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Brandon Mills


Brandon Mills

These days Mills trains a minimum of five days a week, doing Tae Kwon Do in New York. He says it's what keeps him sane.

When I mention how calm he comes across, he - predictably, I suppose - answers in an even tone. "I remember Bruce Lee said he felt like an old soul in a young man's body. That's something I empathize with. Obviously having come through so many experiences in my life already, I just feel like I've lived multiple lifetimes already and have a wealth of experiences to look back on, and the bottom line, I've had everything happen to me.

"You know, in Thailand again, a guy fell out of the back of a truck putting up Muay Thai signs for the night's fights, and he died right in my arms on the street. I've lost a lot of people in my life and had to overcome a lot of bad emotion. And the martial arts helped me find inner peace and a sense of confidence, and I think if I didn't have the experiences that I've gone through I could have gone in any direction. I could be on drugs, I could be dead, I could be in jail."

Could be, if not for his Guardian Angel. Mills is pretty sure he's got one, and he believes it's his grandfather - a Native American preacher who travelled with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking about civil rights.

Before he passed, his grandfather instilled into Mills a sense of compassion that shaped his belief system. "I definitely in my inner core have a very deep sensitivity for humanity and women's rights and gay rights and everything. I'm a very passionate person. I'm a Pisces, so I'm also a very sensitive person - which is interesting because coming from where I came from, it was a very hard arena to be in while also being a sensitive person."

Despite all the calm, rational sentiments, there was still a part of me having difficulty reconciling that a guy that came from the proverbial "wrong side of the tracks" could find peace with himself as a well-paid, well-travelled male model. Of course it's hard work, but Mills struck me as the type of person that would want to use his experience to make the world a better place.

Brandon Mills
But it's not my place to reconcile that. Mills already has. "For me it's been the most beautiful experience. I hold my head high, doing what I'm doing, and I'm proud of something that, for my entire life I've never been able to do. I can be on billboards, and it's something to be proud of. The last thing that it makes me is arrogant or cocky. All it does is remind me how lucky I am to be where I am. I'm not stuck.

"Guys look in my eyes and they can see that I belong, and that I've had that experience, and we can share in that to some extent. What talking about the modelling does, is to set an example.

"A perfect example: I have a friend that lives in the projects on 125th Street and he has to do what he has to do to take care of his little brother. His parents are dead. He called me a couple weeks ago, and after spending a bunch of time talking about modelling and acting after all the things I've gone through growing up, he said 'look Brandon, I want you to know after all the conversations we've had that I've done some thinking and I've enrolled to become a medical assistant.'

"That just goes to show me right there that obviously experience plays a huge part of life, and if you have a humbleness about you, you can approach people and can give them some inspiration. That's what I feel I have to give back to everybody who comes from that type of demographic."

"I realized I do have a very strong energy that, if it's not in control, is going to make people nervous. I have tattoos all over my body, and when my head is shaved if I walk into some places feeling a little bit irritated - they're already expecting someone a little bit intimidating - and if I come across like that people are going to expect me to be difficult to work with.

"Now I walk in and people expect to see this hard, gangsta type of guy, and I always have a smile on my face, and I'm laughing and joking around. I think people respond really nicely to that. My success has just started to flourish because of that.