Yesterday, IMG—the modeling agency that’s home to big time names in the industry like Gigi and Bella Hadid, Garrett Neff, and Chanel Iman—revealed another addition to their roster: 275 pound, 6’6’’ actor Zach Miko. Zach is the first talent signed to IMG’s just-created division for plus-size men, called Brawn. Aside from some e-commerce work with Target, Zach hasn’t had much experience modeling, a stat both he and IMG hope to change soon. We caught up with Zach a day after his announcement to see how he’s responding to his new role as another voice in the body positivity movement and the face of a potential shift in men’s fashion.
Was being a model something you ever anticipated for yourself?
No! [laughs] I’m an actor. I’ve always been big, a man of size my whole life. Honestly until IMG, it’s not something I ever thought of as a possibility, being a male model and being 6’6”, 275 pounds. I’m still dreaming a little bit. I’m still kind of waiting for everyone to jump out the closet and go, “Ahhh! Got ya!” It’s really amazing
How has the response been for you since the announcement yesterday?
It’s been great. I’m really lucky that it’s been overwhelmingly positive so far. Everyone seems excited. I think it’s time for a change. I think with the women’s industry moving forward and making such amazing strides in diversity and inclusion of all different body types, it was only inevitable that the men eventually came along. But, it was taking a little longer. So, the fact that I kind of get to be on precipice of that is a really cool thing. People have been overwhelmingly supportive.
What does body positivity mean to you?
Body positivity for me is accepting who you are, how you feel, what you look like in the moment. I had real bad body issues, self-conscious issues, and self-esteem issues my entire life. I was always was a big guy, I was always picked on for it. It wasn’t until this Target stuff that I started really feeling comfortable. I spent my whole life trying to change and be something else, but I realized it wasn’t because I wanted to be different. It was because I felt like other people expected me to be different. It’s amazing that with modeling, which is supposed to be a very superficial industry, I’ve found a real home. And real support, especially at IMG, that who I am right now is attractive, is valid, and is worthy of doing these things. Being part of this body positivity movement and not only just saying I, myself, feel good with the way look, but being able to help other people show what they look like, is great.
Are the barriers to that way of thinking lower on the men’s side than for a woman to break into the modeling industry?
One of the reasons I think the women’s industry has come farther than the men’s, when it comes to the diversity and inclusion, is for men, there’s still that barrier in your mind, that kind of false masculinity and that false bravado of “I don’t care what I look like. It doesn’t matter. I’m a dude.” That’s just all insecurity, everyone who’s ever said that. I’ve said that. I said that for years, and I said that because I was not confident in what I looked like or how I felt about myself. I think it’s because showing how you care about how you look, in some people’s minds, projects weakness.
I think men need to join together as a community, the way the women’s industry has. Especially with Instagram, you see these big shapely, beautiful, stunning women online and they’re getting reached out to. They’re getting support. People are saying, “We love this, we want to see more of this.” With the men’s community, there’s still that timidness to say, “Yes, I want to feel this way.” I mean I have been big my whole life and just to find clothes is a daunting, scary thing. That’s why a lot of guys wear the same clothes for 10 to 12 years at a time, because it’s a scary thing to put on a pair of pants and go, “I don’t feel good the way I look in these.” You end up finding something that’s passable and wear it until it rips apart.
I’m interested on your thoughts on the issue as it relates to the term “brawn” that IMG is using, as opposed to “big and tall” or “plus size.”
I love the term “brawn.” One of the things I like is, it’s all about changing the conversation. Whether we like it or not, terms like “big” and “plus size” have, over the years for some reason, developed a negative connotation. When I’ve been called “big” in the past, it’s never been a compliment. It’s been a criticism. “Big” is just not an observation. “Big” is just a statement of fact. We live in a society where “fat” has become an insult, and “skinny” has become a compliment. Both are neither; they’re just terms for sizes. So I think changing it from “big and tall” to words like “brawn,” words like “curves”—it’s kind of taking back the meaning for what it should be, and what it should be celebrated as, rather than a term for criticism.
“Brawn” means broad, it means physical strength. It takes the parts of being big that are good and brings those to the forefront. You say “curves,” and it makes me think of this sexy, sensual, beautiful women. They’re both terms that mean the same thing, but it’s all about highlighting the positive aspects of it, rather than letting be another term of criticism.
Speaking of curves, the WWD article that announced your addition to the IMG team said you were the male version of Ashley Graham.
Oh my God. I am humbled that I would ever be compared to her. I am such a huge fan of Ashley Graham. It is such an honor to be compared to her in any shape or way, but that girl is a superstar and I am just starting out. I’m so amazed at the work she’s done over the last couple years and how she really put in forefront of everyone’s minds, “What is beautiful? What is sexy?” It used to be, “This is beautiful. This is sexy.” She’s changed the whole conversation for everybody. Being compared to her is a huge honor, and I could only hope that I could live up to a fraction of what she’s accomplished.
If you had to choose an ideal company or designer to work with, who would it be?
There’s a couple. Being a man of size my whole life, I’ve seen this stylish awesome clothing that I wish I could wear and for so many years it wasn’t available. They don’t make sizes for big guys. If I could model for like Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren…Iconic, iconic male designers. I think it’d be a truly amazing experience to see them come out with a brawn line of clothing. If I could be on the forefront of making luxury brands available to the everyday guy, I think that’d be the most incredible thing.