Spoiler alert: if you want to keep the exotic mystique of New-York-based model/entrepreneur Thierry Pepin intact, don’t read on.
Thierry is not like the usual men menu of hunks, himbos, weightlifers and assorted Zoolanders you scroll past on your Insta. You’re not going to find the same old: the cheerful life philosophies, posing with overly worked-out girl fiends and ‘roided gym buds. Thierry is not going to share with you the best way to prepare tofu or offer you a warm good-morning smile of patented pearly whites exuding wholesomeness and healthy fun.
Fuck that. Those feeds are a nickel a dozen. Thierry’s feed will actually feed you. His is a darker collection of images, reaching down to the deeper fish, a more sinister, earthly lust that doesn’t suggest that you are going to take him home to mother for Thanksgiving, the kind of photos that make you question your choices and why you suddenly feel so funny inside.
We see Thierry move — almost slither — through New York, and other uneasy locales. His smiles are rare, but not altogether absent, and when they happen, you’ve really got something there.
He answers my question before I ask it: “People ask, ‘how can you be so free?'” His answer: “Don’t limit yourself to anything.”
Even his tatts — the fad that refuses to fade — are unique and worthy of closer contemplation and study.
“It’s getting weird because I’m kinda liking [the pain],” he says of the inking process. However, “I’m not going to cover another part of my body. I don’t want anything on my back. My back, that’s where you get your wings. People like character. If you have a nice tattoo, it says a lot about you. A message.”
So the back remains naked, strong and bold, like his backstory: he’s French Canadian. He grew up in a large family in Montreal. Mom was a waif-like model, and she was 39 when she gave birth to triplets (Thierry among them). One of them died, leaving Thierry as a twin.
“My brother said to me, ‘you are the only person I know who makes decisions by following your heart,'” he says. “‘You just trust your heart,’ my brother says. If my heart is not in it, I don’t know how to hold onto it.”
They were outside people: boats and skis. He traces his heritage back to the Vikings.
About high school, he says, “I could fit into any crowd.” A future forecast, for sure.
Dad, a handsome salesman, left when Thierry was 12.
“My parents together, they were like trophies,” he says. “They were beautiful and on top of their game.”
The relationship with his father? Thierry puts it like this: “My father said, ‘I can’t be your father, but I can be your friend.’ But I’m not sure that’s the kind of guy I would pick as a friend. I outgrew him a long time ago.”
His claim to fame was not his name but that face — and that bod — gracing catalogs and other instruments that the fellas would turn to, to crank one out and load up on undergear. He looks good in underwear. He’s comfortable in his own skin, and even many models, whose stock and trade is the ease of movement and expression, can’t reach that kind of Zed card Zen.
“It doesn’t matter how hot you think you look.” he says. “Nobody cares to see the same face and the same pose on Instagram every day. Instead, what’s your message?”
His message, or at least one of many: I Do Me.
Selling out? Or just extending the persona he is?
“I’m not compromising who I am,” he promises. “I don’t fake it. There’s no reason.”
The difference between being a younger model and an older model?
“When you’re older, they want to put clothes on you,” he says. He still must be considered younger then.
He’s been in New York City for ten years, in a small but amazing downtown apartment that you would die for, decorated with care and passion by Thierry himself, filled with works of art and about a hundred million tokens of affection from friends and travels.
“They say about New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere,” he says, “but to tell you the truth, put me anywhere, and I’m sure I would make it.”
Lotsa photographs come from places that don’t look anything like Manhattan, though. He says, “If I’m going to travel, give me a reason.”
Drinking? Only champagne.
The party image? “I’m a party boy, but I know most times when to leave the party.”
You would think otherwise.
“I’m in New York but I don’t go out that much,” he says, “but I am inspired by the energy. New York may not be what it once was, but the world was not what it once was. Find your own. Make your own world.”
Part of the world he is making for himself includes producing a midnight boot camp. Part intense workout/part club scene; it’s fitness for 24-hour party people. Spin class at midnight, while a DJ spins too.
He doesn’t strike you as materialistic, so with that in mind, his most cherished possession?
“My books of poetry [that I write],” he says. “I should publish it, because if this house burns, I’ll be crying. When you can’t really make sense of something, you can always go to your feelings. It doesn’t matter how bad the feeling was, after I write it down, I feel good.”
His soul: old.
“I want to create, but it’s not about me,” he says. “If it’s about me, it’s not going to be enough. It’s about giving back. Whatever that positive energy is, that’s what I want to see and live.”
Get a glimpse into that old soul with a sampling of his poetry. This, by the way, is a rare treat.
What’ s Up Grown Ups
Do we get better with time
Or do we settle for less?
Do we get to grow like our heroes
Or do we become regular people?
Do we still dream eyes wide open
Or do we give up into the darkness of our traps?
Do we still hope for better days
Or do we surround ourselves to the shadow of our past?
Tell Me Grown Ups
Do we regret people
Do we regret unfinished roads
Do we ever feel too old?
When do we learn about silence
Does it get easier to leave behind
Do we ever learn to free our Mind?
Do We remember who we Used to be
The zest of our soul and how we dared to live?
Do we Love ourself again ,
After looking thru the shattering glass of our youth?
Does it get better or is it always the same
Do we win or lose the game?
Tell Me Grown Ups
When should we give-up?
Do we ever learn to say Goodbye?
Do we ever learn ..
Tell Me Grown Ups
Does it ever Stop?
Find out more about Thierry and follow his blog here.
Follow Thierry on Instagram.
Check out I Do Me
Cover: Marco Ovando for Chongo Magazine
This article originally appeared in Everybody’s magazine.