Chris Powell is a nice guy. A really, really nice guy. So nice that his friends call him Senator Powell, because he's always shaking hands and kissing babies. Cosmopolitan magazine thinks Chris is more than just nice, and to prove it, it's just named the 24-year-old fitness trainer "Arizona's Hunkiest Bachelor" in its "Hottest Hunks in the U.S." spread. Chris and I met at Z'Tejas Grill and, in honor of Chris' good fortune, I ordered -- what else? -- a cosmopolitan while he shared his views on feminists, fat chicks, and his favorite kind of panties.
New Times: You used to be just another ASU grad; now you're the hunkiest guy in the whole state.
Chris Powell: Yeah, according to Cosmopolitan, anyway. But my life really hasn't changed a lot. I just shake one or two more hands every day, because after I did Entertainment Tonight and Good Morning America, more people recognized me.
NT: Your life hasn't changed, except you're appearing on network television shows and you've acquired sort of an instant modeling career.
Powell: Well, yeah. I guess my life is different. I did an A&E commercial, and photo shoots for Abercrombie & Fitch, Men's Health, and a cover shoot for Men's Fitness. But it isn't all great. I've gone out on a couple of dates where a girl will come up to the table and say, "I saw you in Cosmo!" and it's awkward. I'm still nice and gracious, but it's weird.
NT: All the guys who made Cosmo's hunk list look like they're about 12 years old. Don't ladies like men who shave?
Powell: I think Cosmo has a younger demo than it used to. The guys were between 18 and 29, but most of them were closer to, like, 24. I think it's a youth thing, and when people think of what's hunky or whatever, they're thinking young. Your guess is as good as mine.
NT: I notice they made you lie on the ground in the desert.
Powell: They're trying to make it look like I'm in the Sahara, because everyone thinks Phoenix is like that. But I was actually 20 feet from the ocean. Everyone thinks it's glamorous to get your picture taken for a magazine, but I was lying on my back on an overgrown volleyball court on a beach in California. And the photographer had me stare straight into the sun for every photo, and I was squinting the whole time. He kept yelling, "Open your eyes!" But I couldn't. I mean, you try staring into the sun for two hours, you know? He ended up shooting three rolls of film of me and that was like the only photo of me where my eyes were actually both open, so they had to use that one. I guess it's a good photo, but I've got a weed in my face. And it kind of doesn't look like me. But whatever, you know? It was nice to meet all the people at Cosmo, they were very cool.
NT: So you were hanging with Helen Gurley Brown?
Powell: I never met a Helen Gurley Brown. There was a Kate and a Marisa and a Jenny. Is she a friend of yours or something?
NT: Yeah. Helen and I go way back. So, feminists are always wailing about how men's magazines exploit women by showing photos of hot chicks with their tops off. But there you are, stripped to the waist, in a women's magazine. What's the deal?
Powell: You got me. I know I'm gonna get nailed for this one, but feminists are always gonna find something to whine about. Honestly, I can't lose sleep over anything feminists might say, because why don't they put their energy into something productive, instead of complaining about everything all the time?
NT: What'd you have to do to get picked as the hunkiest?
Powell: My friend Ruth Leighton, who owns a talent agency here, sent in my picture and a bio without me knowing about it. Cosmo called and said, "Come on down!"
NT: So Cosmo was looking at guys signed to modeling agencies? Maybe they should call this thing "Hottest American Model" or something.
Powell: No, it was ex-girlfriends and moms who were sending in pictures of guys they wanted to see in the magazine. I don't know if any other guys were sent in from Arizona, you know?
NT: Moms and ex-girlfriends? I read that you were selected by an "official bachelor coordinator."
Powell: I know. They've got some funny names for those people out at that magazine.
NT: Has being a national hunk gotten you more work?
Powell: Well, some people only want a personal trainer so they can say they have one, you know? So if you can say you have a trainer and he's Arizona's hottest hunk, it's even better for someone who's just in it for the prestige. You know, "Oh, my trainer was on Regis and Kelly today."
NT: Are you getting laid more?
Powell: Not at all. I've got a problem in that department. I'm really picky and I'm stuck on one particular person right now. I guess if someone comes along who blows my mind more than she does, who knows? But I don't think so.
NT: You're awful nice, which, according to Cosmo, is a big part of the hunky equation. But how nice are you, really? I mean, would you date a fat, ugly girl?
Powell: Beauty's only skin deep. Or it's in the eye of the beholder.
Powell: I would go out with her as like a friend thing, but I'd make it clear that, well, uh. I mean, I would, but, you know? Being a nice guy, I'd have to tell her not to have any, you know, expectations. I'm really working on my communication skills in that way.
NT: Your Cosmo questionnaire claims you can never say no to anyone. So if I asked you to eat this linen napkin . . .
Powell: Well, I say no to stuff within reason. If a stranger asks me for a favor, I'll do it, because you have to be open to all kinds of people. But, yeah, sometimes being nice can backfire on you. People, especially girls, can take advantage of you.
NT: Playboy models get to tell us their turn-offs and turn-ons.
Powell: (leaning in): Huge turn-off: If I'm in a conversation with a girl and she's giving me one-word answers and looking over my shoulder. Door closed, even if it's a girl I'm really into.
NT: Wow. Yeah!
Powell: Turn-ons? I love when a girl touches my arm or puts her hand in my lap while she's talking to me. Also, I love a witty girl. That's the biggest turn-on in the world, a good sense of humor.
NT: But beautiful people always say that. They never say, "I like really gorgeous girls with big tits." What if she's witty and ugly?
Powell: You know, I gotta admit, physical appearance is important to me. No one is walking around saying, "I wish I had an ugly boyfriend."
NT: Did the editors of Cosmo really ask you your panty preference?
Powell: They did. The girls at Cosmo have the most vivid imaginations. I told them, "White cotton panties with a baby tee that stops right above the navel." I've had that panty preference for about a decade now.
NT: You mean on women. I mean, you're not wearing ladies' lingerie right now.
Powell: No! I wonder if people read that and thought I was being offensive.
NT: You told Cosmo that your secret fantasy was "to have sex in the middle of a crowded club. You know, tons of people around but no one can tell what's going on."
Powell: Everywhere I go, people ask me about this. Honestly, the girls at the magazine came up with that. They asked me what my sex fantasy was, and I was like, "Help me out here." They said, "How about on top of a car in the rain?" I said, "That's great." They were like, "Wait, we gave that one to the guy from Montana. You'll have to pick another one."
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NT: I can't imagine what their editorial meetings are like.
Powell: I can. All they talk about is relationships. I was at Cosmo and we went around the corner to Hooters, and that's all they talked about for two hours.
NT: Wait. The staff of Cosmopolitan is hanging out at Hooters?
Powell: Yeah. What a world, huh?