As the coronavirus pandemic pummels industries across the globe, it has been a challenging time for a number of people to continue their profession. Especially the arts have suffered a hard hit. From closing galleries and theatres to putting movie productions and photoshoots on hold, creatives all over the world struggle to get their work done. We talked to Model Brad Alexander where he opens up how this pandemic has affected his career and private life.
“I truly believe this event could radically and permanently change the nature of societal organisation for the better if we let it. “ - Brad Alexander
Q: Hi Brad, thank you for your time and for sharing your experience. To start with, how did the coronavirus pandemic impacted your life since it’s outbreak?
A: When the outbreak began hitting a critical point, I was enjoying my first trip to the city of Barcelona. The days were blissful - I would wake up, stroll over to any castings I may have had, perhaps shoot an editorial or two for a few hours. After, I’d head straight to the beach to soak up some vitamin D as I wrote or read, the sun setting on what seemed like the most beautiful city in the world. The threat of some virus was the last thing on my mind, I was young and healthy and everyone’s thoughts on this thing seemed alarmist at best. Like many people, I had heard it was just like the flu. Then, day-by-day, a new escalation of some sort would slip through my bubble of ignorance. A new city went on total lockdown. A healthy young person would pass away from the disease. With frightening rapidity, I went from sipping sangrias and running on the beach (not in that order), to frantically ensuring I had enough basic supplies in my apartment and sterilising shopping trolleys. I became quite scared.
I managed to get one of the last flights out of Barcelona to my hometown in the sleepy South-West of England, where I remain to this day. I miss Spain.
Q:I’m glad everything turned out well. So, hat do you do with your new free-found time?
A: Sometimes a lot, and sometimes absolutely nothing. Everything that was important to me before I have tried to keep intact in the face of this thing. Exercise, reading, writing, meditation, music. I’m happy to say that in those brief productive hours of each day I have finally been able to establish my own business focussed on writing services. I just booked my first client yesterday. I’m also regressing deeply into gaming, so it’s not all time well spent.
Q: What positive aspects have you discovered since being in quarantine? Maybe some new hobbies?
A: The other day I was sitting in my room, passing the time, just waiting for another day to wrap up so I can start the whole process again tomorrow. It was really bright and warm outside and also a Friday, which was sadly starting to feel like any other day of the week. Then from my window I start to hear this really loud reggae music reverberating around the neighbourhood. I emerged, and it seemed that someone on my street a few doors down had placed their huge monitor speakers on their front porch and started blasting reggae classics. One by one, all my neighbours started posting up at their front doors, enjoying the music, creating a little socially distant neighbourhood street festival. All the mums came out with their G&Ts, jigging out to some Bobby McFerrin, Gregory Isaacs, Bob Marley. Little Jamaica in my suburban English village. Absolutely bizarre and memorable, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I’ve seen that similar events have happened in Italy and Spain from their balconies, so I guess the reconnection of local communities is an unexpected positive in all of this calamity.
Q: What do you miss most around this time?
A: My girlfriend.
Q: Do you think this time is going to be beneficial for our humanity?
A: It’s hard to say that it will be without acknowledging the vast and tragic loss of life that has occurred for those unfortunate enough to have been taken by this thing. They will be remembered. Having said that, I truly believe this event could radically and permanently change the nature of societal organisation for the better if we let it.
The gift that this pandemic has given to everyone is time. We all dreamt of a world where our personal lives were valued higher than the economic output we could produce in our jobs. Where parents could spend time with their young kids, where leisure and happiness weren’t sacrificed for the sake of gratuitous production and consumption. Thinking about it, it’s probably the reason I’ve spent the last three years of my life prancing about the various fashion cities of the world modelling instead of strapping myself behind a desk. I’m not totally convinced that life isn’t mainly about having fun. We were told that this was frivolous and unrealistic. Now most people are home, doing their work on time and to a good standard, clocking off at around 4pm and taking the afternoon to bask in a newly-defined journey of self-exploration.
It’s not as if this is totally easy and perfect, and it’s not as if we have the all the details of this arrangement figured out. Far from it. We’re dipping our toes into one of the worst looking recessions in decades. But if the post-COVID world is one where our time is a little bit more our own, then I personally cannot wait to see you all on the other side for a beer and a chat about all your new hobbies.
Q: Did your mental health suffer since being in quarantine?
A: It has, of course. I was talking with my nan about this and, shockingly, she compared the experience to the war, remarking
“at least in the war we knew what the enemy was”.
This threat is invisible, its effects are unpredictable, and it’s still not comprehensively understood by the scientific community. Misinformation is rife, people are scared. The Prime Minister has it and is currently in intensive care. All of this is truly, truly unprecedented. Sometimes I feel like I’ve come to terms with what’s going on, like I’ve got a handle on it. And then I have these moments where the surreal absurdity of the whole thing hits me again like a brick to the face. Contemporary life and all of it’s related systems have completely stopped. We hit ‘pause’ on reality. Needless to say, my background level of anxiety and confusion is through the roof and I’m sure most people feel the same way.
The same principles that worked for me in the past though still work today. Meditation and Stoic philosophy are my mental crutches in good times and in bad. Marcus Aurelius wrote these words to himself, nearly 2000 years ago:
“Retreat into your own little territory within yourself. Be your own master, and look at things as a man, as a human, as a mortal creature. Things cannot touch the mind; they are external and inert, anxieties come from your internal judgement. The universe is change, life is judgement”.
Q: What do you say to people who ignore social distancing around this time?
A: I’ve always been totally happy, perhaps even at my happiest, in times of perfect solitude. But even I have been feeling the pains of social isolation, so I can’t imagine how those who are naturally inclined to constant company must be feeling right now. But that doesn’t change the facts. This only ends with an air-tight vaccination programme which has an estimated timeline of about 18 months, or total, indefinite self-isolation to blunt the spread. Wuhan has just relieved their social distancing measures after four months of strict isolation. Stay home, and we’ll see each other on the other side when this has all blown over.
Q: Since the start of the epidemic the hashtag #stayhomefor was making the rounds through social media. My question is, for who are you staying home for?
Can you believe there are people that are waking up every day, helplessly subjected to the frenzied hysteria of the news, reading reports of exponentially increasing deaths, then strapping on their face masks and heading into hospitals to fight this thing for next to no pay and in knowingly unsafe conditions? I can’t, but Jesus Christ I am glad they exist. To think that there are scores of healthcare workers like these, people with decades of knowledge and experience passing away from contracting a disease that people are carelessly spreading through picnics and parties. I honestly never considered the sheer angelic resilience and fortitude of healthcare workers in times like this. These people deserve better. I’m doing it for them.