The beefcake model and clothing designer’s job as a party producer is on hold during the pandemic, but he plans to come back stronger than ever
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
Chances are, even if the name doesn’t ring a bell you would recognize Eliad Cohen on sight… and not necessarily his face. For about a third of his 32 years, he has been one of the most iconic fitness models (1.3 million Instagram followers alone) idolized in the gay universe, known as a daddy from his early 20s.
“That Arabian hairy chest!” he laughs, joking that his mom insists, “That’s how I came into the world.”
He embraces that identity, though; in fact, it’s a tenet of his happiness to be comfortable in his own skin. “I’m really happy — I have some friends who are so stressed about ageing, but I am OK with it. You get to know yourself better.”
Knowing himself — indeed, accepting himself — wasn’t always easy. “Israel is different from [the rest of the Middle East] — Tel Aviv is the gayest city in the world! Like, really insane.” But Cohen wasn’t from Tel Aviv. Growing up in a smallish city in the north of Israel, being openly gay didn’t seem like an option. “When I was young, I didn’t accept myself,” he says. It was an era where “calling someone gay [on a playground] was a slur. Also, I was in the army — we were [in close quarters] and taking showers together naked,” so admitting he was gay felt awkward. After he came out of the closet, he told his army buddies. “They said ‘We love you, and it doesn’t matter to us if you sleep with men or women. You are our brother.’”
It was slightly harder on his mother, whom he says was “completely shocked — it came from nowhere. I had a girlfriend who spent a lot of time in my house. But afterwards, we talked a lot. She said I should get married, and I said, ‘No, ma, I have to be myself.’ I’ll never forget: The day after I told her, she said, ‘Promise me one thing,’ and she looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Never, never let them fuck you! You always fuck them.’” (Cohen is mum as to whether he’s kept that promise.)
But for Cohen, coming out was just the first step in self acceptance. He didn’t really come into his own until he began modeling and found that, within a period of about two years, he went from closeted army veteran to internationally famous beefcake icon for the gay community. How that success has lasted amazes even him.
After his first big break, appearing on the cover of the queer magazine Spartacus, he decided he needed to work hard and make as much money as he could, before his shelf-life expired and fans were ready to move on to the Next Big Thing.
“I was ready to say, ‘You’re not the new guy anymore.’ But I got even more well-known. And it just continued and continued. I’m now 32 — I started when I was 21 — and I’m still happy,” he says.
Although he has many interests and channels of fame — from modeling to acting, social media influencer to fitness icon — most of his work comes as a party producer and promoter, and in that job, he has found even more reason to be out, proud and motivated.
“One fan I will never forget: I was doing a party in Carnivale in Brazil and flew from Mardi Gras in Australia. It was like 24 hours on a flight, and I was destroyed, but this guy who was super shy asked me for a picture. I told him about the party I was hosting and told him he should come. He said no, he was too shy, but I said, come, be near the stage, and when I see you I will bring you up. And I did. I put him in the [control booth]. It was a huge party for 10,000 people, and he could see everything. After about a month, I got an email from him. He had gotten a tattoo on his arm of a moustache, which was the logo of the party. I asked him why he did that. He said he has been fighting cancer, and that after chemotherapy [treatment], he wouldn’t remember much. He did this because he said, ‘You were nice to me and generous to me and gave me the power to fight the cancer.’ I started to cry when I read it. Now he’s living his life. This is really, really meaningful to me. It gave me the power to be from the north of Israel and know I can affect someone from the other side of the world.”
Of course, the party-producer career path is not much in evidence during corona.
“I moved to Miami from WeHo about eight months ago because [it was more convenient since I] travel a lot for work,” Cohen says, though he’s spent the last five months like the rest of us, sheltering in place. It’s been bad “because there is nothing happening [on the party circuit]. On the other hand, I am having such a great time being home. For 11 years, about the maximum I have been at home is two weeks. It’s good sleeping in your own bed and making your own breakfast.”
And he’s hopeful for the future.
“It will be 2021 [before parties are back],” Cohen muses. “I am sure a vaccine will be ready, and people will be starving for a party. When it’s back, I am sure it will be huge. But it will be a new normal — outdoor events rather than inside. We must evolve and move on: New productions, new events, new parties…” maybe even bringing something to North Texas. (“I did my party in Houston a few years ago; I’ve never been to Dallas, but I hear it’s amazing.”)
In the meantime, he’s busy on his latest venture: promoting his new clothing line, Massbranded for Eliad Cohen.
“We started planning it a year ago. I met Mass [Luciano] and his [Massbranded] partner in London, and we started to design.” They were supposed to launch in April, but the pandemic pushed back the release date of his line, though not the focus.
“The first thing always is, you must be super comfy,” Cohen says. “Sometimes I have these cool clothes from expensive designers, but they stay in my closet because they aren’t comfortable — they are too tight. Clothing should show the muscles but not be too tight. I don’t find it sexy [when guys dress like that] — it’s like, you’re trying too hard. Relax… really.”
Practicality was another concern (“I like to close the zipper so I won’t lose my wallet or phone or keys”). And he wanted to pay homage to his time in the Israeli army. “Mass’ father was also a military guy, so we wanted something masculine, sexy and nice, but also easygoing,” he says.
Cohen (who last year got out of a two-year relationship and is now happily single) recognizes that while athleisurewear was once considered weekend gear, in the post-pandemic world it has become the de facto uniform of the Zoom meeting and at-home worker, putting his brand ahead of the curve.
“Good timing,” he grins.
Check out the fashion collection at Massbranded.com.