Brian Embly: 1st Runner-Up

2013 Coverboy of the Year

By Will O'Bryan
Photography by Julian Vankim
Published on December 12, 2013, 11:04am | Comments

Brian Embly

Brian Embly

(Photo by Julian Vankim)

Coverboy: Brian

Coverboy: Brian

(Photo by Julian Vankim)

The shy guy is not the one you expect to be baring it all, but that's exactly who Brian Embly is. The Hagerstown native who now calls Alexandria home may manage a clothing outlet by day, but the only clothes you'll find him in a few nights a week are his socks as he dances for patrons at Secrets in Southeast D.C.

''Growing up I used to be really self-conscious,'' the 22-year-old explains. ''That was the biggest thing about working at Secrets. 'Oh, my God. I'm going to be naked.' I'm actually pretty shy. When it comes to social situations, especially meeting new people, I'm usually the one to stand back.''

While letting it all hang out is definitely helping him become more outgoing, Brian says there is one bit that he tries to hide: the occasional puff he needs from his inhaler to treat his asthma. Did the other kids make fun of him for it when he was growing up? Does he fear others will pity his minor malady? No and no. Brian has no idea why he's inhaling on the down-low.

Coverboy: Brian

Coverboy: Brian

(Photo by Julian Vankim)

''I never got teased for having asthma,'' he shares, laughing at the memory. ''A lot of kids thought the inhaler was cool. Like, 'Can I try it?' No, you can't! I need this. Every pump counts. Still to this day, when I need to use my inhaler, I'm very secretive about it. I turn away from people to take a quick puff. I've always been that way. I don't know why that is. No clue.''

Having asthma, though, seems to have been a psychological burden as much as physical one. At least, it used to be. It's a lesson he learned in Texas, the backstory behind his October answer to something he never wants to do again: swim a mile.

At 14, Brian started working at a camp resort, leading craft lessons for the kiddie campers. At 16, however, he was eligible to be a camp lifeguard. He took to the new job so well that management asked him to be a lifeguard supervisor. He'd just need to get certified, which meant heading out to Austin, Texas.

Coverboy: Brian

Coverboy: Brian

(Photo by Julian Vankim)

''We did all our training courses in the University of Texas swimming pool, big Olympic-size pool,'' Brian recalls. ''One of the tests we had to pass in order to get our certification was to swim a mile. It didn't matter how long it took us, we just had to swim it. It was like 9 o'clock in the morning, first thing. Everybody started at the same time. I wasn't last, surprisingly. But I got about halfway through, and I got really sick to my stomach. I couldn't breathe. I had to stop and I actually got sick. They were like, 'Well, you have to finish.' 'You're kidding me. I'm sick. I'm exhausted. I can't breathe.' They were like, 'Well, take a quick 5-to-10 minute break. Drink some water. But you still have to finish.' So I had to jump back in the pool at the spot I got out. It took me about 35 minutes to actually finish, but it was awful.''

Awful as it might've been, it helped Brian turn a corner.

''That did teach me something,'' says Brian. ''When I turned 7, I had a really bad breathing spell, had to be rushed to the emergency room. Come to find out that I had an extreme case of asthma. I've had asthma my entire life. As a kid I played soccer and I played baseball. After a couple years, my asthma got worse and worse, so I had to stop playing. Every five minutes I'd have to stop and use my inhaler. That was one of my biggest things -- finishing this whole mile of swimming. With my asthma, I couldn't breathe. That kind of scared me. But I took away that even though I have asthma, I may have a spell, it doesn't prevent me from doing what I want to do or what I need to do. I just need to fight through it. Give myself a break, calm down, and just get back into it.''

Coverboy: Brian

Coverboy: Brian

(Photo by Julian Vankim)

That's the sort of spirit that today has Brian working those two jobs, working toward a bachelor's in business administration, and generally diving into life. It may have also given him the confidence to be a Coverboy, which he says was a great way to really introduce himself to metro D.C. after moving to Alexandria to live with his boyfriend, Matt. It also pushed him to campaign hard when it came time for the Coverboy of the Year contest.

''Probably every day, two to three times a day, I'd post the contest link on my Facebook wall, ask people to vote for me,'' he says. ''I had a ton of friends sharing it every day. And I shared it on Twitter. I had a good support system.''

That support system likely comes from the sort of friend Brian is. Asked how his friends might describe him, the answer comes easily: ''Humble. A very caring person. Genuine.''

''Everyone -- even after just five minutes of talking to me -- sees me as just a down-to-earth guy,'' says Brian. ''I get along with everybody.''

Coverboy: Brian

Coverboy: Brian

(Photo by Julian Vankim)

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