Jesus Luz, the handsome Brazilian model, has been getting a lot of attention lately. But it’s the kind of attention that can put undo pressure on a young man, especially one as good-looking as Luz, as the prying eyes of the world attempt to dissect and deconstruct every aspect of his life: his work, his love life, his taste in pop music, blah, blah, blah.
The 23-year-old Luz grew up in Rio de Janeiro, raised by a mother who worked as a hairdresser. He has a love for the Brazilian beach life—surfing, soccer, and cavorting amongst the waves. His life over the last couple of years has been a veritable whirlwind. He moved to New York City part-time, has appeared in campaigns for clients such as Dolce & Gabbana and Pepe Jeans, and has started booking top tier DJ gigs, too—among them, the party for the DVD release of Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor at The Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District last fall.
When we caught up with Luz on the phone for a few mintues recently, he was typically frenetic: meeting with his modeling agency in New York City and then rushing back to his apartment to get ready for a jaunt to Rio, where he was planning to visit family, take a few fashion appointments,and spin fist-pumping house music for the hometown crowd. Of course, there was one subjectLuz is not allowed to talk about—and we were asked not to mention . . .
JONATHAN DURBIN: Hey, Jesus, how are you?
JESUS LUZ: I’m good. I just got back from Ford Models and I need to pack. I’m leaving tomorrow at 5 A.M. for Brazil. It’s crazy. I just got back [toNew York City] from L.A. and I’m leaving again. I have jet lag.
DURBIN: You grew up in Rio, right?
LUZ: I came to New York to visit my aunt in 2006, but I spent most of my childhood in Rio. Rio is very rich in nature. I like to spend timeat the beach, in the countryside. It’s always been very important to me. When I’m in nature, I feel like I’m recharging my soul.
DURBIN: Were you an active kid? Did you surf?
LUZ: Yeah, I used to be a body-boarder. But most of the time I just swam at the club and at the beach. I learned how to body-board and a little bit about surfing, but [I wasn’t a] professional.
DURBIN: Did you swim competitively?
LUZ: Yeah, I did. When I was very young, like seven or eight, I did some competitions. I was pretty good. Now, it’s more like a hobby, something to do to be in touch with the ocean. When I spend time in Brazil, one day of my week I need to go to the ocean, even if I’m not going to spend time there—just to look at it, or dive for a second.
DURBIN: There’s the ocean in New York, too, but it’s not quite the same.
LUZ: Yeah, but you have the beach like two hours from here. In the Hamptons there’s a lot of good surf. The Hamptons are very nice.
DURBIN: Your folks split up when you were young.
LUZ: My parents split when I was five. I lived with my mother. I have two half brothers and I’m very close with them. One is 14, the other is 10. I love to spend time with them. I have to be a good role model for them. I feel a lot of responsibility, just looking in their eyes.
DURBIN: How did you get your name?
LUZ: My father [gave me] my name because he always admired Jesus Christ as the most philosophical mind of all time. So, when he named me, in his heart and his head, he made a deal, like, I’m going to name you Jesus so everything good in life is going to come to you because they’re going to make the homage to Jesus. It’s a very special name. My name is “Luz,” too, which means “light.” So I feel like if I have this name that’s so special, I should attract good energy.
DURBIN: I read that you studied theater when you were a kid. What led you to that? Was there an actor or piece of work that inspired you to go into that?
LUZ: It’s hard to tell who was in my mind when I was a kid, but now my favorite actors are Jack Nicholson and Selton Mello, a Brazilian actor. Jack Nicholson is like, you know, I don’t even have to describe him—he’s amazing. Selton Mello is one of the biggest actors in Brazil.
DURBIN: How did you start modeling?
LUZ: Somebody invited me to go to an agency in Rio. My first job came at Fashion Rio in 2007. It was good exposure, and it was my first contact with so many people. After that, I did a lot of little things. I did some work with a promoter. I worked as a salesman in a surf store. My first big international job was with Steven Klein for W magazine. That was very, very important for me here and in Brazil. Steven is an amazing photographer.
DURBIN: Did you know him before?
LUZ: No, I met him at the shoot. He became very good friends with me. I always like to work with him because I have a friendship with him, so it’s cool when I make photo shoots with him, you know?
