A Moonlight Cast Model for Calvin Klein Underwear


Prior to the Oscars, it’s safe to say that Moonlight was never going to garner huge mainstream appeal. Basically, it isn’t a fuzzy, warm happy film that offers escapism. Instead it deals with sexual identity and acceptance as well as race, drugs and the difficultly of following the ‘right’ path when the odds are stacked against you. Hopefully Warren Beatty and the irrepressible Faye Dunaway will have done this film a service with their Academy Award ‘blunder’. More significantly, the Calvin Klein Men’s Underwear Campaign Spring 2017 features the film’s main cast members: Mahershala Ali, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes and the adorable Alex Hibbert in a series of classic black and white portraits. It’s fair to say that the campaign, which was shot by Willy Vanderperre, uses familiar CK tropes. Particularly with regard to the incredibly athletic Trevante Rhodes who dons a tiny pair of Y fronts whilst lounging on a leather chair. He is the epitome of the ‘hunky’ CK Underwear Man complete with ripped biceps and washboard stomach. Regardless of this, it’s great to see an all-black cast lead the way for a brand that so openly celebrates ‘the body beautiful’. What’s more, it sends out a subliminal message to encourage more people to see this movie. Moonlight may at time make you feel uncomfortable in your seat, but it certainly won’t leave you numb when you leave the theatre.

Speaking about the campaign Raf Simons, Chief Creative Officer Calvin Klein says, “‘It’s an acknowledgement of remarkable actors who are revealing something important of being a man today in what they do.”  We’ve cut and pasted the press release below which sheds a little more light on the remarkable Moonlight actors.


Moonlight Calvin Klein Underwear



A Moonlight Cast for Calvin Klein Underwear

To watch Mahershala Ali clown around with Alex and Trevante and Ashton on the set of their Calvin Klein campaign shoot is to see right away what makes him so incredibly special. Part wizened, avuncular sage, part goofball, he pleads with Alex to let him get a listen on his headphones. “How am I going to be cool in my old age,” he says, “if you don’t let me listen to what you’re listening to?” He is being somewhat ironic but earnestly flattering when he teases Ashton about the vintage-looking flight suit he’s wearing, calling him a “punk rocker,” and then asks him for some style tips.

But if he happens to render everyone around him both giggly and encouraged, Mahershala is equally comfortable getting really real. As anyone who witnessed his powerful speech after accepting the SAG award for Best Supporting Actor is aware, he is more than ready and able to lead the national conversation on matters of representation, diversity, and the experience of Muslim Americans like himself.

Mahershala was born and raised in Oakland, California, by his mother, an ordained minister; he converted to Islam as an adolescent. His father, Phillip Gilmore, was a prolific performer on Broadway, and Mahershala vividly remembers his visits to Manhattan as a kid, running around backstage. Here, he thinks back to the florid costumes and personalities he once observed, as well as the devastation wrought by AIDS among the theater community during the ’80s. While back home, in the jock-y corridors of his high school and then at St. Mary’s College, which he attended on a basketball scholarship, Mahershala says he had to project a more “buttoned up” masculinity. And, by now, after months of press aroundMoonlight, hearing myriad testimonials from those for whom his performance as the mentor figure, Juan, struck a nerve, Mahershala may be Hollywood’s leading expert on male role models.


For nearly 20 years Mahershala has toiled in television and film—or, as he put it, “working 16 years to be an overnight sensation”—so it is quite fitting that his breakout should come in a film about self-awareness, about finding the strength to declare oneself and to follow one’s bliss. In early 2017, as he and his wife were welcoming their first child, Mahershala received nominations for both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. And the glow of that attention and fanfare holds to him like a halo—even his friends and colleagues defer to him, but he’s quick to point out that it was he who learned the most from the younger actors in the film.


A Moonlight Cast Model for Calvin Klein Underwear


A few weeks before the Oscars, in the New York atelier of Calvin Klein By Appointment, 12-year-old Alex Hibbert was being fitted for his tuxedo and contemplating the dizzying array of his many reflections in the wall of mirrors before him. “There’s just so much I want to do,” he says, watching himself multiply into infinity as he danced and dabbed and posed.

Only a few weeks earlier, confronted with a calendar full of awards shows and auditions—travel and professional commitments that would keep him away from his friends (“The cool kids,” he says) and his home in southern Florida for many months—Alex seemed somewhat deflated, beyond tired. Or, as he says, “not tired, just bored.” Now, though, after seeing his reflection in the eyes of his heroes—“They were coming up to me like I was the celebrity,” he says—the future has begun to open up for him and reveal its infinite possibilities. Everything is now on the table. The science classes of which he’s so fond, could, it occurs to him, be a glimpse at a future career path—curing cancer, possibly. Or maybe he’ll go into design. Or video games. “Games are really everything,” he says. Well, games and his favorite zombie TV show.

