If fitness cover model Brian Mazza could go back and punch himself in the face at 19 years old, he would. That was the year he quit his Division 1 soccer team out of disdain for his coach. It was a youthful, impetuous decision that halted the promise of a professional soccer career for Mazza and put him, temporarily, behind in his goals.
"Rule number one," Mazza tells me, "is don't be number two." And yet, deep within his core, tucked into a ball behind abs that are like sheet metal, that's what Brian Mazza fights against daily, feeling like he abandoned fame and fortune at that early age. "People say, 'Don't live with regret,'" he adds, "but I live within regret."
It's this regret, circling him for nearly 15 years, that fuels his current successes. Brian Mazza wants everything, and seems to be getting it.
The RSP-sponsored fitness model is President of Paige Hospitality Group and curates nine restaurants, including the Ainsworth collection of upscale, often sports-infused eateries.
With current Ainsworth locations in Manhattan, Southampton, New Jersey, and the newly-hip enclave of Kansas City, as well as upcoming locations in Nashville and Philadelphia, Mazza has captained the Ainsworth from its flagship port of New York City into national channels.
Mazza also built, from scratch, a men's custom clothing shop, Windsor Custom, only accessible via a discreet stairwell to an underground room in the back of one of his restaurants. The clandestine, appointment-only location added to its appeal.
Drawn by word of mouth, New York's ultra-wealthy descended the small stairwell to a dim basement with a musty smell reminiscent of old bootlegger hideaways, where they were carefully measured for dress shirts that transcended the commonplace of other high-end, yet off-the-rack garmentry, and for suits as form-fitted to the body as a silk pocket wraps a billfold.
Two years ago, before Mazza sold Windsor Custom, the shop did over a million dollars in sales, out of basically an earthen storage space.
Mounted to one of the walls of Windsor Custom, a glossy poster of fictional character, Patrick Bateman, from the movie, "American Psycho," memorialized an aesthetic of perfection so desirable it was worth killing for. The cufflinks, the Windsor knot, the monogramming and starching—it all symbolized an unquenchable thirst for elite status.
Staying Grounded with the Four Fs
Mazza has arrived without the folly of those who want so much that they lose themselves in the process of seeking it. To stay grounded, Mazza tries to live a balanced life, standing by what he calls "the four Fs": family, fitness, food, and fashion.
For a restauranteur, he eats unexpectedly clean, avoiding most of the heavier fare of his own establishments. He drinks no alcohol, preferring molecular hydrogen water, kept on tap in his office. He drinks a gallon a day and calls it "the fountain of youth." He supplements with a multivitamin and chlorophyll, as well as with RSP's Amino Lean, Amino Focus, and TrueFit protein products.
Currently, Mazza's recovering from an Achilles injury. True to fashion for an obsessive, he started training again eight days after surgery, with an evolved workout and focused rehab plan.
An injury might seem like a failure to any rising face of fitness—Patrick Bateman of "American Psycho" would have been devastated by the appearance of a weakness in his body—but Mazza sees the bigger picture and doesn't hide the fact that he's injured, and therefore at least partially human.
"I don't really care what people think about me on that level," he says. What he cares about is getting back to that place where opportunity hasn't been wasted, where it's all right in front of him still.
"I fail every single day at something," he tells me, reflecting on his injury, on lost time, and on moving forward into some version of greatness. "Sometimes the day is horrible, or it's a financial disaster, and sometimes it's not as impactful as that—but either way, failure is good. Failure allows for self-reflection."
It's this self-reflection that allowed Mazza, three years ago, to take a fortuitous event and create one of his biggest opportunities out of it. He'd been training outdoors on Pier 40 of the Hudson River in New York City, as a member of an elite gym called Tone House, when drones and photographers—part of a publicity stunt for the budding gym—captured footage of Mazza and turned him into an accidental fitness influencer.
"Basically," he tells me, "I jumped higher than everybody else in the photos that were circulated." Then, he jumped quickly onto the opportunity to brand himself.
It all sounds sort of unlikely, and yet it's true, drones and all. Brian Mazza, archetypal athlete, was manufactured by a moment. He was handsome enough, yet his accidental stardom in the fitness space didn't come from good looks—everybody is handsome. It came from his association with Tone House, now housed in the so-called NoMad area of Manhattan, where the workouts are, according to Mazza, "the hardest on the East Coast."
"I've seen professional athletes come into Tone House and fail," he tells me. "People who think they're the most fit person in the whole world come in here and get their ass handed to them."
But that's the whole point, he says. To commit to a place that pushes you beyond your natural abilities, forcing the mind and body to work symbiotically, but also creatively, toward perfection.
The Bigger Picture
Mazza, obsessed with that creativity in singular athletes like onetime NBA great Allen Iverson, is also unexpectedly fascinated by, and driven to mimic, filmmaker and fashion designer Tom Ford, who Mazza calls "on point" in his attention to detail.
"If I'm correct," Mazza says, "Ford takes five baths a day."
He admits that nobody needs to be that clean. It's the obsessive nature, the perfectionist in Tom Ford that Mazza remarks on—the sheer, unreasonable request of the world that it bend to his own making.
In aspiration, Mazza is reminiscent of UFC champion, Conor McGregor, wanting everything—and immediately, if possible—and why not? McGregor, famous for fighting, is now getting into clothing and booze, while Mazza, successful for his peddling of booze and clothing, has broken through to the world of the body.
"McGregor fully understands the bigger picture," Mazza concedes. "He's so dialed in, and so laser focused that he can accomplish anything he wants."
It's tempting to believe that Brian Mazza is like that poster in the basement of Windsor Custom, slick and tacked at the corners for appearances—Mazza's world, after all, seems tailor-made, and therefore almost unbelievable. But then you realize that Brian Mazza is actually nice, and not one of the stewards of snobbery that you're tempted, from afar, to lump him with.
"I'm extremely confident about my goals, but I also know that there's no point in thinking I'm better than anybody," Mazza tells me. "What makes you a real human being is how you treat the people you can't get anything from. When my 5-month-old son looks at me in the morning and smiles—that makes me a man. Not any of this materialistic crap that doesn't mean anything to anybody."
A self-righteous attitude is bad for business anyway, Mazza tells me. "It's an affliction in your head. You get content, and then the guy behind you gets ahead of you."
Strong All Over
This applies to Mazza's workouts, as well. Though his cardio has taken a slight hit while he rehabs, Mazza has made up the difference by shifting to isolation exercises, building the supporting muscles, strengthening his extremities and core, and humbling himself—taking a step back in some areas while engaging in new ones as he relearns the mechanics of his body.
He says there's a time and place for everything, that the body will tell you what it needs. When he listens, his physicality excels. To ignore the information is to concede to that place of ignorance and, ultimately, to failure—as well as to taking his place in a long line of others to see that painfully melodramatic movie of their lives called "What Could Have Been."
Division 1 soccer was a decade and a half ago for Mazza, but there's a new game in town and the rules are all about making good. For Mazza, the game is both internal and external, mental and physical.
"Now that I'm a father," he tells me, "I need to be strong all over. On the inside, it's about relationships. My wife, Chloe, and our son mean the world to me. On the outside, I don't ever want to say that my arms are too tired to hold my kid."
At the end of the day, Brian Mazza is no American Psycho, but he is, perhaps, psychosomatically geared and tuned, the mind and the body at play with each other. Mazza is making up for lost time the way all of us, inevitably, will be compelled to do.