Not One Look

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Photography by Joseph Pascual
Styling by Edlene Cabral
Grooming by Sari Campos

Like trends, models live out mere blips in the fashion world. But unlike trends, the most beautiful boys and girls to ever walk a runway don’t get to make any comebacks. Still, there are a handful you see again.

“I remember there was a time I would come out in three different magazines each month so I guess I was doing okay,” says Luke Jickain of his garment-working glory days. While Luke burned out of the fashion world, it wasn’t long before he decided to blaze his own trail. He took an unlikely step from the catwalk and struggled to find his footing through acting school in New York.

Four years later, choosing performance over posing certainly paid off. Following up the title role of a humanoid God in ABS-CBN’s Oh My G!, he plays an actual dad in upcoming Kapamilya soap And I Love You So (starring Benchsetter Julia Barretto). Father figure roles in shows and TVCs may have replaced the fashion work but a Zoolander-themed Dubsmash on the 29-year-old’s Instagram recently revealed a top model who’s still got a lot of face to serve.

Inspired, we lay a few Ber month layers on Mr. Jickain, starting him off with clothes that are hushed and more sedate, then transitioning to bolder, more dynamic looks. As Luke unravels before the camera, BENCH BLOG discovers the (fashion) force is still strong in this one. And hey, as unpredictable as our obsessions are these days (one word: #Aldub), fashion could very well find its next face from a not too distant past.

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Hi, Luke! What do you think of the fashion world these days?

I have no clue. I see models and say to myself, “Wow, they look different from four years ago.” Fashion evolves.

Do you think you still have a place in the fashion world seeing how models look now?

There’s always a demand for diversity. There’s no one look—(Does Zoolander accent) ’One look?’ (Laughs) I remember when I was starting out at 16, [modeling agents] were going for the look of guys like Jon Hall, Kenji [Marquez], Christian Vasquez, or Marc Nelson. Bulky, big biceps. It changed and went to that skinny look. That’s when I got a lot more jobs. Now, I see skinny models, medium build, big pecs…

You were supposed to be part of “The Evolution of Man Candy,” where we shot legends like Jon and Kenji. Later, you told us you were glad you weren’t part of that.

It was nice, actually. There’s so much wisdom from the older models. Jon and Kenji were like my kuyas. When I was a kid, I always patterned my career after Jon’s. I wanted to be a Bench underwear model, I wanted to be like Kenji, who worked a lot of fashion shows. They served as huge inspiration when I was starting out. But seeing your mentors past the stage of being a model, it kind of feels a little bit depressing knowing the reality that you can’t always stay young. Sooner or later, you’re in your 30s. Then you face another stage in your life. I remember reading Jon’s interview mentioning he was hard to work with. He has some regrets but he learned a lesson about life. One day, you’ll wake up older, not so in demand anymore.

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Did you ever go through that phase of feeling a little more superior when you were younger?

I don’t think so but I always had a hard time being on time. When I was a kid, I was a working student so I would come from school and I didn’t have much sleep. It’s always a struggle for more sleep—until now. I didn’t really reach the mayabang phase ‘cause I was always under the mercy of directors and professors. I remember always begging to come late so I wasn’t always in the position to be mayabang. I was always trying to solicit for a little more understanding.

What made you head to the States to study acting?

A lot of reasons. One, I got burned out so much. I seldom remember eating on an actual table. It was always in the car or backstage. I remember trying to get as many jobs as possible ‘cause I was sending myself to school. I wasn’t liking myself anymore. I envied people whose life came easy to them. I told myself I wanted to be someone more than just a model. So I thought that instead of nominating myself as the worst actor in the Philippines, I would try to do something about it. When I got to New York, I looked for a cheap school that would last me at least six months to a year.

How difficult was acting school?

I’m not the best actor in the world but at least I’m not the worst. It wasn’t a workshop so I had to go to school Monday to Friday. It’s hard ‘cause I don’t have an American accent and there are so many accents in the States. If I had to do the accent of someone who grew up in the south, I had to really practice a southern accent, which I’m so bad at. I would ask friends if they knew anyone from the south and if maybe we could grab a beer or burger. It was a lot of effort for me just to do a monologue in front of my class.

How did you make money at the time?

During that time, I was doing a lot of TV commercials and fashion shows in the Philippines. I traveled back and forth between here and New York for two years. I remember brands were really supportive—they gave me lots of pullouts. You get to save a lot of money when you don’t do much shopping.

You mentioned you went broke in the States.

Yeah, I remember Fergie’s song. It goes something like, “When you ain’t got no money, get your broke ass home.” I remember after the sixth month I was there, I only had 500 dollars in my pocket and I was so scared to spend. But I was always lucky ‘cause when I really needed money, my agent would call to say I got a part in a commercial.

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Where were you living in New York?

My lolo lives in Staten Island so I took the ferry every day to Manhattan. It was fun ‘cause I was such a tourist. I would take selfies with the Statue of Liberty at my back. Riding the ferry can be relaxing. I would walk a lot. I would give myself a city tour every single day. I would eat hotdogs at Gray’s Papaya almost every day. And near my school, one-dollar pizzas.

Did you make a lot of friends?

I did. I remember my acting coach and me would exchange messages on Facebook. He really appreciated my effort, traveling all the way from the Philippines to study. I would always steal his time by going at least 40 minutes before class. I would help him fix the chairs and I would assist him. I took advantage to ask questions.

During the class exercises, was there a role you really enjoyed playing?

I remember doing a scene for Good Will Hunting. I was playing Matt Damon’s character. My teacher played Robin Williams’s character. He was so good that I was convinced I was really the character.

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During the class exercises, was there a role you really enjoyed playing?

I remember doing a scene for Good Will Hunting. I was playing Matt Damon’s character. My teacher played Robin Williams’s character. He was so good that I was convinced I was really the character.

Where did you want to take the acting?

For commercials, I wanted to be the model who gets the role. You’re all models but it’s the acting that gives you a little more of a push. I wanted to get that edge. I could also use it for TV. Models use TV as a stepping stone to get into showbiz so I took that path. Now, I’m doing shows for ABS-CBN. I guess I’m still lucky when it comes to work. I’m not that mainstream but I’m just grateful that work is continuous.

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Well, you’re 29. How are you feeling about entering your 30s?

I try not to think about it. It freaks me out a little. Going back to Jon and Kenji’s interviews, sooner or later, I’ll experience what they experienced. But what’s good about acting is that you can act even when you’re older. I kind of bought myself another 10 to 12 years.

And you can’t see yourself doing anything else?

Maybe in the future, when I get a lot of credibility being an actor or host, maybe I can try to be a newscaster. When you’re motivated and you have a little, little, little, little talent, it can go a long way. My acting coach would tell me, “The most successful people in the industry aren’t always the smartest. They’re not the most beautiful. But they’re really the most hardworking people.” I don’t have a talent as big as Robert Downey, Jr.’s and I don’t talk as smoothly as Ryan Seacrest. But when I have a job, I try to really, really try to do my best.

It’s funny ‘cause whenever you talk about the things you do, be it modeling or acting, you always seem to say you’re “okay” at it. Is there anything you feel you’re more than okay at?

I think I’m good at extending my shelf life. I’m lucky I’ve been able to do more.

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