Fashion model Alex Minsky is back on his feet

There was an unusual sight on the runway at Fashion Week 2013 in October 2013.

Muscular, covered in tattoos and standing just short of 180cm, model Alex Minsky stood out among the taller clotheshorses dotting the catwalk at the annual fashion festival at Marina Bay Sands.

But what really made him stand out was the carbon fibre and titanium alloy leg that extended from his right knee.

The 24-year-old American, a former Marine, had to have his limb amputated after his convoy in Afghanistan was hit by a roadside bomb four years ago.

The 2009 accident, which also severely injured his jaw, right arm and brain, left Minsky in a coma for 47days.

"I had to relearn everything," he tells Urban in an interview the day before his runway debut, recalling how he had to teach himself basic functions again.

Getting fitted for his leg was "exciting", says the Los-Angeles based model, because "if it meant I could get a leg back, I didn't mind being the cool guy with the robot leg".

He was honourably discharged from the organisation he had joined when he was 18 years old and awarded the Purple Heart.

But Minsky struggled with his new life and, deeply affected by the loss of his younger brother from a drug overdose, he fell into a depression and turned to the bottle for solace.

The majority of the tattoos that decorate most of his upper body and arms have something to do with his brother, he adds.

"It was really selfish and really stupid of me," he says candidly, of relying on alcohol to get him through that time. After getting several charges for drink driving, the courts forced him to get sober and he realised he might be able to do something with his life if he stopped drinking.

Minsky discovered

The naturally athletic eldest son of an administrative assistant and cable technician, who used to play football and swim during his school days, turned to exercise for distraction.

"Working out centres me," he says. "It's almost a form of meditation where I tune everything out and think only about being in that moment."

It was while sculpting his body that he was "discovered", the way models are in the stories they tell.

Photographer Tom Cullis, who attended the same gym as Minsky and who has shot for publications such as Cosmopolitan and DNA magazine, spotted him and asked if he had ever modelled.

The 80kg Minsky, who sports short brown hair, has brown eyes and an easy-going smile, describes his initial reaction as a quick "no, thank you and goodbye".

But a desire to do something apart from drinking compelled him to look up Mr Cullis and take him up on his offer that same day.

His first job was a shoot for Rufskin, an American athletic clothing line, with Mr Cullis. Now an underwear and fitness model, he flexes his muscles - maintained with daily one to two-hour workouts - and strikes poses for a living.

"It keeps me productive and goal-oriented," he says of what he loves about modelling. And, adds the first-time visitor to Singapore gesturing to the halls where the shows are held, "it has brought me all these firsts".

For Fashion Week, he walked for New York-based menswear brand Burkman Bros, homegrown multi-label store Surrender and South Korean menswear label Songzio. It has definitely been a long and winding journey from the dusty roads of Afghanistan to a runway in Singapore.

The loss of his leg has brought him both attention and opportunity, but Minsky, who was invited by the organisers of Fashion Week 2013 to model, seems unperturbed by critics who see it as an attention-getting novelty.

"Whatever floats your boat," he replies, smiling.

When prodded, he adds, after a few minutes of contemplation that "beauty is up to each person and is defined by the people you love".

Minsky sensation

The fans seem to outweigh the critics, however. K-pop superstar G-Dragon, who performed a mini concert at Fashion Week 2013, captioned a video on his Instagram account of the runway event with a picture of Minsky and the word "Respect".

During the interview with Urban, several people even interrupted to ask to take photographs with Minsky. They included two Eastern European male models and Steven Kolb, the chief executive of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, also in town for the shows.

With all the drama in his past, it is easy to forget how young Minsky is.

But when he strikes a goofy face, or describes his first catwalk experience here as "awesomesauce", he reveals a youthful energy and playful persona fitting his actual age.

While he says he takes most things a day at a time, the model does have a few things on his wish list.

Walking for a suit designer, in addition to his fitness and underwear print work, would be great, he says.

By the time he is 30, he would also like to have a child - he is currently in a relationship with a model - and a pilot's license.

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