From Mormon to Male Revue: One Man’s Evolution, Vegas-style


Chippendales performer Ryan Worley’s solitary road to redemption…

Sin City’s adult production shows have been around for decades. In other cities, sexy performers might be viewed with a certain disdain, but here they are regarded with a unique reverence.

The showgirls of Jubilee! and Folies Bergere will always be iconic. The men of Aussie Heat are genuine bonafide trained dancers of impressive skill. The ladies of SEXXY and FANTASY work hard for the money. And then there are the Chippendales…a macho, muscular troupe whose name is synonymous with classy male entertainment.

Ryan8

Ryan17

Ryan17

       Ryan and fellow Chipp James Davis don purple to support LGBTQ youth…

In a recent article I called the men of ChippendalesShirtless Angels of Charity“. They do indeed spend plenty of time contributing wonderful work for the Las Vegas community. But first and foremost, they’re a hunky bunch of guys who grind out sets in the gym before bumping and grinding onstage.

Ryan4

Twenty-seven year old Ryan Worley never imagined that one day he’d be taking off his clothes for a paying audience. Raised within the strict guidelines and culture of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Worley was as far from Chippendales stock as one could imagine.

Yet we don’t always know what’s around the corner or lies over the horizon. And Ryan’s life so far has been anything but predictable.

Ryan11

                         Ryan (far left) in a family photo with his siblings…

I was born in California on August 6th, 1990 and am the second oldest of four kids. We were raised in the Mormon religion and devoted to the church. After high school I was dating a girl who was not a Mormon…and being with her made me not want to serve my two-year mission.

Not volunteering for missionary work is very frowned upon within the culture. People will go as far as to shunning you for it…and that was the case for me.

Instead, I went to college at Brigham Young University in Idaho. This is a Mormon school and they have three campuses (Provo, Utah is the largest and most popular). I completed three semesters there and eventually transferred to Utah Valley University.

Ryan10

While attending Utah Valley University, Ryan lived with a friend whose father was a Mormon Bishop. It was clear that, despite avoiding missionary service and not being very active any longer, his exposure to the Latter Day Saints Movement was deeply entrenched in every aspect of his life.

At the age of twenty, Worley was attracted to a fellow employee at the pizza parlor where he moonlighted. This young Mormon lady was active in the church and got Ryan to attend again. Their relationship would set the stage for some major obstacles ahead.

We dated for two years…and weren’t “the best Mormons”. As you may know, there are strict rules against sex before marriage. When we decided to wed, she wanted to have our ceremony in the Temple. I personally didn’t care, but it was important to her.

In order to do have a proper Mormon service, we followed the ritual to get “clean”. We met with our church’s leader, confessed our pre-marital sex, followed the required steps and waited the appropriate amount of time.

And once we got married, the sex just stopped.

Physical rejection from his new spouse was devastating to this virile young man, especially after all he’d done to make things “right” within their culture. But Ryan wasn’t about to give up on the relationship, so he sought out ways to set things back on course.

She had no desire to be intimate with me. I took it personally, as any man in that situation would. I brought it up several times but she didn’t see it as an issue. We spent three years trying to solve the problem. Marriage is very sacred to me and divorce runs through my family…I wanted to be the one to break the curse.

We went to the doctor because I assumed it was hormonal. All of her blood levels came back normal. I tried other things like reading the book The Five Love Languages. (a self-help manual that’s been on the NY Times best-seller list since 2009). I made sure that everything was perfect for her in every way.

Someone once told me when we first married that the number one cause of divorce is unmet expectations. That sentence resonated inside me. I made sure that all her expectations were met. I bought her a house, we had cars and I worked sixty hours a week at two jobs. It was so hard, but it gave her the time she wanted.

I’d done everything I could and felt the issue didn’t come from my end. She wanted to do counseling but everything a counselor would have us do would seem like homework and it wouldn’t feel genuine. Something like sex needs to be intimate…not forced.

That is when I got into fitness. If I looked good then she would want to be with me again, right? That isn’t what happened, but I did find my love for the fitness industry.

The gym became my sanctuary and a place where I could let go.

Ryan13

Throwing himself into the lifestyle of intense fitness was very therapeutic. While building his body, Ryan acquired a new level of self-esteem which was critical in this period of rejection. The change to his physique was astounding. Still, it wasn’t enough to win back desire from his young bride.

Three years of being rejected took its toll…I felt so ugly and unwanted. She began to feel more like a sister or a roommate than my actual wife. I told her that I wanted a divorce and she didn’t put up much of a fight. We sold our house and she went back to southern California…I moved north to the Salt Lake City area.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

Ryan dove head-first into the fitness industry, serving as a Fitness Nutrition Specialist for a company called Complete Nutrition. While adjusting to a newly-single life in his small apartment, he was helping others get their own lives back on track. Knowing how to design customized meal plans for clients was invaluable when Worley planned to enter his first bodybuilding competition.

