For our second issue of Lei, we searched for fresh faces to feature on our cover and in our lifestyle editorial of the perfect date on O‘ahu’s east side. The men we chose weren’t just pretty faces—they were also talented and charming gents with good taste. Meet Brandon Smith.
Now in his mid-30s, Brandon Smith (pictured right with Tyler Iokepa Gomes) gleefully recounts how he got his start as a photographer, telling stories of his 20-something-year-old self road-tripping along the Oregon coast with his cell phone camera, finding inspiration in unexpected and sought-after locales.
“I was traveling almost entirely with professional photographers and it dawned on me that if I wanted to capture the beauty that I saw, I was probably going to need to upgrade my camera,” says Smith. “Eventually, I decided to buy a professional Nikon camera and see where the journey would lead, and over the last year and a half it has blossomed in ways I never would have imagined.”
Born and raised in the city of Mililani on O‘ahu, Smith began acting at a young age and attended Virginia Commonwealth University to pursue an acting degree.
However, he left the program early and returned home with hopes of becoming a yoga instructor. Smith had been practicing yoga for 16 years and while it was a great passion of his, he realized photography—and conveying images of beautiful yoga postures and Yogis—was what he seriously wanted to pursue as a career.
“I’ve been shooting some stellar Yogis visiting Hawai‘i for retreats and such,” says Smith. “It’s really inspired me to continue down this path. In 10 years, I hope to be traveling around the world shooting Yogis and sharing meditation.”
In 10 years, I hope to be traveling around the world shooting Yogis and sharing meditation.
Favorite place to eat: “Rise and Shine Cafe in Mililani. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.”
Favorite place to go out: “Living the sober life these days, I don’t go out anymore, but when I did, I used to like to go to Hula’s for the open air fun and dancing.”
Favorite item of clothing he wore at the shoot: “The shoot at Kualoa [Ranch] was so fun. Having Bradley [of Barrio Vintage] and Carrie [stylist] dress you makes it hard to go back to dressing yourself. My favorite outfit was probably the Vivienne Westwood denim outfit, while riding a horse.”
Best surprise from the outing: “Honestly, it was how cute my partner model was. I was ready to fake the flirt, but happily that was not necessary.”
What he loves about Hawai‘i: “How rare and special this place really is. There’s a lot to complain about, but at the end of your life, if you spent all your days here, in the sun, and in the surf, then you’ve lived a good life, no matter what you may be missing on the mainland.”
Favorite mantra: “I have many favorite mantras and quotes, but my most recent heart-opener is: ‘Who you really are is better than who you’re trying to be.’ Also on days of doubt, I repeat, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.’ Keep it simple. Keep it humble and what will be, will be.”