Meet Mike Morrone. A compassionate, caring, fun, goofy, metal-music-loving – head-banger guy raised in a small town who’s using life experience and some wonder to chase some dreams and navigate his way through this funny thing called “life”.
SKYN: Mike it's so great to have you - thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. From shooting in LA to training in Toronto, you've really been all over the map lately. Tell us, where in the world are you now and where are you from?
MM: I am currently living downtown, Toronto, Canada. I am originally from a small suburb town about an hour and a half away called Welland. My hometown of Welland has a population of 50,000 – so being downtown Toronto is definitely a big change for me. I still love going home and getting out of the city when I can. There’s something real valuable about being able to leave the chaos of downtown and kick it back home.
SKYN: Absolutely - we couldn't agree more. Ok, so since you came from a small town, we have to ask, how on Earth did you get into modeling?
MM: It’s a pretty complex situation to how I was introduced to modelling. So, here I go.
SKYN: Ha, bring it on.
MM: I grew up a chubby little guy, so modelling was definitely the absolute LAST thing I ever thought I would be doing.
MM: After high school I was pursuing a career in Law Enforcement. I went to University & College and graduated from two different programs as of 2012. From 2012-2016 I was committing a lot of my time volunteering as a teacher for anger management for the John Howard Society of Niagara and also a volunteer probation/parole case worker. I was also working as a Security Officer for a very busy tourist area in Niagara Falls on Clifton Hill.
SKYN: That's amazing and must have been such a great learning experience!
MM: I experienced first hand the highs and lows of Law Enforcement working alongside Niagara Regional Police Officers on a consistent basis. Still, Policing was my trajectory and I continued to chase that goal of becoming a Police Officer.
SKYN: That's wild. What was that process like?
MM: The process to becoming a Police Officer is very difficult and can be defeating at times. Most often each process can take up to 6-12 months, so imagine how frustrating it is to put your heart and soul into something and then spend months of your life trying to attain that goal, only to be shut down in the end.
SKYN: Oh man, we can only imagine.
MM: Fast forward to October 2016, my friend, Paul’s wedding in Jamaica. At the time, I didn’t know it, but that trip changed the trajectory of my life forever. I was in the final stage of the process for The Ontario Provincial Police. I went on this trip and was dealing with some personal lows at this time, so the trip started off a bit rough for me. The night before the wedding I ran into 3 incredible people, Nicole B, Jodi & Joe. We had a great night and I had been telling them about my love for music. (I have been playing the drums for 19 years). Nicole took interest in my drumming and said “I know some people in the industry, I'll show them.”
SKYN: Wow - that must've been great!
MM: To me, I'd heard this a few million times before so I didn’t think anything of it. Well, Nicole knows a lot of people being a former Miss America competitor and career model. Fast forward a few weeks and I get this Facebook message from Carmen Electra’s (then) boyfriend, Johnny Royal who is a musician, songwriter, producer & director based in Los Angeles.
MM: I remember I was bartending a VERY slow bar shift at The Keg and then I read this message and I was beyond stoked. Could this be my big break!? Johnny introduced me to the Emmy-award nominated David Crocco and stated that him and his band “Automatik Eden” were looking for a drummer in LA. I was ecstatic! Another month had past with planning my first trip to LA to meet with the band and begin my new journey. I was desperately trying to figure out a way to get a USA VISA to work and live in Los Angeles, because, who doesn’t want to live there? I mean, I have a band there now and a great circle of friends there… so it only makes sense.
SKYN: Absolutely! Ok, so then what happened?
MM: February 21, 2017, I went to see Chris Rock in Niagara Falls with my mom, me and my mother have always watched his specials together. I forgot how raunchy and sexual live comedy shows can be – so sitting beside my mom for 4 hours listening to sex jokes was quite uncomfortable. LOL! On the drive home we began discussing LA and I wasn’t sure how to attain a VISA. My mom said “Model!” and I basically laughed in her face. We discussed it further and that night I stayed up until 4am sending LA modelling agencies emails with a brief synopsis of my story with some photos to back it. The next day, LA Models bit – so I set up an interview with them for the same time I was headed to meet the band, March Break of 2017.
SKYN: That's wild! Must have been a life altering week!
MM: March Break 2017 I went to LA for a week and landed the gig with the band as well as met up with LA Models. The trip was incredible and I was given a taste of that LA lifestyle. To be honest, it's never left me – that feeling is my motivating factor. I won’t stop until I’m living in LA. LA Models wanted to sign me but told me I needed a green card or the 0-1 to work with them. The record label my band is with also stated they couldn’t sponsor me for anything other than a temporary P2 permit.
MM: Yeah. So, my situation was I had to get to LA to follow this opportunity, but I don’t know how. I called my cousin Dina who lives in Beverly Hills who was in this situation 25 years ago. Dina set me up with two lawyers in the United States. I called those lawyers, and both basically told me “listen, you have nothing to work with right now – go back home, start modeling/acting/drumming in Toronto and start building a resume and then start applying and you will have a much better chance at attaining a visa”.
