I hate TV commercials but sometimes it pays to watch. During an episode of Friends, I caught a glimpse of my former second baseman in a commercial for Vanguard. His name is Siddarth Kusuma and he was born and raised in Forest Park. Sidd was a left-handed slugger on my Little League team. Now he’s enjoying a career in modeling.
Thirty years ago, Sidd’s parents emigrated from Hyderabad, India to Forest Park. They settled in an apartment building near Desplaines and Madison and never left. Sidd attended Grant-White School and spent much of his childhood at The Park.
He was an avid athlete who played Little League and soccer until high school. He was also an outstanding student. After he graduated from Forest Park Middle School, he joined the tennis team at Fenwick High School. He made varsity and continues to enjoy the sport.
For college, Sidd applied to his “dream school,” the University of California at Berkeley. He was accepted and majored in economics, following the path of his banker father. He also sang tenor for Dil Se, the school’s premier A Capella group.
Sidd graduated in 2016 and landed a job in software sales. Though he was far from Forest Park, he remained a diehard Chicago sports fan. He had a habit of staying at his office after work to watch sports on his laptop.
On Jan. 9, 2017, he was watching Clemson play Alabama for the national football championship. At halftime, Sidd got up and took a break. He encountered two women in the corridor, who were looking for a bathroom. Sidd let them borrow his key. When they emerged, Ellisa Worley asked Sidd if he had ever thought about modeling.
Sidd thought she was joking but Worley told him he would do really well in the industry. She gave him her card from the Look Model Agency. Before contacting Worley, Sidd and his brother researched modeling scams. They were pleased to learn that Look was one of the most prestigious agencies in San Francisco.
For his interview at Look, Sidd brought along photos from a college modeling session. They recorded his sizes and offered him a contract. Sidd is 5-11, 155 pounds and has an athletic build thanks to tennis. Worley became his agent.
She landed him a photo shoot for Fila Shoes in which Sidd posed for action shots as a tennis player at the PGA West Tennis Club. He has done photo shoots for a variety of tech companies and clothing lines, including Apple, Google and Vintage. The highlight of 2019, though, was his Vanguard commercial.
Sidd portrays a young businessman rushing to work, balancing papers, folders and his coffee. It’s his first national commercial and has been broadcast by ESPN, TNT and the Food Channel. People from all over the country have contacted him. Friends he hasn’t seen in years have reached out. The success of the commercial rekindled Sidd’s passion for acting.
He is taking classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and plans to become a full-time actor. Sidd made the risky move of leaving his full-time job in 2018 and is looking for an agent in L.A. He has no desire to play Indian roles. He wants to prove that Indian actors are perfectly suited to mainstream roles.
Sidd owes much of his success to his upbringing in Forest Park. He loves the village’s ethnic and financial diversity and has friends from many different backgrounds. He described the villagers here as “super-down-to-Earth, humble and hard-working.” His mantra is “Stay hungry and stay humble.”
He may live in San Francisco but Sidd left his heart in Forest Park.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com