Alton Mason is about to break Hollywood
The model, musician and now actor discusses starring in Baz Luhrmann’s new Elvis movie.
This story originally appeared in i-D’s Out Of The Blue issue, no. 366, Winter 2021. With thanks to Tiffany & Co. Order your copy here.
Alton Mason made history once. He’s ready to make it again. Today’s catwalk deity, bestowed with the irremovable title of being the first Black male model to walk for Chanel; a prolific musician with full-length records in progress; an actor with a role in a forthcoming bound-to-be blockbuster. Many who cut their teeth in the world of fashion profess a desire to do everything. But only a few – Alton included – seem capable of doing them all well. He calls himself a multi-hyphenated student: “There’s so many sides to me,” he says, “and still so much to learn.”
The job of a model is simple: to slip into several skins, often several times a day, wearing the auras and outfits of a brand. But there are, in the industry’s mist, enigmas so strong that a billion-dollar brand feels more powerful and whole in their presence. Alton is undeniably its most important one right now.
The Chanel gig rightly gets the most shine, but his mainstay presence on the varied runways of Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy (and many more) speak to this Arizona-raised man’s universal allure. There is a look he gives, one that stretches back to his early agency portfolio photos, that suggests soft determination. The possibility of power not being a bombastic, earth-shattering achievement, but something slowly, carefully cultivated. It’s as if he knew all along that this was how things would turn out. In the past, he’s said to other interviewers that he was on a journey to find inner peace. Today, “that journey is beautiful,” he says, suggesting it’s still ongoing. “It’s like I’m in a cocoon, unlearning, relearning, and surrendering to who I am.”
After almost seven years in the business, Alton insists the world of fashion is “still remarkable” to him, showing little sign of weariness in the face of seemingly endless reams of shows and campaigns. Everyday he is finding himself on-set with, “so many designers, photographers, stylists, and creative teams that I haven’t worked with before”. It’s those fresh faces that keep him coming back “What’s most remarkable is the love that I receive from the new faces and future leaders of this world,” he enthuses. “It makes my heart smile when they tell me how I influence and inspire them, because they inspire me, too. So many of them sacrifice so much and intentionally create change for their families and communities, just like me. That is what I love, that is what’s truly remarkable; the evolution.”
“I have so many things that I want to achieve: peace, happiness and true love mainly.”
His fashion world may still be evolving, but there are paths Alton is treading in tandem with it. In 2020, he flew to Australia to tick another facet of his creative pursuits off his to-do list, making his film debut. He will soon play Little Richard in the hugely anticipated Elvis Presley biopic alongside Tom Hanks and Austin Butler. Arriving next summer, it’s the latest directorial effort of Baz Luhrmann, of The Great Gatsby and Romeo + Juliet fame. (Alton calls them “two of my favourite films”). Baz is known for being a master storyteller, frequently combining creative elements Alton is drawn to in dazzling projects: song, dance and thespianship. He’s tight-lipped on the project at the moment. All he can say? “It was so beyond surreal for me to work with Baz, and I still cannot put into words how life-changing the experience was.”
Making music is also bringing him joy right now. His first release, a slow burn R&B track called Gimme, Gimme scored a coming-of-age short film Rise in Light that he also starred in, and which served a greater purpose as a fundraising project for Lagos families in need during the Coronavirus crisis.
Philanthropy filters through most things for him now. “As an African American boy there was so much fear instilled in us by the school and media about the continent, and a lot of it was a lie. I found that out when I went to Nigeria and Ghana.” Now, it’s his goal to “expand the culture”; to enlighten the world to the brilliance of Africa. “I am destined to extend myself and create more life there, through fashion, music, film and technology.”
“I have so many things that I want to achieve,” Alton Mason adds. “Peace, happiness and true love are just a few of them.” His future, he simply says, will “be like water”. By that, maybe he means fluid; ever-changing; unpredictable. Alton Mason’s past, it seems, has set a precedent that will stretch out in the inevitably bright decades still to come.
With thanks to Tiffany & Co.
Photography Mario Sorrenti
Fashion Alastair McKimm
Hair Bob Recine
Make-up Kanako Takase at Streeters using Addiction Beauty
Photography assistance Kotaro Kawashima and Javier Villegas
Digital operator Chad Meyer
Fashion assistance Madison Matusich, Milton Dixon III and Casey Conrad
Tailor Joel Gomez
Hair assistance Kazuhide Katahira
Make-up assistance Kuma
Production Katie Fash, Layla Néméjanski and Steve Sutton
Production assistance William Cipos
Casting director Samuel Ellis Scheinman for DMCASTING
All jewellery (worn throughout) Tiffany & Co.