Meet Sonny Hall, the Model-Poet She Told You Not to Worry About

On a sunny Saturday afternoon last month, the model Sonny Hall was sitting at a big table in the back of Lucien, a scene-y French bistro in downtown Manhattan. About twenty copies of his poetry book, The Blues Comes With Good News, were stacked in front of him on the white paper tablecloth. The book had just been picked up by London’s Hodder & Stoughton—“Steven King’s publisher,” he noted, grinning—and he was trying to offload the last of the first editions he had self published in April, for $60 a pop.

Hall had announced the impromptu book signing last-minute on Instagram, and soon a group of assorted fashion types, literary college students, and absolutely besotted teenage girls hovered around the table. One man, who appeared to be on the front end of the millennial age spectrum, which made him the oldest person in the room by about a decade, summed up how many of them had found themselves there: “It was through social media. I guess Sonny was in my feed.” He asked Hall for a photo. “I was like, there are still young poets out in the world?”

Hall moves through life with an exceptionally carefree attitude, and dresses downright Dickensian, wearing slept-in Savile Row suits over wool vests, wingtips with holes worn through the soles, and assorted newsboy caps. He’s covered in spindly tattoos and antique gold jewelry, and holds a deep reverence for Pete Doherty and the Artful Dodger. (He is almost comically British.) He smokes cigarettes constantly, as if from an alternate universe where Juuls never existed.

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Hall will tell you that he wasn’t always this light on his feet. Blues emerged from a diary the now-22-year-old started keeping in rehab a few years ago. It’s an unflinching confessional, containing 109 skeletal poems that confront addiction, death, heartbreak, and recovery. Most people who grow up being told they are beautiful carry a certain amount of nonchalance, but Hall’s bearing is that of a man who landed unscathed after being ejected from a car crash, and who fully embraces their sheer good luck for having done so. At Lucien—name-dropped in one of his poems—Hall greeted each attendee with a kiss on the cheek and questions about their lives, each his new “matey” or “bruvva.” The day before, when he was getting his photo taken behind the triumphal arch of the Manhattan Bridge, he hopped up on a railing that curved above the roadway of trucks zooming into Manhattan, and tiptoed across the precarious expanse for so long that I found myself wondering what I would tell his agent, Kate Moss (yes, that Kate Moss), if he fell.

Hall is circumspect when discussing the addiction problems that landed him in rehab at 18. But he has always been open about the event that spun him out of control and, in a tragic and perverse way, gave him his new lease on life.

Hall was adopted at the age of four, but maintained contact with his biological mother. When he was 17, she died of a heroin overdose. Hall, who had dropped out of fashion school in London the year before, threw himself into “oblivion, just 24/7 oblivion,” he recalled. He had been scouted as a model at that point, but couldn’t book jobs because nobody trusted him to show up to set sober. “It wasn’t a party life,” he said. “It was a torturous, dark existence. More and more, I knew where I was going to end up.” Before that day occurred, a family friend called him out of the blue. It was morning, and Hall, who was on his way to the pub, figured he had nothing better to do than take her up on an offer of a rehab retreat in Thailand.

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