can see a little hippie vibe.
“Kendall was cool, she was super down to earth and chill. We were just having a normal conversation talking about life, acting modeling, personal lives.”
Economou now goes on auditions for gigs but sometimes still sleeps under the stars on the beach or with friends, living what he calls the California dream.
“I came from a nice house but I want to come up from the bottom, start from scratch, not from my parent’s money. I want that Lamborghini, that Ferrari you know exotic cars, big house.
“I’ve always had everything you could need but I want to take it to another level. That’s why I came out here. That’s what California is based on – following your dreams.”