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The Hottest Ever: Matthew Cancel is opening the doors for a new era of “short” male modeling

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Matthew Cancel wearing Bottega Veneta top, and Stylist’s own pants

Interview and article by Alex Hughes, Photography by Troy Hallahan, Styling by Dylan Wade, and Hair, Makeup, and Grooming by Stevie Barbieri

Matthew Cancel is an NYC wunderkind, making a name for himself in the world of PR, and has leveraged his attention-grabbing social media to make a growing play into the world of male modeling. Matthew seamlessly translates fashion and style trends into easily-digestible moments across platforms, while providing his own unique spin. We sat down with Matthew as he celebrates his birthday month in true Aries fashion, with a photo shoot, and talked with the self-described “short” model about everything from the current media landscape, his Instagram ‘Close Friends’, and the secret to being a successful publicist.

Read our feature with Matthew Cancel below, including our full photoshoot.

So.Gay: I haven’t seen you in person in a while, but I feel like I see you because I keep up with you on your Instagram stories. What have you been up to over the last few months and what have you been up to this year? I know you’re trying some different things.

Matthew Cancel: Yeah, you know, it’s been crazy. Mostly it’s building my agency, making sure that that’s still stable and up and running, which has been great. It’s making sure that everything is a working machine without any of the kinks.

The modeling thing has been different, that’s been interesting, that’s been fun.

I think the media landscape right now is a little bit spooky. It’s different than when I did it 10 years ago, then when I started [my agency] three years ago, and now just where we are with the layoffs, and now magazines figuring out what they’re gonna be doing, what’s gonna be happening.

I think when I started [modeling] last year, I had a vision and I had kind of a dream that I wanted to bring to life, but I also had a purpose with it. It was around last May where I was like, okay, do I wanna go for this? Do I wanna do this? And if I do, what does it mean?

And using my PR brain, [I knew] this needs to be branded and this needs to be branded specifically and intentionally because I am aware that I am 5’7”, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that’s actually an interesting point of view.

And when I looked at the male modeling landscape, that’s when I realized that there were just like so many gaps in the market.

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Matthew Cancel wearing Bottega Veneta top

And over the past 10 years, we’ve seen people like Paloma Elcesser and Teddy Quinlivan and Precious Lee and Ashley Graham and even Aaron Rose Philip pop up on the scene and we’ve seen none of that diversity translate into male modeling.

So when I started doing it last year, I was like, all right, let’s start with the Numero feature, which is super fun.

And that’s how it all kind of kicked off. And I was [thinking], let’s see what happens from there. And it was awesome.

It [became] an influx of different editors and stylists and photographers wanting to work with me.

And it was just about me organizing what it all meant and like organizing it in a way that I was like, okay, let’s shoot, but like, let’s not just do it for Instagram. If this photographer wants to work with me, let’s see if a magazine will work with us. And if the stylist wants to style me, okay, great. Let’s make sure that we have a proper team.

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Matthew Cancel wearing John Elliot set, Acne Studios tank top, and Doc Marten shoes

So.Gay: Tell me about your LA shoot with your friend, Michael.

Matthew Cancel: Yeah, Michael. That was a really cool one. So Michael and I have been friends for a while.

It’s funny, [similar to] a bunch of my social media friends, I always like follow them first before we’re friends, and then we’ll bump into each other at events, or I’ll have to work with them in like some capacity for work, whether it’s influencer marketing, or different things that brands need for social media creators.

Him and I met a couple of years ago via working with Instagram, [I] was always a fan of him, always thought he was super cool. And he and I are the exact same height. We’re both 5’7”.

I saw that he was popping off and doing a bunch of stuff on social and doing more modeling. So I was like, I think it would be really cool if we, you know, were to work together.

We started planning it and we brought a stylist onboard and a photographer. And that’s when Fault was like, oh, this is like a really cool idea.

So that was a big production. There were multiple locations. There were some really big brands that were attached to it, and that was really awesome.

And my perfect world and my vision is like me and a bunch of short male models will get to do this and recreate like some version of like the ‘90s supermodel moment. I don’t like to live in silo and I like to build my friends up with me.

And I’m like, let’s all do this together.

All day long, I’ve been kind of talking about like Gigi, Bella, Kendall, like that energy of like best friends supporting each other, wanting to all be creative together and wanting to support one another instead of like being competition with each other. And that was the idea behind that one.

So.Gay: It looks so good.

Matthew Cancel: Thank you.

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Matthew Cancel wearing John Elliot set and Acne Studios tank top

So.Gay: So you’re not a social media creator technically by profession, but honestly, you are. In a life as juicy as yours, how do you decide between what not to share, what to share, what to close friends? What are your boundaries? How do you think about it?

Matthew Cancel: First of all, I love this question. That’s like the funniest question I’ve ever been asked.

