Article by Alexander Vasquez | Pictures by Angelo Trimon
Go to Google, type in ‘England King’, a plethora of historic men who ruled England over time instantly appear. Now, Google ‘Caribbean King’, you’re now treated to image after image, source after source of one man, the self-made ‘king’ of the Caribbean on everything social media. I’m lucky enough to have known this man for nearly ten years, better known to me as old Christian Bendek. Nearly a decade into our friendship I have to say I was surprised at seeing 72,000 people express such an interest in aspects of his life he shares. He’s a prime example of how anything can happen now within social media, at any moment, never to be predicted or expected. Although, in a sea of grumpy cats, #IceBucketChallenge, convicts with handsome mug shots getting interest from major designers, Vine fame whores, there truly is something substantially unique about Christian. He isn’t just unique he does offer up his good looks for the internet to digest on a daily basis but it’s with the unique aspect of his growing identity that is truly singular; he has some of the most beautiful photos on Instagram that involve nothing remotely vapid unlike what your friend may have eaten and posted last evening.
Christian is the quintessential account on the internet for everything tropical and luxury. With Instagram photos spanning his stunning day to day resort and island antics, designer swimwear and luxury accessories for men it’s no surprise he gets appreciation in the thousands including high-end clientèle brands such as Orlebar Brown, Onia and Vilebrequin following his growing account. Christian’s mark is beginning to quickly surpass just followers and appreciation, global brands and up and coming designers are approaching him in vast numbers, to grab a piece of the King and join forces with his vast popularity. Most recently the luxury British eyewear brand Oxford Vaughn approached him to become a brand ambassador. In his first major partnership Christian is now in with the likes of Formula One drivers, Luxury TV Show hosts, who also sport these beautiful sunglasses. “The best sunglasses I’ve ever worn” is quite a statement, but he holds nothing but glee for what he calls “the perfect partnership.” On top of brands and designers, hotels on the island in which he is seen regularly are starting to jump onto the journey as well. Clamouring for him to stay with them, showcase their beautiful grounds and review them, a dream life is what Christian is experiencing. Beyond brands, clothing, travel destinations and followers, Christian’s pride for his success lies most with the amazing response he’s receiving from tourists and his followers. Being told from travellers that they have seen his photos and just had to visit that area are above and beyond any success he could have imagined. “Being a catalyst for tourism for Aruba and The Caribbean is one of the most unexpected things that came from all of this. I was just posting photos of me being me in my life and now people are coming. Being approached ‘are you the beach guy, the Caribbean King?’ is really exciting.
Locally though, his account hasn’t seemed to be as big of a hit as it has been in the USA, Mexico, the UK, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Australia and Venezuela where the majority of his followers reside. Even with his initiative to attempt to partner up with local businesses, they still have yet to catch onto the appeal and interest the ‘Caribbean King’ brings. Although, recently with appearances in luxury commercials for brands like Diamonds International airing around the travel, resort and cruise circuits across the Caribbean and the US it’s only a matter of time until Christian truly becomes the face of everything Caribbean and a household name even locally. His ambition for the future of his growing brand is to do it completely organically, not wanting to indulge in a 15 minutes of fame, cash in idea that’s so rampantly common in the current state of pop culture, but to curate and mould slowly over time into a respectable self-made brand and fully earn every bit of success that can come his way. “I sincerely don’t think about the success and longevity of this. I mean honestly, some aspects of it seem superficial and could be a 15 minutes thing, but truthfully my posts and images are me. This is my life so really as long as I’m alive it will last, just the attention I get may be less. Who doesn’t like attention but I honestly just love living this. It’s not only about the tropical life for me but it’s about me living in it day in and day out. That is what I believe people like the most about me and my photos.” Being yourself is the key to his image, and being himself has already paid off and seems to have no indications of ceasing anytime soon. Admittingly he never wanted to be famous or known, a shy guy who didn’t expect this to come to be his life. Aggressively appreciative for the success he’s garnered and continually thrilled to be liked, approached and rewarded for simply being himself. Having known the man behind the King, Christian has always been a luxurious man, and of course the poster boy for good looks, and that will never change.
QUESTIONING THE KING
So Christian, what was your intent if any when you first started this journey?
I really had no intent, I mean it still doesn’t have an intent, it was just a part of my life I was open to sharing with the world of social media and then people started to appreciate it as much as I did at the time of the photo.
Now with the success starting, do you have an intent now?
I guess I want to keep growing this, maybe expand to a more business orientated side but still maintaining what made me accessible in the first place. An empire perhaps? (laughs) Not really, but whatever comes along is great. I’m not trying to force things, if I were to jump into modelling full time or a swimwear boutique, whatever unimaginable thing comes next is fine by me. I have no interest in pressuring anything, no force but I’m on my way to somewhere good. I still have a lot of work ahead, fun work of course. I enjoy what I do. Vacations are one of the things people love and that’s always something I felt I’ve always given my followers, and I will always give that, this ideal of paradise and tranquillity. That will never go away.
