Michael Downs. Photos courtesy of All American Guys
By Tony Peregrin
Ripped tummies? Check. Round, melon-sized biceps? Check. Wholesome, guy-next-door charm? Check, check and check. The male models discovered by allamericanguys.com—perhaps the most popular, subscriber-based Web site of its kind on the Internet—have attracted a consistent, almost cult-like following among gay men, in part because of the site's seemingly endless supply of fresh-faced models. Founded by photographer Michael Anthony Downs and business associate Chris Wescott in 1999, AllAmericanGuys.com has beefed up into an impressive multimedia organization that includes calendars, DVDs , Hallmark cards—and the Web site reportedly attracts over 11 million hits per month.
Windy City Times: Fans of your Web site might assume that All American Guy headquarters are based in a high-profile city like Miami or Los Angeles, but you're actually based in St. Petersburg, Fla. What are some of the advantages to powering the site from St. Pete's?
Michael Downs: The advantages are many—and a lot of it comes down to personal preference. I am not a fan of big cities or big-city living. I can handle NYC or LA for only so long—the traffic and the fast pace environment are not my style. The St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay area offers much, including amazing beaches, year-round excellent climate [ and ] tons of amazing locations for photo shoots. [ Also, ] if I ever need a change of scenery, Miami/South Beach and Orlando are only a short drive away.
In St. Petersburg, our set-up could be compared to a smaller version of the Playboy mansion. This includes a detached building that houses an office space, studios and also guest quarters for models who come in from out of the state for shoots. The models often rave about their guest space being better than a hotel, as it sports a 58' high-definition TV with over 600 channels; a private swimming pool; a leather bed; exercise equipment; and full kitchen and bathroom. The layout is very modern and eclectic.
WCT: Some of your models go on to become professional models for clients such as Abercrombie and Fitch, and others have found fame on reality TV. Which discoveries are you proudest of?
MD: [ One ] favorite discovery of mine is George Hintenberger, who went on to be the lead cover model for the Undergear brand of International Male. All American Guys landed him on over 15 covers to date. [ He is ] a real personable and sexy guy—I discovered George at a gym; he signed me up for a membership.
I could go on, but it would take up too much space, so I'll just throw a few more names out: Brag Gaety ( Average Joe on NBC ) , Peter Gaeth The Apprentice ) , Kevin Peake ( embedded model on Bravo's Manhunt ) and Ryan Daharsh ( DNA cover model ) .
WCT: You've said that 30 percent of your models on the Web site are 'homegrown hunks.' What are the characteristics of a so-called 'homegrown hunk' and what are the tell-tale signs of a potential model pretending to be a corn-fed, boy-next-door?
MD: 'Homegrown hunks' are usually the type of guy who has an excellent physique and stay in shape but don't ever realize they are 'model material.' They've heard people tell them they could model, but they usually just laugh off the suggestion or are modest about it. Those are the kinds of guys I like to work with, and I consider them true homegrown hunks.
On the other hand, I am put off by guys who think they are so hot they can't be approached. They think they're God's gift— but I usually pass on them. I'm not a big fan of prima donnas. And I have the luxury of not having to chase after them. [ Laughs ]
WCT: How many applications do you typically get each month and how many do you typically accept?
MD: We get several hundred applications per month and it's hard to keep up with them! Sometimes my associates or business partner will spot someone who I overlooked, and maybe the application had been sitting there for 6 months and I'm like 'how did we miss him?? Get on the phone, let's call him! 'So some hotties do fall through our cracks believe it or not.
WCT: What are some dos and don'ts for submitting an application to be an All American Guys model?
MD: Dos: Submit clear and sharp images that are recent and accurate. Fill out the application completely.
Don'ts: No excessive tattoos, photos showing no face, Webcam photos.
WCT: What is the biggest mistake a potential model can make when submitting an application?
MD: The biggest mistake a model can make is uploading tiny little JPEG photos to our site. You've got to make sure the images you submit are large enough for us to see all the details in your face or on your body.
WCT: Do you ever approach potential models on the street?
MD: Every now and then we will approach a model on the street, in the gym, in the grocery store, etc. The reaction we get when approaching models on the street is usually favorable. I think most guys like being told they are handsome and could be a model. Unlike many outfits out there, we don't stalk models or hound them to work for us.