Spanian: The Unstoppable Rise Of A Social-Media Superstar - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Spanian: The Unstoppable Rise Of A Social-Media Superstar

The former criminal has turned his life around and, in the process, built himself a budding media empire. We hear in Spanian’s own words what forced him to change – and whether, after everything he’s done, he’s going to heaven, or hell.

If we were to ask you to make a list of Australia’s cultural icons, you’d probably be tempted to start with the sporting arena. Names like Cathy Freeman and Shane Warne spring to mind; athletes whose talent and charm captured the heart of the nation. Elsewhere you might look to a particularly standout politician, or in recent years, an actor like Chris Hemsworth whose star power transcends our national borders. But what about a 36-year-old ex-con who goes simply by Spanian? Let us explain.

A career criminal turned rapper turned author turned social media superstar, Spanian sits somewhere between Ned Kelly and Chopper Read with just a hint of Russel Crowe thrown in for good measure. His life and career so far is quite literally the stuff of fiction. A drug addict in his early teens, Spanian spent the best part of 13 years in jail before finally deciding enough was enough. He took to music and achieved a degree of success as a rapper before realising his real talent was simply, well, being himself. Spanian then started a series of YouTube videos entitled Hood Logic where he takes his fans through his past criminal escapades, including high-speed chases, corrupt police officers, prison brawls, stabbings, the lot. You name it, Spanian has done it – and more. Guy Ritchie would struggle to create a story line quite so unbelievable.

But this is merely the first few chapters of the tale. It’s the next phase of his trajectory where things get really interesting. After achieving viral fame with his Hood Logic series, it would have been easy to double down and keep doing more of the same, pushing the ex-con narrative. Instead, Spanian branched out, and started what can only be described now as a budding social media empire. There’s his podcast The Search, a best-selling book about his life, one YouTube show about food called It’s All Eats, another about cars called Full Beast, not to mention his forthcoming fitness app, Limitless. There’s even a potential role in an upcoming Hollywood film. 

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

Each venture, from the podcasts interviewing criminal lawyers and UFO experts, to tasting Ghanian food for the first time in It’s All Eats, Spanian is not only pushing himself to try new things, but slowly but surely encouraging his audience to do the same. To his devoted followers, he has become something of a mentor, a role model on how to turn your life around for the better – even if he bristles at the term himself. 

Between all the projects, the one thing that keeps fans coming back again and again is Spanian and his unique brand of personality: raw charisma coupled with complete and unwavering authenticity. His complete aversion to anything but the truth – however harsh it may appear at times – may well be a publicist’s worst nightmare but, as he’ll tell you himself, he “doesn’t give a fuck”. Spanian will answer any question put to him regardless of the consequences of his answer – a trait that makes his conversation with Men’s Health all the more captivating. There are times when posed with a more ‘journalistic’ style of question, he looks at us with a weary look of scepticism that seems to say, ‘Cut the crap, mate.’ At others, he takes a question and runs with it, offering a degree of self reflection that doesn’t so much subvert perceptions of a steroid-using ex-con as completely obliterate them, forcing you to question your entire worldview in the first place. 

Condensed below, he touches on everything from his frustrations with his audience, to the dangers of steroid use and why listening to a Nick Cave song forced him to rethink making rap music. It’s Spanian the only way he knows how: raw and uncut.

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

MH: You’ve just got back from some travels around Europe. How was the trip?

Spanian: It was good, bro. It was tiring. The way I would describe it, it was almost more like a pilgrimage as opposed to a holiday. It was something that in the short term was not that enjoyable but in the long term is meaningful.  

MH: That’s interesting. Are you finding yourself doing that more in life now – you know, short term pain for long term gain?

Spanian: Not really, no. That’s the first time I’ve ever referenced anything like that.

MH: Fair enough. While you were away you teased your upcoming fitness app, Limitless. What can you tell us about that?

Spanian: A lot of my followers are at the point in their life where they are turning into men and they want to be muscly. So I get a lot of requests in my inbox: ‘How do I get big like you?’ I never put much mind to it. Then when I was looking for ways to connect to my followers, to produce content and make money, it was a given. 

