Devon Scott has walked the runway for Armani and Dior, but the successful male model and aspiring actor references Landers (as in Ann) over Lagerfeld in conversation – a practice influenced by a childhood in a strict, but supportive, military household with parents who routinely left motivational messages on his pillow.
Scott, 24, cites their example as a motivating factor in avoiding the shallow excesses associated with his industry. “Everybody in my family has always told me that as long as you know where you’ve been, you always know where you’re going. I know where I’ve come from so, for me, to try to be someone else and look like this or be like this doesn’t mean everything.”
Another influence has been Scott’s mentor, Duane West, a prominent motivational speaker he met in Atlanta two years ago. Says Scott, “We passed each other in the gym and we spoke. I knew who he was because he does the Maury Povich show and you’ll see him on there talking to kids who are coming from battered households.” West, who had once been a celebrity fitness trainer, began workout sessions with Scott, providing a disciplined example that even led Scott, who was an occasional social drinker, to quit alto-gether. (West says that a par-ticularly brutal training day after Scott had gone out the night before ultimately encouraged this decision.)
Scott realized he also wanted to provide mentorship to others, and a year and a half ago Scott and West co-founded Teen Focus, an upbeat magazine geared towards a teen audience, but also written and managed by kids (ages 7 to 19) themselves. “They’re doing marketing, adver-tising, providing different concepts as far as layout. They’re becoming entrepreneurs at a very early age,” he says. The magazine is set to debut this spring (the pair are still seeking additional sponsors) and a TV magazine component has begun airing on Georgia public television.
The kids have the opportunity to interview inspirational business and community leaders, going to their offices and even sitting in their chairs. “They realize that if I follow these steps, keep the faith, and am able to overcome adversity, then I have the opportunity to sit in the same chair.” Scott’s own journey has involved a measure of each.
The native of High Point, N.C., (the hometown of American Idol Fantasia Barrino, he notes) was offered the opportunity to model after high school, but decided he wanted to be the first in his family to go directly to college. “I wanted something to step up on,” says the perennial optimist, who uses the term in place of the more negative “fall back on.”
He left his small, tight-knit community, and traveled to Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas, on a track and football scholarship. “In high school I was an average talent but I had a work ethic above other classmates that allowed me to work hard and put up with the losses.”
During his time at the academy he also honed a disciplined approach that includes a 6 a.m. start to the day (four years of a 5:30 a.m. “wake-up call” of loud horns will do that). His daily routine includes a trip to the gym, 30-45 minutes writing in a journal, and a call to his parents, even as his work has become increasingly time-consuming.
Since moving to the highly competitive New York market this summer, Scott has balanced casting calls, acting classes, and part-time jobs to help pay rent with his work at Teen Focus.
Current Teen Focus activities include setting up an escrow account that will aid program participants in obtaining the necessary funds for college and provide assistance for cost-prohibitive events like prom, although Scott stresses the program is geared toward kids in any financial demographic. “I feel you have kids from households with lots of money also lacking love and support.”
West – who serves as personal mentor, as well as business partner, to Scott – also notes that Scott sends a powerful message to kids that they shouldn’t neglect their educa-tion in pursuing a dream. “Many of these kids feel they’ll lose the opportunity. We use Devon as an example because he’s gotten his degree and it’s an asset and shows he has much more to offer.”
Does Scott worry that the modeling industry perpetuates a beauty myth that conflicts with his upbeat, positive message? “I think about it sometimes. People say it’s based on your looks, but I get more jobs on my personality. Each character I’m portraying or becoming excites me. It’s about longevity for me.”
Scott recently landed his first national commercial (a promo for ABC’s The Bachelorette) although he admits that New York has been a “big challenge,” financially and otherwise. “I’m out there pounding the pavement.” Then he quickly brushes aside this momentary complaint to share his motto. “Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.’” The author of that? Ann Landers.