There are certain people that I have had on my Close Friends for like seven-ish years that have seen like the rise and fall and rise again of Matthew Cancel and all the behind the scenes that’s come with it. It’s very interesting to talk to those people because they don’t only get to see just the highlights, they’ve gotten to see the entire run, what’s really happening.

I would say that in my early 20s, it was very hard to decipher. I didn’t really know what was going on and I didn’t really know what to post. I’m the type of person where I have severe ADHD. So I love mania and I love seeing all different types of content 24/7.

I had to hone it in over the last couple of years. Let me curate this a little bit more.

Let me figure out what to highlight, what should be in private, maybe what should not be posted at all. And it’s interesting too, because I recently hired a social media strategist to help me with all of this. And his advice is actually to post as much as you can. He was like tons of reels, tons of in-feed posts, tons of TikToks.

And I’m like, I know, but I felt like in the past, when I posted that much, I got myself in trouble. And I kind of stuck my foot in my mouth.

And he was like: Okay, yes. But that amount of content does need to happen in order for you to grow. However, maybe it’s not you giving your hot take every three and a half seconds.

I have a lot to say, but the way that I kind of think about it now is like, if I’m gonna give this hot take, will I work with this person in a week from now?

Am I going to run into this person, this celebrity that I’m mouthing off about? Am I gonna run into them at Fashion Week next week? So that comes into play now.

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Matthew Cancel wearing John Elliot set and Acne Studios tank top

So.Gay: You know how to create a tasteful Thirst Trap. What goes into creating a great Thirst Trap?

Matthew Cancel: Honestly, treat it as if it’s like a full-blown real editorial.

That’s what I always say, and that’s how I treat it. I will sit there for maybe an hour and style it, be like, what do I wanna do? What do I want this to look like? What’s the final vision? And then to get the photo that I want, I won’t stop.

Spend your time with it, play with the lighting, play with different outfits.

I think that sometimes it’s like, okay, whatever, it’s just a selfie, this is fun, this is on Instagram. But I’ve gotten dates from thirst traps. I’ve gotten certain modeling things from thirst traps.

Certain thirst traps have gone viral and they’ve added like a thousand followers to my Instagram page.

So I take my time with it, I shoot, I then review the footage, I do a favorites folder, I add it to Tezza, I review it again.

So.Gay: That’s your favorite vacation spot right now?

Matthew Cancel: I went to Bermuda last year in May and I spent the day on the island at one point by myself.

Beach goes on for miles, there’s coves and mountains and all these like beautiful things and I literally just like walked around for eight hours and it was the most relaxing moment and I was like, this is better than Fire Island.

All of those things are fun sometimes but sometimes it’s nice to just like go and ground yourself and like look out into the sea and be like, we’re a speck in this world.

Bermuda last year was incredible.

I did go to Fire Island last summer with my friends and I stayed in a house a bunch of other creatives, editors, and social media people and that was really awesome too.

But no, since I left Bermuda, I keep thinking about it and like I wanna go back.

I kinda wanna go back on like a solo trip and literally just spend like seven days on Horseshoe Bay, forgetting about the world.

So.Gay: What clothing brands are filling up your closet right now?

Matthew Cancel: So I am really going for this sporty Ashton Kutcher from 2008 like hot boy in a rom-com vibe and I feel like the best brands for that are like Harley-Davidson. I’m obsessed with the way that their clothes fit. I have so much Harley-Davidson and their clothes are incredibly expensive by the way.

A lot of Harley-Davidson, I love The Row.

The way that their clothes fit are absolutely incredible.

I’m obsessed with Diesel, love Diesel.

Eckhaus Latta.

So I wore Eckhaus Latta for my Numero editorial and I’ve never had a pair of jeans fit better and they were having a sample sale on their website. So I just bought a bunch of Eckhaus Latta.

I really liked Luar too. I like the way that Luar’s jeans fit.

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Matthew Cancel wearing Stylist’s Own top and Nanushka pants

So.Gay: What are the best places to go out in New York right now?

Matthew Cancel: I don’t know if this sounds elitist or pretentious, but, I’m in my late 20s and I’ve been around the block a couple of times. I’ve been to every single gay bar in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I have to go to so many things for work.

You know, there are weeks, especially a Fashion Week or, you know, if I’m activating around Awards Season or The Met or if there’s a month like February and September where I have to go to a different thing every single night for two to three weeks straight, that is my outing for me, you know?

It’s open bar. It’s a room full of the chicest and coolest people you’ve ever seen in your life. You’re in the room with other creatives and colleagues and that to me is my going out.

My Friday and Saturday nights when I’m not working and I don’t have an event – I’m home or I’m going to dinner. Or I’m going to dinner with friends, but the club scene is not for me.

My friends in their early twenties and they drag me out to Playhouse and Rise from time to time. And it’s just not my thing anymore.

So.Gay: Do you have a favorite gay bar anywhere in the world?

Matthew Cancel: It’s kind of a [mess], but I liked how multifunctional it was. Twist in Miami Every other city besides New York has this giant Mecca gay club thing where it’s like multiple floors.

