Body of Work

Interview by Raymond Ang
Photography by Wong Sim

World-renowned as “The World’s Hottest Math Teacher,” Pietro Boselli was catapulted to global fame in 2015, when photos students took of him teaching in the classroom went viral on Facebook. Since then, he’s become a celebrity in his own right, gracing the pages of magazines like GQ and People, while enjoying a 1.7 million following on Instagram. This season, that body of work — and the beautiful mind behind it — joins the Bench family. Benchmark stole a New York Minute with the popular model during his campaign shoot in the Big Apple.

You went viral because your students took photos of you, right? Did you ever find out who those students were?
Well, I was teaching for five years and I’d have a hundred students every year, and every year someone would make me a Facebook page or something. Well, in one particular case, this account that went viral, I know who it was, and this person emailed me after and he was like, “I’m so sorry.” [Laughs] His post was up for over a year before it went viral actually.

Do looks ever get in the way of being in the academe? In terms of how your peers see you or how the academe regards you?
In time I’ve learned to embrace that I have this dual-career, and you have this talent, you know? It’s silly not to embrace it. Older professors, they definitely frowned upon that! You know, they don’t understand. And I think it’s important to develop all aspects of your persona, of your intellect as well.

In terms of the teaching, you know, of course there are sort of situations that, um, other teaching assistants or lecturers wouldn’t have, you know? Like people taking pictures throughout the lecture, or videos. You know, it became a very prominent feature of the lecture. [Laughs] At the beginning I thought people were just taking pictures of the board… I was like, “wow, they’re very interested!” [Laughs]

How are you balancing both sides now? ‘cause I’m sure you fly all over the world for modeling, but you’re still obviously very serious with the other side of what you do.
It’s such an intense commitment, a PhD. What I’m doing now is taking some time off from that, I think it’s very important, because you see from a different perspective, than your once or your computer. I feel like this is a very important part of my formation. I never really took time off. I went from high school to undergrad straight from Milan—I was very committed to that.

So right now is a very good moment for me. Modeling is something I’ve always done since I was a kid. I’ve always felt that it’s part of who I am, and it’s good that I can dedicate more time to that. and this also allows me to travel more and gives me more flexibility to work on di erent things, that I never had the chance to do because of my PhD.

Learning about different things, working on different projects — my dream eventually will be to have my own engineering firm. I’m working on more ideas, something more long term with a colleague of mine. At the same time I wanna get more experience, you know, like having a business, and working on a sportswear line.

What do you wish everyone knew about being interdisciplinary? Because it does get a bad rap. Everyone’s like, “Oh, jack of all trades, master of none!”
That saying—it’s very catchy. But I feel like it’s almost an excuse for not branching out and not analyzing your weaknesses. And being disciplinary is also about that? Like, you’re good at one thing— obviously you’re good at that, so should you just stick to that? Sometimes you just have to analyze things that you’ve never done.

It’s the same approach with everything you do, you know, you have to— like, with workouts for example. The body works the same way as the mind, you know, like if you always do the same thing, your body adapts to that, and gets no stimulation from that anymore, which is why you have to change it up. And it’s the same with anything you do, really. In the end, one thing becomes beneficial to the other, even if, apparently, they look very different.

People think, “I’m gonna get a degree in this then I’m gonna get a degree in law, I’m gonna be a lawyer, because otherwise I’ve wasted those years.” But it’s not like that, you know? You have to see the opportunities presented to you and follow that.

What aspect of modeling do you like the best? Is there a specific thing you like doing?
Modeling obviously helps me travel and meet a lot of cool people. And as far as the actual job is concerned— it seems almost like an art, you know? You have to convey some emotion or some message in a still image and it’s a really subtle thing to do. i think even more so than a moving image or moving picture.

It’s almost like when I’m looking at myself from, you know, the camera. I think that’s the only time I sort of look at myself from that side or perspective outside of my body. My own body becomes the mode of expressing something.

You kind of have a different background than most models. You’ve become a personality online. You utilize a lot of social media, you have your YouTube channel, and your Instagram is a lot more active. How important is social media in what you’re building?

Social media was never something I had an interest in. I was always working on my studies. I never had a Facebook—I was that guy who refused to have Facebook. And then one day some of my friends said, you need to have an Instagram account, you’re a model after all! So I started my Instagram account because it was a very low maintenance thing to do—you know, post a picture every once and a while—and then the thing really grew really big.

How was the experience shooting the campaign?

Well, I really enjoyed working with the team and meeting everyone. The photoshoot went really quick! It’s always like that, you know, when there’s good synergy, and understanding in a group, and everyone knows what they’re doing, and it’s always a pleasure to work like that, and, you know, a better chance to better know a brand better.

Which specific pieces did you like the best?

I can definitely see that the quality of the underwear is really good. And they have a huge variety as well! Like sporty ones, more classic—I like them all. The compression shorts and the long johns were comfy, really comfy. The fit was really nice.

How are experiences like this usually for you? How does it feel to be tasked to be a brand endorser?
I think it’s very important to build a relationship with a brand, with people who are behind it, and all the hardworking people who not only create the product but create all the images that go along with it. And so, especially nowadays, it has to be more collaborative, this sort of corporation.

Everything that goes into the final image is what really creates the meaning of the collaboration and I feel, because of the social media and because of the Internet, really, people sort of expect more than just a photo. You want to know everything that comes along with it. And as a result, the brands usually tend to create this relationship. I found that, every time I collaborate with a brand, this is the certain thing that goes on, and unless this happens, if this feeling of friendship and collaboration is not mutual, it won’t work.

At this point in your career, I’m sure you receive a lot of endorsement offers. How do you decide which offers to pursue? Why did you agree to Bench?
I didn’t know much about the brand before, to be honest. But I really liked sort of negotiating with them. I mean, obviously I deal with a lot of different agencies and clients, and it’s difficult to communicate with someone you’ve never met, over email, and transmit the passion for the job, the importance of it, and you know the client was described to me very well—which was important. The job has to be appealing—and it was with them and we created a relationship.

I actually have a big following in the Philippines, so I felt that it could be an opportunity to reach out to this audience, which I’m very far away from, and it was a great opportunity to sort of show up in the Philippines. I’ve never been there.

This articles was originally published at Benchmark Issue 11.