Willie Payton swept his future wife Lavita Thompson off her feet at a swanky club a decade ago, and since then, the amateur cyclist from Flatbush has taken her on the ride of her life.
Payton, 37, is now one of 25 finalists in Redbook Magazine’s annual hottest husbands competition — and his wife of seven years thinks her 6-foot-3 hunk has the total package.
“I looked at the [prior winners] and was like, ‘My husband is hotter than that!’ ” she said.
Payton, a billing analyst at National Grid in Downtown Brooklyn, didn’t get to be “tall, dark and handsome” by eating bon-bons all day. He trains on his bike after work, and last weekend he finished 10th in a field of 50 in a Central Park competition.
And that’s what Nicole Yorio, an editor at Redbook, says makes Willie a stud.
“Willie is totally ripped from training on his bike,” she said.
But being truly “hot” is not just about looks. Payton appears to have gotten the nomination for the small gestures, such as skipping his normal bike commute in favor of taking the subway every morning with his wife to her job at New York Downtown Hospital.
“At lunch, I’ll get on the train and hop up,” said Willie. “Just give her the flowers, blow a little kiss and say, ‘OK, I gotta go.’”
Ray Sorensen, who was crowned champ last year, thinks that the little things like that will make Payton a strong contender.
“That’s awesome!” said Sorensen, 31, a graphic designer and painter from Iowa, famous for its pork, corn and hot husbands. “That’s the kind of stuff that makes a hot husband.”
Family is important, too. Payton has been a great stepfather to Lavita’s son Mujahid, 20, and he helped her get through the death of her oldest son, Taalib, then-22.
As the only Brooklynite in a field that includes teachers, paralegals, nurses and some military folks, Payton has a swagger that distinguishes him from his 25 challengers.
“I’m handsome! And my wife thinks I am, too!”
Lavita knew it on their wedding day, when Payton picked the song for the couple’s first dance: “You and I,” by Stevie Wonder.
“I mean, I haven’t heard of a husband picking a wedding song!” said Lavita.
Readers can vote for Willie at www.redbookmag.com/hothusbands. Voting ends on March 18. The winner gets a trip to Mexico.