Bradley Schemmel: Student, Media Influencer, Model

Alex Cavalier, Contributing Writer

Photo courtesy of Bradley Schemmel

An FGCU student has amassed a large TikTok following, leading him to his most recent accomplishment— walking the runway at New York Fashion Week in February. 

As of April, 21-year-old Bradley Schemmel has 1.8 million followers on his TikTok account @bradschemmel and 112,000 followers on his Instagram account with the same username.

“It was just so surreal,” sophomore Schemmel said about the experience. Despite this recent success, he never saw modeling in his future. 

Growing up in North Canton, Ohio, Schemmel was used to living in a small town. 

“The people you grow up with are pretty much the people who you always grow up with,” he said. “Usually you graduate, go to one of the three same colleges: (The University of) Akron, Ohio State, or Ohio University. Then you come back to your hometown, get a job, live with your parents maybe for a year, and get your feet up and you stay there.”

In 2020, the trajectory of his life changed. It was his senior year at North Canton Hoover High School when Schemmel decided to post on the short-form video hosting service, TikTok. 

“My senior year, I broke my ankle and COVID hit about two months later. I had nothing to do because there is nothing to do. I was like ‘damn, I’m bored.’ So, I just started making videos and posting them,” Schemmel said.

His third TikTok showed his appearance from different angles. The post went viral gaining 100,000 views. He started gaining a following that March during a marine biology class trip to the Bahamas. 

“I remember before the trip, I had 40k and you weren’t allowed on your phone during the trip besides to take pictures, because there wasn’t any Wi-Fi or service. When we were in the airport in the Bahamas, I posted two videos right before we went on a mini plane to where we were staying. When we got back a week later and had a (Wi-Fi) connection, both of those two videos got millions of views each,” Schemmel said.

He returned home with 100,000 followers. To capitalize on this milestone, he continued to make videos. That summer, Schemmel focused on following the trends. He found success creating ‘POVs’ or point-of-view videos, a trend in which the video shows the viewer’s perspective of a certain situation. He also created dare videos, a trend in which viewers can comment a dare and he would reply with a TikTok completing the request. He was gaining 10,000 followers a day. 

Originally, Schemmel was to attend college in Akron. However, in May 2020, he decided he wanted to leave his hometown. This caused him to drop out of college. On a whim, he applied to FGCU. 

“I had never toured here (FGCU). The only reason I knew about here is because of March Madness in 2014. My sister toured this college but I knew nothing about it. I just applied because I got my own room,” Schemmel said. “The only thing I knew is that I got my own room, and it was in Florida away from my hometown.”

He attended the first day of the fall 2020 semester online. Originally a biology major on a pre-medicine track, he found it difficult to understand the course material as an out-of-state student. After speaking with his academic advisor about this issue, their solution was to hold Schemmel’s academic scholarship until next year. 

Schemmel, along with seven of his social media influencer friends, then moved to Los Angeles. 

“We each bought a one-way ticket to LA. No plan yet. We just had the idea that we were going to go. We booked with Southwest Airlines, and we could bring two or three suitcases. The plan was to leave a week later. Within that week, we were on Airbnb, Zillow, and everything you can imagine trying to find a place. We found a crummy apartment in La Brea Park, which is right in West Hollywood. It was a two bedroom and there were eight of us in there,” he said.

For the next few months, Schemmel and his friends lived as “kids being kids.” 

“We were dumb. We were all 18 or 19 years old making thousands of dollars a month, so we were stupid,” he said. “We spent so much money on everything you can imagine. Ubers, skateboards, clothes, partying. We partied so much. We never cooked, we ate out every single meal every single day.”

Eventually, they ran out of money and the group went their separate ways, moving back to their hometowns. But Schemmel wouldn’t stay in North Canton for long. After being home for a month, he wanted to move back to California. 

For the remainder of the year, Schemmel would stay in various places in LA. He crashed at different friends’ houses, notably Anna Shumate, another social media influencer known as @annabananaxdddd on TikTok. For the summer, he rented a room through a friend.

With the summer coming to an end, Schemmel headed back to FGCU to start the fall 2021 semester. This time as a business analytics and informatics major. 

“I hated [college] at first… I was like, ‘Why am I here?’ I contemplated dropping out every single day. And it didn’t help that this is a smaller campus. Within the first week, every single person knew who I was,” he said. “From what I have heard through people I was friends with, I was a topic of discussion in some classes. In the dining hall, for the first two weeks, people would ask me for pictures. It was just weird. It wasn’t like I could just be a college kid.”

