Jonathan in the We Love Kilts calendarImage copyright
Alistair Devine – We Love Kilts

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Jonathan’s new career saw him shoot at Eilean Donan Castle for the We Love Kilts calendar

At 6ft 3ins and 20 stone, former rugby player and wrestler Jonathan Geary does not cut the figure of your average male model.

The man who described himself as the “chunky one” at school never thought a model agency would be desperate to track him down.

But that was the whole point when he was pursued to sign on as a plus-sized model.

In recent years models like Ashley Graham have fronted an increase in plus-size and curvy fashion brands for women. Male fashion has now apparently followed suit as brands look to reflect what their customers look like.

Jonathan’s 42in waist, 56ins chest and quadruple-XL sizing was exactly what was in demand and he was spotted by a model agency when he went to a photoshoot with his partner Peter.

The result was that he was the one who was signed up, not his partner.

The 37-year-old from Edinburgh told BBC Radio Scotland’s Mornings programme: “Last year, my fiance, Peter, was going into Glasgow to have a portfolio made up for his modelling career. I just went along with him and took our dogs with us.

“So I went with him to the Colours agency. And that was the end of it. Or so I thought.”

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Getty Images

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Ashley Graham has become one of the world’s top models, seen here walking for designer Tom Ford

A couple of months later, Jonathan was approached through Peter to get in touch with the agency. They had been trying to reach him but he had not seen their messages.

He said: “They told me the industry was changing, and they were looking for plus-size models. They had seen me in person wanted to get a portfolio done.

“I genuinely thought they were taking the mick. I thought it was one of my rugby boys who put them up to it.

“But I went back to Glasgow to meet them and the next thing I know I am meeting a photographer and a hairdresser and that’s been me ever since.”

Jonathan was sought out for a campaign for Scottish menswear brand Slaters.

They had found it hard to find models for their big and tall ranges and struggled to illustrate them on its web pages using smaller models.

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Jonathan Geary

Slaters marketing director Susan Rose said: “He is a talented man. He is the perfect size and he has shown he can do anything.”

He has also modelled for a kilt calendar, travelling to stunning locations across Scotland.

His model agent Mark Conlin saw his friendly personality and positive attitude as attributes that would help him succeed in the fashion industry. He said Jonathan was what the industry is looking for as it expands to cater for all shapes and sizes.

Jonathan has played rugby for more than 20 years, and now plays for the Caledonian Thebans who are part of the International Gay Rugby Association. In his late teens he trained in wrestling and fought as a professional – known as Jocky Saltire – in Florida.

He now works as a care manager for a housing association in Edinburgh.

Not everyone sees him as model material. In fact on his first shoot, he was mistaken for the photographer.

He said: “I walked in the room and they thought I was taking the pictures. All the other men in the room were 20 years old with ripped six packs, boyish looks, all that nonsense, and it was really bizarre.”

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Slaters

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Jonathan has become the face of Slaters big and tall range

Liam Preston works for the YMCA Be Real campaign which tried to teach young people to avoid media stereotypes and appreciate their own appearances. He is not surprised Jonathan has been a hit in the industry.

He said: “Attitudes are changing and the industry is getting better at recognising that people need to see images of what they really look like.

“It’s really positive to hear stories like Jonathan’s where the industry is saying yes to showing what the real world looks like. We want to see models of all shapes and sizes.

The Be Real campaign fights against body image anxiety and through classroom campaigns it tries to bring in body positivity at an early age, building a resistance to the media and the stereotypes they are bombarded with.

Mr Preston said: “For young boys, it’s all about their skin, clothes, height, muscles and hair – all the ways they feel not comfortable in their own skin. Traditional media only shows two images of young men – the skinny rocker type or someone built-up and muscly.

“Most young people are somewhere in between and they don’t feel there are people who look like they do.”

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Jonathan Geary

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Jonathan wrestled in America under the name Jocky Saltire

Jonathan has managed to avoid anxiety over his looks, but is happy if he can help others to accept theirs.

He said: “I was the chunky, fat kid at school but fortunately didn’t suffer bullying – maybe because of my stature and height.

“I don’t think I was particularly body-confident at the age of about 20, but I think through playing rugby and through being part of the wrestling community over in America, that has helped me develop a good feeling about myself.

“In wrestling you are wearing spandex. It’s not forgiving, then there’s the showers after rugby, everybody’s in them so you just get over it.”

“I enjoy a pork pie and a pint so nothing will stop me doing that. I stopped caring what other people thought about my body and I actually care more about what I do in life and how people perceive that.

“That is more important to me than my looks.”



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