David Blakeley is a down to earth, gorgeous, young strapping lad from Nuneaton England. But dont let those good looks fool you. He's more than just a pretty face. David was in the British Military for 10 years, is an accomplished actor, model and athlete. I met David while we were working together on set and we began talking about extreme sports and fitness. I was so fascinated with his life story I just had to share it all with you.
Q: David, how did you get into modelling from the military?
A: I served in the British Army for 10 years. I was a Captain in The Parachute Regiment and served in The pathfinders (elite reconnaisance soldiers). I was injured in the Iraq war in 2003 and likely to be deskbound thereafter which prompted a rethink on where my life was going!
After periods of progression and regression it became clear that I needed serious shoulder surgery. I was put on a 12 month waiting list which after hospital administrative errors became 18 months. I decided to sell my car and borrow some money to pay £10,000 to have multiple shoulder operations-thus gaining control of my life. I would no longer let anyone or any organisation control my life.
During my physical rehabilitation I became much closer to my family (having previously been away with the military for years). They supported me enormously. My youngest sister Lisa worked in fashion and thus I was exposed to people working in the creative industries - something which formerly I had not understood. Their passion and spirit was akin to the "espirit de corps" that had originally drawn me to join the elite Parachute Regiment.
My mother did amateur dramatics and I went along with her to watch line reading. The group an actor short so they asked me to read a few scenes with them. I enjoyed it enormously! Before I knew it I enrolled in as many acting courses as I could and would finish my now Army desk job asap each day to get into London to train as an actor.
I was signed by my first acting agent a week before I left the Army. Quickly I realised how scarce film and tv drama auditions were. I began "booking" alot of tv commercials, supposedly more than any other unknown actor or model in the UK. An old friend from school, his wife worked in an Advertising Agency and cast me in a modelling campaign for a British luggage company. I then got picked up by a modelling agency. So far in 2010 I have been one of the highest earning models at my agency.
Q: What possessed you to join the military?
A: I was academically quite bright at school and took a couple of exams one year early.
I became very bored of academic education and spending 8 hours in a classroom each day.
I had no drive to read any subjects or study at university. Students at my school considered you to be gay if you studied drama or the arts (which was not acceptable at the time ) so most guys stayed away from the arts. Which is an enormous shame. I wanted to work, to do. So, I found myself in the Army.
Q: What was your job in the military?
A: I was an officer, so my job was as a leader and operational planner. My first post was as a platoon commander. The most exciting job I did was serve in The Pathfinders - elite small teams of soldiers who can deploy by freefall parachute behind enemy lines. I was shot through my trousers during an ambush behind enemy lines in Iraq (see letter from His Royal Highness Prince Charles attached - the "medicine" he refers to is a bottle of whisky he sent me from his personal vat).
Wow! Thats incredable! It must have been so scary to be in that situation. We are all grateful for your honorable service to England and those lucky trousers that saved your life! What a thoughtful man His Royal Highness Prince Charles is to send you some of his own personal "medicine" to help you get well!
Q: Being a Pathfinder, what is it like jumping out of a plane?
A: Not a normal or natural experience. A good example of "mind over matter". When you have more experience and do multiple training jumps in one day you can become desensitised to it - which is often when accidents tend to happen. I had to pull my reserve parachute twice. On a night HAHO (High Altitude High Opening) training jump prior to the Iraq war we had to cover 30 miles "under canopy" and got seperated as a Patrol over the north sea and so landed scattered across English villages!
Im sure some of the ladies wouldnt have minded you turning up on their doorstep in their lonely English villages!
You are also an accomplished athlete and have finished the Marathon Des Sables. Not just any old Marathon might i remind you! Marathon Des Sables is a 6 day 151 mile (243km) endurance race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco, Africa. Not a race for the weak and feeble!
Q: What was it like running the Marathon Des Sables?
A: A fantastic experience! Its great that you can only enter as a team, it enforces camaraderie. No cell phones, computers or distractions. It's just you, your running shoes and a backpack against nature - and the clock! You need to be focused, yet at the same time I found it very mind clearing.
Q: What a huge accomplishment! What was the most challenging thing about the race?
A: Waking up on a cold desert morning very stiff, knowing its "double marathon" day!
Q: Was there ever a point where you wanted to give up?
A: Never. If failure is an option in your head, you will fail. If your head is in no doubt that you will finish this race even if its the last thing you ever do and all race marshalls have gone home, you will finish.
Q: How did you keep going on those long hot days?
A: Preparation and administration - eg looking after your feet helps alot. I was used to carrying heavy loads across hills from being in The Parachute Regiment. Taking shorter steps can make you less likely to go over on an ankle or twist a knee. The body likes rythmn so I always try to get into a comfortable pace and then relax into it.
Q: What was the best thing you experienced during the marathon?
A: The best thing was having a body scrub after the race in a sauna for locals. It was the freshest and cleanest Ive ever felt! That feeling was worth 156 miles of blood, sweat and a few tears!
Q: What is your next challenge?
A: It has to be something different, something unlike anything else I have done before. I read an article in which Francis Ford Copolla was asked why he keeps making films after the enormous success of his films like the Godfather in 1972 - what keeps him driven nearly 40 years later. His answer was that whilst life is about your family and close friends, its the challenge of learning and doing something new that keeps you going and alive. I beleive this.
Q: Can you give the readers some advise or fitness tips youve learned over the years?
A: Train hard, fight easy. Keep your workouts as functional as possible. Your legs and core are much stronger than your arms - so try and incorporate them into your routines as much as possible. You cannot get fitter, stronger, faster, leaner, bigger (whatever you want to achieve), during one training session. This only happens during your rest and recovery. Thus your rest and nutrition is the most important part and your training only stimulates this part. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of water and eat well. Dieting is not eating less. Diet is eating the right amount of the right types of food and nutrients. This takes much more effort and discipline that reducing what you eat.
Well..........there you have it! Words from a very wise and inspiring man who has been through hell and back to tell the story!
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