Second Act: Luke Ditella

September 12, 2014 • News

  • Expanding Horizons With New Jersey’s Most Handsome Pro Surfer

Written by  Nick McGregor

Friday, 9/12/14

If you live outside of New Jersey, you may not know Luke Ditella. But you probably know his beard. Thick, dark, and impeccably groomed, the growth of it coincided with Luke’s dive into the lucrative modeling and acting pool back in 2012. Today, his refined gentleman look is Instagram famous (70,000 followers @lukeditella), central to the marketing campaigns of several famous brands (American Crew, Tom Wood, Shinola), and the bedrock of the seemingly charmed life that he and his fiancée, photographer Melissa Dilger, live. But Luke’s story is streaked with deep emotional undercurrents that very few understand. And when the Jersey Shore fires, Luke still knows when and where to pull in, get barreled, and nail the shot. Most East Coasters embarking on their Second Acts ooze confidence, but Luke Ditella takes that to a whole new level…

If you live outside of New Jersey, you may not know Luke Ditella. But you you use social media, you probably know his beard. Thick, dark, and impeccably groomed, the growth of it coincided with Luke’s dive into the lucrative modeling and acting pool back in 2012. Today, his refined gentleman look is Instagram famous (70,000 followers @lukeditella), central to the marketing campaigns of several famous brands (American Crew, Tom Wood, Shinola), and the bedrock of the seemingly charmed life that he and his fiancée, photographer Melissa Dilger, live. But Luke’s story is streaked with deep emotional undercurrents that very few understand. And when the Jersey Shore fires, Luke still knows when and where to pull in, get barreled, and nail the shot. Most East Coasters embarking on their Second Acts ooze confidence, but Luke Ditella takes that to a whole new level… Photo: Dean Bradshaw/Cordwain

If you live outside of New Jersey, you may not know Luke Ditella. But you you use social media, you probably know his beard. Thick, dark, and impeccably groomed, the growth of it coincided with Luke’s dive into the lucrative modeling and acting pool back in 2012. Today, his refined gentleman look is Instagram famous (70,000 followers @lukeditella), central to the marketing campaigns of several famous brands (American Crew, Tom Wood, Shinola), and the bedrock of the seemingly charmed life that he and his fiancée, photographer Melissa Dilger, live. But Luke’s story is streaked with deep emotional undercurrents that very few understand. And when the Jersey Shore fires, Luke still knows when and where to pull in, get barreled, and nail the shot. Most East Coasters embarking on their Second Acts ooze confidence, but Luke Ditella takes that to a whole new level…
Photo: Dean Bradshaw/Cordwain

“In early 2012, I was ‘discovered’ by a casting agent, and she brought me work right away,” Ditella says. “But my mother was really sick at the time and I didn’t commit to it since my head wasn’t 100% there. After my mom passed away, I spent two months driving across the country with my fiancée, and I gained a bunch of weight from partying and eating like shit. So when I got home, I let the casting agent know I wanted to get into shape, and then started working after that. My approach has always been different than most pro surfers. I hate the sand and don’t like the sun, and I’m not a massive fan of beach culture. I always connected better with city dwellers. Todd and Megan DiCiurcio have been two of my biggest influences, and they’re both rooted in fashion. My fiancée used to be a creative director for Jive Records, so she worked with stylists and photographers. It all kind of seamlessly happened: I was networking and socializing with all those types of people, and it took off from there.” Photo: Mike Incitti

“In early 2012, I was ‘discovered’ by a casting agent, and she brought me work right away,” Ditella says. “But my mother was really sick at the time and I didn’t commit to it since my head wasn’t 100% there. After my mom passed away, I spent two months driving across the country with my fiancée, and I gained a bunch of weight from partying and eating like shit. So when I got home, I let the casting agent know I wanted to get into shape, and then started working after that. My approach has always been different than most pro surfers. I hate the sand and don’t like the sun, and I’m not a massive fan of beach culture. I always connected better with city dwellers. Todd and Megan DiCiurcio have been two of my biggest influences, and they’re both rooted in fashion. My fiancée used to be a creative director for Jive Records, so she worked with stylists and photographers. It all kind of seamlessly happened: I was networking and socializing with all those types of people, and it took off from there.”
Photo: Mike Incitti

