Zac Efron who started to be famous with High School Musical in 2006, has never short of teenage admirers.
Zac Efron who will melt mothers hearts 32-year-old appears on his new Netflix travel series, Down To Earth, as we’ve never seen him before.
He’s ditched the boyband look and is rugged, bearded and rocking a “dad bod”, sending social media into meltdown and bringing him an even larger – and older – fanbase.
Writer Katie Glass, 39, is one of them.
Here, she reveals why she cannot resist Zac’s new image.
If you’d asked me last week who Zac Efron was, I would have told you he was a squeaky-clean Disney heart-throb who attracts screaming 12-year-old girls.
So it came as something of a shock when, this week, I watched Efron’s new Netflix show, Down To Earth, and found he had transformed from a manicured, smooth-cheeked, child-Ken Doll into an unlikely and weirdly sexy cross between Sir David Attenborough and Bear Grylls.
The Efron I remembered best was a hairless boy wonder with a Gap wardrobe and Justin-Bieber haircut, playing Troy Bolton in High School Musical.
His career since seemed to consist of playing endlessly ridiculous characters with ridiculous bodies and ridiculous names: Link Larkin in Hairspray, Matt Brody in Baywatch and Teddy Sanders in Bad Neighbours.
If Efron was typecast, it was as a baby heart-throb obsessed with getting his top off.
Yet, oddly for a pin-up, no women I knew actually fancied him. No woman wants to jump into bed with someone who reminds them of their little brother.
There is limited attraction to dating someone you’d always have to pay for, cook for, tidy up after and drive home.
But now, wow, have things changed. Gone is the baby-faced Efron with his wind-tunnel hair, manscara-clad lashes and waxed chest.
Suddenly, in his place is a real man with a thick beard, ruffled mane and hairy barrel chest.
Now, instead of 12-year-old girls screaming over Zac, it’s their mums. And myself.
Social media is on fire with middle-aged women cooing over the older, beefier and more rugged Efron, describing him as “perfection” as they drool over his broad shoulders, swollen body, silky beard and unkempt hair.
As one person said: “I’d like Zac Efron’s parents’ phone number so I can just leave a three-minute voicemail of me applauding.”
Or, as another woman demanded to know: “Why hasn’t Zac Efron been voted sexiest man alive?”
When the New York Post ran an article pointing out Efron’s new “dad bod” transformation, women furiously started to tweet: “If you think Zac Efron has a dad bod, please give me your dad’s phone number.”
Whoever cut the trailer for Down To Earth — an eco-friendly travel series that sees Efron adventure around the world looking for sustainable ways to live — clearly under-stood Efron’s new audience, and the actor’s new “real man” appeal.
The trailer features lingering shots of the sweaty, muscular star handling swords, hacking at trees and joking about whether he needs a “safe word” (surely a nod to Fifty Shades’ Christian Grey).
After years of playing clean-cut, smooth-cheeked, ab-chiselled chick magnets, it’s amusing that it’s this wilder, wider and far more realistic version of Efron that has really got women excited.
But I don’t know why anyone’s shocked — in his new incarnation, Efron looks like a man rather than a child.
He is proof that after a few years in which we tried fancying boyish Harry Styles types, all we really wanted was a big-bearded, big-shouldered hunk. (Did someone say Daddy issues?)
No doubt Efron’s new image also appeals to women sick of unrealistic body ideals and yo-yo dieting.
Efron has spoken before about how when he made 2017’s Baywatch he “nearly lost his mind” living on an egg-whites-and-air diet.
“I realised when I was done with that movie that I don’t ever want to be in that good a shape again,” he has said.
“It was so hard. You’re working with almost no wiggle room . . . it’s just stupid, it’s just not real.”
In Down To Earth it is sexy watching Efron tuck into fresh ravioli in Sardinia, sighing: “I’m so happy I can eat carbs again,” as oil drips from his chin. It makes a woman like me want to run into the kitchen to knock up a tasty lasagne for him.
It’s not surprising real women like real men — we go wild for them every time they’re on our screens.
We get far less excited about baby-faced boy bands than we do about watching Daniel Craig as Bond, Aiden Turner as Poldark or Idris Elba in . . . anything.
Efron’s new “dad bod” may not fit a chiselled Hollywood ideal or Men’s Health magazine cover standards, but his body is attractive precisely because it looks real.
It is robust, not ripped. It looks genuinely fit.
Unlike pampered Love Island boys only good for gym posing, the new Efron looks like he could get some real work done — chopping wood, digging vegetables, building houses, felling trees.
No wonder that’s attractive when we are living through Armageddon.
Ultimately though, Efron’s appeal in Down To Earth is more than skin deep. It’s not just his body but everything about him that appeals.
Rather than some stuck-up, unrelatable travel host pontifi-cating on complex historical facts, Efron comes across as someone who seems genuinely interested in exploring the world around him, and in the show’s mission to find ways to support and save the planet.
Efron has matured.
From a pretty, vacant dreamboat frat boy he has ripened into someone meaningfully engaging in the world.
That in itself is as hot as hell.
As another fan summed it up on Twitter: “Zac Efron has always been hot. But him caring about the planet makes him hotter. It’s just science.”