The evening after Brendan Fraser won his Oscar back in March, the actor sat in the audience at famed West Hollywood club Whisky a Go Go to watch his then-16-year-old son Leland perform the song “Tush” by ZZ Top with the ’80s cover band Fast Times.
It was all very spur of the moment. “They learned I played guitar and let me hop up,” says Leland, now 17. Leland had been playing guitar and bass for years, often in self-taped videos he posts to Instagram, but never on a stage that so many of his idols had graced before him. “Mentally I knew that my fingers knew how to play this song. ‘Tush’ by ZZ Top is just a blues [number], which is something I could play with my eyes closed behind my back, so I wasn’t too nervous about that. It was mainly going in front of a huge crowd at the peak of their energy.”
(Leland admits his dad, despite having just delivered a Best Actor acceptance speech the night before, couldn’t exactly offer any specific advice in the moments before he headed up on stage: “He doesn’t really know much about music.”)
Today, Leland Fraser will be up in front of another crowd at the peak of their energy. He’ll be making his NYFW debut, walking in designer Peter Do’s anticipated first show as Helmut Lang creative director. He’s been going to casting calls with his mom, Afton Smith, and working on his walk these last couple weeks. And while his interest in fashion is still budding, he’s psyched Do’s new collection errs on the edgier side. “I personally hate wearing suits and tuxes and ties,” says Leland, having spent his middle-school years at a preppy all-boys private school with a blazer-and-tie dress code. He still has the all-leather Armani suit he wore to the Oscars, and it’s become his “go-to attire for anything formal. It’s the most rock-and-roll suit I’ve ever seen.”
Modeling is a new thing for him, though he says it “was always in the back of my mom’s mind. She said I just had the model look.” Once they started sending out headshots, his current agency, Marilyn, “called back pretty quickly.” (Leland’s actor brother Holden, 19, who also models, is signed to the same agency.) After an opportunity to walk for Louis Vuitton in Paris earlier this summer fell through, he’s looking forward to finally getting out there. But since Leland, like his dad, seems like a thoughtful and introspective kid, he’s also trying to keep a steady head about it.
“I’m not really sure what to feel at the moment,” he says, though that’s also “kind of my process with these kinds of things. I just try not to think about it until it’s right in my face.”