You may have noticed Pavel Petel on the cover of this issue of Fab
. We were lucky enough to get a rare interview with Petel, and his right-hand man, Sergey Ostrikov, shot some exclusive photos for us. Otherwise, there is no obvious reason to give this Russian muscle-Mary a cover feature. He’s not coming to Toronto; he’s not releasing an album or even an X-rated calendar (we should be so lucky!). The only thing he did to get our attention was to be himself, and if you’ve ever visited his Tumblr
site or stumbled on one of his photos online, you’ll understand that’s more than enough.
Petel is a massive, international celebrity in his own mind. The Moscow beefcake has an exhausting resumé and is a master of self-promotion. Most interestingly, he’s a social experiment unto himself. Gender-bending his hyper-masculine physique with ultra-feminine accessories like wigs, leather gloves, heels and makeup definitely raises eyebrows; doing these things in a homophobic country like Russia is really messed up in the best way possible.
Rolling skating through a public park with nothing on but a neon-pink onesie, working out in the gym sporting a long blonde wig, or just flexing his boulder-butt with a hint of lipstick on his face gets one’s attention. Yet staring at those images (it’s really easy to do), one notices not only a tingling in the trousers, but also in the brain.
There’s something classically appealing about a big, burly brute of a man chopping wood, lifting things or taking a bath, but what happens when you put yellow flowers in his hair and add some eye shadow and leather gloves? He becomes almost superhuman. Someone who is able to wear fishnets and heels with such confidence is very hot in my mind. Not only does he not give a shit what people think; he revels in it and owns it. Why not put bright-red rouge on lips that big? Full drag, in my mind, is something amazing. I’m in awe of the men who do it, but there’s something about half-drag or almost-drag that really turns my crank.
A few months back I tried on a really nice wig at a hairdresser friend’s house and felt like a damn fool. My jaw was way too big for such a beautiful mane. I can’t even put on a woman’s cardigan — with buttons on the wrong side — without feeling itchy all over. That’s why Petel is inspiring. He has a big body, yes, but I can’t even imagine the size of his corpus callosum. —Phil Villeneuve