By Tom Peaks @MrPeaksNValleys
Under the big tent, it’s Elia Berthoud!! An international model, with a sophisticated and worldly aura, Elia, you might be shocked to learn, spent ten years in the circus. When someone says Elia is clowning around, you just might have to take them literally. Known for his striking jawline and pouty lips, Elia is best viewed as a male model than a clown hidden under makeup. Although, I imagine watching his intense face and body walking the tight rope might be enjoyable. Perhaps someone can do a photo shoot of him doing acrobatic feats! Delightful Elia has a personality that is as dazzling and multi-faceted as his background.
Recently, Swiss sensation Elia did a photo shoot with NYC-based Joseph Lally for PnV/Fashionably Male. We have been long-time fans of the work of Lally. A popular, imaginative talent, Lally works in multiple media platforms and with some of the biggest models and agencies in the world.
Joseph Lally is an avant-garde filmmaker, fashion photographer and writer whose mission is to create ‘beauty that seduces the eye and content that shatters the limitations of the mind.’ Be sure to check out the link at the bottom to view his fascinating films.
For now, enjoy our interview with Elia Berthoud with new images by Joseph Lally:
So, first some basics, Elia. What is your age, weight, and height? Hair/eye color? Birthday? What agencies represent you? What is your hometown & current residence?
First of all, thank you Peaks N Valleys for having this interview with me. I am 23 years old, 175 pounds and 6’1’ tall’. My hair is brown, and I have blue eyes. I was born on 1/31/1993. I am represented by d1 New York, d1 London, Major Milan, and a few others around the globe. My hometown is a small town called Hinwil, which is close to Zurich, and currently I live in New York.
So, you grew up in beautiful rural countryside near Zurich, Switzerland. Sounds like heaven to me? Tell me about the cultural shock of being in NYC? When did you move to the US? Do you miss the open spaces in Switzerland as opposed to the concrete and sky scrapers of NYC?
The first time I visited New York I felt like this city was way too big for me. But that was before I lived in Beijing, China and traveled trough Asia. Now that I have traveled quite a bit and seen many places, New York seems like the perfect size, not too small not too big. So compared to Switzerland I miss the clean streets and the high living standard that Swiss people enjoy (or maybe not enjoy enough). But if I miss open space, I like to take a walk in Central Park or on the Hudson River Greenway. Traveling definitely made me appreciate my home more than ever and understand that every place has to offer different things. So I never understand why people complain. Complaining is just a weak state of mind, in which you focus on the negative rather than the positive.
How did you become so proficient at language? You speak like 73 languages or something. Haha. Tell us about that. You should become a government spy!
Haha. Well, I speak German, French, Italian and English fluently, and I am currently studying Spanish and Japanese. It’s not my goal to speak all of them perfectly, but I want to understand and communicate with as many people as possible. My parents always told me that it was important to learn about different cultures and to work towards world peace. Switzerland is a country in the heart of Europe, located in between rich and very poor countries. After many wars took place around Swiss borders, Switzerland gave asylum to countless refugees. My mother always tried to learn a few words in every imaginable language, so she could welcome refugees and any type of foreigner who decided to live and work in Switzerland. And so did I. Many people are afraid of foreigners, in every country I have visited so far. But it would be better to include people in the society and give them a home. Everybody respects and protects his home and if the foreigners will respect and protect their new home nobody will have to be afraid of them.
So, Elia…you worked for TEN years with the circus! Give us the story. When did you start? How? And what did you do?
Yes, indeed, I grew up on stage with the circus. I started at the age of 6 with my two older sisters. It was a circus for children, directed by the teacher of my oldest sister at the time. It was like a hobby, but we had around 40 shows a year, which made it a pretty big thing for us at that young age. In these 10 years I did every number you could imagine: I was a magician, clown, juggler, fakir, tightrope walker, unicyclist, and we had several more numbers that I don’t even know an English translation for. My favorites were the numbers as a trapeze artist, which I did for 9 years.
How did you end up modeling? Tell us how and when that happened? What motivated you?
After 10 years of circus, many of my circus friends started to work and had less time to put an actual effort into the numbers and I felt like it was time to do something new. I got picked for an amazing dance crew that was sponsored by Puma, whom I danced for, until they shortly after split up. During all my childhood, until that point I had performed in different shows and trained in different sports and arts, and now I had nothing to do. I remembered a friend of my mother telling me previously that I should try modeling, so I started to organize my own photo shoots and build my first portfolio.
Tell us about your first shoot. How did it come about? Were you nervous?
My first shoot was a swimwear editorial with two girls, for a German magazine. I found the ad for the job on a model forum. I wasn’t nervous. Like many things I did in my life I felt rather excited about having a great opportunity to travel and work in unknown places. For this shoot, I traveled to Munich, Germany, and ultimately the pay was exactly the same as my travel expenses. So the pay was bad, but I had my first experience and a great time, so I aimed to make modeling a part of my immediate future.
Walking runway and posing for prints. They are very different aren’t they? Which do you prefer, Elia? How do you prepare mentally?
To be honest, I don’t think that those jobs are very different. At least they require the same skills. A model needs an adapted face, body and appearance for a job. If those three things fit, a model can do any job. For me, personally, it’s important that I am in a happy and friendly mood when I work, so that everybody has fun and the team can create valuable outcomes.
