Lost in Manhattan, Guyanese discovers new world of fashion
By Isaiah Chappelle
August 1, 2004
HE WAS lost in trendy Manhattan, the plush part of the Big Apple, New York, but he found a whole new world in fashion.
In late March, Justin Alastair Jairam was on his way home and decided to go shopping, but took the wrong train and ended up on Lexington Avenue. He was simply walking along Lexington and Park Avenues, having discovered he was lost. But it was a walk that may change his life.
Suddenly, he saw and recognised Dolce and Gabana of premiere fashion house Dolce Gabana.
Impulsively, he went forward and spoke to them, telling them he was a fan of theirs and had their clothes.
They looked at him and said he had a nice face structure and why not go into modeling. They gave him their card to contact them for an audition. He did not call immediately because he thought they were just being polite.
The, on April 10, he was returning on the ferry to Staten Island where he lives with his father, after writing an examination to become a certified lifeguard, when a scout from Prado, another fashion house, approached him and took shots with a Polaroid camera.
Alfred Giordano invited him to do a shoot. He did a five-hour shoot on April 16.
"I felt real good to actually go through that experience. The pictures came out very well," Justin told the Sunday Chronicle.
And he was in the May's issue of the Gentleman's quarterly magazine, modeling Prado sunglasses.
Having made that successful debut with a well known brand name, he called Dolce on April 20, now sure that they were not just being polite. And he was on the runway in their clothes on May 1, modeling for some seven hours.
Justin had modeled for two major fashion icons before he turned 16 years on May 8.
Then on June 17, he went on a second shoot, this time for Abercrombe & Fitch, modeling tennis shoes in the beach swimsuit issue. The shoot lasted nine hours. He made the centre fold of the fall catalogue and even made the catalogues preview on the popular celebrity TV show, Xtra.
However, the published pictures are enhanced.
"My mother recognised me (in the Prado sunglasses advertisement) by my nose and ear. My jaws were made wider in the photograph. They can do anything they want on the computer, so I wonder why they need a person to model."
But modeling is not Justin's calling, at least for now. He is aiming instead for an academic scholarship.
"It is not serious, just leisure. I don't think I will pursue that for life. I get to keep the clothes that I model though and make some money."
The former Queen's College student and former Junior Sportsman of the Year, is an academic high achiever.
He starts his senior year at Susan E Wagner High School in Staten Island, New York in September, but he has already completed all high school credits in his junior year ending with a 98.6 grade point, to emerge first among some 700 students. He got the State and National Intel Science Award for his project, a research on neuro-glial cells, a new study area.
Justin is an Advance student, the rung for very high achievers, the other rungs being in descending order - scholar, honours and regular. He started with a 95 grade point, and kept improving.
He will now go for college credits in his senior high year, aiming for Standford in California because the college would accept the credits he gains in high school. He will do a triple major - neurology, human biology and psychology, leading to his career choice of sexual therapy.
"I was always biology oriented," he said.
Justin has an active school life, becoming a member of the Peer Mediation and Student government. He was encouraged to run for class president, won the election and would take up the post next term.
He represented the school at swimming and established five records - 500m freestyle, 50m freestyle, 200m individual medley, 100m backstroke and 100m butterfly. He made the school volleyball team and they won the Island championships.
Justin recently returned home on vacation for three weeks, then returned to the USA to take up summer employment as a certified State lifeguard at Midland Beach, New York, all August.
Justin strikes a pose for Chronicle photographer Delano Williams.