Words: Cliff Joannou / Will Stroude
It’s not farfetched to say that, to most gay men, François Sagat is as famous as Lady Gaga or Jesus.
His iconography is certainly as well-known — the tattooed scalp, muscled physique, and a generous posterior that is more of a watermelon than a peach.
With a career that has effortlessly traversed pornographic movies and arthouse film - including leading roles in arthouse films by celebrated directors Bruce LaBruce and Christopher Honoré - Sagat’s edge has allowed him to cross over into the fashion and style press.
As François poses for the cover of the Attitude Sex & Sexuality issue - out now to download and to order globally - the 41-year-old pin-up finds himself in a Parisian hotel dressed in lingerie, heels and, inevitably, little else.
François wears leather zip briefs by Transe Paris for the Attitude Sex & Sexuality issue (Photography by Ferry Van Der Nat; styling by Tom Eerebout)
There’s something about the Sagat ‘brand’ that has allowed the actor and model to transcend being classed as just another gay adult star and move into the realm of art, blurring the edges of sex on screen while also embracing a feminine side despite a brooding, gruff exterior.
"I was bullied in high school because I was kind of feminine and I was very tiny. I worked on my voice, but I had a very, very girly voice. I tried to be discreet, I didn’t want to be eccentric or whatever, but still people would pick on me because they saw that I was a little bit different," recalls François.
"I had a great childhood and family, but I had the worst school years. It was horrible."
A relatively late bloomer both personally and professionally, François shot to global infamy in the mid-noughties after starring in his first film aged twenty-five. After becoming a totem of Tom of Finland-esque hyper-masculinity almost overnight, it took several more years before François was able to bring his own, more transmutable relationship to his work.
François wears suspender tights by Calzedonia for the Attitude Sex & Sexuality issue (Photography by Ferry Van Der Nat; styling by Tom Erebout)
"People from fashion were interested in using me for campaigns and that’s when I started using my voice in interviews, and people got to hear me", the Cognac-born performer reflects.
"My fans were, like, 50/50 split; some were very disappointed that I was not the masculine beast they wanted me to be. I don’t see myself as masculine; I see myself as in-between."
François goes on: "I remember I started to play with genders. I still consider myself as a cis-gender guy, more or less, but I was not afraid to play with my femininity and be in heels or stockings or whatever. That was more interesting to me than the person that I was ‘supposed’ to be.
François wears dress and briefs by Transe Paris for the Attitude Sex & Sexuality issue (Photography by Ferry Van Der Nat; styling by Tom Eerebout)
"The real change for me happened [in 2009] when I worked with the French director Christophe Honoré in his film, Homme au bain, and in the same year I did LA Zombie with Bruce LaBruce. That year was a big turning point for me."
While others may have taken the easy route of leaning into masculine ideals to underpin their onscreen brand, François declares that pandering to the crowd has never been part of his artistic process.
"When you do that, when you choose to be very comfortable playing with genders, you also choose your people, you define the people who are interested in accepting your experience. I never really cared about disappointing people", François explains.
"That’s why I played with image. I’m OK to not be attractive to this guy or to that guy, it’s fine. There will always be people that will be up for it.
François wears briefs by Rufakin, shoes by Abra for the Attitude Sex & Sexuality issue (Photography by Ferry Van Der Nat; styling by Tom Eerebout)
"People who have a lot of issues with their own confidence, they just don’t get it — maybe it’s that they’re not comfortable with themselves. You must see yourself as having a range of identities."
He adds: "I think there’s variations. I always think about percentage. Sometimes I have my 50 per cent of femininity, maybe I’m more rough this week.
"The beard doesn’t make the man."
See the full uncensored interview and shoot with François Sagat in the Attitude Sex & Sexuality issue, out now.
Subscribe digitally to the Attitude mobile and tablet edition for just over £1 per issue (limited time only).