Boxer Turned Model Rudy Bundini’s Backstory Is Like A Movie
Model and Instagram star Rudy Bundini is living proof that the American dream is alive and well. The Switzerland-native came to New York with two bags and ambition—and soon ended up on a billboard in Times Square with 2.8 MILLION devoted Insta followers around the world. The 33-year-old tells The Daily about his early days in New York City, why he’s reluctant to go to Hollywood, and his secret to social media stardom.
How did you break into modeling?
I was pursuing a boxing career and that’s almost all I was focusing on. Although I started modeling over ten years ago, I didn’t take it really seriously until after one of the pre-qualifying matches for the London Olympic games. In this pre- match, my right shoulder popped out for the second time. I went to the doctor and after I came back from anesthesia, they told me, ‘You can’t box anymore.’ Boxing was the only thing I was thinking about at that time. For six months, I was at home with no desires. I didn’t have any other dreams. Then I eventually started to focus on modeling and finished my master’s degree. My field of study was mechanical engineering. I was living in Switzerland and then went to Dubai to model and came to New York.
How and why did you make the move to New York?
New York is a fashion capital. Even if you’re not high fashion and you want to shoot commercial, I think New York is the best place for it. Dubai is really financially good for models, and there wasn’t as much competition while I was living there. But I was looking for a challenge. I like going to castings and need to compete. I have that competitive attitude in me and New York was the place for it.
What made you stay?
I came here for Fashion Week and I was planning to stay for a week to 10 days. I was staying at the Hilton Hotel on Sixth Avenue and 53rd. On my final day, I took a cab to get to the airport and I put my bag in the taxi and as I was about to close the trunk, I couldn’t do it. It was like closing the doors to my dreams. I took my luggage out and told the driver, ‘I’m not gonna go!’ Since I wasn’t planning on staying, I didn’t even have enough ID. I just had two bags, which were fairly big.
Where did you live?
Someone said Craigslist was a good way to look for an apartment. I was looking into really low budget places, because I was not financially ready. Some of the places didn’t look like the places in their photos, a lot of them looked like scams. Finally I looked at a place in Washington Heights where an old lady lived. The place looked like life was going on and somebody actually lived there. She looked really charming and she showed me the room. She was was staying in one side of the living room, and was renting the other side, which I rented.
It was a very low rent. I think it was, like, $500 a month. I told her I wanted it. She said she needed a social security number and I was like, ‘What’s that?’ She asked for my employer and I told I just moved here. She asked me how she could trust me. I told her I knew someone in California who know my family. She told me to leave the number. She called the family and they said they didn’t know me personally, but they know my family. They told her that I’m always welcome to come see them in California. The old lady called me and said I could live there.
What were those days like?
I would walk from Washington Heights to the city to avoid the $2.50 Metro swipe. It was nine miles! I found this fruit stand and they were giving five bananas for a dollar so I would buy 10 of them and I would save one half banana per day to last for a week. I remember a model told me about Planet Fitness where you pay $10 a month to workout. Then things started getting better, but the beginning was very hard. I got my work permit and I was able to work and things went a lot better.
Cut to! Today you have 2.8 million followers on Instagram. How did you build that following?
At the beginning there was resistance about social media. Social media wasn’t a necessity. I kind of liked it better because you could just keep your life and social media separate. But after social media started taking [off], your personal and business life can’t be separated. It kind of merges into the same thing, which wasn’t what I liked about social media. There is a saying that is one of my favorite quotes, that says, ‘Change what you can stand, and accept what you can’t change.’ I started going to the castings, and they were asking what my Instagram handle was. They check your book and your profile to get an understanding of who you are and how big your reach is. I said I can’t change this. I have to adapt to the situation. I accepted it, created my account, and started working on it. You have to put time in. My Times Square billboard was also helpful. I remember that week I got a lot of followers. My Forbes article also helped. The editor called me and said, ‘Did you know that you have the highest views in the fashion category?’ All of these little things getting together were all helpful, and we are where we are now.
Do you read the comments left on your Instagram account?
I’ll read comments if I have the spare time. Especially the ones who comment instantly after I post. I was thinking it would be a great idea if Instagram would translate comments so you can read comments in other languages. I can never understand what they’re saying.
How do you know when a post will perform well?
Skin. That’s how it usually is. Like, whenever I post high fashion or commercial it doesn’t get as much as likes or higher engagement.
That’s Instagram for you! 2.8 million followers is no small feat.
Like everything else, it has side effects and advantages and disadvantages. There are advantages like you might go into a restaurant and appetizers come out, or you put the restaurant on your Story and that’s it, that pays the bill. Clothing brands are constantly sending you clothes. It prevents a lot of expenses, but it’s bad because you can’t have your own personal style. I haven’t shopped for anything in a long time. A lot of people take pictures of me on the street with me walking with a shopping bag and tag me later. I would prefer if they said something to me or greeted me. You sometimes feel like you are always under review or judgment, but on the other side, it’s good that you feel loved. It’s good and bad.
We’ve spotted you at events for the Italian Trade Agency. Who are some of your favorite Italian designers?
Luigi Bianchi Mantova, L.B.M. 1911, and Collini Milano 1937.
I’m sure everyone asks you how you stay in such incredible shape! What’s your secret?
Believe it or not, there isn’t any magic way to do it. It’s more discipline. It’s hard. I gain weight like everybody else and it happens fast. I lose my definition faster than you’d imagine. I’m not always in perfect shape: 80% is diet and habits and about 20% is the gym. You build your body in the kitchen. You can’t really fix it up in one hour at the gym.
Do you ever eat pizza?
Have I ever? Of course. I love pizza.
Phew! What do you eat the most?
Vegetables. If I’m on diet, usually vegetables and fruits. It takes a lot to fill me up. I eat a lot of high volume and low calorie food. When I’m off the diet, oh boy, Ben and Jerry’s!
Many of our readers will want to know…How’s Rudy’s love life?
It’s going well!
What are your goals?
Whenever I think about Hollywood and fame, it kind of creeps me out. There’s a level of fame that ruins your personal life. There’s also a lot of things that you’re kind of pushed into, which is not for me. I’m not political, but you’re kind of forced into expressing your political views. I would rather be able to maintain my privacy at home. I like creating. I think you need such a big passion in order to get your way to Hollywood. The side effects discourage me.