Although it might seem hard to believe given recent events, Lakewood Ranch resident Brad Kroenig needed a push to get into modeling.
The local real estate agent was recently the subject of a People profile thanks to his work and friendship with the late fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld, whose career was celebrated in the theme of the Met Gala on May 1 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City.
Kroenig eventually gained recognition as Lagerfeld’s muse and as one of Vogue.com’s “Top 10 Male Models of All Time,” but he didn’t start his modeling career until the age of 20 and only after a model friend encouraged him to give it a shot. At the time, he was a student on a soccer scholarship at Florida International University. After multiple tries to sign with agencies in Miami Beach, he finally got his break with Next Models and decided he would drop out of school.
“(The agent) said: ‘No, no whatever you do, do not do that. You can’t make a living being a male model,’” he recalled. “The next day I went to the dean, and my soccer coach and told them I was leaving school. … I called my dad to send me $500 to Miami Beach, and that was the only $500 I ever needed.”
He has since modeled for Fendi and Chanel, where Lagerfeld was head designer, as well as Ralph Lauren, Gap and Hermes, among others.
Now he lives in Lakewood Ranch with his wife, Nicole, and two sons, Hudson and Jameson. Both Nicole and Brad sell real estate in the area at Coldwell Banker Realty and on barrier islands including Longboat Key, Bird Key and Lido Key. Nicole has a claim to fame herself as the daughter of Nick Bollettieri, a famous tennis coach and founder of Bradenton’s IMG Academy. She also grew up on Longboat Key.
The Longboat Observer recently spoke with Brad about his career in both modeling and real estate and the decision to settle down in southwest Florida.
I had a very good friend who was a photographer, who ended up becoming a successful real estate agent in Miami, and he said “you’ve got to get into real estate. You would be so great at it with all of your contacts.” So I got my license in New York City working with The Corcoran Group … When (Nicole and I) met she was doing real estate and I was as well, but we moved back up to New York in 2009. When we came back down here, we started doing real estate full time.
Nicole and I lived in downtown Sarasota for two years when we first met in 2007. I always loved it. It’s like a hidden gem in Florida not too many people knew about. It was just so peaceful and relaxing here all the time. We always had plans to eventually move back here when my modeling career kind of slowed down or we just needed a change in life. That came two years ago, about two years after Karl passed away … (Nicole) had a lot of deep connections and roots here; a lot of our close friends are here. It was a perfect time to come back.
Yes. I have a shoot next week and just had another shoot two weeks ago in Oregon. I’m still modeling, not like I was, but I am still working with a handful of international brands. I’ll model forever because I’m good at it and I enjoy doing it.
At the beginning, it was just business because he’s a photographer and a designer and I was a model. Then, very quickly, … we became almost like family. He had no kids or any family, so once I met Nicole down here in Sarasota and our first son came along he became the godfather and when Jameson was born, too. He really enjoyed me as a model because he saw the passion I had and I was always changing my looks. I inspired him and he was always putting me in all the shoots and campaigns and shows.
Lauren Tronstad is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2021. Before moving to Florida, she worked for the Columbia Daily Tribune.