Ryan16

Spending hours at home on his stationary bike, Ryan discovered the documentary The Perfect Physique on Netflix (readers may recall that I covered the red-carpet premiere of this film at Palms Casino during the 2015 Mr. Olympia).

Ever since I got into fitness I’d wanted to do modeling and end up on a cover of a magazine. TJ Hoban, who is a well-known fitness model, was talking in the film about the difficulties he’d faced, like when he had a serious onstage accident during a Chippendales performance back in the 90’s.

I’d heard about Chippendales before but didn’t know exactly what it was or what it entailed. What I did know was that if my idol TJ Hoban was part of it, then it must be something great.

I went online and immediately filled out an application, submitted a few pictures and told a little about myself…but I never actually expected to hear back from them.

Ryan15

Ryan16

                                        Actor/model/fitness star TJ Hoban…

Even though his own performance experience was limited to a small Mormon singing/dancing group, Ryan was bursting with excitement…and hope. After applying, he joked with his Complete Nutrition employer that if Chippendales hired him he’d need to give notice.

Two weeks later, an email arrived from the show’s General Manager for an invitation-only audition:

I needed to rent a car for the drive from Utah to Vegas because my own was so crappy. Nobody knew about the audition. When I arrived early in the day, it was straight to the gym to pump up and look my best.

I was one of about fifteen guys there…and they all looked incredible. Kristen Makhathini (the show’s General Manager at the time) led the audition and had us take our shirts off for head shots.

We got on stage and began learning choreography. This was all very new to me. After about ten minutes, they split us into groups and mine was first. We ran through the routine a couple of times, then Kristen said “Alright guys, we are going to start cutting people so if you hear your name we don’t need you anymore and thank you for coming out”. The next sentence made my stomach drop: “Everyone in the first group except for Ryan can go home. Thank you”.

These other guys had flown in from all over the world and it was over for them in less than twenty minutes! My heart was beating out of my chest! They narrowed us down to four of us and said we’d know in a week. There were two spots, one for touring and another for the Vegas show. The tour manager came up to me and asked if I was able to get a passport. “I think I want to steal you for the tour” she said.

My mind went crazy…why did she just say “steal”? Did that mean I got the Vegas spot? That evening I watched the show for the first time, drove back to Utah overnight and never told anyone about it.

When the call came that he’d be a part of the Vegas production, it was time to shock his boss with the news of what he’d done…and to give that resignation notice they’d kidded about.

Along with this sudden change in his life’s course was the realization that he’d be stirring up controversy with his conservative friends and family.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

When I asked him what kind of reactions he received after telling people about Chippendales, Ryan sighed and took a moment to collect his thoughts. He was reluctant to slam the culture he’d been a part of for so long, but felt that he’d somehow broken free of someone else’s control and was ready to speak out about it.

My family has had a rough time with my new career but I knew they probably would. They don’t fully understand it or know what it is.

I’m no longer a member of the Mormon church but my friends and loved ones are and I want to respect that. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but the truth is that they teach you to be close-minded. I remember how my siblings and I were treated after our parents divorced. We sat in the back of the church, alone, like outcasts among our own people.

Mormons have their own stance on issues and you have to accept them as yours. When I grew up, I found myself asking “Are these values mine because I’m naturally a good person or were they were taught to me by the church?. Even now I’m not sure, but my mom did bring me up to be a respectful man.

Worley went on to discuss things about the Mormon culture that still concern him. Matters like their unequal treatment of minorities and the LGBTQ community. He feels that’s why a lot of Americans are now leaving the church…and why it currently targets impressionable third-world countries.

Ryan7

Ryan17

But now that he’s found a new “family” with his Chippendales brothers and their socially-positive work, Ryan Worley is ready to move forward and continue making things better for himself…and others.

I’ve been a Chippendale for almost a year now and love everything it has to offer. I get to do charity work in the community and appear on numerous TV shows. It feels like my years of struggle are over. This is my big break…I go to work and people cheer for me!

I reached out to TJ Hoban and Kandice King (directer of The Perfect Physique), told them my story and how much that documentary changed my life. They seemed very happy to have helped make my life a little better.

Ryan17

Ryan17

After interviewing Ryan for this piece, I attended a performance of Chippendales at the Rio. Sitting in front of me, right up against the stage, was a group of his buddies. They’d come to Vegas to see for themselves what their longtime friend was now a part of. And they cheered just as wildly as everyone else in the audience.

Watching Ryan’s friends gather around him in the lounge after the show was a thrill to witness and experience. This young man had finally gained confidence and acceptance from his peers. And he’d done it on his own terms.

