Model Talk with Tomi Mikael Lappi!
“The idea behind our Model Talk series is a simple one. Give male models a voice. Often male models are seen as the accessory in a shoot. So often they wear the clothes or front the campaign but we never get to know them. So why not change that? So over the next few months we will be sitting down and taking the time to get to know some of the top models in the industry and who knows what we all might learn.”
TOMI MIKAEL LAPPI
You might find yourself mesmerised by Tomi’s piercing blue eyes and his toned, taught torso. If you can focus for just a second… there’s a lot more to Tomi than just a pretty exterior. Of course he’s not shy to show it off though (lucky for all of you) and is grateful for his boy next door looks. But there is much more to Tomi than boyish good looks. We decided to take some time to get to know what he’s all about. He’s a dancer, choreographer, model and works in fashion and events too. But don’t get it twisted, Tomi dispels the saying; Jack of all trades master of none. He’s definitely mastered life and we touch on everything from fitness, modelling and how competing in Mr Gay World shaped the person he is today. And what a pretty great person he’s turned out to be!
Nobody’s ever cut themselves on my jawline and I’ve always been slim
So for those of us who don’t know you, start by telling us a little about yourself and what you do…
I work primarily as a dancer, choreographer and performer around Europe and I’ve got the pleasure to do modelling on the side as well. I’ve lived in Germany, Finland, London and now back in Finland. I’m constantly travelling these days and my favourite part about my work is getting to know all sorts of amazing new people during my travels.
Was modelling something you always wanted to pursue and how did you get started in that industry?
To be honest when i was younger it was something that I wanted to pursue but by the time I finished school the dream had already kind of died. Nobody’s ever cut themselves on my jawline and I’ve always been slim so when I was scouted in London and one of my first test shoots with Oliver Morris ended up on vogue.it it was all a bit of a surprise. I look back at the start and shake my head at how little I knew about the industry and how ready I was to compromise myself look and personality-wise to get further. It was the best decision for me to leave modelling for a while as I left London because the person who’s working behind or in front of the camera these days is someone completely different.
You’ve worked with some amazing photographers, is there any shoots that stand out for you and what made them particularly special to you?
The first shoot with Oliver Morris was a bit of a game changer because I saw the pictures and couldn’t believe it was me. My return in modelling isn’t really big enough to be called a ‘comeback’ but working with Danny Baldwin – who I’ve wanted to shoot with for just about forever – was amazing. We also really connected and now a year later I’m happy to call him one of my best friends. I’ve also been a huge fan of Coitus Magazine and Pantelis’ work for a long time so shooting with him in January was definitely one of the highlights so far.
This must be a dancer thing but I genuinely have zero problems taking off my clothes on set.
As a model there is obviously times when you have to show off your body, is that something that feels natural to you? Where does the confidence to show off your skin come from?
This must be a dancer thing but I genuinely have zero problems taking off my clothes on set. When you’ve been changing your clothes with practically no privacy for your work or hobby all your life it kind of isn’t a big deal anymore. I used to be a little uncomfortable if I had to drop my underwear but I’ve always trusted the photographer or team so after the 3rd or 4th time I’m chilled with that too these days. As you can tell from my Instagram I’m not too fond of wearing clothes anyway so if I had the choice I’d run around shirtless all day every day anyway – even with a million things I’d like to improve on my body. And I might have to move out of Finland permanently before actually considering that.
You clearly work hard on your body; fitness must be a big part of your life? Is there anything special you like to do to keep in shape?
Fitness has always been a big part of my life – mainly because I live a very active life and all my work is more or less physical. Unfortunately, I’m very injury prone after a few little accidents so I have to listen to my body and at times such as now with back problems stay away from the gym for a few weeks. In the past 6 months I’ve realised that the most important work in terms of keeping in shape happens in the kitchen. Your body needs the right amount of the right fuel to function and once I fixed my eating habits everything has kind of started falling into place and I see a lot more progress with the same amount of work that I’ve put in before. I used to be afraid of eating all kinds of foods because I thought I was going to get fat but now eating a lot more and more varied has improved the amount of energy and also my general happiness.
What’s your favourite part of your body and what do you find gets the most compliments on shoots?
I don’t really have a favorite part – when I feel like I’m in good shape physically and mentally I’m pretty happy with all of it and of course when I’m down It’s hard to find things that I like. However, the ‘V’ is always there and tends to get a fair amount of attention on set. I think my forte as a model is being a bit of a chameleon though, you can flick through my book and feel like you’re looking at 10 different people. This means I won’t be the next Lucky Blue or Pietro Boselli with a distinctive look anytime soon but I’m happy with the cards that I’ve been dealt.
stuff like crawling inside a plastic sofa wrapping naked is the kind of crazy stuff that I’d happily do again
Are there any designers or photographers that you would love to work with and what would be your dream campaign to shoot?
