Retired Marine Cpl. Alex Minsky’s life took a surreal and unexpected turn this year as he sat on a couch next to Barbara Walters, Sherri Shepherd, and Jenny McCarthy. The ladies of The View were admiring him, not over his heroic military service or the fact that he’d been awarded the Purple Heart. The reason he was invited on the show was his recent success as fashion’s hottest new underwear model.
“I never thought in a million years that I would become a model,” Minsky says during a shoot in Los Angeles. “Even before the accident it was never one of my goals.”
Minsky’s journey from the battlefield to the runway is straight out of a Hollywood movie. On June 1, 2009, barely three weeks into his first tour in Afghanistan, Minsky’s Humvee ran over a roadside bomb. His bottom jaw was broken in four different places, his arm was torn to shreds, and his right leg was blown off just below the knee. A plastic tube lodged in his trachea was the only thing keeping him alive. Doctors told his mother, Jackie, that Alex had suffered a traumatic brain injury and would probably not survive. If he did, they said, his life would never be the same.
To everyone’s surprise, Minsky pulled through. He spent 47 days in a coma and 17 months in the hospital recovering from his wounds. He has little recollection of the explosion. Most of what he knows has been pieced together from what other people have told him.
A dark period of depression and alcoholism nearly killed him. “I was searching,” he said. “I lost my job, my leg, and my purpose in life. Then my brother passed away, and it was all downhill from there.” Soon, Minsky had to look up to see rock bottom. “I was getting hammered seven days a week. I was getting into all kinds of trouble,” he says. After getting three DUIs in less than three months, Minsky was ordered by the court to attend an outpatient rehab program.
To keep busy, he hit the gym twice a day, six days a week. On his second day of sobriety, a photographer approached him during one of his workouts, and asked whether he’d ever consider modeling. Minsky thought the guy was out of his mind. But the photographer was persistent, and Minsky eventually relented.
Over the next year, Minsky’s test shots went viral. He was a good-looking guy with a perfect body covered in badass tattoos. But it was his blasé attitude towards his prosthesis that captured people’s imagination. Minsky became a role model for those living with disabilities, redefining long-held standards of beauty and perfection.
“He gives people hope,” said photographer Cedric Terrell, himself a former Marine. “Models who work the runway are made to blend in. But he is a personality. People are designing photo shoots around him.”
Minsky has garnered a fiercely loyal following online. His Facebook fan page boasts close to 200,000 followers, more than Simon Nessman and Sean O’Pry, the industry’s top moneymaking models, combined. A picture on his Instagram account can easily fetch 2,000 likes. And the fashion world is starting to take notice. He’s become one of the new faces of up-and-coming underwear company Jack Adams and has appeared in countless fashion blogs and magazines.
“It’s been crazy,” said Minsky. “People are starting to recognize me.”
And he’s already showing signs of becoming a pro. With every click of the shutter, Minsky changes his pose. His prosthetic doesn’t seem strange or out of place, even when he puts on a pair of red Speedos. In a way, Minsky’s attitude, or lack thereof, is his secret weapon. He doesn’t make an issue out of his prosthetic, so nobody else does either.