Ryan5

“I’ve always felt like I was meant for big things and want to influence people in a positive way. Maybe my story can do the same for others”.

                                                                                                    Ryan Worley

You can read more about Ryan and his current projects in my column “Hot Guys of Vegas – Eye of the Beholder“.

Chippendales performs nightly at Rio Las Vegas. Click here for showtimes and tickets via our friend at VegasFool.com.

Photos: Sammasseur, Ryan Worley, The Perfect Physique, Chippendales via Facebook

 

 

 

Advertisements

Mr. Olympia: When Muscle Comes To Vegas, Fit Happens


A look back at my coverage of the 2015 Mr. Olympia competition and red carpet premiere of The Perfect Physique…

Olympia5

As an admitted fitness buff, I always look forward to yearly Mr Olympia competitions…and especially the related events. They’re a massive convergence of like-minded individuals with a culture all their own. And for a few days a year, Las Vegas is one big fitness retreat.

Olympia9

The extended weekend is packed like an overstuffed gym bag, with thousands of physique, bodybuilding, fitness and modeling enthusiasts competing, teaching, inspiring….and selling lots of products. Each year is bigger and better, and in 2015 I was right smack dab in the heart of it, representing the press for the first time.

IMG_1135

It should be mentioned how tough it is to get official media credentials for Mr. Olympia access and coverage. It’s an arduous and time-consuming procedure (three years of applying until finally getting my first approval).

Being a fledgling site made getting credentials even more difficult, so it was an honor to attend alongside the “big-boy” media outlets of the world. It also didn’t hurt that one of my photos was used in a two-page spread for the December 2013 Mr. Olympia issue of FLEX Magazine (toot toot!).

IMG_0383 - Edited

But, I digress. After picking up my official press kit and badge at Orleans Casino (the host hotel), it was off to Brendan Theaters inside The Palms. This was for the world premiere of the docu-drama The Perfect Physique.

Olympia4

                     Matt Christianer, David Morin and director Kandice King…

Once again, I was lucky to be one of only five media outlets to photograph the official red carpet proceedings and the only member of the press to party with the cast and director afterward. It’s doubtful that Ghostbar at The Palms ever hosted such an eye-catching crowd before (present company excluded).

The Perfect Physique is this generation’s answer to Pumping Iron. It explores the lives of fitness/physique competitors, misconceptions of being “shallow” and what drives these athletes to dedicate every moment of their existence to their bodies.

Olympia1

                                         Actor and fitness model TJ Hoban…

Olympia3

                     Fitness stars Matthew Christianer and Heather Schneider…

Olympia10

                                      Fitness star Toth Atilla (left) and a friend…

It’s also dedicated to fitness superstar Greg Plitt, who was tragically killed in an unrelated photo shoot after filming was completed.

Olympia6

                                                  Greg Plitt 1977-2014

Ryan16

The movie is emotional, raw, revealing, unexpectedly uplifting and often quite funny. It’s directed by prodigy Kandice King, who produced her first film at 18 years of age. The Perfect Physique was screened in major metro areas with the cast and director via a modified roadshow theatrical release. It is now available for streaming on Netflix., and I was honored to have a quote from this article posted on the DVD/blu-ray boxes.

IMG_0545

IMG_0527

The following morning was the launch of official Mr. Olympia proceedings, with a press conference featuring all qualifying competitors for the main event on Saturday night. Much like the theatrical match-ups before boxing and pro wrestling matches, the Olympia press conference is a lot of bravado, self-praise and rah-rah to get the audience pumped up. It’s always free to the public, and the Orleans Theater was packed to the max.

Olympia8.jpg

My favorite part of the weekend is always the Fitness Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center. Held Friday and Saturday from 10am to 5pm, it’s an all-out festival of fitness stars, products, demonstrations and competitions. It really has to be seen to be believed.

Olympia12

Olympia13

Olympia14

For those who don’t follow Mr. Olympia, Seattle native Phillip Heath was going for his fifth consecutive win. His nemesis Kai Greene did not enter, and depending on the source you believe, was either banned from competing or refused to sign his contract to compete.

HeathSam2

                             Myself with seven-time champion Phil Heath in 2013

At the end of the night, Heath won his fifth trophy and a $400,00.00 prize. As usual, he and his entourage would party the night away at Wynn/Encore’s XS Nightclub. And Heath would return again in 2016 for crown number six.

Olympia11.jpg

I, like always, will be back this year to give you all the details when Phil Heath goes for trophy number eight. Don’t miss out…order your tickets now.

Olympia7

This year’s Mr. Olympia Competition and Fitness Expo weekend runs September 13th through the 16th. Tickets, schedules and information are available by clicking here

Photos: Sammasseur, publicity still via The Perfect Physique