On August 5, 2011, a 22-year-old named Aziz Shavershian walked into a sauna in Bangkok, settled into the wet heat of the room, and then had a heart attack. Despite being transported to a nearby hospital, he was unable to be resuscitated.
To some, Shavershian was just another Australian kid on a holiday bender gone wrong. But to a swath of fans and observers on the internet, it was the end of an era. Shavershian, better known as “Zyzz” to his followers, was famous for his transformation from a lanky teen with no meat on his bones into a rippling Adonis who enjoyed making girls swoon by flashing his washboard abs. He was a bodybuilder, but one in pursuit of something else beyond gains and personal records.
Instead, he extolled the virtues of being “aesthetic,” nurturing a body that could be “universally attractive” rather than an exotic byproduct of weightlifting. As Zyzz put it, the point of working on his physique and lowering his body fat percentage into single digits wasn’t merely to be strong. The point was to look and feel hot, and then use that confidence to glow up one’s personality and social life. “I started going clubbing every weekend and always noticed whenever a jacked dude walked by, they had a presence a lot greater than that of a ‘normal’ person. The guys respect them, and the girls are all over them, and really, who wouldn’t want that?” Zyzz told the fitness blog SimplyShredded.com in 2010.
He transformed not just his body, but his identity online, taking on a party-hard, douche-bro persona to promote his ideology of self-improvement. These days, such personalities are entirely de rigeur; TikTok and YouTube are overflowing with men with eight-packs rambling about mental weakness, the art of attraction and keys to self-love. But a decade ago, there wasn’t the same economy of fitness influencers looking for aggrieved young men to court.
Zyzz, in that way, was one of a handful of pioneers who explicitly tied masculine success to self-improvement. And even after a decade, the cult of Zyzz lives on, emerging once in a while like last month, when tributes to Zyzz around his birthday (March 26th) gained viral traction and inspired a wave of Google searches into April.
Zyzz was an Extremely Online® poster at his peak, often shitposting on 4chan’s /fit/ page and the Bodybuilding.com forum, among other sites. He created his own world of in-jokes and shorthand, joking that he made guys “jelly” and got the girls “mirin” (aka admiring). He released a book, promoted his favorite supplements and spread countless videos of him in full Zyzz character — preening and flamboyant, yet with an absurd, perhaps self-aware edge. (His former boss at Sydney Hotshots, a male-stripper revue, noted to the press after his death that Zyzz was “a lovely guy,” and that “the YouTube stuff was all for show.”)
What began as a mission to get big and attract girls evolved into something else for Zyzz over time, with him claiming that the training and dieting regimen was “rewarding physically and mentally in ways beyond measure.” Through it all, he promoted a lifestyle of not just being hot, but one that allowed to be his goofy, effervescent self at all times. “I love playing up my perceived stereotype, and at the end of the day, never take myself seriously, which is one of the reasons I have accrued the fan base that I have,” he said.
His obnoxious alpha-bro antics got its fair share of haters, and his physique was also accused of being aided by steroids, an accusation that only got hotter when his brother, Said Shavershian, was caught by police with anabolic steroids. Others claim that he pursued bodybuilding for the wrong reasons, aiming to be superficially fit, rather than well-rounded in the gym. But going his own way is exactly what generated his fandom, and even today, countless people come out of the woodwork to thank Zyzz for inspiring them in one form or another.
“Thank you for giving us the strength to make it in our difficult lives by improving ourselves. We’re all gonna make it. Rest well King,” a Facebook user named Samuel Benejam wrote on a Zyzz fan page on March 23rd.
“So many of us are … in fear of rejection. And we need to get over that. The concept of Zyzz has helped lots of people get over that fear, that barrier that separates them from having fun in life, or become a 40-year old virgin,” another fan wrote on a Bodybuilding.com forum.
Zyzz came of an era before the commercialization of male physical “aesthetic” by brands and influencers with ad partners to shill and traffic quotas to hit. He didn’t have a magic tool or secret trick, other than his own success with dieting and a regimented lift schedule. He was selling a vibe, more so than actual products to consume, which automatically makes him feel like a relic of a different internet culture — a time before Chads and betas and sigma grindset and everything else that thrives under the umbrella of toxic, ultra-capitalist “hustle culture” today. (“I hate the culture of copycats he left behind who ignored his message to just enjoy life and be yourself,” a 4chan poster remarked in 2016.)
For all these reasons, and the sheer attractiveness of his tanned physique, the cult of Zyzz will continue to thrive among men who feel nostalgia when they see his content in the present. They believe in the “revolution” of self-acceptance and joy that Zyzz spoke of so intensely. He didn’t want men to become, in typically blunt Australian parlance, “sad c**ts.”
As Zyzz says in a viral clip oft-quoted by the fandom: “We’re all gonna fuckin’ make it, brah.”