What is it about modeling that you enjoy? You were always in the circus…you dance. Is that a compatible background in preparation for modeling? How critically do you analyze the final product when it comes out?
I enjoy meeting and working with many people of any kind daily. Every day is a new day and a different team for a different job. My background is not required, but often I can profit from my past experiences, especially in terms of group dynamic and perfectionism. My acrobatic skills were rarely featured in my work so far, but I hope to get opportunities to use them in the future. I am very critical with every single job I do. It’s not easy to satisfy a perfectionist. Haha.
What have been one or two highlights of your modeling career thus far?
When I was back in Milan, I had the opportunity to shoot with a real legend. His name is Giampaolo Barbieri. It was actually just last week, when he offered me to shoot again for his upcoming book.
And another highlight was, when I got my USA-working visa two months ago, which allowed me to finally live and work in New York!
Who are some photographers whom you would dream to shoot with?
Hmm, difficult question… There are countless photographers I would love to meet and shoot with. Just to name a few: Ellen von Unwerth, Steven Klein, Bruce Weber, Benjamin Lenox, Partick Demarchelier, Steven Meisel, Mert and Marcus.
Elia, what are your long-term goals? What would be your ultimate modeling fantasy? Do you hope to stay permanently in the USA?
I always liked different ways of performing, and I love photography and filmmaking. My long-term goals are to collaborate with creative artists and find ways to encourage as many people as possible to open up their minds, to live healthy and to create value in their lives.
I never want to stay in one place only, my goal is to keep traveling, and stay in contact with all of the great people I meet around the world and have many places I can call home.
You love dance and study ballet? What fulfillment do you get from that?
I’m not a big fan of copying things other people once defined as perfect. So ballet is really just an exercise to me. But it helps me to work on my posture and it’s a nice work out. If I’ll ever dance on a stage again, it won’t be any sort of classical dance though.
You are also a Buddist, Elia. When did you discover that in your life? What does it bring for you? Is there sometimes conflict with the religion and lifestyle of a male model?
My parents became Buddhists before I was born, and at the age of eleven I started my daily practice. My first experiences with this philosophy were literally life changing, so I have never stopped.
Unlike all the major established religions, Mahayana Buddhism doesn’t conflict a models lifestyle. Buddhism is promoting peace and it’s structured very logical and is timeless. It was the first religion ever to promote gender equality (3000 years ago that was revolutionary) and it encourages every practitioner to take responsibility for his own life, instead of prohibiting a list of sins. There is also no external force, like a god in Buddhism, which makes this philosophy unique and rationally verifiable.
“Religion is a huge subject on which I gave a one-hour-interview on a Swiss radio last summer. So it’s almost impossible to get into detail here. But I can recommend to research more about Buddhism. Especially Nichiren Buddhism, which I practice, is remarkably revolutionary.” —Elia
What has been the response from family and friends back home about their Elia becoming a model? Do you get a lot of grief about the steamy images?
Well, good question. My parents used to think I was just having a fun time and being lazy, but since I started to pay my own bills they let me do my thing. Now that I got my US-artist visa, everybody supports me more. My grandmother was especially always proud of me, since she modeled in her youth in Switzerland.
How would you describe your personal fashion style, Elia?
I love to dress simple and practical.I choose comfortable fabrics and original cuts over prints.
Upon reflection, describe your personality.
I try to take everything serious, show respect to everybody. I like to think that I’m a reasonable and rational thinking person, but also fun loving, spontaneous, adventurous and emotional.
What about Elia Berthoud might surprise people to know?
After this interview I think there’s nothing left to tell you about me, haha.
After spending time in the USA, play the roll of objective observer. What do you find is best…and should be celebrated about America? At the same time, what do you think are flaws or potential weaknesses in our country?
I find it remarkable, that students are highly encouraged to focus on sports in their school age. In Switzerland, schools will fail you if you focus on things other than studying too much.
I think it’s a big problem that education and health care aren’t free in the states.
Now the Flash Bulb Round…..quick, simple responses:
—Favorite all-time movies: a) action/fantasy film b) comedy c) tearjerker?
Some of my favorite movies are Nymphomaniac, Planet Terror and Osage County. You tell me which movie belongs to which category 😉
— What 2 places should a first time visitor to Switzerland definitely visit?
The ski resort LAAX/FLIMS/FALERA, the HR Giger Museum in Gruyere.
–The 2 exercises that you find most beneficial to you?
–Favorite underwear brand & style?
Calvin Klein hip briefs
–Two places where you would love to do a photo shoot one day?
Flying on a helicopter and wherever Ellen von Unwerth would like to shoot me 😉
— What do you usually wear to bed?
Calvin Klein hip briefs
–What one political issue could inspire you to become an activist?
Free education for everybody.
–Your biggest vice?
–What TWO physical features do people compliment you on the most?
To be honest I wish it was my body, but I get the most compliments for my jaw line and my lips.
–-Clowns…cool, hilarious, or creepy?
Hmm I was a clown!! So I guess that was cute ten years ago, but some of them can be super creepy.
What are the best ways on social media for people to reach out to you?
I read all my DM’s. So if somebody is polite and reasonable, I like to answer.
You can find Elia Berthoud on social media at:
You can find photographer Joseph Lally at:
Lally’s films: https://vimeo.com/channels/828523.