Brad Kroenig isn’t like the other dads in Wyckoff, NJ. The 6-foot-1 St. Louis native looks like an all-American Adonis, for one, with his square jaw, lustrous blond mane and piercing hazel eyes. He wouldn’t be caught dead in dad jeans or baggy shorts, preferring his Dior Homme skinnys and slim-cut jackets. And unlike the lawyers and finance guys on his block, he makes his living strutting down catwalks in Paris, traveling to Dubai as part of Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld’s entourage, and stripping down to his skivvies for famed fotogs like Bruce Weber.
“It’s kind of like we have two lives,” says the 37-year-old, who often brings his brood — wife Nicole, 33, and sons Hudson, 7, and Jameson, 4 — along on his far-flung fashion adventures. “We’ll be in Cuba for a Chanel resort show and dancing all night, and then we go back home and go back to just our routine of school and sports and planting flowers — normal things.”
On a recent Wednesday afternoon at their 5,100-square-foot Bergen County McManse, the Kroenigs do seem like a “normal,” idyllic American family. Father and son work on Jameson’s batting skills on the front lawn. Hudson blasts Justin Bieber from a cat-shaped Bluetooth stereo. The kids make farting noises while posing for photos at the entryway of their home. “I’m in Balls Modeling Agency!” giggles Jameson, quoting the fashion-world spoof “Zoolander,” which is the golden-haired 4-year-old’s favorite movie. “Boys will be boys,” Nicole says.
It’s rare for a male model to have a family. That’s partly because their careers tend to flame out or peter away by the time they reach 30. Yet, Kroenig has managed to hold on to his position as fashion’s pre-eminent male model for nearly a quarter of a century, from appearing shirtless on Abercrombie & Fitch’s shopping bag in 2002 (his big break) to serving as Lagerfeld’s main muse for 13 years, starring in nearly all the designer and photographer’s menswear campaigns for Chanel and Fendi and mugging for his various other projects, including a four-volume tome published in 2007 devoted solely to images of Kroenig, called “Metamorphoses of an American.”
Kroenig has been eager to expose his sons to the fashion industry and all it has to offer. They’re in constant touch with godfather Lagerfeld, who texts them photos of his cat Choupette and lets them fly on his jet to farflung destinations like Dubai. They pose in ad campaigns for Tiffany and Lands’ End. They get out of school early to do photo shoots. “I think all the traveling and experience is great,” says Kroenig. “Before we went to Havana [for the latest Chanel show], Hudson went to the library and got a book on Cuba so he could learn about it . . . I think it’s a better learning experience modeling and traveling the world than getting an MBA at Harvard, you know?”
Kroenig — the middle child of three — always wanted to get married and have kids. “My grandparents have been married 65 years. And I’m happy to report my mom and dad have been married 41 years, so I always had that foundation,” he says.
Kroenig was already a well-known model before mutual friends set him and Nicole up on a date nine years ago in Florida, where she was living at the time. Not only was she pretty and fun, he knew she would understand and support his unorthodox career. Nicole’s father, the famous tennis coach Nick Bollettieri, spent much of her childhood traveling, too. The couple was living in the city with Hudson when they stumbled upon their current house. “We were lost and driving around the area like four years ago,” says Kroenig, who grew up in a suburb. “We thought it would be a great place to raise kids.” (The couple also has a condo in the East Village, where they often spend weekends.)
Still, it’s not easy raising two kids as a model. Kroenig’s job requires him to stay in superhuman shape, which has gotten harder as he approaches 40. He walks or hikes for at least an hour a day and lifts weights three to four times a week — and his diet (mainly lean proteins, veggies and rice) prevents him from indulging in the lasagna that Hudson and Jameson are chowing down on during a break between photos. (He does allow himself one “cheat night” a week.)
And for Kroenig — who has distinguished himself from other, edgier male models with his near-perfect, chiseled-in-marble looks — having sons can be a hazard. “We’ve been to the emergency room five times since we moved to this house,” he admits. “I got stitches from when James[on] jumped in the pool and I wasn’t looking. “It’s like nonstop action around here,” he adds.
But fortunately, it seems like Hudson and Jameson like modeling as much as he does. The duo are just as comfortable sitting still, as strangers muss their hair, apply foundation and dress them for hours. Like their dad, they’re pros — and they love fashion, mugging for the cameras with their best “Blue Steel” and “Hansel” impressions throughout the long afternoon shoot.
“They do fashion shows all the time here,” says Kroenig. “Hudson does the music and the hair and dresses him and Jameson up, and they’ll do three different looks. It’s very cute.”
As for what Nicole thinks of all of this? After some skepticism, she’s fully embraced all three of her boys’ careers. “I had to do one shoot recently, and now I have a huge amount of respect,” she says. “Being a model is not as easy as it looks!”
CREDIT: NEW YORK POST