And I feel like that’s what the Q was trying to do. The Q was doomed from the beginning for a multitude of reasons. That just was never going to work out.

But I’ve been to Milan gay bars and it’s like the same kind of thing, Twist. I’ve been to gay bars in Montreal. I like this multi-level, multiverse almost where it’s like you go to different levels, different types of music, different types of people.

Those are always super cool, yeah.

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Matthew Cancel wearing Bottega Veneta top

So.Gay: Do you remember the first New York gay bar you ever went to in New York?

Matthew Cancel: Yes, I was 16 or 17 and it was incredibly short. I convinced one of my friends to sneak out. I think we told our parents we were going to Dunkin’ Donuts on a study date or something. We took a bus to New York City and during that time there were college nights.

We went to Splash and I remember we had a curfew and we had to be home by a certain time. We only had like 30 minutes there.

But I remember [thinking] this is incredible, this is amazing, I’m gonna revisit this one day. I think I’m gonna go to college in New York because I think I want to fully live out my fantasy here. And I think that was one of the catalysts of me choosing to go to college in New York City.

And what was awesome about going to college in New York City is they still had college nights.

So there used to be another bar Out – XL. That one did college nights every Tuesday. I remember one Tuesday they even brought Nick Jonas in.

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Matthew Cancel wearing Ludovic de Saint Sernin shirt and MSGM pants

So.Gay: Current male celebrity crush?

Matthew Cancel: Ashton Kutcher at 30-years-old.

Him in that era, I keep referencing it not only [for his] outfits, but also his hair. What is he doing with his face? What does his jaw structure look like?

That man was, he still is super gorgeous, but I keep revisiting it. All the boys nowadays are kinda like giving the same thing.

They fall into like the Timothee Chalamet group or like the Jeremy Allen White group and I feel like those two groups, like even like, no shade, but Jacob Elordi to me is a little bit boring.

Like what made Ashton Kutcher fun was that he had a personality.

He was silly, he was fun, he was camp, he was kind of a douchebag, but he had something to say for himself and I feel like, I don’t know, I feel like the heartthrobs and the rom-coms now are so safe.

He had a point of view. They were authentically themselves.

I kinda loved that in those movies, they were the authentic f**kboys with like no proper bedsheets and beer bottles all over the place because it was like, take it or leave it, you know?

So.Gay: Are you single, dating, or in a relationship?

Matthew Cancel: I am single. I’m very single.

Whenever I hear all my friends talking about dating and the apps and all the things, I’m like, I don’t feel the need to be doing any of that right now.

Like I don’t feel like I, A., have enough time to put into a relationship and B., it’s not of interest to me.

I think when you think of growing up, you think of, okay, I wanna be more stable. I wanna be financially independent. I want a great career and then for some reason, like a relationship always gets added to that, but I feel like it’s, it’s like having a dog.

Some people do, some people don’t. I don’t think you need to be in a relationship to be happy or live a fulfilled life.

And maybe I’ll change my mind one day and I think meeting the right person will definitely change that.

I feel like a lot of the guys I’m coming into contact with, lately I’m like, nothing in me wants to date you or further hang out with you or see a future with you.

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Matthew Cancel wearing John Elliot set and Acne Studios tank top

So.Gay: What’s one secret to being a successful publicist?

Matthew Cancel: Doing publicity in the year that you’re living in.

I see day-in and day-out, 22-year-old pop stars with a 45-year-old white woman publicist doing PR as if it’s 2008 and Us Weekly is still relevant.

It’s really annoying on my end because I meet so many of these young, successful pop stars, actresses, whatever it is. And it’s almost not even their decision when they get hooked up with the white woman publicists because it’s they have the fifty-year-old white man who’s been working with this white woman publicist for 25 years and it’s just what it is.

And it’s like, no, you signed to her, that’s how it goes. And they don’t know any better.

Being aware of the year you’re actually living in and knowing how to reach Gen Z and Gen Alpha, and so many people are just doing PR as if it’s 2009, it’s kind of annoying and exhausting to watch.

So.Gay: So whether it’s modeling, your agency, everything else, what should we expect from you this year?

Matthew Cancel: I hope I get to do campaigns.

I think the conversation is slowly picking up. I think a lot of people are still scoffing at it. A lot of people are rolling their eyes. A lot of people are like, ugh, that’ll never happen. I think little by little people are starting to see the vision.

I think when I did the Numero piece, it opened my eyes to a lot of things.

Like when Eckhaus Latta said yes to lending and Luar said yes to lending and Devin Kasparian said yes to shooting. I was like, oh, like there are people that see this vision and understand that this representation is important.

And it’s kind of silly because it’s really not that interesting when you think about it. But then when you think about if anyone’s doing it and you’re like, oh wait, no, that’s when you kind of realize like, oh, okay, this does make a little bit of sense.

You can follow Matthew Cancel on Instagram at @matthewcancel

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