Retired news anchor Lee Nelson models a shirt in the L.L. Bean summer catalog. Photo courtesy of Port City Models & Talent

Lee Nelson is used to being a presence in peoples’ homes. After all, Mainers watched him deliver the news – usually in a shirt and tie – on News Center Maine for 30 years.

Now the retired news anchor is in their homes again, only this time on the coffee table, wearing a comfort stretch piqué quarter-zip pullover in deep coral and dock shorts with rusty orange stripes.

Nelson, 58, is pursuing two new careers in retirement – as a fitness trainer and as a professional model. The latter got a huge jump-start over the winter when he landed a photo shoot for L.L. Bean’s summer catalog. In the past few years, the field of modeling has opened up to people of all ages, sizes and ethnicities, according to Nelson’s agent Caron Bryan, owner of Port City Models & Talent Inc. in Portland. And all of them, from ages 8 to 88, want to be in the L.L. Bean catalog, both because of the prestige and because the company usually does photo shoots in warm, beautiful places, often in California.

“Every one of my models tells me that L.L. Bean is their dream job,” Bryan said. “Models that I have in New York, all over New England – everyone wants to be in L.L. Bean.”

Nelson said the shoot, which took place in Portland over two days in January, was “super fun” and “a wonderful opportunity, but it wasn’t anything I had been thinking about or planning at all. It just kind of came my way.”

Lee Nelson models a blue windbreaker for L.L. Bean. Nelson says he has already shot two other jobs, one for Nikon cameras and one for a company that sells nutritional supplements. Photo courtesy of Port City Models & Talent

Last August, Bryan helped Nelson sort through 850 photos he’d had taken by a professional photographer for his modeling portfolio and whittle them down to 20 that she posted on her company’s website and on Facebook. Some of the photos were shirtless, causing a momentary frenzy on social media. The accompanying profile reveals that Nelson has blue eyes (but you knew that already, didn’t you?), a 33-inch waist and 32-inch inseam, and wears a size 12 shoe. He can do Scottish, German and French accents.

Bryan initially cautioned Nelson that he might not get a job right away because wintertime is a dead zone in the modeling business. Then came a call from an L.L. Bean producer in December looking for several adult models for its summer catalog shoot. The company had no idea Nelson was trying to become a model, Bryan said, or that she represented him. Because of the pandemic, they were looking for models they could shoot right here in Maine.

“For this shoot, because of COVID, all talent and crew were based in Maine and selected with an eye towards inspiring a life lived outside – and Lee represents this lifestyle well,” said Emily Bruce, vice president of creative at L.L. Bean.

Bryan told Nelson to put on any L.L. Bean clothes he owned, go outside and shoot a video with an attractive background. “You need to look like you’re in their catalog,” she told him.

Nelson, who lives in Biddeford and loves to hike, run and cycle, donned his L.L. Bean flannel shirt, an inner coat, a ski jacket and a hat, and stood in front of the rushing waters of the Saco River with a video camera. He told a story about buying his sister a gift at Bean’s at 1 a.m. one Christmas morning.

“I just talked about the L.L. Bean stuff I own,” Nelson said. “I’ve had it all on me. I’ve got coats and boots and sweaters and hats, you name it. Is there anyone in Maine who does not own something from L.L. Bean?”

He got the job. He ended up doing two photo shoots, one for the catalog and one for the website. (Nelson also appears in a behind-the-scenes video on the company’s Instagram page.)

 

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“When the shoot was for online, I tried on a bazillion clothes that day,” Nelson said. “It was just in and out. They’d snap a few shots, I’d go change, I’d come back, snap a few shots.”

And did he get to keep any of those clothes? Nelson laughed.

“I wish,” he said. “Those were some great clothes I got to try on.”

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