Santa as a silver fox? Paul Mason thinks so. The New York City-based model has made a name for himself going viral as a sexier, smoother, but still as jolly Santa Claus. Dubbed “Fashion Santa,” Mason spends his holiday seasons giving back to charities that mean a lot to him while bringing joy to people with “Santa selfies.” Read on to find out more about our cover star.
GT: How did the name “Fashion Santa” come about?
PAUL MASON: It’s funny, because I was a model in New York for quite a while. Unfortunately, my mother passed, she had cancer, and I went home. I went to sleep for six months and didn’t shave. When I woke up out of my grief, I guess you’d call it, I looked like this mountain man or this Santa Claus-like guy with this big white beard. All I wanted to do actually was just open the doors at department stores and say “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” that sort of thing. I put together a pitch and a retailer in Canada actually said they wanted to collaborate with me. That went viral in 2015. We had something like two billion impressions over that period, that Christmas was nuts. It was really cool.
GT: Why do you think “Fashion Santa” has caught on as much as it has?
PAUL MASON: I collaborated with a Canadian mall in Toronto where I did appearances. I did eight days, maybe eight-to-10 hours each day. I did my research, 80 hours’ worth of selfies. People were looking for something a little different. It brought something to the holiday. I think the new approach to St. Nick or Santa Claus, it went across different nationalities and cultures. It wasn’t depicted by the Santa that we know. I think my vision of Santa could’ve been for anyone. I think that’s the appeal to it. Also, every appearance I do has a charity involved. It’s not like the old Santa making toys. It’s bringing awareness to a cause or creating a buzz around a charity. I initially debuted with a world-renowned children’s hospital in Toronto. I generated a bit of income for their Children’s Miracle Network. It’s funny because I’m not really the children’s Santa, but I often raise money for children.
GT: What have you been up to during the pandemic?
PAUL MASON: That was tough. Last year we were on lockdown in Toronto. I initially got on to Cameo and got accepted. I didn’t end up going for it though — I didn’t have the time. I was able to do a couple of big jobs while the stats were controlled, so that was good. I’m not technically inclined so all my messaging and videos had to be done on my own.
GT: How do you think you’re like the original Santa?
PAUL MASON: All those hours of selfies, it brought a minute or two of joy to people. It’s just a quirky kind of thing that the holidays represent, the joy and the smiles and lightness of it.
GT: What’s it like making Santa cool again?
PAUL MASON: Well, it’s a bit of a challenge. You don’t fool with such an iconic person. You have to tread lightly. Because of my involvement with charity and various causes, I think I get a pass because it’s a feel-good idea. I think there’s a bit of room for modification!