Who is Sam Asghari, Britney Spears’s boyfriend?

The star’s fiance is working on his own path to fame in a year that has put him in the spotlight

Sam Asghari is a nascent actor and former personal trainer. But this highly polite, handsome and friendly 27-year-old is better known to millions as the fiance of a 39-year-old woman who was, for years, the biggest pop star in the world, control over whose personal life and $60 million estate was, 13 years ago, stripped from her and reassigned to her father and a court-appointed lawyer in a controversial and secretive arrangement from which she has been forcefully, publicly – and, at last, successfully – trying to extricate herself; a woman who has been, for years, photographed in the regular company of no adult save Asghari, and whom he declines to acknowledge, by name or even by oblique reference, as a condition of granting an interview.

That Asghari's extremely famous fiancee, Britney Spears, is engaged to marry him is one of few details about her private life that is public knowledge. Both have said in interviews that they met in 2016 when he appeared in a music video for her single Slumber Party, in the role of contemplative observer as she crawls down a banquet table to lap up what appears to be spilled milk.

Since then the pair have shown themselves together many times on their Instagram accounts – typically engaged in a physical fitness activity, relaxing in a cloudless vacation spot, mugging to the camera at close range or some configuration of all three. The couple announced their engagement on Instagram in September (he with a photo, she with a compilation of clips in which she flashed her diamond ring to the camera).

Sam Asghari's flouting of the presumed omertà that muzzled discussion, or even acknowledgment, of Britney Spears's conservatorship from anyone it directly affected left spectators ravenous to hear more from him

But particulars relating to virtually every other aspect of Asghari's fiancee's life are known only to individuals with access to confidential court records pertaining to the conservatorship that governed her existence since 2008, and was terminated by a judge last week. Her relationship with Asghari necessarily sprouted within the parameters of this legal contrivance, the terms of which are so thoroughly concealed that, for more than a decade, outsiders could only guess as to how anyone in her circle – let alone how she herself – felt about it.

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Then Asghari spoke out. On February 9th this year he posted an Instagram story – a temporary item that disappears after 24 hours – with text that read, “I have zero respect for someone trying to control our relationship and constantly throwing obstacles in our way.” The ostensible target of his ire was his girlfriend’s father, the custodian of her estate, to whom Asghari referred by name in the same message, using an obscenity.

Asghari’s flouting of the presumed omertà that muzzled discussion, or even acknowledgment, of the conservatorship from anyone it directly affected left spectators ravenous to hear more from him.

Asghari obliged, after a fashion. He posted information on Instagram about a home teeth-whitening system, the Submersible Bronzo Blu Abisso 42mm watch from Panerai, Smrtft adjustable dumbbells, and a custom-built Jeep Rubicon. He uploaded images of himself modelling and videos of himself working out. He shared clips and trailers for TV shows in which he had been cast in bit parts as sundry devastatingly handsome men. He has also continued to post about his support for his fiancee; on Friday, he shared a photo of himself flexing, wearing a #FreeBritney T-shirt.

But none of his posts satisfied onlookers’ most pressing curiosities: Who is Asghari? What is his life like? And how did any of this happen?

ASGHARI ARRIVES at a predetermined location in downtown Los Angeles for our photo shoot and hour-long interview, and is joined by his publicist, Brandon Cohen (reticent; black T-shirt; frequently holding phone to ear), and his creative director, who goes by Maxi (garrulous; pink plaid suit; frequently everywhere).

In advance, Asghari has agreed to teach his interviewer some of the action stunt work he has been working to master. This should provide a natural foray into a discussion of his career goals (action stardom).

Yet, on the day, this plan falls apart completely, its individual components skidding out of reach in previously undiscovered directions. For instance, upon learning that the interview contains no video component, Maxi and Cohen profess disbelief and scepticism that Asghari’s stunt demonstrations can be expressed in any format but one designed for the broadcast of moving visual media.

At the suggestion that the essence of the stunts, as well as specific manoeuvres, could be described in writing and then pictured by the reader, Maxi voices strong doubt, “because I have a vivid imagination,” and “I can’t visualise it” – and his dubiousness means that the stunt demonstration is never attempted.

Cohen and Maxi have also understood the interview to have different start times; according to one of the timelines, a photographer, who arrives for the shoot exactly on time, is either 45 or 90 minutes late. At one point Maxi declares that the hour-long interview will take 15 minutes.

In conversation, Asghari – who moved to California from Iran at the age of 12 to live with his father, who had emigrated seven years earlier – is pleasant. He is loath to express dissatisfaction of any kind, about anything, or to acknowledge any familiarity whatsoever with that state.

