Taken from the autumn 2019 issue of Dazed. You can buy a copy of our latest issue here
“I think dance has moulded my skeleton,” says American model and dancer Alton Mason, laughing. “When it’s time to walk or perform, my body just aligns with the energy in the room. Dancing is one of the most freeing things, one of the best ways of expressing yourself without words. It comes from within.”
Scouted on Instagram while studying dance and acting at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles, Mason grew up in Arizona on a diet of “movies like Poetic Justice and Juice, Spike Lee joints and Janet Jackson – I had the biggest crush on her...” When we speak, it’s Paris Men’s fashion week, where Mason is now a seasoned pro: a true original, he was the first black male model to walk for Chanel, and stole the show back-flipping down the runway for Virgil Abloh’s AW19 collection for Louis Vuitton.
“It really touches me when black boys and girls say, ‘Wow, you inspire me, you make me wanna do this, because I see someone doing it who’s just like me’” – Alton Mason
Besides his acrobatic skills, there’s something else that separates Mason from his peers: his relationship with Naomi Campbell, who he sees as a mentor. “She is the blueprint,” he says of the supermodel. “I grew up in the basketball world, so being able to be mentored by her – to chill, eat and travel with her – it’s almost as if Michael Jordan asked my dad to play one-on-one with him. Really, she means a lot to me.”
With his success has come a platform – at the time of writing, Mason has 212k Instagram followers, and it’s the messages he receives on there that have been the most rewarding part of this experience. “It really touches me when black boys and girls say, ‘Wow, you inspire me, you make me wanna do this, because I see someone doing it who’s just like me.’ To be that inspiration, I cherish it, because that’s not originally how it was supposed to be. I was just supposed to be an example to my siblings. To be able to touch people from all around the world – from Africa to Brazil, America and Europe – is a blessing and I can only thank God for that.”
Hair Yann Turchi at Bryant Artists using Mizani, make-up Mona Leanne at The Wall Group using NARS, model Alton Mason at IMG, set design Cesar Sebastien at Swan Management, photography assistants Roxane Moreau, Anthea Lovich, styling assistant Roland Herbemont, make-up assistant Sukhy Bhandal, set design assistant Enzo Selvatici, casting Noah Shelley at Streeters