The internet knows Matthew Olsheski as the Shirtless Violinist.
In his YouTube videos, he plays renditions of popular songs on the violin shirtless. His playing is often accompanied by a story unfolding on-screen, lending gay twists to well-known love stories.
Music is not the limit of his interests, however. He also has a deep love of fitness and positivity, as shown in one of his most recent Instagram posts, in which he preaches body positivity.
GSN spoke to Olsheski about his view on body image as a gay man — and how people might perceive him speaking out this while having an ‘ideal’ body.
‘If the voices of so-called “ideal bodies” are excluded from this conversation, where does that leave us?’ Olsheski questioned.
‘Contrary to what many have espoused, the solution isn’t ridding the world of sexy, underwear clad men. The solution is realizing that there’s more to our lives than this singular goal.’
He gave his love of music as an example: ‘My content places a lot of emphasis on disciplined musicianship, and I value that far more than my body (my abs will fade, but I’ll always play the violin!).’
He admitted he could have posted a fully clothed photo, but it wouldn’t have been honest.
‘The point I want to clearly make is: Sexy is okay; sexy is fun; but sexy isn’t everything. I even revealed in the post that the man I love and go to bed with every night doesn’t have a perfect body. I think a lot of people would be surprised to know how little I value physical attributes. When I met my boyfriend Paul, I fell in love with his smile, his confidence, and his heart.’
Body image presented a particular struggle for Olsheski growing up gay, and he discussed that.
‘As a boy growing up in the closet, looking at pictures of half-naked men in Calvin Klein ads (Hello, Marky Mark!) I was both confronted by feelings of sexual attraction and inferiority,’ he explained.
‘That is a unique combination within the gay community. I think it’s this combination that amplifies the issue for so many gay men. But the answer isn’t banning or shaming such depictions, it’s about changing the way we react to them.’
For Olsheski, it’s about shifting perspective.
‘That feeling of inferiority or “not good enough” needs to be addressed, especially by those in positions like mine. The more we talk openly about our fitness journeys and the importance of other things in our lives, the more balanced we’ll become. That’s because there’s a serious imbalance created when all the emphasis is placed on bodies – often ahead of our passions, relationships, and mental health.’
Speaking candidly without shame
Olsheski said the purpose of the post was partly to combat social media’s emphasis on the ‘fairytale life’.
‘Ultimately, this makes a lot of people feel crappy about themselves and I want to reduce that by talking openly and candidly. This isn’t just about a single post; it’s about the start of a much longer conversation.’
He also revealed he wants to start making this discussion a central and regular part of his platform, from celebrating all body types in his own work, to discussing things like eating disorders.
He told GSN: ‘ I believe a big problem generated by “idealized beauty” are eating disorders. If more people in my position talked candidly about what it really takes to achieve our fitness goals, I think we could start to dismantle the extremely unhealthy eating practices of so many people. It all begins with educating.’
Ultimately, Olsheski wants people to prioritize their own health — and that includes self-love.
‘It’s great to have fitness goals, but not at the expense of your other goals in life,’ he concluded. ‘I strongly believe when these things are given the attention they deserve, the race to have a perfect body becomes less and less important. Sure, you can still pursue it – but it doesn’t take up so much mental space.’