How Alton Mason Went from ‘Male Model of the Year’ to ‘Elvis’

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Name: Alton Mason

Age: 24

Hometown: Phoenix

Now Lives: A hotel room on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, although he is usually traveling. “I live in Terminal 2 in Delta,” he said, jokingly. “It’s just me and my suitcase!”

Claim to Fame: Mr. Mason is an actor, filmmaker and model known for doing back flips and other acrobatic moves down the runway for Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Versace, Valentino and other major labels. In addition to being named Model of the Year by Models.com for four years in a row, Mr. Mason was the first Black male model to walk in a Chanel show. “Now, I represent so many people that may identify with my story, my vision, my culture and me,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be able to open doors.”

Big Break: Mr. Mason was studying acting at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles and interning for the choreographer Laurieann Gibson when he was discovered by a modeling agent on Instagram in 2015. He went to New York City for the first time that year and landed a major show: Yeezy Season 3, held at Madison Square Garden. “This show felt transcendental,” he said. “I left that show, got a dollar slice of pizza, and flew back to L.A. with a clearer vision of levels I could reach.”

Latest Project: In January, Mr. Mason walked in Virgil Abloh’s final collection for Louis Vuitton in Paris. “Virgil was like a brother to me in this industry,” he said. “He gave a platform for me to shine and believed in me, and being in that tribute really hit home.” Mr. Mason recalled how Mr. Abloh encouraged him to perform his signature runway move at a 2019 show in Paris. “Backstage, after I got off the runway, he came up to me and said, ‘I want you to go out there and do something,’” Mr. Mason said. Dressed in a purple silk suit, he executed a series of back flips. “Virgil walked back in and said, ‘You killed that!’”

Next Thing: Mr. Mason makes his acting debut in the Baz Luhrmann biopic “Elvis,” in which he plays Little Richard. Mr. Luhrmann met Mr. Mason at a 2019 GQ Australia awards show, where Mr. Mason gave a speech that impressed the director. They struck up a conversation at the after-party and Mr. Mason was soon cast in the movie. “I’m paying tribute to such a legend, such an icon — someone that I embody the essence of,” he said.

Moves Like Michael Jackson: “I grew up with a bunch of Black cousins in the South and we would always be in the living room dancing and watching Michael Jackson,” he said. “A lot of the moments you see me moving on the runway are really spontaneous; it’s improvised, never choreographed. These are just feelings that come to me and I let them all free.”

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