By Jasmine Chorley Foster
Although only 27 years old, Richard Bell's story has many twists and turns. He began modelling in 2011, following a year working towards a Master's degree in Biomechanics and playing Rugby for the Province of Nova Scotia and Dalhousie University. After half a year spent working in Toronto, he travelled to Asia and his modelling career took-off.
In Singapore he quickly impressed clients and won the loyalty of big name stylists and photographers. He left with a stack of tear sheets so heavy that they pushed the limits of the standard airline baggage weight allowance. He then went to Milan and Tokyo, and came home to Toronto and found that clients who had once ignored him could not book him fast enough. He worked very well in Toronto and Montreal for a year, all the while saving up to begin his next adventure: small business ownership.
A year ago, Richard opened a CrossFit gym in downtown Toronto with his brother/business partner. For a while he juggled a full modelling schedule with operating a business. In his spare time, he is The Business Model's Health & Fitness consultant and pens our Health & Fitness column.
Now, modelling is on the backburner, but he isn't slowing down. In fact, he's gearing up to compete as a skeleton athlete. Skeleton is a winter sport in which the skeleton sled is ridden in a headfirst, prone position. Riders, with their faces just inches above the track, attain speeds over 129 km (80 miles) per hour.
Richard is definitely not slowing down.
The Business Model: What was your most memorable work experience?
Richard Bell: Our apartment in Milan, where I had some good life talks with my buddy Jordan Weller. I made a good friend, figured out life a bit - all the good stuff.
TBM: After so much success, why did you decide to stop modelling?
RB: It was time to move on. I had made enough money to start my gym, which was the overall goal. I also wanted to resume my athletic pursuits, which had to go on hold for the entire time I was modelling so that I could fit into clothes.
TBM: What have you been doing, work-wise, since you stopped?
RB: I run a gym now, CrossFit Leviathan, in Toronto. I opened that with my brother about a year ago. On the side I still model a bit, but not very much to be honest. I've been training really hard to try out for the Ontario Skeleton Program, the winter sport.
TBM: How did you discover the sport of Skeleton? What made you want to be a Skeleton athlete?
RB: I was shown the tryout sheet by a friend last October. I took a look at it and figured I'd do my best and give it a try. The tryout was in June so I had some time. I trained hard every day and got ready to go. I was told at the end of July that I had made it, which was pretty exciting.
TBM: You've recently begun a fundraising campaign. Why did you need to do this?
RB: Amateur athletics in Canada rely mostly on the athlete for the funding. Sponsorship can happen at a national level, but for provincial and the road to the national team, the onus is mostly on the athlete. The organising bodies help, don't get me wrong, but there's not a whole lot of money to go around.
TBM: What do you miss about modelling? What aspects of the job are you glad to have left behind?
RB: I miss the interesting things I got to do, and the people I met. The traveling was a lot of fun as well.
I don't miss the castings. I never was a fan. I also don't miss the uneven flow of money. It would be good if things could change with respect to that, but not sure if they will any time soon.
TBM: What advice would you give to models who want to begin the next chapter in their lives?
RB: There's no great way to get on with it other than to just fire up whatever you want to be doing. Talk with your agent and see if they can accommodate the transition. If not, you'll have to just move on. I was fortunate enough to have great agents that continue to work with me to this day by promoting me for athletic stuff and trying to get me work where they can. Just keep an open dialogue with them and hope for the best. Other than that, you just have to fire it up!