A Rake’s Progress: How Ricki Hall Beat his Demons to Become a Top Model & Social Media Sensation…
Ricki Hall picks up the energy of a room, swirls it around, makes it bounce of the walls and infuses everyone in there with enthusiasm. It’s true. I met him years ago, maybe 5, when he’d just come to London and was working on a mutual friend’s stall (Philip Normal, a previous Modeltypeface interviewee). He has since taken the modelling world by storm, racking up a number of huge campaigns and amassed an enormous social media following.
I do love anyone who fights a stereotype, and Ricki – famous for his beard, tattoos and edgy style – does just that with his sunny nature. If anyone tried to cross the road to avoid him, he’d probably chase after them to help them with their shopping bags.
Outgoing and chatty, Ricki lets loose an excitable stream of funny tales told at complete random, and as an interviewer I didn’t try and order his streams of consciousness: I just sat back and enjoyed the stories!
I caught up with Ricki over numerous peppermint teas to find out about his career ascent and what the future holds…
R: Hi Ricki, thanks for meeting me! I’ve always been interested in your career, because you really seemed to make it happen for yourself. How did you get into it?
RH: I was scouted outside Topman in Oxford Street [Same as me! – R]…It was my first time in London on my own. I might as well have been headed to Australia it felt that foreign! I’d been down with the school before – you know, to see Lion King or something – but going down on my own felt like a really big thing.
I’m a working class boy from Wolverhampton and after leaving school at 16 I’d been working in my Dad’s garage, which I loved – steady girlfriends, pint-fight-curry on a Friday. But I wasn’t saving any money, and getting scouted by Laura Amy that day changed my life.
R: Beards are fashionable now, but when you were scouted they were most definitely not. I was slightly incredulous that you got signed, just because you were so different from other male models at the time…
RH: Well I had a ‘tache, a Mohican and tattooes when I got scouted!
R: Oh yes I remember! Well that look was even more unusual for a model, bearing in mind I have always been told to present myself as a ‘blank canvas’…
RH: Well can you imagine what my friends at the garage thought? Me with my ‘tache, headed down to London to model?! That spurred me on – I didn’t want to fail and look foolish in front of them.
R: Well you certainly have succeeded. And since you got big, male models with beards are everywhere!
RH: Well I wouldn’t say I influenced that look, but I definitely gave it a nudge.
The whole beard thing though – it was literally cos I was too broke and lazy to keep up the moustache. I didn’t even have money for a razor when I came down. Fair play to Philip Normal, working on his stall kept me afloat when I came down to London and got signed to NEVs.
R: What was the turning point? When did you start getting booked?
RH: I headed to a casting for Lyle & Scott and got it, and that was the big job that launched me. From there I got signed to agencies worldwide and fell in with a crowd who also happened to be getting big – Konrad Lindholm (who I’d looked up to when I was a mechanic) and Ash Stymest, all of whom had an alternative, tattooed look that hadn’t really been seen in fashion ads before. I was dating Kelly Osborne, which happened to get my name out there and I suppose things just grew. It’s a mix of hard work and zeitgeist.
R: Well looking at your career, I agree that it’s been a mix of ‘right place right time’ with mega hard work.
RH: Definitely. The H&M commercial with David Beckham was a big one…
R: No way!!! I didn’t see that!
RH: It was shown at the Superbowl…
R: Woah! Jobs like that are amazing for social media, but you also have to keep your followers. All of us models now have to strive to gain and maintain big numbers. You have a jaw-dropping 364k followers on Instagram – what’s your secret?
R: I’m a silly little bastard. I’m like a child in that way – sit me in a room with my daughter, Aaliyah, and I’ll be the one hunched over the Scaletrix while she plays on her iPad.
I’m honest, and not too serious. Models are often placed on a pedestal and I’m not like that at all: you’ll see me in the local fried chicken shop, or admitting to getting whiplash on my balls. My spelling’s terrible; I don’t try to hide that. It makes me relatable.
R: Looking at who responds to your Twitter, I was surprised by how many men seemed to really look up to you and respect you. My surprise wasn’t at the fact that they respect you – it’s just that I’d expect a male model to have a largely dedicated female following!
RH: Yeah definitely. The dads & lads, and guys with beards. I reckon they see me as someone they could sit in the pub and put the world to rights with.
I actually lost a load of followers recently, because I started wearing nail varnish.
R: That’s ridiculous!
RH: I think people think that, cos I’m working class and I’ve got beards and tattoos, I should be ultra masculine all the time. Well have a look at my Instagram – I put stupid stuff up, like me running through a field of flowers shrieking. I’m not afraid to take the piss and look stupid!
Someone commented something like ‘I followed you cos I thought you were cool but your [sic] just a massive fag.’
Well firstly – I hate the word fag. I have a lot of gay followers and they’re really sweet to me. I don’t want to fit into some narrow idea of what a person who looks like me should act like. I usually ignore trolls but I responded to that guy. I simply corrected his spelling. I wouldn’t normally do that that but it felt good.
R: You also DJ and go out a lot. Is that hard to balance with modelling? I have to be tucked up in bed after a light supper by 10pm if I have a shoot the next day…
RH: I love an early night. If it’s a quiet night in I’ll just be in bed by ten! But yeah, I definitely took it too far at one point. I’m a pleaser – I want to make people laugh and I don’t want to let them down – so I was finding myself out at all hours of the night, most nights.
DJing and partying is part of my career, but I was waking up with missing parts to my memory not to mention the missing clothes (I get really attached to my clothes, and that hurt).
Looking back, I’d say that at one point I was borderline alcoholic. I’d wake up and fancy a beer. I just realised, though, that I was fucking up my life and my career. It was spiralling, and I’ve got a 6-year-old daughter who I need to look out for. I just had to clean up my act, so I did. I’ve been sober for months now and I feel amazing.
R: Congratulations! I must say, I’m enjoying the peppermint tea we’re sipping! You live with your girlfriend, Vicky. Is her energy like yours, or is she calmer?
RH: Oh she’s so much calmer. I’ve got chronic ADHD and OCD: it’s why I’m so skinny, I think, because I’m always zooming about places. She balances me out. I met her through Dougie from McFly – she’s stylist to McBusted. He knows I like blondes, and best of all she’s Brummie and grew up near me, even though we never met!
R: Brilliant! Have you branched out into any other areas from modelling?
RH: Yes. You have to – modelling goes in waves, so you have to be prepared for the quiet bits. As well as the DJing I’ve branched out into fashion. I love 80s rock n roll, though I borrow my style from all different eras. So I’ve got a sister collection for P&Co called Unlovable. I wanted to go a bit wild with it all and express myself, and they let me.
Then there’s Booze & Baccy for Captain Fawcett, which is beard oil & wax.
We recently did a cologne too, so I had to formulate the smells.
R: OMG I am so jealous!! That’s a dream of mine – I love scents! Tell me all about it!
RH: So I was locked in this room with all these jars of smells. I had to pick three scents I liked. I went with smells like tobacco and whiskey: I wanted it to smell like Del Boy with a strawberry daquiri, in a bottle.
R: I can imagine you in acting, or presenting or something like that. Have you had any offers in that area?
RH: Well actually I am now a member of the ASOS Stylist Team! They want me to do a bit of presenting, showing people how I’d mix looks together. It’s pretty exciting – I’ll be letting viewers into my world. We’ve got an Instagram up now [10 posts and he has over 4k followers….Go check it out! – R] and there are videos to come.
R: Life seems very exciting for you right now…
RH: It is. I just need some good taxidermy pieces for my shelves, and a pirate-y, old rescue cat and I’ll be set…
R: Thank you Ricki!