by Karen Alberg Grossman

It was a really fun evening Monday night at STK downtown as Shaquille O’Neal, JCPenney, and Wilhelmina celebrated their recent big and tall model search. And the winners—Chukwukere Ekeh, Ricardo Vichot, and Jordan Alexander Cochran—spoke candidly about their previous problems finding cool clothes that fit and the thrill of being in the JCPenney fall ad campaign. Editor’s note: they all looked fabulous in their elegant XLG suits (by Peerless), shirts, and ties.

Shaq (after his 19-year Hall of Fame career, he’s now a sports analyst for Inside the NBA as well as an actor, real estate developer, team investor, and more) was particularly articulate about the need for cool clothes at affordable price points. “Just because you’re a big man, doesn’t mean you should have to wear ugly or old man clothes,” he stated emphatically. “When I was in the NBA, I spent as much as $10,000 to get a good suit. Nobody should have to spend that much! I’m extremely gratefully to JCPenney for making this beautiful clothing available to guys who can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars. Most importantly, these are quality suits that are every bit as nice as the more expensive labels.” Shaq noted that the suits he wears are mostly conservative (pinstripes, solids) for business purposes but that he’s loving some of XLG’s flashier sportscoats for partying.

Shaquille OíNeal stands with Model Search winners (from left) Ricardo Vichot, Jordan Alexander Cochran and Chukwukere Ekeh

Another theme of the panel discussion was big guys’ shopping frustrations: no shoes larger than size 12, jeans not long enough so they wear them sagging, shorts too short (“I like to show some leg but not that much!”), etc.

Finally, a Wilhelmina rep noted an important goal: that these great-looking guys be used in regular fashion campaigns rather than just big and tall ads. After all, big guys are beautiful too!

Photos by Jason DeCrow / AP Images for JCPenney


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