Milton native finds success in modeling world

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Saturday, December 31, 2011
— Jesse Roberts sometimes finds it hard to believe he's the guy on the Abercrombie and Fitch bag.

And when he walks by the magazine racks at the local grocery store in Milton or Edgerton, it's seems odd to know he's pictured in the publications there—publications such as Cosmopolitan Magazine.

"It seems crazy, doesn't it?" the 24-year-old rural Milton native said in an interview this week at his parents' home near Lake Koshkonong.

It's crazy because Roberts is a self-taught mechanic, just a regular guy who graduated from Milton High School in 2005 and who has worked jobs in welding and construction.

"What I really always wanted to be was an inventor," Roberts said.

Maybe that's why he keeps reinventing himself.

At the moment, Roberts is a New York fashion model. He'll be pictured in a feature in Cosmopolitan in January, and in another issue in March. He's been in American and European editions of the magazine about a half dozen times.

Earlier this year, Roberts did a fashion shoot in Santa Barbara, Calif., for Abercrombie and Fitch. The work put his shirtless likeness on posters and bags in Abercrombie stores nationwide.

It's the same as anything else he's done in the past: He's taught himself, worked hard and made his plans work.

Same with learning to rebuild lawnmower engines at age 10.

Same with transforming his body in the weight room to land work as a fitness magazine model.

Roberts was just out of high school when he went to a modeling showcase in Chicago. It was on a whim. He had no modeling experience, but he got contact cards from a few talent scouts at the showcase.

Roberts wrote off the experience and didn't pursue modeling for months. By then, he said the agencies that noticed him in Chicago almost forgot who he was. Hoping to grab some looks from modeling agencies, Roberts hit the gym hard for months and bulked up from a spare 130 pounds to a muscular 180.

"I worked out for hours, two or three times a day," Roberts said.

The hard work got one agency's attention, and in 2009 Roberts landed his first modeling job, mostly for men's health and fitness magazines. He'd just turned 21. Suddenly he was in New York City.

"It's the classic story of the small-town kid goes to the big city. I think I'd been to Chicago maybe once before that. You should have seen me trying to learn the subway," Roberts said.

Since then, Roberts had a manager and photographers urge him to quit lifting weights so that he could slim down. He did, and has dumped 25 pounds, reinventing himself in 2010 as a fashion model for magazines and retail advertising.

Roberts also was in a commercial earlier this year for FreeScore.com. He was one of three spandex bodysuit-wearing "credit scores." Roberts said the filming only lasted a few hours, but he had to stand in the body suit all day.

Roberts says he's never been nervous or stressed out while modeling.

"It's relaxing and calming. It's fun," he said.

Roberts travels a lot between New York and California for modeling work. He has a small apartment in Weehawken, N.J., just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan.

He comes home to visit family and friends at home as often as he can. When he does, he usually spends time working on cars or helping out with his friend's basement waterproofing company.

"It keeps me sane," Roberts said.

In fact, Roberts plans to draw from his workingman roots in January when he auditions in New York for the HGTV reality series "All American Handyman."

Roberts said money from the show could help him to pay for his next ambition: acting. He plans to start acting classes soon. Who knows where that will take him.

"It's about time for a new chapter," Roberts said.

Last updated: 7:00 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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