Male strippers have never exactly been unpopular among the masses. They’re hot men taking their clothes off, after all. But with the sequel to Magic Mike erupting, ripped and glistening, on to cinema screens this summer, the demand for gyrating, barely-clad male ‘entertainers’ has reached new heights. Bruno Gabriel, who performed a raunchy routine at the Hong Kong premiere of Magic Mike XXL, is an industry veteran and founder of HKmen, a company that provides male strippers for hire. “I started to dance when I was 22, to impress a girl I liked,” he chuckles. “I answered a casting call in a magazine. Stripping was a hobby at first and then it became a full-time job.” With a sultry demeanour and an incredibly muscular body, a legacy of his bodybuilding days, it’s not surprising that Gabriel also juggles his stripping gigs with modelling and personal training jobs.
Born in Romania and raised in Italy, Gabriel stripped his way around the world before settling in Hong Kong seven years ago. “I moved around after my contracts ended to find new ones,” he recalls. “I travelled across Europe for a few years, I slowly moved to Asia and my last stop was Hong Kong. When I came here, there was already a market for this job and that’s why I stayed! I created the [HKMen] brand in 2009. I’m getting older, so now I’m looking to promote younger guys. I still have many bookings, but in 10 years the clients will want new guys and this is what I’m doing with this company – giving them what they want.”
Gabriel explains more about the client-orientated mindset that is, ultimately, the essence of being a successful male stripper. “We get pretty naked, of course! It’s an interactive show, we do party games involving baby oil and whipped cream. If a girl wants to touch you, it’s okay but you cannot touch the girl. You need to be careful.” He goes on to reveal some tricks of the trade. “If people like your work, they will come back! So, with shy clients, you need to be more gentle. Once I was at a party at a hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui and the girls were so shy they hid in the bathroom!”
Gabriel and HKmen are booked, mainly, for private events, such as hen parties. “We’ve performed on trams and boats! Mostly the girls who book us are locals who have studied overseas and have a European mentality, so they are comfortable seeing this kind of show. In Europe, they also have male strip clubs – but here you can’t find that,” he says. “People with a more Chinese mentality tend to not understand what we are doing!” When we ask if Gabriel ever ends up going a little further with his clients after a show, he replies ambiguously. “We try to not mix work with personal life. Work is work. But of course, that happens in any other workplace, so why not in our work too?”
The work schedule of a male stripper is predominantly from 8pm to 3am on weekend nights. In this window, Gabriel averages four to six shows. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I never feel that it’s boring or repetitive,” he says. “If the girls themselves are bored, you need to do something to change it up. Maybe they’ve had a bad day and you’re an entertainer, so you need to change their mood. Every crowd is different, every party is different. You just do your job. In the end, when you can see the people are happy, it’s the best thing you can have happen that day. Of course, getting the payment is important, too.”
As a male entertainer, Gabriel has been met with mixed responses regarding his career choices. “[When I say what I do], some people smile and say ‘What a nice job, you just work part time! It’s an easy job, good money, you have fun with the girls’, while others, they look at you strangely, like ‘What kind of job is that? It’s naughty, not nice’.”
But overall, Gabriel is unfazed by any stigma. “In the end, it’s entertainment,” he says. “You’re an artist. You don’t sell sex, you’re not an escort. You just go dancing and then you leave.”
time out , hong kong .