Two surprising things have recently come to light in the arena of Harlequin romance novels: first, that they use actual models, not just artistic renditions of brawny men and lusty ladies. Second, one such hunky model, Nathane Jackson, makes readers’ hearts go pitter pat on a totally plant-based diet. VegNews caught up with the 35-year-old fitness model, personal trainer, and cowboy/doctor/detective to chat about his transition from meathead to model citizen.
VegNews: How did you go vegan?
Nathane Jackson: My mom was battling cancer for the greater portion of 10 years. In the ninth year, we were in the hospital at Christmastime and realized that she probably wasn’t going to be getting out of there, so we decided to do alternative-therapy research. Nutrition kept coming up, and at the time I was eating copious amounts of meat. Everything I came up with in the research was more plant-based diet, especially for someone who’s sick. I realized that as much I looked great aesthetic-wise, internally I was concerned about my health and my blood work. My mom actually saw a naturopath when she got out of the hospital and went through a kind of blood type diet, which I wasn’t really too keen on when I first heard about it because I really didn’t know anything about it, and it was very different from my bodybuilder-ish nutrition at the time. Long story short, the alternative therapy of megadose vitamin C and the blood-type nutrition plan did help her out quite a bit for most of a year. Unfortunately, some other things happened, and she ended up getting ill again and passing away in the fall of 2010. There was a time between the moment she got out of the hospital and started taking the vitamin C, until about June, that she was living her life the way she should have lived it for the previous 10 years. It was amazing how she got out of her deathbed and was able to live her life, so I kept digging deeper into the research, consulting different people like Gabriel Cousens. The more I studied his work, the more it resonated with me. And even though my mom passed, there way a silver lining: I stopped looking at the outside, the aesthetics of somebody or myself, and started looking at the inside.
VN: How did you get involved in competitive fitness?
NJ: I was in Vancouver, and there was a competition coming to town, and I liked a challenge. I didn’t care how I placed, if I won or came in last, I just wanted a goal. I came in second in that competition, and I got the bug. After that I competed six or seven times and had a lot of success early on. When you do well in the competitions, magazines take notice, and at the time supplement companies were something that I wanted to be involved with, and they approached me, and wanted to know if I’d be the face of this or the spokesmodel for that, so it sort of just fell into my lap.
VN: How did you become a romance novel cover model?
NJ: That was again the product of a competition. I was walking home one day, and my spouse called and said she’d just heard on the radio that Harlequin is doing a next Harlequin cover guy open casting, and today’s the last day. I was only three or four blocks away, so I went. ET Canada was actually leaving as I was walking in—I didn’t know why they were there, but I saw the bags and the truck and everything else. I just made it, I was the last guy in that day. There was a whole panel of judges, who I came to find out are all the Harlequin art directors. One guy asked, can you take your shirt off? And I thought, wait what kind of casting am I in? But you know for Harlequin covers—unless you’re in the millionaire line—you’re almost always shirtless. So no problem, took my shirt off, and I was so prepared physically for the competition that they were like, wow, this guy’s ripped and he’s tall. They had a lot of younger guys in there, and the women who read the books had expressed interest in a little bit older models on the cover, so I guess I fit that category. So it was the right place, right time for sure.
VN: We have to ask: do you read the novels?
NJ: I’ve read a few, but out of the 70 I’ve done, it’s probably in the single-digit percentage. My spouse and I actually did a cover together, so that was really nice. And this is kind of why I don’t read them, is because family members pick copies up, and they tell me what I’m doing in these novels. They say every time they read these they’re thinking of me. That’s kind of weird and awkward, isn’t it?
Photo by Robert Goshgarian