There used to be a time when you could either be smart or beautiful – the idea of being both at the same time was unheard of. Where d’ya think the plot of Zoolander came from? But thankfully, gone are the days where intelligence and a desire to pursue it meant you were an unsightly nerd. Indeed, smart is the new sexy! And no one proves that better than Pietro Boselli, since the Italian 28-year-old is both a devastatingly clever and devastatingly hot math teacher. So, let’s hear his story…
Boselli was marked out for his good looks pretty early in life; in 1994, when he was aged just six, Giorgio Armani discovered him and set him on the path to modeling stardom. In fact, by the following year he’d already netted himself an Armani Junior campaign and appeared on the back cover of Vogue Bambini. But Boselli would grow up to be definitely more than just a pretty face.
As he got older, then, Boselli could have easily pursued lucrative gigs in the fashion world. But that didn’t take into account a burgeoning interest in subjects that would soon become a passion: math and science. It was at 16, moreover, that he read The Evolution of Physics, co-written by Albert Einstein, and knew he’d found his future career path.
So when it came to applying for college, Boselli eventually chose to study mechanical engineering at University College London. And he was pretty darn good at it, too: in his first year he achieved an Undergraduate Faculty Excellence Scholarship. In 2010, meanwhile, he graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering degree – with first-class honors, no less.
Then, as part of his Ph.D., he began teaching math to students of mechanical engineering. It was his ideal job. “Engineering seemed like the perfect choice for me, since it allowed me to use the maths and physics I loved, to create things that ‘work in real life,’” he told The Guardian in 2015.
However, just like how Clark Kent had Superman as an alter ego, this friendly math teacher led a double life: on the side, he was still making money as a model. And while he wasn’t well known at the time, there were pictures of him floating around online to prove it.
Furthermore, although Boselli had tried his hardest to keep his second job secret, his students grew suspicious. One of them in particular, Arief Azil, noticed how good-looking his teacher was and, along with some friends, began looking him up on the internet. And after being delighted with what he found, Arief posted a couple of pictures of Boselli on Twitter along with the words “that moment when you realize your maths lecturer is a top designer model.”
And the images Arief chose to illustrate his post? One of Boselli doing his regular job in the lecture hall and another of him shirtless. Naturally, then, the post soon gained a lot of attention. “This is why I never miss a class,” another student wrote. “Good thing this guy wasn’t my maths teacher. I’d have had a hard time paying attention,” said another.
But when the tweet went viral, Boselli realized his secret was out. “I got really bombarded by messages, emails… everyone I’ve ever known suddenly sending my snapshots or pictures,” he told the BBC’s Newsbeat in March 2015.
“I didn’t really know what to make of it because I didn’t feel like I’d achieved anything that was worthy of such a big thing,” Boselli added. But people were definitely interested in him and his undoubtedly hot modeling shots. And before long, he’d been dubbed “the world’s hottest math teacher.”
What’s more, as a result of this new-found attention, Boselli found his number of Instagram followers growing… and growing… and growing. By June 2015, in fact, he had over half a million fans. “It’s strange because obviously it’s just my daily life,” he told Newsbeat. “I don’t see anything special in it, but apparently it is of interest to people on the internet.” Indeed, it very much was.
However, there was a downside to his sudden fame: Boselli soon found himself getting the sort of attention no teacher wants from his pupils. “Students have asked about my body, my face – I even regularly notice some of them sneakily taking photos of me while I’m trying to teach,” he told Grazia in 2015.
Continuing, he said, “Increasingly, male objectification is in the ether, and I’m living proof that it’s alive and well. When a woman grabs my bum, or a group of strangers try to remove my clothes in clubs, I don’t feel in physical danger, where a woman certainly would. But women can be just as sexually explicit and make you feel equally uncomfortable.”
“If a guy did to a girl some of the things I’ve been subjected to, everyone would agree on how out of line they were. Yet it’s often accepted the other way around,” he explained, highlighting one particular double standard. He also explained that his good looks and rapid rise to fame have made it difficult for him to make friends and keep girlfriends.
In the same interview, meanwhile, Boselli also talked about the difficulty of balancing an academic career with modeling. “People generally assume you can’t be intelligent if you’re a model… I felt people were talking about me not for my academic achievements but because of my looks. I had to work harder to be taken seriously and stand up for myself more.”
And while posting shirtless pictures of himself on Instagram may seem somewhat at odds with Boselli’s desire to be known more for his academic prowess, he defended that, too. “I don’t feel I should keep my body hidden away when I love working out. It’s my hobby, and the sculpted physique that is a product of that is a source of pride. Just like singers might put videos of themselves on YouTube, I put my six-pack on Instagram.”
All these issues seem like they’d be enough to get the average person to quit modeling. However, that wasn’t the case with Boselli. After the success of the initial viral post about him, in fact, he took a step towards even great success in the field by signing up with the British model agency Models 1.
And in 2016 his modeling career reached even greater heights. It was then that he was named “Most Stylish Man of the Year” by Attitude magazine and strutted his stuff on a few catwalks. And, if that wasn’t nearly enough, he also appeared on the cover of international magazines and traveled the world while he was at it. His Instagram follower count, meanwhile, shot up to over 1.6 million.
One of Boselli’s future aims, though, is to break one of the stereotypes around modeling; specifically, he wants to prove once and for all that it’s possible to have both brains and beauty. “Professions that rely heavily on talent are criticized as futile, unless one becomes extremely successful at them,” he told The Independent in December 2016.
“This criticism usually arises from those who either lack the talent or lack an understanding of it,” he added. Ouch! But he’s got a point. The attractiveness/intelligence binary, and the idea that modeling isn’t real work, have been around far too long. We think if any male model can shake off the shadow of Zoolander, it’s probably going to be Boselli.