Meet Charlie Knepper, The Chicago-Hailed Newcomer Who Flies High By Championing Youth Power

It’s not hard to be impressed when clocking the story of Chicago-raised newcomer Charlie Knepper. After emerging from a far-from-analogous fashion background, he broke into the scene via a simple Instagram DM.

Getting us hooked with a power look, he’s now revealed an equally powerful vision to match. I admit there’s something about his spirit that stops you in your marvels. As modernist aspirations are punctuated with unbridled hopes –laid on top there’s a catchy zeal to thrive it all.

But when you hear about the inspiration behind his hope-inducing words, that’s when the real awe is stirred up.

Intrigued to learn more, we grabbed five with Charlie and talked early inspirations, social media, and more. Tune in below…

Before we get deep-down on this, let’s begin it with the basics. Could you introduce yourself to us?

What’s up guys! I’m Charlie Knepper and I’m 21 years of age from Chicago.

Three words that describe your best self are…

Passionate, strong, and stubborn.

How did you venture into the fashion industry?

About a year ago, I woke up to an Instagram DM from a NYC casting director inquiring about my age and measurements. I was living in North Carolina, working a home remodeling/construction job, and my Instagram was not a “model Instagram” I’d say. I was flattered that a casting director in the fashion industry thought I had a good look but didn’t really think anything of it. I carried on with life and then a couple of months later, that same casting director sent another DM from a different Instagram account saying: “Hey, I was just hired onto the men’s board at an agency in New York. We have a scout coming down to your area and it would be great if you could meet her.” I didn’t know anything about DNA Models, so before meeting up with anyone I did a little bit of research. I clicked on their Instagram and the first picture on the feed was an editorial featuring Naomi Campbell. That alone was enough research to know that this was legit.

I met up with the scout and within a few days had a contract offer in my email. Two weeks later I sold my car, all my furniture, packed up a U-Haul truck, and made the move to New York. Within two weeks of being in New York, I was shooting a campaign with one of the most established designers (campaign still isn’t out, so I don’t want to put their name out just yet).

Who’s been the dream client to work with?

That’s such a loaded question. In a short time, I’ve resided in New York, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the most established companies and creative teams in the industry. Every time I work with one of these brands, I’m in awe considering I was installing kitchen countertops and heating insulation less than a year ago. I would say that it’s “dreamiest” working for extremely talented, emerging designers with smaller teams such as Brandon Maxwell and Teddy Von Ranson. Working for brands like these, you feel a part of the team and get an in-depth scope of the processes and what it takes to establish a presence in a very cutthroat industry.

The favorite experience thus far?

The first magazine I was featured in called me to their office to get some Instagram content for their new issue a few days before it was released. Opening the magazine up to my page and seeing myself in print was priceless.

Has education been an imperative cornerstone in your practice?

Education is extremely important to me. I’m currently attending an online college in order to cater to a career that is very last minute and spontaneous. I haven’t decided on a major, but I’m leaning towards a pre-law major in hopes of going to law school and practicing human rights law.

How’s it been for you since the start of your journey? Did you encounter any major hindrances when you first started out in fashion?

It’s honestly been really good in the short time that I’ve been in the game. No bumps in the road yet. I’m sure there will be and that’s life.

How do you react to trolling and online criticism?

Trolling and online criticism stems from insecure people projecting their jealousy. I really haven’t received much trolling, but as my Instagram following grows, I’m sure there will be much more trolling. It’s impossible to be everyone’s cup of tea.

In an era raged by the ruthless yearning of digitalization and social media appearance, being constantly exposed to the public’s eye must result in quite daunting, particularly with the level of saturation present in such a field. In a nutshell, what are your key thoughts in regard to the whole Instagram thing?

I think Instagram can be a really helpful tool. It’s what got me signed and up to New York in the first place. It has also got me jobs and fostered great connections. On the contrary, I think that it can be really mentally debilitating if it’s held with too much importance. It’s also really easy to just scroll for hours and fall into a dark abyss of Instagram nothingness.

Do social media propel your identity? Or do they destabilize it in a way?

I don’t misinform or lie to any of my followers on Instagram, but I also believe in the importance of having a private life and a work/ home life separation. I would say that my Instagram gives a glimpse into my life but isn’t a full-on narration of my life.

Do you feel somewhat empowered through your social media channels? If so/not, how come?

I wouldn’t say that I feel empowered through Instagram. I don’t have a big enough following (yet) to really reach a far and wide audience.

I imagine that due to your kind of occupation, you tend to travel a lot. What’s your favorite city and why?

To be completely honest, all American and European big cities have a certain level of familiarity. The best places I’ve traveled to have been very uncharted with completely different cultures. Mangily, Madagascar is a small village on the east coast of Madagascar on the beautiful waters of the Mozambique Channel. Three years ago, I was given the opportunity to travel around Madagascar for two months. One of the many adventures I embarked on was whale watching in the Mozambique channel during the humpback whale migration. Three others and I paddled out about a ½ mile into the channel without lifejackets in a 10 ft canoe. A humpback whale about five times the size of our canoe emerged to the surface about 15 feet away, blowing water all over us. I live for thrills and experiences like this.

If you could pause time and go back to a specific era. What would it be? And why?

Eighth grade without a doubt. In eighth grade you run the middle school show, think you’re so cool, get lunches packed for school, have home-cooked meals, parents cleaning up after you. Such a carefree time with legitimately no responsibility.

What’s been the most intriguing moment?

Getting on the runway for the first time during fall fashion week. I was definitely really nervous leading up to the show. In the minutes before my first walk, my heart was beating with vigor until they said: “…and go Charlie”. Once I stepped onto the runway, all of that nervous and anxious energy went away.

Any major inspirations?

My dad and sister have always been key examples in my life. They’ve shown and continue to show me how to manifest happiness and success through hard work, persistence, and thinking outside of the box. In terms of modeling trajectory, Tyson Ballou.

What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to deal with?

I think that the “me too” movement is fantastic, has shed light on a lot of very pressing issues in the fashion industry, and helped out a lot of people. Unfortunately, as long as the world is spinning, creeps are gonna creep. Dealing with people like this in a professional way and taking the high road is always an obstacle because sometimes I want to respond to creepy gestures with what I deem as appropriate, which may be more extreme than the status quo.

Who would you like to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered for being of service to the world.

How do you feel like your legacy will be left in the world?

Personally, I believe life is purposeless without leaving a positive impact. As a model, I have the opportunity to influence and leave an impact.

What’s the wisest lesson you’ve learnt being in industry?

Less is more, actions speak louder than words.

Any advice to give the young wave of aspiring people, wanting to venture into your world?

Give it a try, life’s too short, don’t overthink it.

Photographer: Jon Wong @iamjonwong
Model: Charlie Knepper @charlieknepper
Stylist: Charlie Ward @charliewardstyles." -

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