The substance is general training but it has my spin on it. It’s based on what I’ve learned through trial and error – through jail, through training in the streets. We put together a package that is personalised for the user and it also has a food plan which is also tailored to you personally. 

MH: When did you first start training?

Spanian: Training was one of the things that got me off drugs. I first started training in boys’ homes when I was 15, 16 years old. I’d go in, get a bit buff, then I’d get out and lose it; I never thought anything of it. I had a heroin addiction in my teenage years, then when I was 21, I got off drugs. The main thing of getting off drugs is that I was embarrassed with the way I looked and how I didn’t have any money. I wanted to have money and nice cars and all the flashy stuff you see in the movies. So training was a big part of that. It’s become a part of my life, like showering. 

So after I got off drugs and went through two weeks of withdrawals and I had the energy to walk around, I had a vague memory from boys homes of what to do. I immediately went out to the jail gym and I started doing the machine bench press and the machine cable row and, you know, I wouldn’t do legwork back then because I didn’t have knowledge, it was just about puffy chest and arms. And I just kept training and experimenting through my years in jail and that’s all I had. All anyone does in jail is talk about dramas or use drugs or train. So I had to have one of them.

MH: Does training have an impact on your mental health, too, or is it just about looking big and strong?

Spanian: That’s a hard question. There’s definitely no form of what I would call a stress relief aspect to it. Not at all. I hear people talk that up all the time. ‘Exercise releases your stress or helps with anxiety.’ For me it does absolutely none of that. And that’s not why I use it. I use it because of two things. I like to look good; I like to be attractive. That’s the major thing. I like people to look at me, be attracted and think, What a machine. I like people to be in envy of me. There doesn’t always have to be some great poetic deep reason why you exercise. 

Then a very strong supplementary reason why I train is to defend myself. It gives you the edge. There’s the higher risk that you’re gonna defend your own life if you are strong and fit than if you’re not. It is literally a matter of life and death, especially coming from the life I come from. If you are weak and someone can grab you and manipulate your limbs, well then you’re at the mercy of them. That’s a very powerful thing, you know what I mean?

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

MH: On social media you have been quite open about your steroid use. Can you tell me about why you started in the first place?

Spanian: So the great thing about training in jail is you have no access to steroids. But when I got out, I was always hearing about steroids. Because you see these elite bodybuilders and when someone breaks a world record, people always say it was because of steroids. So I thought with steroids, you inject this stuff and all of a sudden your veins are pumping and you’re the next world champion.

I learned they’re not like that. Maybe I’m very sensitive to substances, but both times I’ve used steroids, it’s almost unbearable. It’s effective but nowhere near what you think.

MH: Why did you stop?

Spanian: Forget all the bloody cholesterol, the heart disease. Forget that shit. Because that’s the shit no one cares about. Because when you don’t see it, it doesn’t matter, right? But I tell you what, mentally and spiritually it’s the hardest thing to bear. People only talk about the mental side, that it makes you aggressive. That’s nothing. It really changes you as a person. And I’m not just talking about your attitude. It changes your hobbies, it changes the things you care about.

It takes the art and spirituality out of all your observations. So, you know, when you hear a song and you feel the song? That can’t happen on steroids. You just don’t feel it. You become almost reptilian. It’s like that thing that makes you human, where you can look at a piece of art and say, That’s beautiful. That song, I’ve got goosebumps. When it’s such a nice day and you get that cosy feeling. All of those things go. You turn into a lizard that has some ultra focus on a very narrow thing with a complete disregard or even ability to focus on other things in life. 

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

MH: Wow. That makes a lot of sense. The fitness app is not the only thing you’ve been working on. Your podcast The Search has really taken off. But you’re more used to being on the other side of the camera – did it take some adjusting being the interviewer?

Spanian: A hundred per cent. It’s definitely a lot harder. Being on someone’s podcast or being interviewed by someone is easy. Being the director of that conversation is hard… look, it’s harder. It’s not hard. It’s not hard at all. I’m not gonna talk the moon up about it. It’s talking. That’s all it is. 

MH: Do you listen to podcasts yourself?

Spanian: No, I’ve never listened to a podcast in my life. I’m not gonna sit there and listen to people talk for an hour and a half. But I have the ability to talk and the ability to be entertaining. And everyone loves podcasts, so I thought I’d do one. 

