The Homeless Hippie Skater That Kendall Jenner Turned Into a Model

We talked to John Economou, the “Romeo of Venice Beach,” about his grooming routine, his ideal gig, and picking up girls.

John Economou, dubbed the “Romeo of Venice Beach” for the ladykiller looks that have liberated him from many a windy night on a Venice Beach picnic bench, was just your average 20-year-old homeless kid from Milwaukee before a recent chance encounter with Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid. Now he’s a 20-year-old homeless kid from Milwaukee with a modeling contract and a pretty insane story. Apparently, Economou, who moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to pursue his acting and modeling dreams, was just minding his own business on the beach when he struck up a conversation with a bunch of randoms who happened to be two of the most famous people in the world.

“I was just chilling on the beach and watching the water, minding my own business and then I see these people come over, Economou told the Daily Mail. “They sat pretty close but not too close and they started having a picnic. They looked all presentable and good looking. I saw bodyguards at the corner. I thought they were police at first and I thought ‘What are they doing?’ Then I saw seagulls swarming around the girls because they brought the food out and I started walking over there to shoo them away. One of the girls said to me, ‘You’re cute,’ so I turned around and we struck up conversation. I didn’t realize who I was speaking to at first and it finally clicked who it was—it was Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, actor Ansel Elgort, and Kendall’s manager, Ashleah Gonzalez.”

The owner of modeling agency Two Management, Luc Brinker, started Kendall in modeling before she hooked up with Gonzalez, who reached out to Brinker. The rest wasn’t exactly history—despite the chance encounter, Economou still sleeps on the sand under his single thin blanket. But he does have a pretty nice portfolio tucked into his rucksack along with two changes of clothes, a toothbrush, and a cellphone we called to ask him a few questions about grooming, dream gigs, and of course, girls.

DETAILS: How long ago did all this happen?
John Economou: It happened last year. Mid to late last year. I moved out here, and in the first three or four months I got discovered by them. I stayed here for a little, then I moved home for a couple of months to take care of some business. Then I came back out here, and when I came back out here I got signed and everything.

DETAILS: How have things been going since you got signed?
John Economou: It’s been a slow start. It’s very competitive here so I knew that it was going to take some patience. For the first couple of months I was just taking test shoots with local photographers and building my portfolio. After the first couple of months went by I started going to some castings. I’ve probably been to five or six things so far, but I haven’t landed a casting yet. I have not been making the bread yet, but my name is getting out there and that’s what’s important. The money will come down the road. I landed my first job just after the article came out, so now I’m starting to pick up the ball.

DETAILS: Are you still sleeping outside or do you have a place now?
John Economou: I’m still living the hippie life. Just playing it by ear. I have a couple of options, some nights I’ll stay outside but I have other options too.

DETAILS: How do you manage to keep up your grooming routine with limited resources?
John Economou: I work out every day, I go to a gym in Venice. I hit the gym super early, and every morning I hit the shower. Even though I’m homeless, I brush my teeth, I shave, and I get my clothes washed. I’m homeless, I’m living the hippie life, but I’m living the high class hippie life. I’m taking care of myself.

DETAILS: Is that a lifestyle choice, living the hippie life?
John Economou: Yeah, it’s a lifestyle choice. Most of the kids in our generation are more free spirits, more free roamers, and I’m going to lead the new generation with motivation—constructive motivation.

DETAILS: Do you have friends in the neighborhood?
John Economou: I came out here not really expecting to. That wasn’t my focus, to make friends. I’m super independent so I came out here and just stuck to myself. I didn’t try to make friends in my age group, I prefer to talk with people from the older generation. With teenagers I stuck to myself, because that’s just the way I like it. But I’ve met some Venice locals who have been living here their whole lives. I’ve been chilling with the locals, so I’ve been making some friends, yeah. Otherwise I just like being Solo Dolo.

DETAILS: How do you protect yourself from the more shady local characters?
John Economou: It is a pretty dangerous place, especially in today’s world a lot of crazy stuff is happening. But I put out good vibes, I’m pretty spiritual and I pray, and I have the most important one watching over me so I’m protected that way. But when I was younger my parents got me and my sisters into karate, so after that I’ve just been practicing different forms of martial arts. So if someone tries anything I’m fully prepared in every manner.

DETAILS: What would be your ideal modeling gig?
John Economou: I’m pretty open. Whatever I land I’m down to do. I just like design, and high fashion design, anything super nice. I don’t have a favorite designer and I’m not targeting anything specific. My door is open.

DETAILS: You apparently have a reputation for spending a lot of time at girls’ houses. Do you tell them that you’re homeless?
John Economou: Yeah, so I meet the girls and tell them my situation. I don’t tell them I’m a model, but I do tell them I’m out here just living the hippie life, just couch surfing and whatnot. I tell them that right away, and I do tell them that I’m not looking for a relationship right away. I like to keep my relationships open, so I don’t want to build a connection too strong. It’s more like an open friendship.

DETAILS: Sounds like you’re the envy of many guys.
John Economou: Confidence is key. You don’t get anywhere without talking. The open mouth gets fed.

DETAILS: Are you still in touch with Kendall or Gigi or Ansel?
John Economou: After the encounter I’ve been in touch with just Ansel, exchanging emails about our personal lives and whatnot. I’ve also been talking with Kendall’s manager Ashleah, but I haven’t been talking to Kendall or Gigi at all.