But after speaking with Wakeford, I came to understand how People made their choice. I even came away kind of swooning for Rudd. Our delightful conversation about this very important topic, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity, follows below.
Wakeford: People staff meetings [for SMA] really should be a reality show. It’s like an intense debate with legal style arguments. There are suddenly raised voices and a lot of passion. We at People, we take our journalism very, very seriously and we take who we’re choosing very seriously, because it does lead the national conversation for that day. When you’re on the cover of the Sexiest Man Alive issue, you are the most talked about person in America for that day.”
CNN: So how’d you land on Rudd? (after much debate Wakeford is the final decision maker.)
Wakeford: “Well, everybody comes to the table with different names and different arguments to who they should think it should be. And when his name was mentioned, something clicked to me. It just felt right. He’s a slow burn. He’s someone who doesn’t push himself forward in a sexy way or in a dominant way. He doesn’t fall for the celebrity silliness. And he’s very focused on his craft and doing a good job. But when you talk to people about it, suddenly you get this surprising wave of intense enthusiasm and he’s just got it.”
CNN: How does your choice fit into the current moment?
Wakeford: “We want stability. And we want safety and we want comfort. Like the last two years have been so disconcerting. But we also want to laugh and he’s a good guy, always in on the joke. And so self-deprecating, and just meeting him, he’s just has such an amazing energy and yes, he’s cute in real life.”
CNN: So it’s his overall factor?
Wakeford: “Yes, he’s a good person. It’s not all about his looks. It’s not just about his green, soulful, hazel eyes. He’s smart. And he does good. He’s [raised] $13 million through charity [for] the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. He’s not a show off. He’s just a great guy and he’s just easy to like. I think I’ve never had so much positivity around the choice. When you think about it, he just reminds you of that the funny kid at school who’s in the back of the class, who was quiet and then would say something really funny and make you laugh.”
CNN: How did so many different people agree on the final choice?
Wakeford: “We have a lot of different personalities of people. And when you get different corners of different types of people all saying ‘yeah,’ I think that’s great.”
CNN: How did you choose the final cover shot?
Wakeford: “It’s all about the eyes and that intimate shot was just so amazing … and the little flash of the biceps. That subtle sexiness is what we like.”
CNN: And how did Paul react when he heard he was the chosen one?
Wakeford: “He was obviously happy and thought it was funny. He knew that everyone would be scratching their heads.”
So, Rudd is a funny, all-around great guy. Yes, that is sexy. Plus, now I am seeing in a new light Rudd’s eyes and the hair and well, I guess the biceps too.
Thanks for that, Dan.