We go deep with George Dellinger, going back in time. From childhood to teens to how he found success as a model at the age of 55.
Editorial by Craig Macleod Images
Additional photos courtesy of George Dellinger
I could talk forever about this . That’s a huge subject that has been the focus of psychological studies since the beginning of modern times. It’s been discussed in literature from the Bible to Moby Dick.
Willpower is an inner strength that allows you to look at the big picture of life rather than the instant gratification of the moment.
It’s the realization that knowing what you are giving up now will be better for you in the long run. When you have willpower, there’s probably nothing that feels better or more powerful than that realization. I will say that I don’t always have the willpower that I wish I had .
I think it’s also interesting to find out what motivates the willpower. What's the intention behind a specific act of willpower? For example, here are two specific instances of willpower in my own life that are so different from each other. Nevertheless, they are willpower.
When I was kid , from 7 to 11, I was fat. The kind of fat that when my parents took me to Sears to get clothes for the new school year, I would cry because I had to choose from Husky Plus. In the 60s and 70s, boys clothes at Sears came in “slim," “regular," “husky”, and “husky plus." Needless to say, the coolest clothes were in slim and regular sizes. At 11 years old, I was fed up with having to get “fat “ clothes, so I put myself on a diet. The doctor didn’t do it. I did. Under my own supervision. All I ate was yogurt ... for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I lost 30 pounds, and I finally got to buy “ slims”. It probably wasn't the healthiest way to lose weight, but I was a vain little kid. I was tired of not being cool because I was fat. I had incredible willpower as an 11 year old. I’ll show them! But the motivation and intention was all wrong because It was driven by vanity.
As a teenager, I was a champion swimmer. Therefore, I spent my summers lifeguarding and teaching swimming. Endless days drinking coke after coke after coke. In the South, a coke is generic for everything from 7Up to Mountain Dew to Coca Cola and Dr Pepper. Up to 20 cans of sugary acidic soft drink every day. At the end of my 16th summer, I can remember coughing up blood. I was forced to stop drinking soft drinks. I haven’t had a soft drink since then. 40+ years ago. Kinda the way an alcoholic has to give up alcohol. Go back and do it , and you die. That took willpower, but it was motivated by health. I didn’t want to lose part of my stomach. As time went by, I totally lost any urge to have a sip of a coke. I trained myself to think that it wasn’t necessary, and I didn’t miss it . To this day, if it were 100F outside and all there is to drink is Coke, I could care less about it. Don’t miss it at all. I don’t even remember what it tastes like. A different kind of willpower.
Tell us about your profession with post production for film and commercials.
I work for a hip, small boutique post facility in Williamsburg Brooklyn called Dungeon Beach. We do sound design, mixing, recording VO ( Voice Over) & ADR ( Automated Dialogue Replacement) , score composition, color grading, visual effects, and final finishing for indie feature films, docs, network episodic series, commercials, webspots, and even podcasts. Everything that is “post”...under one roof. Once a film project is finished being edited, or “ locked” as we say, it goes out for post... where all the magic happens. My job as the post producer is to negotiate the incoming jobs with the project directors and producers or the agency producers. That is, I determine whether we want to do them and then bid on them. Once the bid is accepted, I then assign the appropriate creatives to the project, schedule the project, and then oversee it until it’s finished. I often sit in on final creative sessions , offering both creative insight , and mediating between our creative team and the client. Quite a bit of hand-holding goes on. I’m there to make sure that the client is happy, protect our creatives and our interests, and to resolve any problems that may come up in the sessions. It’s during the final mix and color sessions that tensions can flare, money can run out, and a calming factor might be needed. That’s my role. My partners affectionately call me “ The Fixer” .
In this last year, I’ve had the fortunate pleasure of working with Zoe Kravitz on her new series High Fidelity as well as Big Little Lies, John Cameron Mitchell’s musical podcast Anthem Homunculous, commercials ranging from Delta Airlines to Adidas to Applegate Farms, and several feature films premiering at Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW. My job is never dull. And best of all, I LOVE what I do, where I work, and who I work with. I don’t know a lot of people who can say that.
Did you find this work created horrible habits for your posture and skeletal alignment?
Funny enough, this work has not created those bad habits, but the work that I did prior to post production did. For over 20 years, I managed several International DJs and worked out of my house . That meant spending 12-16hrs / day seated at my desk on the computer, often accompanied by long overseas flights and late nights on a dance floor. Not exactly the healthiest situation and environment for good posture.
I do a lot of work on the computer and now hunch and have back pain.
During those years, I had my fair share of pinched nerves (both cervical and lumbar), plenty of corticosteroid injections, lots of pain, and lots of down time recuperating from repetitive stress-related injuries.
I work out completely different now than I did in my 20s/30s/40s.
