interview by JANA LETONJA

Zane Hijazi is an American social media star, director, producer and podcaster. He rose to fame due to his comedy videos full of fun and sarcasm with a healthy dose of silliness. On 20th February, he released a documentary about his body transformation journey.

Zane, tell us more about your social media career, where you’ve built a community of over 13 million followers.
For more than 10 years, I’ve been deeply immersed in social media. Creating content, making videos and hosting podcasts with my best friends has been the highlight of my journey. It all started back in high school when I found myself spending most of my time online instead of going out with friends, mainly because I wasn’t allowed to. I often got grounded for my grades, so being stuck at home and on the internet became the norm. When I discovered the opportunity to create content online, I jumped at it. By staying consistent and connecting with others who shared my interests, I turned my hobby into a full time job. 

What made you pursue this career? How did it all begin?
It all started with my best friend Heath and me goofing around, making short, silly six-second videos during our lunch breaks at work. We’d brainstorm ideas, rush to meet up and push ourselves to fit our entire skit into those fleeting moments because Vine only allowed six-second uploads. For a solid two years, Heath and I stayed committed, consistently posting videos, even though it wasn’t bringing in any money. We did it because our audience loved the content and craved more. Then a few years later, we landed our first small gig to create a Vine video for a brand and things took off. We were amazed that you could actually earn money from the internet. Despite the excitement of turning our passion into a full time job, it’s relentless. My brain feels like it hasn’t had a break in a decade. Surprisingly, I’ve learned and accomplished more in this field than I ever did in my 12 years of formal education. 

As you mentioned, you started the podcast ‘Unfiltered’ with your friend Heath. What inspired you to create it and what is it all about?
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve just started Season 5 of our show and there’s no end in sight. The idea stemmed from our earlier vlogs, particularly a segment called ‘Coffee Talk’, where Heath and I would embark on a coffee run adventure. After three years of this, we thought why not transition these casual conversations into a podcast format. And then our show was born. Even now, we’re not entirely sure what our show is all about. We’re just four friends with different perspectives, sharing our thoughts on whatever’s happening in our lives. Every episode is a spontaneous adventure as we simply wing it and let the conversation flow naturally. 

How did it feel when the podcast became one of top 5 podcasts in US and it won the USA Today Award for Podcast of the Year in 2023?
The news of being ranked in the top 5 took us completely by surprise. We never imagined that so many people were tuning in to our show. It was truly humbling to find ourselves among so many other amazing creators and shows, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the support. 

From 20th February, your fans are able to watch your body transformation journey in the documentary. Why did you decide to do a documentary about it and what can we expect from it?
A lot of us tend to forget about ourselves and our health. I wanted to show people that it is achievable to have a better body and lifestyle. Especially from someone like me, because out of everyone on this planet, I’m the last person that I thought could complete a program like this. You can expect to see the struggles that I went through, some of the workouts that I did and my story from the very beginning. 

You went on this body transformation journey through partnership with Xeela fitness. Why particularly with them and how have they helped you on this journey?
Xeela was able to transform my friend Heath in the past, so I knew they could help me get the results and overall, I think they have the formula down. They have a series of onboarding steps that catered to my goals. Based on what I told them, they made a nutrition and workout plan for me, all of which everybody can get in the Xeela app. Aside from that, just having a team or trainer on your side that cares is really important.

With the body transformation you wanted to achieve your desired body fat and implement a healthy lifestyle. Tell us more about your goals prior the journey and how do the results satisfy all your set goals?
Last year, when I embarked on the challenge of completely transforming my body, it felt like something I had to do rather than something I truly wanted. Encouraged by a friend, I attempted it, but quickly realized I lacked genuine commitment and ended up quitting. However, a year later when I approached the Xeela team for another shot, there was no hesitation on their part. They recognized, as did I, that this time around I was genuinely invested. This shift in mindset was crucial. 

Initially, my goal was simply to get healthy and lose weight, a vague ambition. But when I set a specific target, reducing my body fat to 12 %, I gained clarity and motivation. With the support of a solid team and friends cheering from the sidelines, I found the drive to persevere and surpass my goals. Reflecting on my journey now, I’m astounded by my physical transformation and the newfound confidence it has brought. In the beginning, I feared missing out on indulgences like cookies, cake and social outings. Yet, after committing to the process and rewiring my habits over several months, I’ve come to realize the true magnitude of those habits and their impact on my well being. The discipline and self-control I’ve cultivated throughout this journey are invaluable rewards that will continue to benefit me for a lifetime. 

Why is a healthy lifestyle so important to you, and should also be to every individual?
I just wanted to feel better. I think it’s important for everyone to realize good health improves all facets of your life, not just feeling good at the gym. 

What challenges does living in LA present for maintaining a healthy lifestyle? And what are the advantages for that in LA?
Living in LA presents challenges with tempting food options and busy lifestyles. However, advantages include access to fitness studios, outdoor activities and a health conscious community, making it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

What can your fans expect next from you? Are you already working on new, exciting projects?
Heath and I have a new show coming out at the end of February, which we’re both thrilled about. I’m always working on new and exciting projects. Whether it’s creating and directing new content or exploring different creative ventures with Heath, our viewers can expect plenty of surprises in the future. 

all photography MAX MONTGOMERY