Whether you know who he is or not, you’ve seen Murray Swanby’s face. And probably his nipples, too.
He’s one of those guys who seems to be everywhere–the personification of the image of the male model/party boy. The kinda gay guy who became famous starring in racy underwear videos gone viral.
Been to The Abbey in L.A.? Then you’ve seen him taking care of VIP guests or posing with Taylor Lautner. Have you shopped for underwear online? Then you’ve seen him modeling Andrew Christian underwear. Have you looked for gymspiration on Tumblr, or #muscle on Instagram? He owns those tags.
Not a bad state of affairs for a kid who grew up in a tiny rural Montana town where homosexuality wasn’t exactly hip. (“I’m a country boy,” he smiles.) Becoming a sex & party icon was never exactly the plan — he went to school for business management, not pouting in jockstraps.
Queerty spent some time with Murray in LA recently, talking to him and taking some photos, to find out about the man behind the image and what it’s like to be an international sex symbol. It turns out that the seeds of his career were there in his small-town upbringing: his dad owned bars, so he grew up around nightlife. After he moved to Los Angeles, he got a job doing VIP hosting at The Abbey, the West Hollywood landmark that always manages to have its “gay party” setting cranked up to maximum.
“I’m pretty much there just making sure everybody’s having a good time,” he says.
It was this work that first got him noticed by Andrew Christian’s brand manager. “He’s like, ‘You’re really cute, you should come shoot with us,'” Murray remembers. But he was too self-conscious to accept the invitation–at first. “I was like, ‘Let me work on my body.'”
Yup, that’s right — even Andrew Christian underwear models sometimes feel shy about how they look. “When you look at all the AC boys, they have great bodies,” he says. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to fit in. So he went to the gym, tightened up, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Murray may have a well-known face (and body) but he insists his looks aren’t the only reason he’s built up a following. “I think I have a broad spectrum of fans, all that follow me and my career for different reasons,” he says. “Youth and beauty is everywhere in media, and I think everyone tries to attain their own form of beautiful.”
Now he’s branched out into promoting his own night at The Abbey called Touch Thursdays. Thursday’s a major pre-weekend night at the club, and with an arm full of go-gos, drag hosts and giveaways, Murray’s managed to keep the place packed.
The long-term plan is to keep branching out. Even models grow old. “My goal is to own my own business,” he says — a gay bar in Los Angeles. He hasn’t picked the name yet (but he rules out “Swanby’s”) and hopes to amass a big enough following to host a grand opening over the next five years. “I don’t think everyone plans out” the future, he says. “But anyone with a lasting career in modeling has planned our where they want to be in the next five to ten years. It’s a must to know what you want in your future.”
His Abbey job is sometimes at odds with modeling. “Working in nightlife is the hardest thing because you’re drinking a lot,” he says. All those empty calories require extensive working out in order to stay fit.
“When I first started, I wasn’t doing as many shoots,” he says. “Now it’s more important than ever. I get calls like, ‘Hey can you shoot tomorrow?’ … A lot of people fluctuate up and down. We don’t really have that leisure.”
To build up his massive following (he’s at more than 100,000 on Instagram) required more than just constant working out. On his days off, he’s generally doing marketing work for his various gigs and tending to his social media profile. “We’re always Instagramming and keeping up on social media and writing back to our fans,” he says.
Sorry, fans, there’s one thing he hasn’t done, and probably won’t: porn. “It’s just a personal choice,” he says. “I think it can have lasting road blocks.”
And besides, “I prefer to give all my sexual attention to my boyfriend.”
People recognize him all the time. He just walking down Hollywood Boulevard with friends when a random person stopped them and asked for a photo. He also gets stopped and recognized in airports all the time — and loves it. “That stuff is so cool,” he says. He makes a point of having guys of all ages and walks of life around him: “Every age group of men is needed to have a fully functioning community,” he says.
The image of the party lifestyle draws people in. “To me it’s everyday life, to other people it’s more fun,” he says. “People are like, ‘It looks like your life’s a party.’ I’m like, ‘It is.'”