BY: JESSICA BEUKER
The word “homeless” conjures up a very particular image. A homeless man’s clothing is tattered, torn, and covered in whatever grime resides in the cracks and corners of the sidewalk. The smell of alcohol and body odour seems to follow him. His face is unclean and unshaven, so battered that the only remaining hint of life exists as a pale shadow in his eyes. This is our image of a homeless man, but Mark Reay does not fit this image.
His face is unclean and unshaven, so battered that the only remaining hint of life exists as a pale shadow in his eyes. This is our image of a homeless man, but Mark Reay does not fit this image.
He works as a model, photographer, and actor. What’s surprising is that he’s homeless.
Sitting between Richard Gere and Pierce Brosnan, sipping brandy and smoking cigars in a room full of red velvet and classy jazz. He dresses immaculately in chic suits and ties—every hair on his head is perfectly placed. This isn’t surprising given the fact that he works as a model, photographer, and actor. What’s surprising is that he’s homeless.
In his mid-20s, Reay walked the runway for Versace, Moschino, and Missoni in Europe. He was also featured in French Vogue. Despite working for high-end designers, he was making about $10,000 a year. Once he moved back to the U.S., he continued to model, but also took a job at a visa-coordinating company in San Francisco. That lifestyle, however, didn’t interest him: he longed to live amid the architecture and culture of Europe.
While doing small acting gigs, including one on Sex and the City, Reay was living in a small room at the Chelsea in New York City. At the time he only paid $175 a month, but because of gentrification, he was eventually offered $30,000 to vacate. Instead of putting the money into his savings, he hopped on a plane to Rio de Janeiro and learned to become a photographer.
In 2008, Reay was back in New York pursuing photography and acting while making an irregular salary. He had no savings to fall back on.
In 2008, Reay was back in New York pursuing photography and acting while making an irregular salary. He had no savings to fall back on. Whenever he would save enough money, he would take off, usually to Europe. In an article for Next Shark, Reay said: “I’ve never let not having money interfere with my adventures.”
Once he finally returned to New York to settle for a while, Reay realized that he didn’t have a place to live. The hostel in Brooklyn that he was staying at was infested with bed bugs and he needed to find new arrangements.
He would wind up spending his next 6 years working glamorous jobs by day and sleeping on the roof of the building by night.
Reay ended up finding a nook on the roof of an apartment building that his friend lived in. “With a tarp pulled over me and a plastic juice bottle to pee in during the night, I could get a pretty good sleep,” said Reay in an article for Next Shark. He would wind up spending his next six years working glamorous jobs by day and sleeping on the roof of the building by night. One of his jobs included a two-second, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role in Martin Scorsese’s ad for the cologne Bleu De Chanel. In the ad, Reay perfectly blended with all the other Clooney types, ironically portraying wealth and selling a luxurious lifestyle.
Reay’s double life has been captured on film and made into a documentary, Homme Less, which has recently started screening. Because of the recognition that the film afforded Reay, his cover was blown and he was forced to find an alternative living situation. He currently lives part-time with his mother in New Jersey and couch surfs in Manhattan.
Check out the video below for the documentary Homme Less.