MH: You’re clearly a deep thinker and knowledgeable on a wide range of topics. If you don’t listen to podcasts, how do you consume your information? Do you read?

Spanian: Fuck man, I don’t know. I never read. It’s hard to tell why I know the things I know. You’d be surprised how much you learn just by existing. If you hear things and you register what you’re hearing and you see things and you register what you see, there’s infinite amounts of knowledge that just pass over our heads every day. I dunno, maybe it was in the cells on a TV or something; I have no idea. 

MH: One of the compelling things about the podcast is the diversity of your guests. One week you’ll have YP from ONEFOUR, next week you’ve got an NFT expert. What’s the process of picking your guests?

Spanian: I’ll give you the inside scoop. The audience is shallow, right? That’s 80-90% of the audience. And if I talk about crime, if I get a rapper to say something cool then I get a lot of views and I get a lot of money. But I try to be a bit better than that. Because I believe this podcast can be something greater. It doesn’t have to just be what gets the most money. We can open people’s eyes up to different things. But I feel like I’ve unfortunately had a bit too much faith in today’s media consumer.

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

Because when I do something that you would say is interesting or a beneficial podcast, like China, NFTs, UFO experts, a refugee… these are cool inspirational stories but at the end of the day, bro, they don’t want to click. If I get someone to talk about an armed robbery or I get a rapper on, I’ll get up to 400,000 views. If I talk about anything that’s really important in the world, I’ll get 20,000 views. So it’s unfortunate. I don’t know how long I can push it on at the cost of business.

MH: You seem loath to portray yourself as some sort of teacher. You like to say you don’t care what your audience says or does, but at the same time you’re clearly trying to educate them in some way. Is that true?

Spanian: I guess. Look I am a ‘deep’ person on a level they don’t know about. So I try to give them me. I try to give them things I’m interested in; to show them you can be like this, but you can also listen to important stuff too. They just don’t want to.

MH: On top of the podcast, you have Full Beast, a car series you just dropped. And we hear you’re going into acting. Are you getting any formal training?

Spanian: The long term plan here is a Spanian movie. That came become before anything that we’ve ever talked about. That was the catalyst for the book: I had the intention of writing a successful book that one day will be turned into a movie. And that’s always the long goal. So yeah I’ve been doing proper auditions. I’ve properly auditioned for three major films: one Netflix one and two Hollywood ones. I’ve been rejected from two of them and I’m waiting to hear back from the third, which is a Hollywood film. But I’ll audition for 10, 20, 30 of them until I start starring in them. As soon as I get one, that’s the foot in the door. And then I’ll shine.

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

MH: Between the podcast, the app and the acting, you have a lot on right now. What’s the common thread uniting the different projects?

Spanian: My goal is to be a superstar. I don’t see any other goal. I’m Batman. I’m The Rock. I’m everything. It’s more of a mindset: I want to be the biggest thing on earth and I always look at it like that because it doesn’t allow me to ever be content or happy. Because if I’m like that all the time, I’m always gonna be the hardest worker, you know what I mean? 

I remember I was in jail a few times ago and there was this thing called MySpace. Then I got outta jail and it didn’t exist. And there’s this thing called Facebook. Then I got outta jail and no one uses it. And there’s this thing called Instagram. I don’t know how this stuff works, but I can almost guarantee that if I make the wrong moves now with no development, no evolution, no relevance; in three years, I’m gone. The app that I was famous on doesn’t exist anymore. There’s a new app that everyone’s using. ‘Oh, hey, remember me, I’m Spanian from the old app. Make me famous on this app too.’ Fuck off, idiot, we’re sick of you. I’m not dumb. I look at everything like everyone else. I get told, ‘No, bro, you are sweet. You’ve made it – you’ve got a full career in this.’ I’m like, Nah, in two years these people might not care who I am. 

As long as I always look at it through that lens, like I’m on a timer, I’m gonna make the most of this God-given opportunity. 

MH: Is there a point when you feel you will be secure, like you’ve made it and you can finally stop?