“Then the social media thing happened, which has become such a massive part of exposure for any type of job,” Ditella says. “I got on Instagram about two years ago, and after 10 months, my base of followers exploded. Photographers and stylists from fashion companies started to reach out to me there, in addition to being approached by people just through the company my fiancée and I keep. I’ve done the newest campaign from American Crew, a celebrated men’s grooming product. And I just spent a bunch of time in Norway shooting for high fashion brand Tom Wood. I’ve also worked for American watch brands Shinola and Fossil, and I constantly have inquiries from companies all across the board.” Photo: Fossil

“Then the social media thing happened, which has become such a massive part of exposure for any type of job,” Ditella says. “I got on Instagram about two years ago, and after 10 months, my base of followers exploded. Photographers and stylists from fashion companies started to reach out to me there, in addition to being approached by people just through the company my fiancée and I keep. I’ve done the newest campaign from American Crew, a celebrated men’s grooming product. And I just spent a bunch of time in Norway shooting for high fashion brand Tom Wood. I’ve also worked for American watch brands Shinola and Fossil, and I constantly have inquiries from companies all across the board.”
Photo: Fossil

“I had gotten work before I grew the beard, and because it’s such a specific look, companies tend to seek me out more,” Ditella says. “But that’s not why I grew my beard. My father’s favorite photo of him and my mother was them sitting on a park bench in Newport, RI, just after he’d gotten out of the Navy, and he had this big ol’ beard. After my mom died, I wanted to retake that photo with my fiancée — the park bench is still there —and give it to my father as a gift. He passed away 17 months after my mom, so I became attached to the beard. It was for him. That just happened to coincide with the whole explosion of the bearded gentleman look. So it’s probably a gift because it’s put me in front of an audience that may not have noticed me without it. But to be honest, I’m getting pretty sick of it — every guy that grows facial hair is reaching out to me on social media thinking we should be best friends. It’s obnoxious.” Photos: Melissa Dilger

“I had gotten work before I grew the beard, and because it’s such a specific look, companies tend to seek me out more,” Ditella says. “But that’s not why I grew my beard. My father’s favorite photo of him and my mother was them sitting on a park bench in Newport, RI, just after he’d gotten out of the Navy, and he had this big ol’ beard. After my mom died, I wanted to retake that photo with my fiancée — the park bench is still there —and give it to my father as a gift. He passed away 17 months after my mom, so I became attached to the beard. It was for him. That just happened to coincide with the whole explosion of the bearded gentleman look. So it’s probably a gift because it’s put me in front of an audience that may not have noticed me without it. But to be honest, I’m getting pretty sick of it — every guy that grows facial hair is reaching out to me on social media thinking we should be best friends. It’s obnoxious.”
Photos: Melissa Dilger

“I just signed a multi-year contract with Rhythm as their only paid athlete outside of Australia,” Ditella says. “I work with Matuse and started riding DCAL Surfboards recently, and also work loosely with Swatch. It’s funny — I did an Instagram activation for them and they invited me to the Women’s WCT event at Lowers next month. I told them, ‘I’m still a pro surfer,’ and they were like, ‘Wait, what?’ They had no idea I even surfed. I served on the board of [Hurricane Sandy non-profit] Rebuild Recover until about three months ago — I didn’t feel like I could designate the proper amount of time to it anymore. And I’m involved with Seaweed & Gravel, [a motorcycle and fashion store in Southern California], which is Split founder David Patri’s whole-hearted focus.” Photo: Bobby Siliato

“I just signed a multi-year contract with Rhythm as their only paid athlete outside of Australia,” Ditella says. “I work with Matuse and started riding DCAL Surfboards recently, and also work loosely with Swatch. It’s funny — I did an Instagram activation for them and they invited me to the Women’s WCT event at Lowers next month. I told them, ‘I’m still a pro surfer,’ and they were like, ‘Wait, what?’ They had no idea I even surfed. I served on the board of [Hurricane Sandy non-profit] Rebuild Recover until about three months ago — I didn’t feel like I could designate the proper amount of time to it anymore. And I’m involved with Seaweed & Gravel, [a motorcycle and fashion store in Southern California], which is Split founder David Patri’s whole-hearted focus.”
Photo: Bobby Siliato