Where do you see your image and brand going in a year?
I’d like to think it’d be more popular, maybe interest from more established mainstream brands. I see myself endorsing hotels, traveling more. I’m loving working with and up and coming designers and brands, although I sort of aspire to be contacted and dressed head to toe in Ralph Lauren, I mean I asked another store if I could use their clothes for this shoot, the idea was not received well. (laughs) Maybe one day! At the end Dolce & Gabbana dressed me for this awesome cover shoot. Silver linings! But seriously, I also see designing a small swimwear capsule collection, who knows?
What does swimwear need then? What would u have to offer in your own designs?
Tailoring!!! It needs affordable brands with great fits, I mean usually the best swimwear is so expensive in the $300 – $500 range. Sadly, you go to the beach and see these poor guys wearing atrocities to fashion and design, or old school shorts, only because there really isn’t emphasis on men’s swimwear and also great brands like Orlebar Brown and Onia are not for everybody. With my own designs I wouldn’t want to reinvent the short or speedo, but to offer up interesting trends, colors and patterns.
Well who’s your favorite designer?
I can’t commit to one, I honestly can’t name one without feeling that I should have named another one. Hmmm, I don’t know. No, I can’t commit to one. I mean I do enjoy a few but let’s put it like that. (wink)
Moving away from the popular world of clothing, what do you find reductive in the current state of pop culture?
The recycling of things, the lack of an innovation in the pop movement. they’re recycling music from my early years and I am not that old… yet (laughs). It’s just annoying.
Does your internet identity mesh into your day to day life?
It definitely does, only in positive way, getting recognized is one interesting part, being contacted by individuals who want to work with me, brands sending products to me, it’s all is pretty cool and special.
How does it all effect your friends?
My friends always come first, they’re very important to me. They like to be a part of the spotlight now and then and I do enjoy sharing this new part of my life with them whenever I can. It doesn’t affect them, they’re enjoying it.
Did you want to be known as a child?
Not that I can recall, could be as a teenager, i always wanetd to be the lead singer of the New Radicals (laughs)
Do you think you’re attractive?
Do you ever feel self-conscious?
ALL THE TIME. Usually regarding my body. Battle against the Caribbean aesthetic of what a Latino man needs to look like. All muscle and borderline body builder, unattainable. So I get self-conscious that I’m more European, tall and skinny. I mean I know I am toned but that does bother me sometimes.
For a self-professed, attractive, self-conscious, shy guy, do you ever question the suggestiveness of your photos?
I just close my eyes, post them and just throw my hands up and say fuck it! I’m not naked, so nothing wrong with a hot photo now and again. It’s men’s swimwear, sometimes is a very revealing speedo and you can see everything but I’m never going to stop wearing what I wear… yet again it’s not what I do all the time.
What’s your favourite photo you’ve ever posted?
A selfie I took in the water after I had spent over a month in Europe and I was finally back in my element, I’ve never felt the water so warm and perfect, you see my smile in the picture, it was natural and heartfelt, like a child.
What’s the greatest thing you’ve received from the success?
I have to admit, when people ask me if I’m the guy from the beach pictures and they have travelled from around the world just to experience what I do daily… that’s rewarding somehow. The attention but the positive one, you know what I mean?
Are all the comments and likes all a bit much for you ever?
It can be, mostly it is all fun. I enjoy reading comments good or bad. People adding my personal Facebook account is a little annoying and not something I want to do. When I meet great and interesting people, then it is all worth it.
What’s the biggest misconceptionabout you?
Based on my pictures they think I have no friends. That I’m not a nice guy in person, or that I’m shallow. I don’t know perhaps I am sometimes but I try to show everyone I’m appreciative of everything that’s come.
What’s your views on negative comments/views you may get?
I read all comments, if they’re nasty and without a base then I disregard, there’s haters everywhere. If it’s constructive criticism then I take it and try to improve but I still delete the comment, (laughs) I don’t want the negative around. Sometimes I let it get me and I become a crazy person and stupidly reply but then after a while I just delete it all. Unsurprisingly, people always love when I overreact, I think Reality TV is to blame! (laughs)
What’s on your ipod?
What TV shows are you watching?
Bates Motel, Bob’s Burger, Orange Is The New Black, Project Runway and endless reruns of my favorite shows like Desperate Housewives, Seinfeld, Friends, Suburgatory…
If they made the Real Housewives Of The Caribbean, what would your Real Housewives tagline be?
(laughs) I’m more of a cynic so I rarely watch those shows, like I just said I’m into shows like Orange Is The New Black…
Oh god, that’s hilarious, let me think. This isn’t like me at all but here:
“You may think my life is amazing, you’re right!” (laughs) That was fun. So fun!