Spanian: When do people stop working? When does the construction worker stop? When does the lawyer stop? When does the doctor stop? Why would it ever stop? Do you make a lot of money and then say, Oh, I made heaps of money, so I don’t want money anymore. That point doesn’t exist. It stops when you’re forced to stop; when I’m not funny, when my talks aren’t relevant, when they’re not interesting anymore. Then I’ll look back and I’ll decide if I was happy or not. But until then, why would I ever stop?

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

MH: What is your metric for success then?

Spanian: If you are talking about the career of Spanian, the business, it’s only money. That’s what a career is. Like, if you started a construction business, what is your metric of success? You don’t give some passionate speech about how you fell in love with the wall you built. It’s really based on how you secured your life and your family’s life into the future. But I don’t relate that to Spanian the person. None of these things have a bearing on my happiness or my sadness. I don’t give a fuck from a happiness standpoint, I don’t care if Spanian goes tomorrow, I really don’t give a fuck. I’ll just be a bit sad that I’ll have to go and get a job and work hard. This is literally just my business and I want to take it to the top but the word happiness doesn’t come into play here. Other things matter for happiness. Like when you wake up and you’re battling body dysmorphia or daily anxiety or your family’s happy. These are the real things that matter.

MH: So what are the factors that determine your happiness? 

Spanian: Having a day where I’m not ruled by anxiety. A day when I can appreciate the day, you know what I mean? When I’m feeling cosy. Having my shit together. Sometimes video games can make me happy. I’m happy when my partner’s happy. It’s things like that, brah, it’s more in-the-moment stuff. It has nothing to do with my bank account or YouTube views whatsoever. 

MH: To be a superstar these days can be quite fickle. People say the wrong thing and they can find themselves gone from the public eye almost immediately. Is that ever a concern for you?

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

Spanian: No. I’ll tell you why: I don’t give a fuck. I’ll be myself all the way to the bank and one day all the offended people may be offended at something I say, and I disappear. So what? Good. See you later. I’m going to the beach. I don’t care. My heart and soul isn’t in this; this is a job.

MH: Being famous and appearing in Hollywood movies is a big change from where you used to be. What made you turn your life around in the first place?

Spanian: It was during my last sentence, where I thought to myself, How many decades can go until you’ve lost the game? Like, when you were a teenager, you probably got drunk, acted like a clown and smoked some pot. When I was a teenager, I broke in and stole stuff. Who cares? I went to a boys’ home. So what? No difference. I’m not really at a loss there. 

But the twenties, it’s like, Alright, this is where you started a career, you had some adventures and explored parts of the world. I didn’t do that. I just stayed in jail the whole time. So that’s definitely a big loss. That’s a big step back. How many step backs until I’ve lost?

Like, do I lose my thirties and then I’m some semi wrinkly, unhealthy 40-year-old jail bird that’s never done anything? Nah, you’ve lost mate! I’m sorry but the way I see it, and this may be disheartening to a lot of people, but I think I would rather dishearten the 42 year olds that have thrown their life away if I can scare the 28 year olds into changing. But mate, if you are 40 and you are trying to change now, just stay on drugs bro. What’s the point? What are you gonna do mate? You’re 40. Like, do you think you’re gonna get a hot girlfriend? Save up for a house? Please! You made the wrong choice. Make the best of it. 

I thought, I’m not doing that. I have to stop now. I’m already about four steps back, but I’m smart. I’ll make up for those four steps. I got released when I was 31. And I thought, That’s it. Like, it’s time for me to catch up and dominate the world. 

I loved the adventures and the crime and all the stuff that I lived; the fights and the violence and the money. All of that stuff can be cool as the story of my life as long as I fix it and do something. I can talk about my past and I can go, Whoa, that was crazy! But if I don’t turn it around then it’s just a loser story. It’s just a sad story.

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

MH: Is there anything about your former life that you miss?

Spanian: Nah, there’s nothing. Nothing at all about it that I missed. By the time I stopped it, I was well over it. It wasn’t a short thing to me. I wasn’t a criminal for five or six years. It was the entirety of my life. So I was well over it. 

MH: Is there anything that could pull you back into that lifestyle?

Spanian: No. It disgusts me. It repels me.

MH: You have mentioned in the past that you don’t feel regret or remorse for anything in your past. Why is that?