SKYN: Makes sense.
MM: Cue April 2017, OPP released me from yet another process, but to be honest at this point I didn’t even want it because now I’ve tasted this lifestyle and have seen that dreams can be a reality. I was like a shark with blood in the water. I signed with an agency in Toronto and began this crazy, uncertain journey of modelling & acting. Things started coming together, and I started landing gigs. It was VERY tough at first. I had ZERO experience and this was all so foreign and intimidating to me, but that didn’t discourage or stop me. I know what I want and know what I need to do to get there. I set my goals and I devised a plan to start attaining those goals. Along the way, every single person I have met, modelling, on set, at a bar, at the gym, during this new phase of my life have helped me. Without even knowing it.
SKYN: Aw, that's so great to hear. Any specific mentors that helped guide you?
MM: My family and friends have been tremendous mentors and I wouldn’t have been able to continue this journey without them. There’s something really special about embarking on a completely new venture and just finding your own way. over the past year and a bit every other person on the same trajectory as me that I have met has been so incredible and it's like a brother/sister – hood. We all embrace the “we're all in this together” mentality and help each other out with casting calls, auditions and work. It’s a cool thing and so many people have helped me a long the way and I hope I have helped others too on their journeys. Life is short, we don’t know how long we're here – so make it last and do something that you love. I can honestly say I am the happiest I have ever been in my entire life, so that’s how I know I’m going to see this through, work hard and continue chasing my dreams.
SKYN: Wow - well that is definitely motivational to say the least. What an incredible journey! We know that a big part of motivation is inspiration, so who did you look to for inspiration when forging your path?
MM: Honestly, my inspiration comes from so many different outlets. First off, my family motivates me so much. My mother is like a walking encyclopedia of inspirational quotes and strength. She gets that from her mother, my Nona, who is the strongest woman I have ever met. So aside from family, my motivation also comes from seeing other successful people. I have always been interested in reading autobiographies of musicians and hearing their stories of how they “made it”. That’s always given me a sense of possibility to the impossible.
SKYN: So interesting. Now, aside from modelling, do you happen to have any secret hobbies, passions, or talents?
MM: I would say it would be drumming. That’s always been my number 1 goal – music is a massive part of my life and I truly believe that it’s what I am put here to do. I’m just trying to find my way 😊.
SKYN: We love that. Ok now on to something more fun. If your best friend could describe you in one sentence, what do you think they would say?
MM: I don’t think I could answer this question myself. So, I asked my best friend of 20 years, Dan Trozzi this question. He responded with “a great guy who is driven, hard working and easy to get along with.” Then he replied with another, “hardcore metal-head who can & will party whenever, wherever but then can tame it down and walk the runway hahaha”.
SKYN: Ha, now that's a statement!
SKYN: Speaking of walking the runway, you just recently won SUPERMODEL Canada, congratulations, that's a pretty big thing! What was that whole competition like for you?
MM: That whole process was incredible. From the judges, photographers, models, sponsors, everybody involved was amazing and it definitely made the competition fun and memorable. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I have never done anything like that. I’m glad I did though, I learned a lot about myself, the industry and made a ton of friends along the way.
SKYN: We can only imagine! It takes a lot to enter something like that and with so many introspective moments and industry professionals around you there's bounds to be loads to learn. What do you find is most challenging about stepping outside of your comfort zone?
MM: Uncertainty.This industry is all about uncertainty. You never have security and peace of mind. But I think that’s also a beautiful thing, I love the uncertainty too – never know what’s around the corner and it keeps things fresh and exciting.
SKYN: Definitely. Being inside the industry, what do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about modeling?
MM: I think there are too many misconceptions about modelling, I could be here all day explaining them all. I’ll focus on one that I think is the biggest misconception. We have all seen that early 2000’s Ben Stiller movie, Zoolander… as funny as that movie was, it was so WRONG. I had an image of models in my head prior to entering this industry. That image was beautiful people, uneducated, dull & boring. How WRONG I was. This industry is filled with extremely artistic, brilliant and some of the most outgoing people that this world has to offer. Since beginning this journey I have made so many lasting friendships within the industry.
SKYN: That's so incredible, and really refreshing to hear. It's so great when people, or a group of people surprise you like that and it's so neat that you've taken such an initiative to not just meet, but also appreciate them all. You referenced Zoolander, which is a film all about male models. As a male model yourself, what would you say are some of the unique or surprising struggles that come from being a male model?
MM: I think men and women have many struggles in this industry, some very similar. One that’s unique to being a male model is focused around masculinity. When I began taking professional photos with my shirt off with a more vulnerable facial expression, people were quick to judge and make comments. Sort of like “you’re a guy, you’re not supposed to model – that’s lame man.” You can’t take anything that people say to heart, people are always going to have something to say about anybody doing something different, and that’s totally fine – that’s just another motivator for me. Every fire needs fuel, that is my fuel. I know who I am and that’s all that matters. I’m still that head-banger metal-head from Welland, Ontario – It’s just now I get to do unique and exciting things on a consistent basis. If you were to hear the heavy music I have been listening to while answering these questions, you would know I’m still THAT guy LOL!