Asked what aspect of everyday life he initially found hardest to adjust to after leaving his mother and sisters in Tehran as an adolescent, to travel to a foreign country whose language he did not speak, to live with a father he had not seen since the age of four, Asghari replies: “To be honest with you, it wasn’t hard for me at all. It was easy for me.”

While he exhibits it sparingly, Asghari has a knack for deadpan humour. The effect is enhanced by his chiselled facial features, which do not immediately suggest comedy

Asked to identify the worst job he has ever had, Asghari, who says his pre-acting work included a stint at a Best Buy electronics store and rolling sushi for quinceañeras – girls’ 15th birthday parties – says each job was as enjoyable as the last, because “I find happiness in every job.”

Asked to rank his work endeavours in order of priority, Asghari explains that he prioritises everything in life equally, even when stepping back from it, as he has done with his career in personal training. Asked which of his three older sisters he is closest to, Asghari says, “I’m closest to all of them.”

And when asked, flat out, “What is your job?” Asghari replies without hesitation: “I’m a plumber.”

While he exhibits it sparingly, Asghari has a knack for deadpan humour. The effect is enhanced by his chiselled facial features, which do not immediately suggest comedy; by his shatterproof earnestness, which leaves one unable to see his jokes coming; and by the fact that everything he says is delivered in the same calm tone.

Though deadpan humour can often be mean – a way to leave a straight man twisting in the wind – Asghari is not. His flippant responses are quickly and invariably followed by genuine answers.

“My job, at the moment, is acting,” he clarifies.

One of Asghari’s most widely seen – though blink-and-you’ll-miss-it – career performances was as a character credited as Sexy Santa in an episode of Hacks, a series that came out this year on the HBO Max subscription service. He appeared in a single scene.

“Acting is not necessarily just shooting TV shows and film,” Asghari says. “Stunt choreography, coaching, auditioning – those are part of that. So that’s a full-time job.” (For his own entertainment, Asghari says, he watches “performances, not shows”. Asked to name a performance he’s watched recently, Asghari says, “Hugh Jackman. I watch clips of him acting. Jason Statham. I watch clips of him acting.”)

Although his social-media posts often depict him in hot pursuit of physical fitness, Asghari describes personal training as his “waiter job” – that is, a job an aspiring actor holds until he can support himself with acting.

But while he is reorienting his professional trajectory, Asghari continues to be affiliated with an online personal-training subscription service, Asghari Fitness, which, he says, has about 1,000 subscribers.

For $9 a week, subscribers have access to video clips in which a man, sometimes but not always Asghari, demonstrates exercises including “Bulgarian split squat” and “dumbbell good mornings”, along with a suggested workout schedule.

Subscribers also receive a meal plan containing the recipes of up to three meals and three snacks a day.

The recipes are notable for their bare-bones formulations (a dish labelled "beef salad" requires 10 minutes' cook time, four ingredients and four lines of direction, of which the fourth is "Enjoy"), and for the fact that at least some of the accompanying photographs seem to have originated from other sources. (A reverse image search for the uncredited beef-salad photograph leads to a 17-ingredient recipe for "Vietnamese grilled Aussie beef salad" that, according to TrueAussieBeefandLamb.com, takes 40 minutes to prepare.)

His website was built by MacroActive, a company whose headquarters are in New Zealand, which supplies a ready-made online platform to aspiring coaches who can use it to host their own fitness-adjacent subscription services. Afluencr, a MacroActive subsidiary in Wales, provides additional management and design elements.

Asghari says that Asghari Fitness is “always going to be improving”, that “it’s very exclusive” and that “it’s not something that I’m pushing, or I’m not hoping to make millions of dollars off of it”.

A one-episode stint on HBO Max also “doesn’t pay your bills”, Asghari says. “If you’re on three, four different films, yeah, it pays your bills.”

None of which quite explains how Asghari pays his bills – or what they are.

“My biggest expenses are my career,” he says, citing stunt and acting coaching as specific costs. “That’s what I spend money on.”

IF ASGHARI IS the heart of the Sam Asghari business, Maxi and Cohen are the palpitations. Maxi interrupts Asghari's interview to compliment how it is going; to grab a bagel he had left behind; to suggest answers to various questions to Asghari, some of which Asghari disagrees with; to eat the bagel; to announce 15 minutes into the interview that there are 10 minutes left (there are 45 minutes left); to request that Asghari change back into a pair of jeans he had asked him to change out of; to express gratitude for all that the interview is revealing to him about Asghari; to declare, while painting gentle curves of green emollient on to Asghari's face, "He doesn't need makeup"; to advise that the article that will result from the interview be titled "Starring in the Mel Gibson movie" (Asghari is currently filming a movie with Gibson); to stand before Asghari and, while Asghari is in the middle of a sentence, dab at his lips with a Baby Phat Pink Rose Gold Glitter Hydrogel under-eye mask; to jump in with quick comments, and then say "delete delete delete".