Spanian: I’ll tell you why. Because in the world that I come from, there’s things that are called ‘putrid acts’ and they’re not the same as what you and what society sees as putrid acts. Society sees someone stealing someone’s car, Oh that’s so putrid. We don’t see that. In the world I come from, we see putrid acts as rape, child molesting, violence to old people; you know, kidnapping and torturing women. These are the things that from the world I come from, you would be embarrassed if you did. And if you are a half normal person would feel ashamed and have remorse about. 

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

I’m the same Spanian. I’m not a criminal now but I’m not a different person. People gotta remember, I grew up in a cage. I walk and talk and act like I’m in a cage. The way that I walk, it’s like how people walk in jail yards. The accent that I use is the stock standard Sydney jail accent. Every part of me has been formed and developed in jail. So all of a sudden my threshold for empathy and regret is gonna change? It hasn’t, you know what I mean? I have pride in myself because I didn’t do any of those putrid acts. So, what do I have to feel sorry for? I tell people, gimme a specific case. Do I feel sorry because 18 years ago I stole that Ford Laser from East Lakes and that bloke was upset about it. No, I don’t, I don’t feel sorry for that. I genuinely don’t. He was upset and I was upset – I went to jail. That’s life. 

But I’ll tell you what, if I had ever done any of those putrid acts and they were in my heart forever, if I’d done something to women or bashed an old man, or some shit like that, then I would feel bad about that and I would regret it. But I don’t have any of that stuff. 

MH: In your current position wouldn’t it at least be easier to feign remorse?

Spanian: So much easier! The people would dress me up as the hero, like I’m the anti-criminal now. I’d be so much more brand safe, so much more sellable. But… I don’t know, I just don’t care enough to pretend. If they like me, they like me. If they don’t, they don’t. And bro, those ex-criminals are boring! Every ex-criminal comes out and cries to everyone. That’s why they’re not Spanian – they’re boring.

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

MH: Let’s finish on rap music. That was your first start in entertainment but you recently stopped releasing music. Why was that? 

Spanian: I have a real fear of hell. So I have this fear that when you influence people to do bad stuff, logically I think about it and wonder, Why is that not worse than doing the bad thing yourself? Influencing people on a mass scale to feel a certain negative way, that’s a lot of negative energy you’re putting out there. 

So I believe in the afterlife. And it’s like, What if we don’t understand the power of influence? What if that is like some really bad sin? It’s one thing for me to stop crime. Okay, sweet. Now I’m out here and I’m legit. Okay. I’m semi doing good and I’m positively impacting people and I’m sort of like a mentor, too. Oh wow, that’s really good. But then I make songs that make people feel aggression and hatred. And these get listened to in the hundreds of thousands. That’s a fear for me. It’s like, How long can I do that? What if I die one day and they go, Mate, you fully make murder songs. Do you know how many kids are playing your murder music? Like, you’re fucked! You’re going with the fucking monsters in hell. 

So when I hear good music like that Nick Cave song [‘Into Your Arms’] or Michael Jackson music, that’s positive, I think to myself, Fuck, I’m not gonna make any more music. I’m stopping rapping now, and if I can manage to make music that doesn’t add to my list of sins, that isn’t something that I may have to answer for when I die, then I’ll make that music. 

Photography Seshanka Samarajiwa. Art direction Matt Wilson. Production Nikolina Ilic.

It’s not as easy as just saying, ‘It’s just music’. What do you mean it’s just music? Half the people I know are criminals because they listened to 2Pac. Gangster music and gangster movies changed the world. I know first handedly that it makes you dream of those sorts of things and aspirations as a kid. So those people that produce those movies, they have literally shaped the youth of the world in some small way. That’s a big thing to answer for. 

Look, I don’t know how it works. I don’t know what happens when you die, but I’m not gambling on that anymore.

MH: So right now, are you on the way to heaven or hell?

Spanian:  I’m on the trajectory to heaven. Yeah… well, look… I don’t know bro. I don’t know how it works. But do I think I’m on the trajectory to heaven? 100 %.

LIMITLESS, Spanian’s fitness app will be out before Christmas;

By Christopher Riley

Christopher Riley is the editorial director of Men’s Health and Women’s Health, and the editor-in-chief of Esquire Australia. Formerly deputy editor of GQ, Riley published his first book in 2022, with Penguin Random House.

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