November 16, 1998 12:00 PM

For Mark Vanderloo, a little neglect worked wonders, “When I started modeling, I’d look at myself in the mirror and didn’t tike what I saw and got frustrated,” says the Dutch-born 30-year-old. “The moment I didn’t care about it anymore and didn’t pay attention, things got better.” A lot better. Since his career ignited in 1995, the lean six-footer has strutted the runways for designers including Versace, Armani and Hugo Boss—and has earned the recognition only supermodels enjoy. (During shows in fashion-savvy Milan, he is often surrounded by schoolgirls shouting, “C’é Mark!” and begging for autographs.) Last year, designer Donna Karan signed Vanderloo and his fiancée, Esther Canadas, 21, to an exclusive two-year deal with DKNY. “There are few men as kind and sincere,” says Karan. “You just want to be around him.” Vanderloo, who turned to modeling after stints of bartending, hotel management and studying history, believes that when it comes to projecting allure, less is more: “True sexiness is always kind of hidden. If you can fantasize about it, that makes it much more exciting.” Canadas, who shares his Manhattan apartment, appreciates her beau’s physical assets—”When he looks at you, he can say little things with his eyes”—but prizes even more his knack for romantic surprises. “Sometimes I’m at a hotel, and I think he’s at the other end of the world, and there will be a knock on the door with someone saving, ‘Room service,” and I’ll open the door, and he’s there.”

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