Former stripper and Step Up star Channing Tatum is this year’s winner of the ultimate male beauty pageant: People‘s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue. And he’s done it without having to fake a lifelong dream of world peace, or even having to put on a real shirt. (Sure, he donned a white tank top on the cover of the national magazine. But most honorees wear suits, or at least normal T-shirts.) Tatum was hardly a surprise, given his high-profile projects this year, but he is somewhat of an anomaly when stacked up against past winners. Mostly, the shock was that last year’s presumed winner and current sexy martyr Ryan Gosling was edged out again, unleashing some fiery tempers online.
Some are pleased, most don’t care, and others are probably perfecting their Ryan Gosling idols created out of ABC gum to secretly worship he-who-hasn’t-won-yet. But if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em: herewith, NewsFeed presents the statistically proven secrets to gaining “America’s sexiest” status.
1. Drop the instruments and get on the big screen.
Over the past 27 years, 26 men* have graced the “Sexiest Man Alive” cover, and all but one has come from the entertainment industry (John F. Kennedy, Jr. being the only — and fully acceptable — exception). None have claimed fame solely by virtue of their musical skills. And while a booming television career can get you noticed, or even land you on top of the sexy pile (1986 winner Mark Harmon was all the rage on St. Elsewhere; 1987’s Harry Hamlin was out-of-order smoldering on L.A. Law). But it doesn’t ensure a lasting legacy of sexy the way movie roles can. Brad Pitt was inducted into the sexiness club in 1995, and there’s no doubt he’s still got it almost two decades later (we’ll even pretend that dreadfully weird Chanel ad was never made).
2. Tuck a blockbuster movie franchise under your belt.
Nine former Sexiest Man Alive kings have helmed a major film series. Mel Gibson, the first man ever named to People‘s cover in 1985, first appeared on the radar screen with the Mad Max trilogy. Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan both embodied the paragon of movie lothario-ness that is James Bond (although Connery won in 1989, six years after he slurped his last martini in Never Say Never Again). Two-time winners George Clooney and Brad Pitt were both in the Oceans series, as was Matt Damon, who also played Jason Bourne three times. (Clooney, to be fair, first won in 1997, a year he’d otherwise likely rather forget — ahem, Batman & Robin.) Harrison Ford (1998) mastered both the original Star Wars trilogy and Indiana Jones. Two-time winner Johnny Depp swashbuckled his way to sexy status as Jack Sparrow, and last year’s upset winner Bradley Cooper is (for better or worse) set to star in a third Hangover movie. What does all this mean? Movie franchises make a lot of money and publicity, which surely helps sell magazines as much as sheer sexiness does.
3. Get a U.S. passport, pronto.
People, TIME’s sister publication, is an American magazine based in New York City, and 21 out of their 27 sexiest men were born or raised in the U.S.A. The only exceptions were Gibson (born in New York but raised in Australia), Connery (Scottish), Brosnan (Irish), Jude Law (British), Hugh Jackman (Australian) and Ryan Reynolds (Canadian). Perhaps that’s why Gosling keeps getting bumped: the man is as Canadian as a denim tuxedo.
4. Be 38.9 years old.
The average age of all Sexiest Man Alive honorees, at the time of their coronation, is just shy of 40 — perfect for People‘s mom-friendly target audience. Patrick Swayze was 38 when he won in 1991, while Hugh Jackman and Johnny Depp (the first time) were 40 at time of prime sexiness. The youngest was JFK, Jr. (again, we support whatever string-pulling it took to get him on the cover) who took the cover spot when he was 27, while the oldest was Connery, a Scottish national treasure and a ripe 59 years young in 1989. (We’ve left Cindy Crawford out of the math, because we still are confused why they’d taint the franchise by naming a “Sexiest Couple” — her and Richard Gere in 1993.)
So which actors are closest to 38.9 years old right now? Christian Bale, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Radnor, Jerry O’Connell, Ryan Phillippe — shall we go on?
5. Have appeared on at least five People covers already.
People isn’t going to give you one of their highest honors if you don’t already have it goin’ on. We combed through the archives to find every Sexiest Man’s appearance on People’s cover before he was crowned (name mentions without a picture didn’t count). The results were hardly surprising. Clooney had made 11 cover appearances when he was first named in 1997, and racked up 29 by his second win in 2006. Clearly, people — and People — love Clooney. Of course, the earlier in his career a man wins, the fewer opportunities he has to appear on a People cover.
So what does this mean for Ryan Gosling — or any other average hopeful? Well, wait a few years. Poor Ryan has only appeared on the cover once — as a tiny inset on last year’s Sexiest Man Alive cover — but he’ll hit the golden age of 38.9 in 2016. Before the next Presidential election, acquire a film franchise or five (please, let it be five). Find a way to get your beautiful face in that upper right-hand corner of every future cover. If you do that, you can even stay Canadian. Hey, it worked for Ryan Reynolds.
*There was no Sexiest Man Alive named in 1994.