SKYN: Fascinating, and definitely something we can totally see as being a very real challenge for sure. We're so happy to hear that regardless of it all though it seems you've really been able to stick to those metal-head roots. It's those roots that probably give you a lot of keen insight into the world around you, into what you're experiencing and what you take note of. We'd love to hear some of what's stuck with you. Have you had any strange things you've noticed on shoots, or some specific WTF moments?
MM: Being at shoots and on set is the coolest experience! I am very blessed to have been on some great productions in such a short amount of time of being in the industry. The food, the cameras, the set, the things you see in the movies – it's real and very similar to that. It’s a great feeling for sure! That being said, it's not always sunshine and rainbows and there is plenty of room for error. One instance that sticks out to me is being on set of a commercial, one of the first ones I did. I was with my first agency at the time and my agency sent the project stylist completely wrong measurements for my clothing. Time was not on our side, so I had to shoot the commercial in 3 different outfits, all extremely baggy and not even close to my size. Shoes, pants, shirt, literally – EVERYTHING was wrong. We had to clip the shirt and pants with multiple clips to make the clothes tighter. I was like WTF? I am still yet to see the final edit of that but definitely looking forward to sharing a laugh with that one.
SKYN: Ha, that's hilarious!
SKYN: What was one or two things that you did that really helped set you apart as a professional in this industry?
MM: That’s a great question. To be honest, I think everyone is doing similar things in regards to professionalism in this industry, which is great. However, what separates me from the rest is I’m ME and nobody else in this industry is ME. Nobody has been on the road I took to get here, nobody has had the same life experiences & family values as me – that’s what makes us all unique. The journey we take molds us into the people we are today and we take that with us everywhere we go. Everybody has their own journey and story, own it. BE YOURSELF. ALWAYS.
SKYN: Aw, we love that. Ok, now onto another fun one. What do you love most about what you do?
MM: There are so many rewarding aspects to what I have been doing lately. I think what I love most is being able to meet new people on a consistent basis. When I was back home in Niagara, working the same bar job. It's nearly impossible to meet new people, besides the people you are serving (who for the most part, don’t care to talk to you on a personal level anyways). That can be a drag. It can be very routine at times and sometimes a little stale. Being out here in the big city, doing what I have been doing – I have met so many people and continue to do so. To me, meeting people and making new friendships is a huge part of life. Like I said before, everyone has their own journey and life experiences – when you meet new people, you are almost learning from them and their past and it opens your mind up to more things that you didn’t know. Everyone has their own vibes and energy, meeting new people is great because each person is unique, and can bring out a unique part of you.
SKYN: Totally! We love how insightful you are on all of this. Could you tell us, what's one piece of really great advice that you were given that's really gotten you through?
MM: “Everything happens for a reason.” I 100% live my life from that saying. To me, nothing is truer than those words. How many times can we look back at some sort of rejection or negative instance that we have had in our lives? When it happened, we were shattered & upset. Nine times out of ten, when we look back we can piece together WHY that HAD to happen to get you WHERE YOU ARE NOW. I look back at all the times I was “sure to get hired” with corrections / customs or police and for some odd reason I was let go from the process. At the time, I was heartbroken, upset & frustrated to say the least. Looking back, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Had I gotten hired, I wouldn’t have had the most incredible year and a half of my life, I wouldn’t be in a band in Los Angeles, I wouldn’t be working with a world- renowned rock producer who literally played on most of my favorite records I listened to growing up, I wouldn’t be acting and modelling in Toronto, I wouldn’t be meeting so many unique and interesting people. I wouldn’t be who I am today. Ultimately, I wouldn’t be chasing my dreams. I am nowhere near where I want to be, but I am exactly where I need to be.
SKYN: Now THAT is perspective. You really have this beautiful mindset that is the perfect combination of optimism and drive. With that being said, many professionals have a "Golden Rule" for their profession - do you have a Golden Rule or any sort of Golden Rules that you live by?
MM: “Be yourself, don’t be fake & always be kind.” Be yourself, that’s what separates you from everybody else doing this thing. Don’t be fake, Fake don’t fly. I think fake people are easily noticed in this industry and in everyday life. If you like something, like it. If you don’t, don’t. Too many “yes” people and I think you are only going to hurt your career if you are one of them. As far as being kind, this world is full of negativity and hatred. Be kind to everybody always. You shouldn’t need an explanation as to why, that’s all I’m going to say about that.
SKYN: Ugh, totally speaking our language. Alright, so we know the world knows you as handsome, talented, driven, and kind, but what would you like to be known for?
MM: I would like to be known for who I am. Not what I did, not what I owned, not the house I had, not the clothes I wore. Superficial stuff means nothing in this life, when we realize that, we can start living more satisfying lives.
SKYN: Truer words were never spoken. Thanks so much for sitting down with us Mike. It's been beyond a pleasure.
* For more on Mike Morrone check out his Instagram at: @morronedrums
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