There’s no greater triumph than giving back to a cause that once had a significant hold on your life. Our latest Urban Beardsman Justin Thomas not only knows firsthand how to conquer times of distress, but inspires others through his daily boot camp classes (including the infamous Church with Justin: Sunday Boot Camp) to battle your own inner-demons by working them out—one squat at a time.
More than just a handsomely bearded face, Thomas has many layers to reveal as I’m invited in (via Facetime). Although his humorous-upbeat persona makes for a great chat, he also speaks transparently about some of the struggles he underwent growing up in a small rural town of Kentucky. “I never came to terms with being raised in such a small town, and I never came to terms with feeling like I didn’t belong in the gay community after I left. It all started to pile up in my twenties, and with the right amount of heartbreak and partying, I didn’t really know how to express what I was going through—so I had a failed suicide attempt.”
After waking up in a hospital and being referred to a treatment center, Thomas had his first unlock, and shares, “during the stay, I asked the nurses if they had a treadmill or anything. I felt like I needed to run. After she told me they don’t offer physical services for people undergoing mental health treatment, I was like, how are you going to fix my head without using my body? I knew after leaving the center I had a lot to take care of, but also needed to bridge that gap.”
Through the course of Thomas’s re-grounding, he went back to school and received certification to become a fitness coach, recalling, “I never thought being a fitness coach was going to be a full-time profession. I just wanted to do my own thing—starting with a little boot camp called Abs Church. It was this combo of a dance-indie-rock-punk music theme on Sunday mornings in the park. It went so well, I made up my own marketing material like ‘Jesus died for your chins’, or ‘Let us plank’, they were pretty sacrilegious—but all in good fun.”
As attendance grew in his boot camp and cycling classes, Thomas integrated the benefits one can achieve that go beyond the physical. “Part of my personal training also specializes with mental depression and helping others use their body to create natural endorphins. My main joy is changing people’s lives, and I’ve had great success stories with my clients. I come across a lot of super creative people similar to myself who are dying inside and don’t know healthy coping methods, so I try to help people exercise the demons if you will. You got to sweat it out.”
Aside from resurrecting his client’s fitness regimen, Thomas’s personal style and interests over the years has opened the door to many other opportunities. (Although he’ll humbly tell you they’re all awful), he’s landed several modeling gigs, music video appearances, and an occasional TV commercial, stating,“ I don’t do any of that stuff professionally, however I do enjoy DJ-ing sporadically and that’s where I feel I’m good at. I don’t have any residencies at the moment, but my music is legit—DJ Daddy Issues at your service.”
With so many things in the mix, it’s no surprise Thomas doesn’t have a typical daily agenda. However, aside from his consistent gym regimen and avid cycling about town, he admits to being a self-proclaimed comic book geek that often spends a hefty amount of time devoted to the hobby. “I read so many titles and even have a Tumblr page dedicated to it. I can still be that kid who doesn’t know how to stop nerding out in the corner of the room.”
Along with shattering the appearance of what a stereotypical comic book fan may look like, Thomas also defies stigmas related to how some of society still view gay men today. With head-to-toe tattoos and a fully-bearded look, Thomas proves you can be both gay and masculine, revealing, “being gay and bearded for me says, I can be who I am, while still flaunting my masculinity and it’s understood. I’ve grown it off and on for about six or seven years, and it’s also represented breaking away from this buttoned-up mentality of how you have to be in order to be a professional. I was always against that, and now thankfully I live in an environment where it’s accepted.”
When it comes to maintaining (in his words) “the Chia Pet on his face,” Thomas enjoys putting his beard in the hands of a professional. “I’ve always had an old classic barber shape it up and that makes a lot of difference. I think a lot of guys grow theirs out and give up because they can’t deal with the growing out phase. I feel if they just knew how to keep it trimmed up, it would make a world of difference.”
Although there’s no question Thomas has standout style, he shares the secret lies in keeping things minimal. “I wear mostly a handful of carefully selected Levi’s, a trusty t-shirt, and Adidas or leather boots. I try not to over think it. The shirt is often from a thrift store, or maybe just a straight-up Fruit of the Loom 3 for $10 deal. The sexiest quality for me is a man who’s comfortable in himself and what he is doing, and I think that’s pretty much the uniform of such a man.”
Thomas’s laid-back style mantra is complemented with authenticity as he lends advice on how to keep things at ease. “One of the first things I’ve learned about myself is you’ve got to let your freak flag fly. People respond to bigger personalities, and every time I second-guess myself it bites me in the ass. Don’t second-guess yourself—people will respect you for it.”
Demonstrating how to tackle any situation and rise to the top, Thomas is an inspiration in showing that staying true to yourself only leads to bigger and better things. We look forward to seeing what’s next in store for this extraordinary Urban Beardsman as he continues to let his own unique flag fly—in style.