“Mr. Lagerfeld knew I was into various combat sports and that I boxed. He was interested in what I did, and we were friendly, and so I took a chance one day and told him that if he ever needed a bodyguard, I was available.”
How did you end up in the bodyguard business?
I had just left the army and was working on several different things at the same time. I was heavy into boxing, and there was a crew of guys from my neighborhood that had a security company. They had a lot of clients at the time, and would give jobs to the guys from my neighborhood. That’s how I started working in security.
And when did you start working for Karl Lagerfeld?
About fifteen years ago. I had already worked with him, actually, but in another capacity that had nothing to do with security. I was working for the company that looked after the furniture collections in his various houses. I did that for a few years, so we got to see one another quite often. We got along well. Mr. Lagerfeld knew I was into various combat sports, and that I boxed. He was interested in what I did, and we were friendly, and so I took a chance one day and told him that if he ever needed a bodyguard, I was available. Soon after, I started working for him — not really as his bodyguard, but more as a kind of driver and right-hand man, although I’d take care of his safety, too, when we were travelling around.
And now you’re a model as well, thanks to your Chanel campaign with the English actress Kiera Knightley.
To be honest, I’m not really a model. My real job is looking after Karl, but when someone proposes something, I like to go for it full-on. I did my first show in 2001, and it had nothing to do with Karl or Chanel. It was for A.P.C.. Jean Touitou was looking to shoot five boxers.
English boxing, although it was any kind of boxing, really. They were looking for a different kind of guy than the ones you normally see on the runway. You could say I’m a model in parentheses [laughs]. After A.P.C., Karl started using me in various things, including a few Chanel campaigns and, just now, the new campaign for the Karl Lagerfeld label. I’m in the ads for their German line.
Hollywood seems to love bodyguards. Has any movie ever captured the reality of your job?
Not really, no — the reality is far more mundane. We try to avoid physical contact as much as humanly possible when we are protecting someone. It sells movie tickets, but the reality is completely different. Ninety-nine percent of what we do is about being diplomatic. There is a craft to it. The more intelligent a bodyguard is, the better the outcome will be in every confrontation. Our brains are our primary weapons, before resorting to brawn.
Sounds smart to us.
Yes, thank you.
Yes, I guess it is a bit Buddhist. Speaking several languages helps, too. You have to able to communicate. Mind you, I am not the world’s greatest communicator. Here I am, giving advice to which I should conform myself!
If you weren’t a bodyguard and a model today, what would you like to be doing?
Honestly, I’ve never asked myself that question. I do a lot of different things in my current job, and that allows me to meet all sorts of different people, which I enjoy. I really love what I do. I don’t know, but I’d figure it out. I’ve done many different jobs. I’ve sold sandwiches, I’ve worked in restaurants, I’ve cleaned warehouses, I’ve been a delivery boy...
What about a nightclub bouncer?
No, I’ve never done that, actually. I did do security at concerts with the firm that gave me my start — the lads from my neighborhood — but I never worked in clubs.
Any advice for young men considering a career in personal protection?
There are guys who have done this all their lives — guys protecting people on perilous missions around the world, in dangerous countries, never far from death — and I am far below their level. Perhaps they would know better. But in my mind, to be a good bodyguard you have to be sure of yourself. At the same time, you need to be at peace with yourself, because if you are at war with the world and you have something to prove, you might kill someone. And that is no good.