Asghari appears habituated to sudden disturbances. After each disruption he retrieves the path of his thoughts as nonchalantly as a storm-blown songbird recovers its migratory route to the tropics.

Asghari met Maxi eight years ago, “at someone’s random house that he was visiting”, Maxi says. Asghari was working as a personal trainer at the time.

“And so I met Sam and I said, ‘Oh, you’re the next Superman!’” says Maxi, speaking at the speed of ice cubes being blended into iced coffee. “Got him an agent, got him all that.”

It was Maxi’s suggestion, Asghari says, for him to “start acting”.

The function of the “director” in Maxi’s “creative director” title is “just to make myself sound glamorous,” Maxi says. “I’m just his friend, basically.”

“Just a friend,” Asghari echoes.

“His friend who’s taken control,” Maxi says, laughing.

“But, yeah,” Asghari says, “and then – – ”

“Because I started this,” Maxi says.

Cohen, on the other hand, first contacted Asghari six years ago by Facebook Messenger.

“I had a feeling that if I started to work with him, and represented him, that I could get him great opportunities and build his career from nothing to where it is today,” he says. “I just had an intuition and gut feeling. And, as a rep, sometimes you just look at someone and you see – – ”

“See how he said ‘nothing’ to ‘where he is today’?” Maxi stage-murmurs to Asghari. They both laugh. “He’s, like, ‘I took a speck of dirt…’”

“No!” Cohen says, in protest.

Cohen says that Asghari hung up on him during their first scheduled call. “So I call back, like I always do,” he says. “I just kept calling and being persistent and being there.”

“We just, ever since then, worked together.”

THERE IS NO QUESTION that Asghari has acquired a team with a fervent, urgent desire for him to succeed. But their hands-on approach and sheltering management of their adult client's life create a veil through which Asghari remains largely indiscernible.

While Maxi and Cohen’s exact responsibilities relative to Asghari and to each other are not obvious, what is apparent is that, working in concert yet often also at odds, these two stewards of Asghari’s career together create an anxious alternate reality that they feel so powerfully that it intermittently supplants actual reality for everyone in the immediate vicinity.

It’s unclear which of the two desired that Asghari channel New York City in his Los Angeles photo shoot.

It is Maxi who deems the outfit Asghari wears to his interview – slim-fitting jeans and a storm-gray sleeveless hoodie that tightly frames his tremendous biceps – unsuitable for a photo shoot because “he’s not working for ThighMaster”; who styles the designer garments in which Asghari is instead photographed (“I would never wear any of this!” Asghari says cheerfully); who declares, “It’s a winter shoot,” as explanation for Asghari’s wearing a full-length wool and vegan-leather coat on a warm, sunny afternoon; who gives Asghari an “I Love NY” T-shirt to wear; who says, “We’re going out on the street to make it feel like the LA version of New York” and “Giving LA New York – that’s supposed to be the vibe.”

Yet it is also Maxi who is heard to object afterwards, “Brandon apparently said that I was creatively controlling something... Which I do not, just so you know.”

In the conjurings of his publicist and creative director, Asghari has, for almost a decade, been on track to be the next Superman. The long-anticipated attention of which he is at last the recipient is wholly attributable to his acting talent, work ethic and humility. That Asghari came to be betrothed to one of the most famous people in the world is irrelevant. Asghari’s stardom does not – must not, in any way – rely on his connection to her.

Ten days after the couple announced their engagement, a lawyer for Asghari’s fiancee cited her plans to execute a prenuptial agreement with Asghari – a process in which her financial conservator would play a major role – as further reason that her father should be suspended as conservator. Though the court granted the request, additional hearings were scheduled to determine future control over her life and finances.

At the first of those hearings, last Friday, a judge terminated the conservatorship, effective immediately.

Asghari, of course, has been subject to no legal constraints on how – and with whom – his money and time can be spent.

Aglow in butterscotch October sunlight, Asghari eagerly proffers his cracked iPhone to Maxi. He is keen to play a video of his latest stunt training.

“I care more about your shoot right now,” Maxi replies without watching, determined that Asghari should achieve his – Asghari’s – dreams. “We’ve got to get it done.”

Asghari lowers his phone, unfazed. As directed, he wades gamely into the ornamental vegetation outside a nearby municipal building and begins to pose. – This article originally appeared in The New York Times