DURBIN: Do you consider him to be a mentor?
LUZ: No. I think of him as a person who gives me a lot of good advice.
DURBIN: What sort of advice?
LUZ: Like, what kind of magazine is important for my career and what is not. What about this photographer, how creative he is . . . you know. He gives me his vision about work.
DURBIN: Has he helped you in the way that you present yourself in front of the camera?
LUZ: I get that by working. It’s the law of 10,000 times. You have to keep doing it to get it.
DURBIN: You mean the Malcolm Gladwell Outliers thing? Where you have to spend 10,000 hours doing something in order to become a master at it?
LUZ: Yeah, yeah—that, too.
DURBIN: So you’ve logged 10,000 hours in photo shoots?
LUZ: Not yet.
DURBIN: What do you think of New York?
LUZ: I love the energy of the people here. It’s like everybody is in a rush to get their ideas and projects and jobs moving forward. It’s go, go, go. It’s the opposite in Rio because there you work a lot, too, but it’s laid-back, close to the beach, everybody’s calm. Everything’s gonna be all right, you know? It’s more easygoing. Here, people are more energetic. I like to have the combination.
dquo;My name is ‘Luz,’ too, which means ‘light.’ So I feel like if I have this name that’s so special, I should attract good energy.”—Jesus Luz
DURBIN: What do you think are some misconceptions that people have about you?
LUZ: About my personality, many people speak before they know me.
DURBIN: Would you describe yourself as a private person?
LUZ: Not private, but discreet.
DURBIN: Let’s talk about your music.
LUZ: Well, I grew up in a musical environment. When I was a kid, my uncle used to play in a rock band in Rio. Me and my brothers, we spent a lot of time watching. But I’ve always felt connected to music. I had a lot of DJ and musician friends in school.
DURBIN: Did you play an instrument?
LUZ: I used to play flute.
DURBIN: So when did you get into DJing?
LUZ: I got into DJing this year. I used to watch my friends do it, and I used to go to all of the electronic parties.
DURBIN: What kind of music do you like to listen to?
LUZ: I love electronic music—trance, electro-house, progressive house, tech-house.
DURBIN: Is there anybody you’re really into, whose music you can’t stop listening to?
LUZ: I have a very big playlist. I don’t have one song that I can give to you. I like to try new things all the time, so it’s always changing.
DURBIN: I heard that you went to Dubspot, a DJ school in New York City. What did they teach you there?
LUZ: They taught me how to mix, how the crossfader works—all the basic stuff to deal with the equipment. I was there for, like, three months or something. Then I just bought my own equipment.
DURBIN: What kind of homework did they give you?
LUZ: They say, “Try to do a loop” or “Try to mix that song with that song.” It’s more up to you. You talk to the teacher and say, “I want to learn how to do that,” and then they give you new ideas to try to make your own mix.
DURBIN: What attracted you to DJing?
LUZ: I like to be a channel of music, to give people music to dance to, to see the reactions of people when I use effects. It’s more intense when I make the music. I just produced my first song with my team in Brazil. I have a studio there.
DURBIN: I saw that you’ve written two songs, right?
LUZ: Right. We almost finished the second. The first one is “We Come From Light” (listen here) and the other is “Sweet Mystery.”
DURBIN: Do you plan on releasing a record?
LUZ: I’m focused now on production. I’m not thinking about making CDs. I’m just focusing on creation and work. I just made one song, so I can’t say I’m gonna release a CD because I’m at the very beginning. [laughs] It sure is a nice idea. I have plans to create songs with partners, but for now, I just make my own thing. But for sure, someday, I’m gonna create a song with another DJ.
DURBIN: So where do you see yourself going? Modeling? Music?
DURBIN: Acting as well?
LUZ: Yeah, everything . . . Actually, I really need to go now because my Kabbalah teacher just came here to talk to me again.
DURBIN: I actually wanted to talk to you about Kabbalah and the crazy attention—
LUZ: I just need to go—I’m really sorry.
DURBIN: Yeah, no problem.
LUZ: Well, thanks a lot. Take care.
Jonathan Durbin is a New York City−Based writer.