“Body Rock” – INTERVIEW WITH DWAIN LELAND
JM: Am I the best looking person who has interviewed you?
DL: By far, you hot stud, you! I have never seen anyone who rocks a pair of jeans like you can – that is the first thing I noticed when I met you at the very first shoot we did! “Sexy Jeans” was the name I gave you, remember?
JM: Wherever did you get that body? It looks like something out of a science fiction movie. Were you blessed with incredible genetics or do you have to work really hard at it?
DL: Both – genetics is the foundation, and I have built on that foundation with many hours in the gym, meters in the pool, and miles on my bike. I have to say that I really honor and cherish the genetic heritage passed on to me from my parents and my ancestors before them. If it weren’t for that strange lineage that passed down some of my most valued traits, then I wouldn’t be sitting here talking with you. Moreover, my early discovery of what my natural, genetic potential could afford me by working hard in the gym and at sports has allowed me to pay homage to my lineage by taking myself to the limits of the body they handed down to me. Although it may sound corny, I really do think of this physical expression of my body as a spiritual tool that connects me to a distant past. In that way, I guess it is the stuff of science fiction; genetics is time-travel.
photo by: Antonio Marquez
JM: What kind of diet does one have to have if they want to look like you? If you tell me that you eat anything you want, I WILL slap you!
DL: Well, again, it is a combination of opposites; on the one hand I go through periods where I eat anything I want and I am constantly looking for calories in order to build up my body, and then on the other hand, I suffer through opposing seasons of being picture-ready through strict, low-carb dieting. It’s all about timing, and when photographers are lined up on my schedule, I make sure I am responsible to them by giving them the best of my willpower and really cutting down my food as much as my busy life will allow. But let’s face it, men – a great, natural body cannot be built without eating a ton of calories! So pizza, beer, donuts, waffles, and large doses of peanut butter and the like are necessary to augment the slabs and curves our bodies naturally want to give us with hard work! At the end of the day, my advice is to eat foods as close to their natural sources as possible, meaning less processed and cooked meats, vegetables, and grains. Raw and/or lightly grilled is the way to go if you want to feel and look great, whether you’re posing for pictures or just posing by the pool.
JM: When did you begin your career in modeling?
DL: Well, it may sound cliché, but it all happened by accident. Back in 2004, I had been working out for about a year at a gym near Koreatown in NYC when this kid (yes, we were both “kids” at that point) that I had seen around the gym off-and-on finally approached me and introduced himself as Simon Miller. He was a men’s fashion photographer for a fledgling advertising agency with some solid clientele, and said he would love to take pictures of me to show me the progress I had made over that last year in building up a body that was respectable and – gasp! – photographable. In all honesty, I turned him down twice before finally giving in and letting him photograph me shirtless, and then in posing trunks. Poor Simon deserves a medal for the patience he afforded me while he tried to get me to relax in front of the camera and loosen up! My view of myself at that time was so skewed, so very distorted, that I actually believed I was this scrawny kid that was not worth being in any photograph, let alone the kind of physique photos he was taking of me. About one week later, he invited me back over to look at the shots he had finished in post-production and I could not believe my eyes: there, in front of me, was objective, irrefutable proof that I had a nice body and could be the subject of a beautiful portrait. Miller’s agency, PRSM Advertising, went on to be very successful and to them I owe every bit of respect and acknowledgment for all my success. (Thanks, Simon, for taking notice!) From there, the rest is history – I just took those photos and started getting jobs, building my book. Now I have volumes of books!
photo by: Mark Jenkins
JM: I noticed that most of your pictures are unclothed. What kind of thrill do you get showing off your naked physique?
DL: I wouldn’t say it’s as thrilling for me as it might be for my viewers! For me, it’s more of a release – a way of expressing the latent urges and fantasies that are just not appropriate to present to people in normal, daily life. It’s a way of carving out an artistic space that lets my creative impulses breathe, thrive, reproduce, and – most important – communicate. What makes modeling so fulfilling for me is thinking about the viewer at the other end of the image, so that when the photographer is snapping the picture, I look through his lens, past the camera, past him, and stare deep into the eyes of whoever will be looking at that picture weeks and even years after the moment that shutter closes. Viewed this way, it’s a moment of complete, nearly silent intimacy in which – whether clothed or naked – I have a chance to tell that viewer something about myself, and about himself or herself, that only we will know. Though my nude or nearly-nude body can seem loud and very public, at its most fundamental level, it is a snapshot of a very close, secret instant in time that has a lot to say on extremely private levels. This multi-faceted level of communication and artistry is something that is fully exploited and utilized in your work, Justin, and is one of the reasons that you are my favorite photographer to model for.
JM: Tell us something about yourself that very few people know.
DL: I love muscle cars. Although I don’t know a thing about them, and I don’t own anything close to one, I have always been drawn to their luminous curves. I suppose it reflects my fascination with my own curvaceous body that I have created. Now I just need the car to match! I want a Tesla – that would be heaven to me! Equal parts environmental responsibility and hot, sexy curves. Yes – sex on wheels!!
JM: What does a typical day look like for you? Tell us about your world.
DL: Well, despite the excitement and sensuality that shows up in my pictures, my day-to-day life is pretty boring and nerdy. I get up, eat breakfast, and ride my mountain bike in to Stanford University. There, I work out very hard at the university gym, clean up and put on a suit and tie, and then go to the legal office to put in my 9 hours for a good, solid paycheck. Once that is done, I head over to classes in my Master of Liberal Arts program, finish debating and/or presenting research to my seminars, then ride my bike back home. There, I feed the dogs, then cook for myself and sit down to read and study or write papers for my classes before finally turning in and getting much-needed sleep. Then, it starts it all over again. Needless to say, there isn’t a lot of time for partying or photo shoots while school is in session, so once I make my grades and get a break, I call up photographers (and you are always first) to say I am ready to work for them. So, you see, I am equal parts gym rat, business professional, nerd, and domestic husband. Model and fun-loving party-boy are really just the icing on this multi-layered cake.
photo by: Mark Jenkins
JM: Boxers, briefs, or thong?
