Former football player turned actor Isaiah Mustafa is Hollywood’s hottest new hunk, thanks to his turn as the Old Spice Man. And no wonder: His smoothtalking character has resonated with women and men alike, helping Old Spice double its sales in the months since the campaign launched. Next up for Mustafa: roles in the Tyler Perry film Madea’s Big Happy Family and the TV show Chuck. Here, he weighs in on romance, regimens and why he’s taking success one day at a time.
This story first appeared in the October 8, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
How do you define beauty?
It’s all encompassing. It’s looks and attitude and intelligence. I look at the eyes definitely, but mostly it is something about a woman’s attitude and the way she carries herself.
How similar (or not) are you to the old spice guy?
If you take all that bravado and ego and tone it down a little bit, you have me. I’m self-assured whereas I think he’s a little more arrogant, but we’re both equally confident.
How have your managed your sudden fame?
I take it a day at a time. I don’t try to make too much of myself or discredit anything. I take each day as it comes and remember that I am still the same guy. I just happen to have a better job now.
What do your lockerroom buddies think about your success?
I used to tell jokes all the time, but not everybody would laugh. Now a lot of them have called me and said, “I didn’t realize how funny you are.” I said, “I’ve always been like this. You just weren’t paying attention.” Now they’re paying attention and it’s fun.
What’s your workout secret?
I do a workout program called P90-X, and I have a really strict diet, which I do on 60-day cycles. I go on cycle for 60 days and off for 30. It’s comprised of five basic things: I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t eat processed sugar, I don’t eat animal or animal by-products, I don’t drink caffeine, which is killing me right now, and I make sure that whatever I eat has no glutens in it.
That doesn’t sound like much fun.
You find different things you can eat. It’s actually kind of fun discovering what you can and can’t eat.
How does your diet compare to when you were playing football?
When I was playing football, I ate any and everything to be big. I weighed 240 pounds then. I was a big guy. I’m not small now, but I clock in at 205 to 210. When I was playing ball, I wasn’t looking at what was going into my body, but now I pay attention to it.
What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?
I like to pay attention to detail. Over the course of a relationship or friendship, I will listen to certain things they like or say they’re into, and for a birthday or holiday or even for no occasion, which is the best time to do it, to just catch someone off guard, I’ll take someone for a romantic scavenger hunt where these things reveal themselves. And there’s often wine involved. That’s when I am cycling off the diet.
What does a real man smell like?
Intuition. And punctuality.
What is the “missing link”?
Mind, body or soul?
That’s tough [laughs]. I’m gonna have to say mind. If the mind is right, the soul will be intact. And it’s easy for the body to come along, too.
Do you have a motto?
I don’t. I go as the day comes.
You just snagged a role in an upcoming Jennifer Aniston comedy. Any advice for her on what to look for in a man?
I’d say look at one of your co-stars [laughs].
Ray Lewis was recently added as a fellow old spice guy. Whose approach do you think is more successful with women: your smooth-talking one or his brash persona?
Being that Ray is speaking to men who watch football, I would have to say smooth talking hands down.
You recently had some recommendations for President Obama on how to jump-start his approval ratings. Any word from the White House?
[Laughs] No. They haven’t reached out thus far. I’m sure he is busy doing all sorts of other things, like saving the nation, but when he gets done with that I’m sure he’ll give me a call. I hope. For his sake.