Too Sexy For Your Tsar

Beefy Russian Gay Icon Pavel Petel Scared to Be In Moscow

Pavel Petel is an openly gay model, activist, and gender-bending stud originally from the Ukraine, now living in Russia. But with the country's harsh antigay laws forbidding so-called "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," LGBT activists unfurling rainbow flags or gathering to discuss their identities have been beaten, harassed, and arrested. Last month, four Dutch tourists who were filming a documentary on LGBT life in Russia were arrested under the new law.

LGBT entertainment blog The Back Building scored an exclusive interview with Petel, who says despite his clearly muscular and often masculine appearance, he's still scared to walk down the street in Moscow. He says he's been harassed and beaten, and is thinking of leaving the country to escape the persecution that continues to escalate under President Vladimir Putin's draconian policies.

Petel tells Back Building he's "very disappointed" in Russia right now… but can't get access to visas to travel to the European Union or the U.S., and doesn't want to risk going back to "poor Ukraine," where he promises fans would never hear from him again.

Asked if he feels safe in Moscow, Petel is blunt: "No, sometimes people threaten me and sometimes they even attack," he said. "That’s why I started changing my appearance in Russia. I am worried about my life and health. Nevertheless, everybody recognizes me out on the streets and wants to take pictures with me. Of course, society now is more aggressive towards people like me. Sometimes I am really scared, but, as I have said before, I don’t have an opportunity to move to the States at the moment. This process requires a lot of documents, and more importantly — money."

Petel has made a name for himself as an artist and model often bending gender by cross-dressing or being naked in public. But under the new laws, Petel says he "will censor and change my style."

Pavel Petel Speaks To Nightcharm About Gay Life In Russia

What a thrill it was when our favorite Russian, Pavel Petel, agreed to talk openly about something that everyone right now seems to have an opinion about but few have any direct insight into: gay life in Russia at the moment. The dazzling Pavel entertains in clubs, on the streets, in parks — wherever his imagination takes him and his bodybuilder’s physique and model handsomeness play perfectly at odds with his vast collection of wigs, thigh-high boots, and lipsticks. No longer quite such a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma, Pavel spoke briefly with me via email today.

MARK ADNUM: With the current situation in Russia, do you think your kind of pop-art has drifted into an area of political statement — protest?

PAVEL PETEL: I’m risking when I tell the truth. Everyone asks provocative questions, but no one is ready to provide real financial and legal help. I live in Moscow, Russia. I love life. I’m an actor! I am used to entertaining people and creating positively charged performances. I’m not interested in politics. I am a kind, trustful, naive and sincere person – there is no place for me in politics! I will benefit the world by entertaining people, not by organizing political protests.

However, I don’t have enough money to make all my creative ideas come to life. Recently an American digital magazine addressed me with a request to make them a free photoset and video with exclusive rights on the publication. They praised themselves to be the most popular digital magazine in the USA, but couldn’t send even a pair of shoes and wigs for shooting. I have a large audience in the West and my dream is to move to the USA. But I don’t want to lose Russian admirers either, so I will continue to communicate with them through my new project on YouTube.

MARK ADNUM: You give your fans so much pleasure, but lately, many of us have been thinking “is he going to get himself killed doing this in Russia”? What are your thoughts?

PAVEL PETEL: A year ago my boyfriend and I were attacked and beaten. They wanted to kill us… It was a miracle that we escaped. I’m well-known and loved in Russia, but there are threats and insults, too. I feel that I’m in danger here. Most of Russian people are clever, kind, generous, merciful, and peaceful. But these new fascist attitudes scare me a little…

MARK ADNUM: Would you move to another country if you had the chance? If so, where and why?

PAVEL PETEL: Yes. I need to move to New York, it has everything to further my career. Generally speaking, it’s all the same to me where to live – the most important is to have my significant other by my side and to feel safe. Then I will show this world the scope of my imagination!

Sources 1 + 2 & Pavel's Tumblr