I’m really into animal flow and functional training. The animal flow is great for stretching, elongating my body, using my entire body and focusing my mind. As I get older (in my late 50s now), I’ve seen how quickly the body loses muscle and how much slower my metabolism is. So Willpower, in this sense, means thinking about my longevity and being able to stand tall and straight when I’m 70 and 80 which translates to working out as often as I can and eating much healthier than I did when I was younger. Granted, there’s a lot more information out now about food than there was in the 80s, 90s, and even 2000s. I want to still be surfing and snowboarding into my golden years. I have to workout twice as hard now than I did when I was 30 or 40 in order to achieve the same results. Even when I don’t feel like exercising , I know that I HAVE to. I need to exercise my willpower to not succumb to laziness. It’s about the big picture and feeling good....not looking good. I know that if I feel good, then I look good . When I was young, I had it all ass-backwards. It was about working out to look a certain way, regardless of what the ramifications were. One of the benefits of age... you get smarter about how to take care of yourself.
Tell us about your modeling career. It seems it has taken off at the prime age of 58!
Well actually, it started when I was 55. I’ll be 58 in the next month. I'm on Fire, baby.
I’d never grown a real beard before, nothing beyond scruff. In Sep of ‘17, I went on summer vacation to Chile (snowboarding). I didn’t shave for ten days . When I got home, I realized that I could grow a beard pretty easily. So that’s what I did.
Against everyone’s wishes.
My first serious beard.
Nine months later, I was in Williamsburg, and a photographer who was here from Europe and working on an assignment for CrossFit spotted me and asked if he could shoot my portrait before he flew back to Warsaw. I looked at his work, and it was gorgeous. He was definitely legitimate: the real deal. I said yes. He shot film on a vintage Roloflex camera. A few months later, I received the images. I’d never seen photos of myself that looked like that. The colors, the depth, the detail, the vibrancy. I showed the images to a dear friend of mine, who (unbeknownst to me) showed them to a dear girlfriend of hers.... who owned a big NYC/ LA modeling agency. Before I knew it, I’d received an email from this agency asking me to come in and meet them. She told me that the pictures were beautiful, that my look was super timely/of the moment, and that they wanted to sign me on the spot.
A month later , I was off to London to shoot a campaign for a beautiful rugged clothing brand called Andsons. Then, two months later, I was off to Stockholm to shoot a commercial for Fujifilm which I got Scotch & Soda to collaborate on. That led to a story about Scotch & Soda which I shot and produced myself. That was picked up by Forbes. Then, my journey involved getting shot by Kevin McDermott ( a photographer whose work I’ve long admired), landing a fall campaign for 2Xist underwear with the gorgeous Jonathan Bellini ( 30 years my junior!), Men’s Warehouse, HIMS, WeWork, Koehler.. all great campaigns. It’s one thing to see your photos all over the subway, on billboards, and even at airports around the world, but the most exciting for me is to see myself in magazines and to walk the runway during Fashion Week. Not in a million years would I have ever imagined to get a cover at 57 or a feature editorial in a fashion magazine that I’ve loved since my teens , L’officiel Hommes. But the craziest thrill of all...is walking on a runway with crowds on either side, cheering you on. I’m not tall , certainly no 6’ and far from the standard 6’2," but apparently that doesn’t matter any more, THANK GOD. I love being one of the people to change the minds of the fashion audience about how “ the male model should be." At my first runway show, I came out in a speedo-type swimsuit, and the audience roared, clapped, screamed. The last thing they expected to see among all the 20 year olds was a 56 year old bearded dude in a speedo. I was hooked!
They got it !
I’d say that one of the most wonderful things that happened along the way is my friendship with Craig MacLeod.
Craig started shooting me at 56, and hasn’t stopped. It’s Craig’s photos that landed me cover of the Volant in Germany: NAKED, no less. It's Craig’s photos that you’re publishing. I’m so grateful to Craig, not just for what he’s done for my career, but for being such a professional, a true collaborator of art, and the dearest of friends. He knows how to get the best out of me, and I know exactly what he wants, how he shoots, and what he’s going for.
In all honesty, I’ve learned so much from each of the photographers I’ve worked with over the last 2.5 years. If I can mention the most important ones, and thank them for being on this journey with me, it would be: Jessica Wikstrom, Phil James, Kevin McDermott, Platon, Craig Macleod, Ira Veridiano, Saloni Agarawal, Elys Berroteran, Braydy Olson, Michael Paniccia, Jeffrey Means, Sacha Waldman, and Michael Williams. Each of these artists has been an invaluable teacher.
How does your modeling career cause you to reflect on life?
The fact that, really it’s never too late for anything!
First of all, it’s humbling. I look at it as a gift from the Universe. Never take it for granted. I’m a very open person. I'm open to new experiences, especially ones that challenge me . I think that if you approach life with an open heart, confidence, authenticity, and gratefulness, then the world is your oyster. You just have to be open and go for the ride. Have FUN with it. Having this happen at this stage in my life was a huge surprise for sure. Completely unexpected. Being at the right place and the right time. I’m not tall, and I’m not young. But it’s working. One of the greatest pleasures I’ve had in all this is using modeling ( and Instagram) as a platform to reach out to other men and women in their 50s and 60s and tell them that it’s never too late to try something new or make that dream come true. I’ve made such great friends through Instagram who have told me how I’ve inspired them to get back to the gym, to eat more healthy, to love more deeply, to get back to cooking or gardening, to try something new like Animal Flow . That has been the most gratifying part of this. Seeing how I can make a difference in someone else’s life. Again, something that I never expected. Gifts. They’re right in front of you , if you’re open.