Meet the Young Men Paying to Attend Mogwarts, an Online School for Becoming Hot

If Harry Potter were set in today’s world, there might be a plotline where Ron Weasley falls down an online rabbit hole and gets really into looksmaxing, the practice by mostly young men of trying to “maximize” their appearance with skin creams, jawline exercises, and in extreme cases, expensive surgeries. Imagine him hitting the gym and chugging wizard steroids all in the hopes of getting swole to impress Hermione.

For $10 a month, you can roleplay as something similar as a “Moggle” enrolled at the Mogwarts school for self-improvement. (In looksmaxer lingo, “to mog” means to assert dominance over someone else by being hotter or buffer than them.) The program is hosted on Skool, a digital community-creation platform. Group members must pay to access the channel, which includes threads of looksmaxing advice and a “calendar” that lists upcoming advice classes. Mogwarts functions something like a 24/7 virtual locker room hangout, with a perpetual text chat to discuss tips and daily happenings. Most users join to get feedback from others on their looksmaxing progress, but it’s also designed as a space for people to share anything going on in their lives and befriend those similarly committed to bettering themselves.

Mogwarts currently has over 2,000 paying members. It was started by the beauty influencer Kareem Shami, who has parlayed male-oriented self-help tips into over 1.5 million TikTok followers. He told me he got into looksmaxxing after being bullied for his acne and size in high school. His looksmaxxing journey included clearing up his acne with Accutane; stretching his jawline; and routinely using Volufiline, an oil made of plant extract that supposedly adds fat under the skin (but that hasn’t been extensively researched), to ameliorate his eye bags. The before-and-after pictures are impressive. He proudly flexes the glow-up in TikToks that have amassed tens of millions of views. Shami, currently a college student in California, conceived of Mogwarts as a hate-free space for young men looking to have a similar evolution, a positivity-oriented haven for people trying to improve themselves. To many observers, this is something of an oxymoron: Looksmaxxing is a community with a reputation for toxic behavior and a fixation on unhealthy male beauty standards. Is it possible to build a digital utopia out of a self-loathing subculture?

There are clear benefits to Mogwarts, especially for young men, a demographic not known for caring much about personal hygiene. It could help shatter taboos about whether skin care is “manly” and lead people to feel more confident about their looks. Yet it’s nearly impossible to neatly delineate the boundary between what’s helpful and harmful in the Mogwarts community. The result is a beautification college: weekly classes with influencer-professors, guest Q&As with icons in the looksmaxxing scene like Brett Maverick, slideshows, and dozens of pages of tips and diagrams on everything from attaining katana-sharp jawlines to finding a loyal girlfriend. There are monthly challenges like Best Before/After Jawline and Best Skin Glow-Up where members post images of their self-improvement and win rewards like getting access to exclusive livestreams and private advice calls. New messages flood the Skool chat at all hours, which is partly because Mogwarts incentivizes participation: The more you post, the higher rank you become, and the more secret knowledge you unlock from Shami. Level 2 gets you access to a private group chat with only 17% of Mogwarts members, and at Level 4 you’ll be invited to an even more exclusive channel called the VIP Inner-Circle with just 5% of members. At the highest level, 9 (no members have reached it yet), users receive a one-on-one call with Shami. It’s like masonic degrees but for trying to perfect every inch of your body. With thousands of paid members, Shami told me Mogwarts has brought in over $60,000, and he’s confident he’ll reach six figures by the end of 2024.

Mogwarts’s main selling point, beyond the advice, is that it offers a wholesome digital lounge in a very un-wholesome content genre. It’s largely not like the looksmaxxer forums online, which are cesspits of insecurities where posters demean boys for having subpar “canthal tilts” (the angle between the inner and outer corners of the eyes) and command each other to commit suicide by “ropemaxxing” or “shotgunmaxxing” if they think their genetics are too ugly to be redeemed. Mogwarts is also not like the worst kinds of viral looksmaxxer content on TikTok, like “brutal mog compilations” that denigrate people for being uglier than their friends. The potential for harm apparently led TikTok to block hashtags for “looksmaxxing” and “starvemaxxing,” a code word for intense diets, which can’t be searched for. (Earlier this year, #starvemaxxing had over 8 million views, according to Business Insider.)

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