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Christian Guzman’s mom cried for what felt like a month when, after completing his sophomore year in 2013, he decided to leave Texas State University. His dad, though, tried his best to look on the bright side: If things didn’t work out, he reminded his son, he could always re-enroll the next semester and continue to pursue his degree in business management.

“I didn’t have any doubts about dropping out,” Guzman remembers, “but everyone else did.”

Today, Guzman is a 24-year-old YouTube star, gym owner and entrepreneur with his very own energy drink—and an estimated worth of $2 million. He gets recognized not only in Sugar Land, where he lives, but across the country. How did he get here?

It was in high school at Dulles that Guzman got really into fitness—and learning about fitness. “I would sit there and watch videos for hours,” he remembers. “I watched every fitness video on YouTube, trying to learn everything … I had no problem sitting there for 10 hours and watching videos on how to work out.” After years of watching, he says, “I saw those guys doing it and I figured, ‘Oh, I know enough to put a few videos out.’”

He launched his own YouTube channel in 2012. “I’m Christian Guzman from Christian Guzman Fitness,” he said in his very first video, filmed in his bedroom. “Um, I’m starting this channel because, uh, for about five years I’ve been doing strength training…and I just want to share my experience and advice of what’s worked for me and what hasn’t worked for me—nutrition-, supplement-, and workout-wise.”

Then, with alt-rock playing in the background, he performs a series of flexes and poses, showing off his rippling ab, arm, chest and back muscles; his chiseled face; his smooth, tan skin; his white teeth.

“Where it all began,” commented LMAAAAYOOO, years after the video was posted. And LMAAAAYOOO was right. While the quality of Guzman’s videos has improved—everything now looks Instagram-perfect—from that first video on, he established the basic format he’s followed ever since: fitness advice, plus a behind-the-scenes look at his life, plus plenty of eye candy in the form of his own person.

While Guzman has always had a canny knack for tapping into viewers’ emotions, there’s also a banality to watching him go about his routine that only serves to make him more authentic. You really do feel like you’re hanging out with him as he works out with his girlfriend, has a cheat meal, talks about his favorite brands, runs errands, or hangs out with his French bulldog. If it’s occasionally boring, well, so is life.

Wittingly or unwittingly, from the very beginning Guzman hit upon the recipe for YouTube gold. Part one is that authenticity: People love YouTube stars as opposed to Hollywood ones because they feel like they really know them. And part two is something YouTube and Hollywood stars share: good looks.

Since 2012, he’s put out three or four videos every week, with each averaging 150,000 views and requiring days of filming and hours of editing, either by Guzman or by his videographer, one of about a half-dozen staff he employs.

If you’re thinking “this guy’s about to get a reality show,” you’re not the only one, and maybe you’re right. Or maybe not. “I would never do a TV show,” Guzman asserts. “I can get the same viewership on my YouTube channel and still be in charge of my own content.” In other words, who needs a middleman?

When Guzman left college, the idea was to continue making YouTube videos, take on personal-training clients, and open his own gym. Pretty quickly, he had 300 clients, and by the end of 2013, he’d opened his first facility in Sugar Land. He called it CGFitness—Christian Guzman Fitness—and he sold T-shirts, hoodies and beanies with his logo front and center.

The next year brought a move to a bigger gym and a rebranding to the catchier Alphalete, which instantly smashed CGFitness records and became the brand people recognize today, helping Guzman to grow his YouTube channel’s subscribers to 750,000 and his Instagram followers to almost a million.

Now Guzman’s moved to a third location, this one in Stafford, called Alphalete Gym, with a growing membership. Instead of 300 personal-training clients, he has 20 hand-selected ones. People from as far as Australia have traveled to his facilities; he tours the world making appearances; an event he hosted in June attracted over 3,000 people; he has a new energy drink called Up.

While his main source of revenue is his clothing line, Guzman says, his primary occupation is still “YouTuber.” Between advertising and sponsorships, he does make money from his channel, but more than that, it’s what’s made everything else possible. 

Just like anyone else who’s found fame, online or otherwise, Guzman has to deal with privacy concerns and negativity. “The bigger you get, the more hate on social media,” he says. “I think it’s at the point now that I can’t pay any attention. I’m aware of it, but I can’t give it any attention.”

But there’s a lot of love, too. Guzman’s most popular video, which now has 8.4 million views and was filmed last year, doesn’t take place in the gym. Instead, the video—called “I Bought My Dad A Car... This is His Reaction!!!—takes place at a car dealership, and at his parents’ Missouri City home.

He explains at the beginning of the video that his father drives a 2005 Honda Element whose broken speedometer has clocked over 300,000 miles, and that he’s going to surprise him with a new Cadillac SRX for his birthday. When his shocked dad sits in the brand-new car and says, “No one has ever bought me anything,” you too will probably cry. And if nothing else, you will agree with commenter Nina85 M:

“Very handsome and amazing son.”

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