Unless your knowledge of male models extends well beyond the fictional character Derek Zoolander, you probably aren’t familiar with the name Beiron Andersson. (You probably don’t know how to pronounce the first name either—it’s BAY-ron.) But if you picked up a magazine or turned on a television at any point during the 1990s, you have undoubtedly viewed his handsome mug many, many times.

Andersson, a Swede by birth who moved to the United States as an exchange student at age 17, became one of the most recognizable models on the planet in 1992 when he was plucked from obscurity for a GUESS advertising campaign alongside Anna Nicole Smith. (For you younger readers, Smith was the Kate Upton of her day: a beautiful, voluptuous blonde bombshell.) That was Andersson posing with Smith in those iconic black-and-white ads—puckering up to kiss her, riding shotgun with her in a classic car, even lacing up the gloves and doing his best Rocky Balboa to win her over in a commercial titled “Boxing.” (Go ahead, YouTube it. It’s awesome.)

In addition to his five ad campaigns for GUESS, Andersson modeled for brands such as Armani, Versace, Valentino, H&M, Jim Beam, and Pepsi, traveling to far-flung places like the Seychelles, Hong Kong, Australia, and South Africa (and, of course, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Europe—that goes without saying).

Who knows, you might have even purchased a Soloflex machine after watching a young, long-haired Andersson use the equipment to do incline situps and biceps curls in an abandoned warehouse in a Soloflex infomercial that ran around the clock on cable TV in the mid-’90s. (Go ahead and YouTube this, too. Skip to the 8:20 mark—and keep an eye out for three-time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane.)

But ironically, Andersson might be in the best shape of his life right now. Never mind that he will be 52 years old in October. Andersson, who is quick to point out that he is all-natural, is much thicker and more muscular today than he ever was in those GUESS ads. He credits this to a lifelong passion for fitness, especially weightlifting.

“I love weights,” Andersson says. “When I was young, I was a runner. I ran mornings. I ran evenings. I did a marathon in the snow. But after a while it starts getting old to only run. So I started lifting weights as well. And I started putting some size on. And then I moved from Sweden to a small farm town in Northern California called Durham. And a lot of these farm boys in Durham were big and strong and loved to lift weights. That was a little bit extra inspiring, because American boys lift best.” 

Andersson was even preparing to open a gym in Northern California with a friend when his modeling career took off. He drove to Los Angeles to scout out a few gyms for some last-minute ideas on equipment when he decided to indulge his aunt, who was an actress and a model in L.A. and had been encouraging him to try modeling.

“My aunt and I went to the park and she took some snapshots,” Andersson recalls. “I took those snapshots to my first agency, and they had a lot of interest, so they kind of took it from there.”

Andersson quickly signed with Wilhelmina Models and moved to L.A. with his wife, Tina, his high school sweetheart. Within a couple of weeks, he booked a national Levi’s campaign—television and print. “I worked an hour and was paid $1,500,” Andersson says. “And I go, ‘I could do this.’”

Then came the life-changing GUESS job, followed by a whole lot of people in the industry suddenly kissing his ass, and high-paying gigs around the world. But when the work began to dry up in the late ’90s, Andersson moved behind the camera and became a photographer—a job that he says is more fulfilling than his glory days as a model.

“There’s nothing wrong with modeling,” Andersson says. “But it wasn’t much brain stimulation for me after a while, because basically all I was doing with every move was counting the dollars. With photography, all of a sudden it was nonstop mental stimulation. I could be creative and see the process from beginning to end, which is a lot more work but also much more satisfying.”

Today, Andersson owns a photo studio in Chico, CA. He is still married to Tina, and they have two children. (His daughter is finishing chiropractic school. His son owns a car-detailing business and a clothing brand.) In addition to photography, Andersson’s other obsession these days is fitness. He designs workouts and diet programs for clients.

He’s ramping up his presence on social media (Instagram: @beironandersson). He’s even planning to compete in some physique bodybuilding shows in the near future. “I want to kick butt hard now,” Andersson says, “and see if I can get into some high-end shows and do well.”

But beyond the potential physique competitions, Andersson says he wants to be a sort of fitness ambassador, especially for others his age. “I would like to become someone whom people can look up to and get advice from,” he says. “If you played hard in your life, by age 50 you have knee problems. You have back problems. You have shoulder problems. I always hear people say, ‘Oh, I cannot do this; I cannot do that.’

I go, ‘I don’t have one single day I go to the gym and something isn’t hurting.’ But it’s not because I’m lifting. It’s actually better when I go lift. If I don’t lift, I feel much worse. When I get my workout in, it really helps my whole body.”