DL: You forgot jock. If you add that in, it’s all the above. Depending on the day, I will reach for any of these options. For instance, if I have a meeting or if I am feeling particularly bitchin’, I will put on a pair of silk or satin boxers – my ultimate indulgence in luxury for the day. I don’t wear briefs often, but if I know someone’s going to notice, or if my pants are loose enough not to show a line, I’ll put a pair on. I think briefs – the right kind – do accentuate a man’s lines in a very flattering way. Thongs are for days when the pants are so tight they have to be painted on, or if I need to feel nearly naked and free to move without restriction. Level of coverage for thongs: G-string, please. I don’t mess around with anything that covers too much on a thong day. Finally, a jock is for a day when – let’s face it – I’m feeling horny as hell and I want to feel my body’s presence under my clothing. A jock is a very tactile experience, and it’s just right if I want to be a man’s man underneath it all.
JM: What dream in your life has come true?
DL: I have come to terms with myself and understand my true value. I accepted myself for everything I am and everything I can be, and as a young man, I never thought that would happen for me. Thank God it did, or again, I wouldn’t be here talking with you, Justin.
photo by: Thomas Mitchell
JM: What are your current personal aspirations?
DL: I want to finish my Master’s degree at Stanford – and if there is a passion that blooms for it, pursue a Ph.D. and teach. What, I don’t know, but at the end of the day, I want to help other people find their voices. It is my sincere and honest hope to become the kind of person that catalyzes the processes of deep, inner transformation and change in others that allows them to fulfill their deepest desires to communicate ideas and thoughts in the clearest way possible. Yes, I want to be an agent for change.
JM: What inspires you creatively?
DL: When I see others in their elements, doing what they love, that is incredibly inspiring. Also, when I am with others and there is a moment in which a question is sparked, or a problem crystallizes, that also drives me to start critically thinking and trying on new ideas. All the while, I really hope that some good AC/DC is on the stereo; they fuckin’ ROCK!
photo by: Eric Scot
JM: If you could buy anything in the world what would it be?
DL: Time away.
JM: Tell us about a time you have failed?
DL: Which one? There are so many to pick from! Well, if you want to get close and personal to our own work together, then I have to say the time that I was photographed by you in the tea party story for your book, Down the Rabbit Hole. You had cast me as the Black Rabbit, and I had this amazingly intricate and beautiful set of rabbit ears on my head that were molded around a pair of aviator noise-cancelling earmuffs. In true Monroe-land fashion, I also had on latex fetish arm-length gloves that left me with fists and no fingers, and to top it off, a prosthetic hook that was not made for a fully-functioning arm like mine. Anyway, with all this garb on, I had the wonderful and sensual opportunity to have a vignette with Vincent Vanguard, who was playing the Cheshire Cat and hanging from his acrobat ring, suspended from a tree. As you were directing us to be intimately locked in a gaze, I found it quite hard to connect with Vinney on a level that came through in the pictures, given all the encumbrances on my body and the difficulty of hearing your direction through those earmuffs! There was Vinney, completely beautiful in his nakedness, suspended like an angel, and all I could do was look awkward and uncompelling in my role as the seductive Black Rabbit, crouched on the ground in total discomfort. As a model, I see that as a failure – not being able to overcome the challenges on set in order to help you produce a great piece of art. Though this experience was not early in my career, it still stands out as a moment of great learning, when I realized that what is important is that all-too-short moment we have together as artists in a dream, and to make sure that 100% effort is given to exploit that opportunity in service to a great photograph that can withstand the test of time.
JM: What are you willing sacrifice to succeed?
DL: Rest. Although I think it is extremely important to rest and recharge so you can be better at what you do, I routinely disregard that notion in order to accomplish as much as I can in my limited time. I really do not waste one minute of my days or nights, whether it’s working full-time, getting a Master’s degree, bodybuilding in the gym, or posing for photographs. It’s all important to me, and I give up vacations and rest in order to use all the talents I possess. It’s at once responsible and irresponsible, if you think about it. But, it gives us some great pictures for your books, does it not?
photo by: William D. Walsh
JM: What do you want the Monroe-land readers to know about you that I didn’t ask?
DL: That I really do love and respect them dearly, your readers/viewers. It is true that there is an overt and almost palpable sexuality in Monroe-land that lures us all into the photographs. It’s an art based on the erotic, for sure. However, what I appreciate most about what we are all doing in Monroe-land is that we are breaking down all the walls between us, exploring the subconscious, and letting our fantasies run wild. Nothing is off-limits, and we are making and debating a lot of artistic statements that challenge our preconceived notions and throw into question everything we believed when we bought our ticket to go inside. To make these images, and for the Monroe-land readers to view and discuss them, takes not a small amount of courage. In this way, it becomes more than a sexy image, but rather a life-altering exploration of who we are as human beings, and the kind of world we really live in, with all its beauty, masculinity, femininity, enlightenment, dogma, strengths, fears, passions, inhibitions, darkness, and light. I really want to thank them for looking at me, and into me, while I tell them a compelling story – and to thank you, Justin, for giving me the occasional opportunity to do just that. So… thank you. [kiss]