“I’m the wrong person to ask about suffering during the pandemic,” said Piotr Czaykowski one evening in May on his way home from the office in Warsaw.
“Since September 2020, it’s just been insanely busy for me.” Czaykowski simultaneously runs his modeling agency and talent management company, Chili Models, along with a tech start-up called Faceionized, an app for smart phones that uses facial recognition, neuroscience and orthodontics to determine major personality characteristics.
He launched a beta-version of the mobile app in September. Stringent testing of the app and its AI have determined an accuracy rate of 87 percent. But Czaykowski’s business – modeling, talent, branding – requires perfection. “One of the things you’ll notice about me is my drive. I just go and go and go. I actually feel guilty taking five minutes for myself here and there; I’m working on that,” he said sincerely.
Born at the end of Poland’s communist period, Czaykowski doesn’t recall life under communism, but what is impressed in his childhood memories is the dramatic way that society changed after Poland opened. “I witnessed factory workers become factory owners; so much ingenuity among the Polish people in the years (after the fall of communism). I saw that every idea could make a profitable business.” Witnessing those opportunities, plus his education both in Poland and abroad (he studied English intensively in New York when he was only 11 years old), prepared him for the competitive world of modeling, talent management and branding.
He lived and worked in Greece and then spent four years working as a model in Milan before returning to Poland. “When you’re a model, the work is ‘waiting.’ So you fill your time with exercise and fitness. You have to be so thin, especially in Milan, but also in perfect shape. You have to fit into a sample size, but you have to look perfect in underwear, too,” Czaykowski said. Those formative years set his discipline for the six-day-a-week routine he still spends in the gym. “My gym time is between 6 and 8 a.m. or it just doesn’t happen,” he said. “There’s no squeezing it in later in the day. I have tried and failed… wasted a lot of money on trainers and memberships for afternoon appointments.”
Czaykowski turns 36 this year (he was 33 in the cover photo he shot with Jakub Plesniarski for L’Homme Officiel Poland a few years ago) and he’s focused on gaining more muscle mass. “I have to eat a lot, which I love,” he said. “Although I don’t model much right now, I stay ready.”
The cover shoot was his first up-close-and-personal experience with a horse in years. “I rode a little bit as a kid in Poland,” he said. “But to be perfectly honest, I was stressed out and afraid at first.” The stress wasn’t 100 percent due to the horse. The shoot was scheduled last-minute, and he knew it was going to require nudity. “Nudity was something I really struggled with as an adolescent, but I was self-aware enough to realize it and try to start dealing with it, losing one piece of clothing at a time in a sauna or locker room situation. As a runway model, backstage you have 45 seconds to change your entire outfit, including underwear. But no one is looking, no one is making you uncomfortable.” The first time he arrived at a shoot knowing it was going to be nude, he found the set serene and inviting. The photographer had gone out of his way to minimize the number of people on set. “Getting naked for a camera requires an atmosphere of trust on set and with the photographer,” he said.
On the day of his equestrian-themed shoot in a suburb of Warsaw, the shot list started with him nude. “That wasn’t going to happen,” he said. “We shot the cover shirtless, but not nude. Then, as we established the trust and I saw the photos coming out, the atmosphere shifted, and I was comfortable disrobing. The photographer, Jakub (Plesniarski), was incredible.” His equine partner noticed the shift in his body language, too, and responded. “I felt that connection between myself and the horse,” he said. “People talk about that kind of connection, and I really felt it. It was meditative. Once I was free of my negative energy, the horse reacted to my emotions and it was just surreal.”