“With all of these projects, I’m falling into the role of being what’s called an influencer — someone who spreads awareness to specific consumers or demographics,” Ditella says. “I’m taking it all as it comes, and with social media, doors keep opening and opportunities keep popping up to be involved in so many different arenas. But acting is my focus; I just shot my first big scene, which is the opening 40 seconds of Thai-Sanity, a thriller that’s going to be out next year. I’ve always been infatuated with acting, but I was never comfortable enough in my own skin to put myself out there. I’m super comfortable with myself now, though, and the directors and producers I’ve spoken to agree I have a broad spectrum of emotion to pull from. I’ve been through a lot — my mom died in my arms, and my dad died in my fiancée’s arms, so I think that emotion and spirituality gives me a bit of an edge as far as being able to portray a serious character.” Photo: Dilger

“With all of these projects, I’m falling into the role of being what’s called an influencer — someone who spreads awareness to specific consumers or demographics,” Ditella says. “I’m taking it all as it comes, and with social media, doors keep opening and opportunities keep popping up to be involved in so many different arenas. But acting is my focus; I just shot my first big scene, which is the opening 40 seconds of Thai-Sanity, a thriller that’s going to be out next year. I’ve always been infatuated with acting, but I was never comfortable enough in my own skin to put myself out there. I’m super comfortable with myself now, though, and the directors and producers I’ve spoken to agree I have a broad spectrum of emotion to pull from. I’ve been through a lot — my mom died in my arms, and my dad died in my fiancée’s arms, so I think that emotion and spirituality gives me a bit of an edge as far as being able to portray a serious character.”
Photo: Dilger

“I’ve had my biggest year for surfing coverage, with a spread in Surfing, shots in ESM, and lots of shots online,” Ditella says. “People still think to be a good pro surfer you need to just be a good surfer. But the landscape’s always changing, and you need to be versatile. If you can’t adapt then you’re not going to be successful. At the end of the day, it’s about moving product for the brands that pay you. Unfortunately, some of the most talented surfers don’t have sponsors because they’re not marketable and they don’t move product.” Photo: Brendan Fallon

“I’ve had my biggest year for surfing coverage, with a spread in Surfing, shots in ESM, and lots of shots online,” Ditella says. “People still think to be a good pro surfer you need to just be a good surfer. But the landscape’s always changing, and you need to be versatile. If you can’t adapt then you’re not going to be successful. At the end of the day, it’s about moving product for the brands that pay you. Unfortunately, some of the most talented surfers don’t have sponsors because they’re not marketable and they don’t move product.”
Photo: Brendan Fallon

“People online love to attack guys like Dion Agius,” Ditella says. “But he’s approached things differently and figured out a way to make top dollar from his sponsors — because he’s made himself a marketable entity, even with the surfing aspect removed. Most people saying hurtful things are just lashing out because someone else is in the position they want to be in, and they can’t figure out how to get there. I surf when I want, travel where I want, and spend time working with friends instead of sitting in an office, building someone else’s dreams. To me, that’s the definition of success. If people want to hate on me for it, that’s fine.” Photo: Dilger

“People online love to attack guys like Dion Agius,” Ditella says. “But he’s approached things differently and figured out a way to make top dollar from his sponsors — because he’s made himself a marketable entity, even with the surfing aspect removed. Most people saying hurtful things are just lashing out because someone else is in the position they want to be in, and they can’t figure out how to get there. I surf when I want, travel where I want, and spend time working with friends instead of sitting in an office, building someone else’s dreams. To me, that’s the definition of success. If people want to hate on me for it, that’s fine.”
Photo: Dilger

“In early 2012, I was ‘discovered’ by a casting agent, and she brought me work right away. But my mother was really sick at the time and I didn’t commit to it since my head wasn’t 100% there. After my mom passed away, I spent two months driving across the country with my fiancée, and I gained a bunch of weight from partying and eating like shit. So when I got home, I let the casting agent know I wanted to get into shape, and then started working after that.”