It was Alex’s drama teacher in Miami who convinced him, along with his entire class, to audition for the role of Little in Moonlight, but now, he says, he doesn’t think he’ll study acting going further. “I pick up what the director wants pretty easily, so…”

As the future opens up before him, Alex slips into silence. He can regularly seem far away, deep in his own thoughts. Or maybe he’s just entranced by his all-denim outfit. He cocks his hat to the side and does a little dance, bringing about a groan of amusement from his mom, Donna. “Oh, don’t get him started,” she says. “He loves this.”

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When asked who among his very stylish castmates is the most stylish, Alex shrugs. “I am.”

This makes Mahershala laugh out loud. “He is; it’s true.”




A Moonlight Cast for Calvin Klein Underwear

It’s all happening for 21-year-old Ashton Sanders—magazine covers, hype, fans—and he’s not entirely sure how to handle it just yet. “I’m a very spiritual person,” he says, still smiling after receiving congratulations from strangers who just happened to recognize him on the street, “but I’m realizing I have to be careful what I put out there…because everything I’ve wished for is happening.”

That “everything” would, of course, include the movie parts rolling in after his performance in the runaway success Moonlight—but it would also cover his experience of working with Calvin Klein’s Raf Simons as part of the Spring underwear campaign. “I just met Raf and I almost fainted, man,” Ashton says. “Really. I’ve been a fan of his since I was in the 10th grade.”

Even in street clothes, Ashton, who is comfortably fluent in fashion and the work of his favorite designers, looks like he might have just stepped out of Simons’s archives or off the runway of his first collection for Calvin Klein. “He just looked me up and down,” says Ashton of Simons, “and then he nodded, like, ‘I like your look.’ I almost passed out.” At that precise moment, while he was receiving a compliment from one of his heroes, Ashton’s manager was getting word that he had booked a plum role in an upcoming movie.

And if all of this—sitting front row at a fashion show in New York, holding a ticket to the Oscars, making movies—seems a long way from the Carson neighborhood of South Los Angeles where Ashton grew up and still lives, it is all part of the plan. “Carson was cool, but I never felt like I fit in there,” Ashton says in his raspy Cali drawl. Like his Moonlight character, Chiron, Ashton too faced some bullying as a kid, and he says it was the acting classes he took as a teenager that helped introduce him to a new world of possibilities, along with the kooky characters with whom he feels most at home. “It was like, whoa, you are not alone,” he says. “That meant so much to me.”

Clearly, this is only the beginning of what’s to come, but Ashton, like Chiron, seems to have come out of the experience with some incredible self-awareness.




A Moonlight Cast for Calvin Klein Underwear

“I want to win,” says Trevante Rhodes, “like an athlete.”

But then of course, Trevante has been an athlete all his life—an all-district high school football player in Dallas, and then a member of the gold medal–winning U.S. Junior National 4×100 relay team. According to Hollywood lore, Trevante was even “discovered” while running on the track at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. All he has done since then is work with his fellow Texan Terrence Malick and anchor a world-class team of actors in Moonlight, helping them to a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. And still he trains for his career the way one might for the Olympics. Like, actually trains—he’s gone up a neck size during awards season because of all the weight lifting—but he’s also applying the same rigor to his performance, rehearsing the way he used to run drills, absorbing a character on a cellular level, “so that you can’t help but be great,” he explains.


An interesting aspect of Trevante’s rise is that, despite his athletic bona fides, and the profoundly masculine image he cuts—or, perhaps, precisely because of it—his breakout performance was a superbly nuanced study of the weight of American machismo. And it is that eloquence, that breadth of ability that has Trevante primed to be a major studio star.


Not that he’s sweating the details. “It’s not so long ago I was waiting tables down the street from here, and now…” Now, Trevante marvels silently to himself, now he’s a regular on the awards circuit and hobnobbing with the best and brightest of Hollywood. Not that they can tell him anything. “Everyone I talk to is like, ‘I can’t give you any advice. I’ve never seen anything like this,’” he says. The trajectory of Moonlight, his colleagues tell him, as well as that of Trevante’s subsequent career, is so steep, so utterly unprecedented—straight from the campaign shoot he’s shooting two big-budget action films back-to-back—that even the greats are flummoxed. “It’s…unique,” he says.

But that’s all right with Trevante. As someone who’s always been quick and steady with advice for his younger brother, he says that, even at 27, he’s not terribly in need of guidance himself. “I’m an old soul,” he says, smiling.






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