There are a lot of photographers that I’d like to work with and usually it’s because I’m drawn to them as people. There’s amazing photographers out there, people like Louie Banks whose work I’m obsessed with and I’ve known him for a while from living in London but never actually stood in front of his camera. I think I’d be a little bit nervous there but definitely that one and many many others. My dream campaign would be Calvin Klein, I’m a big fan of everything CK but if I ever starred [in one] I’d want it to be more of a ‘Shit that’s Tomi Lappi he’s so cool and talented’ instead of that’s some good looking guy in the new Calvin Klein campaign. So definitely not a short-term goal.
You’ve also got some pretty nice ink. Do you feel that has helped or hindered you as a model and what’s your favourite?
The first ink that I got were the wings on my chest and they’ve become a bit of a signature for me. I don’t think I -or anyone else for that matter- can picture me without them. I’m very much the boy next door look so tattoos on me tend to be a little unexpected but especially the chest tattoos have played a big role in how I’m branded these days. I had to wait over two years to gather up the courage to take the next one because I was so traumatized by the pain of the first tattoo but now that I’ve got the rib one I can’t wait to get more end of this year.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve been asked to do as a model and would you do it again?
There’s a lot of crazy things actually. Nudity happens every now and then but there have been some extreme weather conditions, shirtless in -10 sat in the snow and we also shot some tests on an island in Finland in December and I was pretty sure I was going to die from hypothermia. That experience I wouldn’t like to repeat but stuff like crawling inside a plastic sofa wrapping naked is the kind of crazy stuff that I’d happily do again.
When you’re not modelling what else do you like to do to keep busy?
All my other work dancing, choreography, events and such keep me busy pretty much all year round. When I have some time off at home I find happiness in structure and routine, to balance out the life. I eat, work out, dance, watch tv and sleep at certain times and for me that’s the best way of unwinding and resting. Pretty much all my friends are spread around the world so a good FaceTime is one of the best cheer up’s a week. Getting into the dance studio to dance just for fun or with my best friend is a rare treat but when it happens it’s genuinely my favourite thing in the world.
I believe in the crazy all-consuming can’t eat- can’t sleep – kind of love
What’s something that people don’t know about you or would find surprising to know?
I always joke that I’ve lived a 100 lives – you name it – I’ve probably done it. I’ve done both military service in Finland and also had my own residency to perform in Drag in Switzerland. I used to introduce booking systems to harbours as my job and I’ve also competed in ballroom dancing for 13 years in the Finnish national team. The most surprising fact about me though must be that I’m a complete loner. I love spending time with friends when I see them but I really don’t know anything better than sitting in front of the TV with a meal on a Friday night.
Being so busy working do you find it difficult to make time for your relationships? Talk about how you try to make that balance work.
It is definitely difficult to find time for relationships. My circle of close friends is relatively small but it’s people who are there with me to support me when things get hectic and also there for me during the down time and I support and love them back the same way. Thankfully there’s WhatsApp and FaceTime these days so you don’t really have to worry if you’re not even in the same country as your close ones for an extended period of time. Love life-wise the thought at the moment is pretty much impossible but I guess it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make at the time. When things are good with the career I’ve got to make hay while the sun shines. I wouldn’t want myself or my future partner to sacrifice any of their dreams or ambitions or career opportunities to try to make something work that’s guaranteed not to be easy but there’s always the chance of someone coming along that’s going to change my mind about this.
What do you look for in your ideal partner?
I’m actually 24 and never been in a relationship. In my ideal partner I look for someone who keeps me on my toes. It’s a cliché but generally someone who’s capable of making me laugh. I am a very complex person and I’ve inherited a temper from my mother so I think at the end of the day I need someone a little bit crazy by my side. I believe in the crazy all-consuming can’t eat- can’t sleep – kind of love and can’t see myself ever getting into a relationship out of convenience.
We can’t let you go without touching on the fact you came third at Mr Gay World last year. How was that and how did you get to be a part of it? Talk a little about that experience.
So many things have happened after it genuinely feels like a lifetime ago. It was an amazing experience and I genuinely feel like it shaped me as a person a lot. I used to be very proud and I used to suck at asking for help and in the preparation process it was kind of all I had to do. Mr Gay World was the experience that taught me that being kind and nice to other people around you isn’t showing weakness and that that’s the best possible way to make change and a difference in the people you encounter. I made a bunch of lifelong friends there and I can’t wait to go see the 2016 Competition.
Finally, where would you like to see yourself career wise, and in life, in the next 5 years and what’s coming up from you that we should look out for?
Oh lord. If I would’ve answered this question 5 years ago I wouldn’t have had a clue and I honestly don’t know about the next 5. I’ll be in a relationship and I’ll still be busy with modelling and dancing, maybe moved more to the choreography side of things. I also want to do something in comedy and mainly I’d like to see myself well rested, healthy and happy. That’s the most important thing. The next 6 months are dedicated to dance, a few modelling jobs in Europe and getting the body in the ultimate shape so come September you’ll be seeing a Tomi that’s ready to travel and that’ll be full of surprises then.
Model: Tomi Lappi
Words By: Craig Andrew James
All selfies exclusive to the Model Talk Series by Craig Andrew James. Photoshoot photos provided by Tomi and Credit goes to the original photographer.