When most people hear the phrase “the first male winner of America’s Next Top Model,” someone like Keith Carlos wouldn’t be the first person to come to mind. But, among other things, that’s exactly who he is. Cut from a different cloth than most fashion models, Carlos’ road to the runway was a bit unconventional. The Bridgeport, Connecticut native is where he is today through good fortune and great mentors, as his life could have been drastically different had he made the wrong decisions along the way.
Before becoming a model, Keith Carlos was a Wide Receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles—before that, he was a teen navigating a rough neighborhood, surrounded by gangs, crime and desperation. Like most kids surviving those circumstances, the promise of a college education for top football recruits served as an escape route for Carlos—so much so that he jokes his favorite sports movie is Boyz n the Hood, referring to the parallels between the film’s plot and his own life as “the ghetto Olympics.”
In part, the comfort found in that sort of 90s nostalgia is what’s kept Carlos inspired throughout his life. Outfitted in Reebok’s Sole Fury, the brand’s latest offering featuring their 90s-born Split Cushioning technology, the athlete-turned-model met up with Complex in a New York City boxing gym to reflect on both the sports and fashion experiences that shaped his childhood.
KEITH ON SPORTS
"My favorite old-school fighter was Mike Tyson. I grew up watching him. Even at a young age, he was just a pitbull, to say the least. I really admired his work. [As for] old school football teams, I was actually a Cowboys fan. I loved Emmitt Smith. He was my favorite running back. They used to call me Little Emmitt, when I was [a kid] playing flag football."
KEITH ON WORKOUTS
"My workout now as a model, after being a football player, is more cardio-based. It's not bigger, stronger, faster. It's not about the heaviest load I can lift. It's more about the repetitions and the cardiovascular system and eating right. I pay more attention to my dieting. I don't eat as many carbohydrates and sugars as I did before. I eat all the right foods now, as opposed to trying to eat everything to gain weight.
I'm so used to working out alone, nowadays. Before, everything was a team effort. But now, I feel like everything that I've learned about fitness and my body [through football] has prepared me [for modeling]. I know what to do with my body. And I know what to do mentally and physically, and how to be consistent with it. Because that's the hardest part. Being consistent."
KEITH ON CLASSIC COASTAL FITS
“Growing up, my style inspiration was Dipset. You know I gotta roll with the east coast. There’s Cam’ron, Juelz, Jim, Freaky and then there’s everybody else. A lot of [my style] came from me not really having anything growing up. I couldn't get the new sneakers or the new clothes, so I always improvised. I learned how to make ten outfits out of five. Matching bandanas tied around my head. I learned from watching their style.”
The Reebok Sole Fury ($90) is now available at Reebok.com.
Styled by Weyni Elder