Eventually, Schemmel found people who valued him for his personality rather than his social media success. He became friends with Nicholas Henao, who he met moving into his South Village dorm, and Kevin Prager, a South Village resident assistant. 

In Nov. 2020, he was scouted by Homme Model Management for modeling through Instagram. 

“It’s funny because when the page reached out to me, I thought it was a scam. They reached out to me when I lived in LA a year prior and I hadn’t responded. So, I just never saw it through,” Schemmel said. 

It wasn’t until Schemmel spoke with his friend and model Max Tardio that he realized it was a real opportunity. He responded to the direct message and signed a contract three days later. Just a week later, Schemmel’s agent, Kevin Holloman, wanted him to fly to New York City. 

Being a full-time student, his professors wouldn’t allow him time off from class. After his last final exam in Dec. 2020, Schemmel immediately was on a plane the next day to New York, where he would spend the next two weeks. 

In Feb. 2021, he spent another week in New York. He went to four different castings, but since he was such a new face, he didn’t receive any jobs. But he says it was “still just cool being there.” 

He spent the rest of the spring semester at FGCU. By the end of the year, he was happy to be living on campus. He enjoyed spending time with his newfound friends. Right before the summer of 2021 began, Holloman called Schemmel telling him he needed to be in New York for the summer. Always up for a spontaneous adventure, Schemmel took the chance. 

“While I was there, I did a lot of [photo] shoots. Just free work though, I didn’t get any paid jobs,” he said. “I finally got my first paid job for like 500 bucks, but it was $100 an hour which is so bottom line for modeling. But 100 bucks an hour, that’s crazy. So yeah, my first job was for a really small brand and then two weeks later I got my second job with the same company.”

In June, he signed with his first agency: New Icon New York. He felt like someone believed in him. During the fall 2022 semester, he booked his first-ever campaign. 

“It was with Alpha Industries, which is this military kind of workwear brand, and they flew me up to New York. I was only there for three days over the weekend. I flew up there, did the job, and flew right back down because I had classes,” he said.

In Sept., the fall run of New York Fashion Week was approaching. The conflict between work opportunities and in-person classes continued. 

“I wanted to go, but I had classes so I couldn’t go and my agent was like ‘Okay, whatever.’ Then, he calls me right before fashion week, like two days before the actual shows begin. He says ‘Dude, people keep wanting to see you need to come here.’ I talked to my professors and somehow I worked out the days I can miss and I just left. I was gone for literally six days,” Schemmel said.

During those six days, he booked his first virtual runway show with the creative/fashion/art director John Tan at Visual Tales Magazine, a modern digital magazine that pushes the boundaries of fashion and art with innovative imagery and film.

“When I found out, I was already on my flight back home and the show was the next day, so I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do the show. So yeah, I was so pissed.” 

At that moment, Schemmel knew he needed to have all online classes for the spring 2023 semester. So far, he has spent the majority of the spring semester in New York, where he experienced the spring 2023 New York Fashion Week from Feb. 10 to Feb. 15.

“I booked my first runway show with Midnight Rodeo and they also collab with Thierry Lasry, a sunglasses brand,” Schemmel said. “It was cool. Such a cool brand. I learned they are also party oriented. So, it was surreal coming from my hometown in Ohio to parting with all these people I would never have met, in New York City.”

Since then, Schemmel has signed with two more agencies: Wimbley Management in Miami and I Love Models Management in Milan, Italy. He leaves for Europe next month. 

“I Love Models is pretty much the top male model agency in Milan, Italy,” he said. “On April 30, I leave to go to Europe and I’m there until July 23. So, I’m excited to see what they have. They have Milan Fashion Week during the summer, Paris Fashion Week and London Fashion Week. I have some interest in some agencies in Paris and London who want to meet with me. So hopefully I sign with them and see where life goes from there.”

Schemmel lives his life trying to “seek discomfort.” The tattoo on his chest acts as a reminder to do that. 

“One of the biggest things I say is I would rather have the knowledge of experiences than wealth. I would trade all of the money I had in the world if it meant that I could experience the things that I’ve experienced again,” Schemmel said. “Like taking a chance on something that you don’t even know if it’ll work, right? So worth it every time. It’s so worth it.”