Most Duke students don't pursue careers dependent upon their looks, but Daniel Schuman, Trinity '97, is one graduate who has combined his brains and brawn in his post-graduate pursuits.
Schuman said he decided to test his acting skills from a Duke theater class by showing up for an open audition. Although the agency discouraged him from starting an acting career in competitive New York City, it suggested another pursuit: modeling.
Many years and photo shoots later, Schuman is now a star on the VH1 reality show "America's Most Smartest Model." On the show, the models pose for pictures while trying to answer trivia questions or spell obscure words.
"It's been fun, it's been kind of crazy," Schuman said. "A lot of interesting personalities [are] all cooped up in a house where we can't really escape each other."
Different from his normal modeling jobs, Schuman said the show challenges models to take more control of the shoots instead of just doing what they are told by a photographer.
"[The] show forced me to try to use my brain while modeling," he said.
Schuman said he expected the show to challenge the stereotype that models are not very intelligent, but he said he found that the show strengthens that perception.
"Most models are not well-educated," he said. "Models unfortunately do fit the stereotype of being kind of dense."
When he first began modeling, Schuman said he worried about what his friends would think of his new interest.
"I was kind of embarrassed to say that I modeled," he said. "I thought I would be judged."
He said, however, his friends have been supportive of his modeling career.
"People have been really cool about it," he said. "Good and positive so far."
In fact, instead of judging Schuman for adding modeling to his resume along with his Duke degree, friend Darin Mellinger, Trinity '97, said he was more surprised than anything.
"He wasn't what I would expect to be a natural fashionable guy in college," Mellinger said. "His best long-term goals would be utilizing his education more. This is just something that he kind of stumbled across and it's been good for him."
Schuman said modeling is simply another one of his interests, in addition to being another way to finance his academic goals. He is currently working on his doctorate in psychology at the University of California, San Diego.
"I've been fortunate, but I really started modeling as a hobby and to have fun," Schuman said.
Although he added that his bachelor's degree provided him with knowledge far greater than the trivia required on the show, Schuman said his ability to be open to the idea of modeling comes from his experiences at Duke. Growing up as the son of a physical education teacher, Schuman said he was shocked to come to Duke where he was surrounded by so many intelligent people with so many lofty goals.
"They taught me to expand my horizons to the possibilities of life," Schuman said. "Duke taught me to allow me to be open to modeling."
He said he plans to continue his modeling hobby as long as he can still make money in the industry. He said, however, he is unsure of what to make of his newfound fame from "America's Most Smartest Model."
"[Being recognized is] starting to happen, which is kind of cool, but kind of weird," Schuman said. "I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed or happy."