"Everybody's calling me the underdog, the random selection," says Albert Reed, the face — and body — of Abercrombie & Fitch, who is fully aware that almost nobody knows his name. And that the few who do make some pretty insulting assumptions about his gray matter. "Everybody has this funk about models," says Reed, 22, who first attracted major attention at age 19 when he was on the cover of Abercrombie & Fitch's 2004 back-to-school catalog. "It's this cliché of being a little slow, of not having too much upstairs. I'm a bit of a writer, an artist. I've never thought of myself as a model."
He's never thought of himself as a dancer, either. So when his manager got a call from Dancing with the Stars asking for a meeting, Reed didn't exactly jump at the chance. "I wasn't too familiar with the show," he admits. "And I have no dance background. I surf, I play tennis. But I don't bend the way I should. I've never picked up flexibility. Dancing is a way of using your body that is so alien and unnatural to me."
Reed does, however, have a dancer in his family: his adored late grandfather, Harry Foster. Foster was a WWII fighter pilot and then, after the war, an engineer for Grumman Aerospace Corporation (now Northrop Grumman). At family celebrations, Foster would scoop Reed's grandmother up in his arms and glide her around the floor. "He was such a gentleman with my grandmother," says Reed. "He might not have had the trickiest moves, but he was a great dancer."
So when Reed, who moved from New York to Los Angeles to try to break into film and television, was faced with the decision of whether or not to do Dancing with the Stars, thoughts of his grandfather tipped the scales. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be really cool if Grandpa's looking down on this?'" says Reed. "It would be a way to honor him."
But to get there, he has to survive his practice sessions. His first stop: meeting his partner, Anna Trebunskaya, who last paired with Jerry Rice. "She is a Russian firecracker," says Reed, who is single but has a "special someone." "She's a sweetheart, but she means business. When we met, she was smiling and spunky, and I thought, 'Oh boy, she's going to be a handful.'"
The first few days of rehearsals proved him right. Day 2 was five and a half hours of nonstop training. "And I am completely overwhelmed and flustered by all the information that you're having to process," says Reed. "Anna said I have great rhythm. But when you add the steps, you get thrown off."
Still, the face and body that launched a thousand shirt sales is committed to seeing it through. "It has nothing to do with stardom," he says. In fact, his "special someone" is worried about what he calls "the spotlight factor." Some people, he says, "change because of the spotlight. But I've been in it from early on. I've digested it. I've seen what can happen if you let this crap take a hold of you. But I've never lost my roots. I have a peaceful state of mind. You just have to be happy with where life is."
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