Model Builder: Gavin Orson

Model Builder: Gavin Orson

Professional Builder’s Kieran Nee talks to Welsh plumber Gavin Orson, star of SC4’s Model Builder, whose next job may be Milan, New York or Paris.

“It started in the pub, if I’m honest. There was a poster in the local pub and my friends nominated me for it without telling me!” Thus humble Gavin explains how he went from being an ordinary plumber in Carmarthen, a small village near Swansea, to being the winner of a modelling competition on Welsh TV.

“They saw the poster and told me I could win, according to them I’m a bit of a poser you see. Once I got the call the next morning from the producers, and the initial surprise wore off, I thought ‘why not? I’ve got nothing to lose.’ Plus, I do like a selfie!”

The show, Ffasiwn Bildar – or Model Builder in English – was presented by Dylan Garner, a professional model who started out as a plasterer. Garner acted as a judge in the show, and also as a mentor, as the sixteen tradesmen from across Wales competed in both building and modelling categories to be crowned the model builder.

It may sound like a crazy idea – a television show based around builders who are competing to become models. I’ll admit, I was confused at first, so Gavin explained: “The competition was half modelling, half building.

Gavin Orson Plumber

“In the morning you’d be doing building work – carpentry, bricklaying, anything really, so you needed to be a bit of an all-rounder, and in the afternoon you did the modelling. That included a catwalk, a photoshoot and a TV advert… we even did a fashion show in a shopping centre in the middle of Cardiff. We had to wear fashionable clothes for that and wear make-up and fake tan, the whole lot!”

The more Gavin explained, the more I realised the aim of the show was similar to our aim at Professional Builder – to promote tradesmen as respectable professionals who take pride in their appearance and in their work.

I asked Gavin what the purpose of the show was: “I think they wanted to improve the face of the building industry. It’s not all about builders’ bums and the usual stereotypes. Nowadays, most builders you come across try to look professional; they wear nice trousers and tops.

“I think the days are gone where you would just wear old clothes to work. People don’t want to look scruffy anymore, they want to look good. My girlfriend would say I’m really fussy when it comes to workwear, but I believe that if you’re going into people’s homes you need to look presentable and professional while remaining practical.”

After six gruelling days of filming, starting at half seven and not finishing some days until midnight, Gavin eventually came out as the winner.

“Winning was awesome!” The plumber enthuses. “It meant a big fat cheque of £3,000 and a fantastic opportunity to model for Dickies Workwear in the company’s 2016 catalogue! I’ve worn Dickies clothes for years at work so to actually model for them was a great experience.

“I’ve never stripped and dressed so many times in my life but I can honestly say I loved every minute of it. They were pleasantly surprised how well we performed, considering we’d only had a week’s experience. I was delighted as they invited me back for the 2017 catalogue. I got some free workwear out of it too, happy days!”

It might be something of an understatement to say that going from plumbing to modelling would be a culture shock, WD4879R-LN-Deluxe Coverall-L-v1so how did Gavin cope with it? “I remember being so nervous in front of the camera initially – I never knew what to do with my hands when modelling.

“But once they gave me a power tool to work with I started to relax and I really enjoyed the shoots in the end. I had no idea that modelling was such hard work! It’s so tiring and my cheek bones ached. I’m not sure what’s harder work anymore – installing a new central heating system or modelling.

“I play rugby and I’m a very competitive person, as I progressed through each stage so did my determination to win. The week flew by and before I knew it I was in the final three. We all deserved to win. Not a single one of us had stepped in front of a professional camera or spoke on TV before, but by the end of the competition the film crew would have to remind us to “keep it short” – quite a change from the awkward initial interviews.

“Of course, I have had a bit of stick from my rugby mates, but I was expecting that anyway,” laughs Gavin, “it’s all just friendly banter though, they text me every Thursday night to let me know they’re watching. I’ve been watching it on my own to be honest; it’s incredible because they fit everything that happened in the day into 30 minutes, and you just think ‘wow!’”

What do you think when you watch the show now? “Well, no regrets so far… but there were a couple of moments where I put my head in my hands and asked ‘why did I do that?’”

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