TORONTO (Reuters) - The muscled, shirtless man stands facing the camera, fists up in a boxer’s pose, with a large tattoo of the Earth surrounded by a raven visible on his left shoulder. The photograph caused social media to swoon on Tuesday over Canada’s newly minted prime minister, Justin Trudeau.
The day after Trudeau’s stunning victory over Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the global focus was not on the Liberal leader’s promise to withdraw Canada from the combat mission against Islamic State, or his pledge to run a C$10 billion annual budget deficit for three years to invest in infrastructure, but on the apparently universal agreement that he was not just good looking, but model handsome.
The photograph, one of many circulated online of a shirtless Trudeau on Tuesday, was taken at a weigh-in for a 2012 charity boxing match.
The election of Trudeau, 43, the son of one Canada’s most famous prime ministers, Pierre Trudeau, was seen as returning a touch of glamor, youth and charisma to Ottawa. Trudeau will become the second-youngest prime minister in Canadian history and brings an appeal more common in movie stars than statesmen.
His father came to power in 1968 on a wave of popular support dubbed “Trudeaumania” and held office for 15 years.
“There is definitely that sense again of Trudeaumania of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The elder Trudeau was a rock star. He went around the country and women were swooning after him,” said Cecil Foster, professor of transnational studies and director of Canadian Studies at the University at Buffalo.
News website Mashable declared the “Internet is sweating maple syrup over Canada’s Justin Trudeau” in an article that included a link to a charity strip tease by a young Trudeau. “Shirtless” was the third option automatically generated by a Twitter search beginning with the words “Justin Trudeau.”
The media attention was not only on his looks but also on his unusual childhood. One newspaper photo showed him at his father’s side with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In another he is seen playing on an airport tarmac with his brother after a visit by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.
“He’s had a camera in front of his face since he was born,” said long-time friend and newly elected Montreal MP Marc Miller. “He can deal with that. But it’s tough. It isn’t easy.”
After 12 years in the spotlight as a child of a sitting prime minister, Justin Trudeau retreated to a more private life as a teacher and snowboard instructor before tragedy brought him back to the public eye with his brother’s death in an avalanche in 1998 and his stirring eulogy for his father in 2000.
Trudeau’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, who met the much-older Pierre when she was just 18 and married him while he was prime minister, said she believes her son’s family will cope better with the pressure of fame than she did.
She struggled with the stresses of life in the media spotlight, writing in her memoir that she felt “a glass panel was gently lowered into place around me.” She said she’d had affairs with U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy and actors Jack Nicholson and Ryan O’Neal.
“For his family, it is so different for them than for me, what I took on, because I was so young and hadn’t been at Pierre’s side for 10 years doing the battle as Sophie has. They have a wonderful family life, very balanced, very happy, so it’ll be good,” she said in an interview on CTV.
Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire, a former TV and radio host, advocates for women’s health organizations. The certified yoga instructor recently said the couple had seen a marriage counselor, although she did not say why.
The photographs of Justin Trudeau the boxer helped him win new fans on social media on Tuesday, but his looks have sometimes been used against him by opponents who say he is all style and no substance.
Kevin Reynolds, a Vancouver boxing coach who trained Trudeau on multiple occasions, laughed off the suggestion that his former student might not be taken seriously because of his sex symbol status.
“He comes in quiet. The guys who have that true ‘fighter spirit’ usually come in quiet and then perform,” Reynolds told Reuters. “I think that was his greatest strength.”
Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver and Allison Lampert in Montreal, editing by Ross Colvin