Standing 6’6” tall, sporting a 40-inch waist and weighing in at 275 lbs, Zach Miko isn’t what one typically pictures when one thinks “male model.” But with his sparkling blue eyes and teddy bear build, he’s putting a whole new spin on Blue Steel.
Miko was the first to sign with modeling company IMG’s new Brawn division, which is a notable accomplishment for a couple of reasons. Firstly, IMG is one of the most prestigious modeling agencies in the world. And secondly, this is the first time that the company has established a plus-size division for men. The idea of presenting a more realistic body type for men, moreover, is a groundbreaking move for the industry.
Miko bagged his first major campaign last year with Target’s Big and Tall line. And because he was the brand’s only plus-size model, on the day of the shoot he encountered a slight problem: they didn’t actually have any XL shirts on hand. As Miko told website Mic in 2015, “They had to cut every single shirt and open it up like a hospital gown.”
But this isn’t the first time that the 26-year-old has struggled to find clothes to fit his husky frame. In a 2016 interview with The Guardian, for example, he explained that although he grew up appreciating fashion, he believed that “if it wasn’t available in my size I wasn’t allowed to wear it. I wore my father’s hand-me-downs.”
Miko continued, “I’d be a different person today if I had been able to put on any clothing. Size has been such a barrier between people for so long.” And so the plus-sized model is now thrilled to be leading the charge in changing perceptions.
And after years of stick-thin models, it appears that the fashion world is at long last sitting up and taking note of the fact that most people are not a size zero. IMG, for instance, now also has a plus-size division for women called Curve. And with breakout stars like Ashley Graham now gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, it’s clear that the industry is slowly changing.
There are, of course, health concerns related to promoting a larger size; still, as Miko points out, “You don’t have to be a twig to be healthy.” He told The Guardian, “I think labeling people as unhealthy is unfair. You don’t know what their health is.” Miko himself, for example, is an avid cyclist.
But it’s not just his size that sets this handsome hunk apart from other models – it’s his affable features, too. Because while he is certainly an attractive man, Miko doesn’t have the cool, aloof look one normally associates with models. Rather, he appears warm and chummy – the kind of guy you could grab a beer with.
And given his friendly demeanor, it’s perhaps not surprising that Miko is also one half of a comedy singing duo known as The Dreamstalks. Yes, when he’s not modeling Miko and his pal Karen Bray perform mock children’s music. Their hilarious, goofy tunes contain some very adult messages and can be heard at various comedy clubs around New York City.
Miko is also an alum of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. And while he’s had his share of regular jobs – as a barman and a carpenter – he’s a performer at heart. In fact, Miko has had bit parts in Shades of Blue and Limitless, and he even popped up in The Wolf of Wall Street.
What’s more, Miko met his wife while shooting a web series. And he credits his spouse for giving him back his confidence: as he told People in 2015, “She’s who made me feel attractive for the first time. She made me feel okay with what I am.”
Wife Laura Miko has noticed the positive change that modeling has had on her hunky husband, too. She told Mic, “Once he started modeling for Target, he was like, ‘I’m finally wearing clothes that fit me and they look good. Everything that I put on hangs in the right spot and looks good.’”
A boost in self-esteem doesn’t usually go hand in hand with modeling, and all the pressures that the industry can bring. But for Miko, that’s exactly what happened. In an interview with Vogue — that’s right, Vogue — he said, “On the third or fourth shoot I remember coming home and telling my wife, ‘I feel good about the way I look. I don’t just feel good — I feel great.’”
It was a welcome change for Miko since, while growing up in Connecticut, he struggled with confidence and felt undesirable. And he now feels that visibility is so important for people of size – and believes that everyone should be able to look in a magazine and see someone they can relate to.
It may take a while for the fashion industry to play catch-up, but there are already resources focused solely on making men feel more comfortable with their brawn. The website chubstr.com, for example, is a place where men with more to love flaunt their style –and it also offers fashion inspiration for bigger guys, too.
Of course, Miko is providing his own kind of inspiration for larger men, not least in the modeling world. As he told Vogue, “It’s so important for men of all heights and weights to feel represented. I want them to see a model and think, ‘He’s kind of like me…’”
“I never understood why looking at big and tall clothing, they show me these Abercrombie & Fitch-style, really cut, really fit guys,” Miko also remarked to People. “These guys aren’t buying XXL tall T-shirts, these guys aren’t buying 42-inch pants, but they’re the guys you see modeling it.”
Ultimately, then, Miko’s message is one of self-acceptance. He continued, “It’s great to be more fit, more healthy, more active, but that doesn’t mean who you are right now is invalid, or that who you are right now isn’t an attractive person.”
It will be exciting to see how the fashion industry transforms in years to come, now that people like Miko are on the scene, proudly standing big and tall. And the plus-sized trailblazer hopes that a change in perceptions will follow in society, too.
As he told Vogue, “Do you know what it would mean to millions of guys to go into a store, try on a pair of jeans, look in the mirror, and say, ‘Oh, yeah, that looks nice, that fits great!’ For so many of us, that was not a reality.” But thanks to trailblazers like Miko, that’s all starting to change.