By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17
On any given Saturday in the fall and winter months, you’ll find FIU safety Justin Halley doing what he loves most. He’ll put on his No. 32 jersey while roaming the Panthers’ defensive backfield, looking to make a hard hit or break up an opposing quarterback’s deep pass up the middle.
But during the off-season, he turns in his jersey for a completely different “uniform.” Actually, a bunch of them.
When football season ends, Halley trades the FieldTurf at Alfonso Field at FIU Stadium for the runways of Milan, Paris, and other fashion meccas as a professional male model. For Halley, a redshirt junior, the football and fashion worlds are completely different; and that’s part of the draw for the 6-3, 200-pound defensive back.
But even in the midst of two worlds with seemingly nothing in common, there is a strain of familiarity in both for Halley.
“In football you get that adrenaline rush, that’s what I love about it… You’re going to battle, basically. It’s a pretty crazy feeling,” he said. “The runway is new, it’s different… that’s why I like it. It’s a whole different world but you get a little bit of the same adrenaline rush. It’s been a great experience.
“It’s just fun. It’s more like a hobby and each job is like a story and you appreciate that about it.”
A MODEL FOR SUCCESS
Like many high school students looking to make some hard-earned cash during the summer, Halley decided to look for a job at the end of his senior year of high school in 2010 and ended up walking into a modeling agency in South Beach.
Initially, the aspiring defensive back was thinking it would be just a few months of work and that would be the end of it. But he learned that the modeling world, like football, has a way of taking in prospects and transforming their potential into something more.
“I thought I could just do a few a jobs here and there for the summer but it’s a lot more of a process than that,” Halley said. “You have to build a portfolio, meet casting directors and all that and now I’ve been trying to do modeling in my free time ever since.”
In the springs and summers since the end of high school, he has modeled for a variety of different magazines and fashion shows. His biggest year yet came in 2012. He made the cover of Vogue Hommes Japan magazine and traveled to Milan for the city’s fashion week before going to Paris as a guest of honor for Givenchy’s Fashion For Men show.
“Traveling is the biggest perk of modeling and I had a great time. I’m glad I experienced that because I’m learning about cultures and getting cultured myself,” Halley said. “I’m proud to have been on the cover of Vogue and it’s something to appreciate.”
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing in the modeling business, though. Models like Halley have to go through constant casting calls and opportunities for different projects and shows can be difficult to come by.
“It’s not like you just have jobs all the time. It’s not always secure,” Halley said.
His true love, however, has always been the game of football. Since starting to play pee-wee football around age 12, it’s been his goal to play America’s most popular game at a professional level.
“Football has always come first,” Halley said. “I’ve worked my whole life to get to where I am and to get to where I want to go in the future so hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to play football after college. And with that I’ll probably have more opportunities to model as well.”
Opposing fan bases have occasionally taken notice of Halley’s hobby and have used it as fodder to try and taunt him in the backfield on road trips, but their antics usually fail to rattle Halley. “They sometimes pull out pictures and scream at me but it doesn’t bother me, it just adds fuel to the fire,” he said.
Halley, who is a public administration major and made the Dean’s List, acknowledges that there are certain preconceptions that exist between football and fashion, but he is a walking – and hard-hitting – example that it is possible to be immersed in both. In some capacity, he wants to act as an ambassador for both football and fashion, bridging the gap between the two worlds.
“To embrace the difference side of people has opened up my eyes,” Halley said. “The sports world and modeling don’t really go together, per se. People judge both worlds differently. What I would want to do, somehow and someway, is make people more aware of the other side and help people embrace others in a positive light.”