“My approach has always been different than most pro surfers. I hate the sand and don’t like the sun, and I’m not a massive fan of beach culture. I always connected better with city dwellers. Todd and Megan DiCiurcio have been two of my biggest influences, and they’re both rooted in fashion. My fiancée used to be a creative director for Jive Records, so she worked with stylists and photographers. It all kind of seamlessly happened: I was networking and socializing with all those types of people, and it took off from there.”

“Then the social media thing happened, which has become such a massive part of exposure for any type of job. I got on Instagram about two years ago, and after 10 months, my base of followers exploded. Photographers and stylists from fashion companies started to reach out to me there, in addition to being  approached by people just through the company my fiancée and I keep. I’ve done the newest campaign from American Crew, a celebrated men’s grooming product. And I just spent a bunch of time in Norway shooting for high fashion brand Tom Wood. I’ve also worked for American watch brands Shinola and Fossil, and I constantly have inquiries from companies all across the board.”

“Now that the whole model is changing, brands don’t just want a face on the page — they want someone to connect to a particular consumer and demographic, and if you have the ability to do that through social media, they’re way more inclined to hire you. Companies are asking for models’ Instagram handles these days, not their book, which is crazy. But my main focus is still acting, even though my modeling shows a lot more.”

I had gotten work before I grew the beard, and because it’s such a specific look, companies tend to seek me out more. But that’s not why I grew my beard. My father’s favorite photo of him and my mother was them sitting on a park bench in Newport, RI, just after he’d gotten out of the Navy, and he had this big ol’ beard. After my mom died, I wanted to retake that photo with my fiancée — the park bench is still there —and give it to my father as a gift. He passed away 17 months after my mom, so I became attached to the beard. It was for him. That just happened to coincide with the whole explosion of the bearded gentleman look. So it’s probably a gift because it’s put me in front of an audience that may not have noticed me without it. But to be honest, I’m getting pretty sick of it — every guy that grows facial hair is reaching out to me on social media thinking we should be best friends. It’s obnoxious.” 

“I just signed a multi-year contract with Rhythm as their only paid athlete outside of Australia. I work with Matuse and started riding DCAL Surfboards recently, and also work loosely with Swatch. It’s funny — I did an Instagram activation for them and they invited me to the Women’s WCT event at Lowers next month. I told them, ‘I’m still a pro surfer,’ and they were like, ‘Wait, what?’ They had no idea I even surfed. I served on the board of [Hurricane Sandy non-profit] Rebuild Recover until about three months ago — I didn’t feel like I could designate the proper amount of time to it anymore. And I’m involved with Seaweed & Gravel, [a motorcycle and fashion store in Southern California], which is Split founder David Patri’s whole-hearted focus.”

“With all of these projects, I’m falling into the role of being what’s called an influencer — someone who spreads awareness to specific consumers or demographics.I’m taking it all as it comes, and with social media, doors keep opening and opportunities keep popping up to be involved in so many different arenas. But acting is my focus; I just shot my first big scene, which is the opening 40 seconds of Thai-Sanity, a thriller that’s going to be out next year. I’ve always been infatuated with acting, but I was never comfortable enough in my own skin to put myself out there. I’m super comfortable with myself now, though, and the directors and producers I’ve spoken to agree I have a broad spectrum of emotion to pull from. I’ve been through a lot — my mom died in my arms, and my dad died in my fiancée’s arms, so I think that emotion and spirituality gives me a bit of an edge as far as being able to portray a serious character.”

“I’ve had my biggest year for surfing coverage, with a spread in Surfing, shots in ESM, and lots of shots online. People still think to be a good pro surfer you need to just be a good surfer. But the landscape’s always changing, and you need to be versatile. If you can’t adapt then you’re not going to be successful. At the end of the day, it’s about moving product for the brands that pay you. Unfortunately, some of the most talented surfers don’t have sponsors because they’re not marketable and they don’t move product. People online love to attack guys like Dion Agius, but he’s approached things differently and figured out a way to make top dollar from his sponsors — because he’s made himself a marketable entity, even with the surfing aspect removed. Most people saying hurtful things are just lashing out because someone else is in the position they want to be in, and they can’t figure out how to get there. I surf when I want, travel where I want, and spend time working with friends instead of sitting in an office, building someone else’s dreams. To me, that’s the definition of success. If people want to hate on me for it, that’s fine.”

Tags: , , , , , ,