Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Alix Earle’s “NFL Man” And The Appeal Of The Soft-Launch Boyfriend

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

He’s the sliver of sleeve in a mirror selfie, the shadowy silhouette in a sunset pic, and the second plate of pasta at a swanky Italian restaurant. He’s the definition of quiet luxury and by far the most sought-after accessory of 2023: he is the soft-launch boyfriend.

The idea of a relationship soft-launch has been around for a few years, and it has only grown in popularity since then. While the exact definition can vary, a soft-launch generally refers to posting a photo which hints at a significant other.

If you’re still struggling to grasp this concept, just look to the queen of our TikTok For You Pages herself: Alix Earle. Alix has crafted a candid online persona through GRWM story times that feel more like FaceTime debriefs with our best friends. So when Alix found herself falling for a new man, she turned to the trusty soft-launch.

Enter NFL Man. Otherwise known as Braxton Berrios, Alix’s boyfriend is aptly nicknamed NFL Man because he plays for the Miami Dolphins (a football team I definitely knew existed before they started dating). Over the course of nearly four months, Alix gave us glimpses into her budding romance but never revealed her new beau’s face until their first public appearance at the ESPYs in July of this year.

Even after going public with her relationship, Alix has continued using the NFL Man nickname and posting soft-launch-esque content. I can’t help but wonder: if Alix has taken her relationship into the hard-launch territory of the real world, why does NFL Man remain a somewhat elusive presence on her social media?


Ok never asking abt makeup again …?

♬ original sound – alix earle

To dissect the charm of the soft-launch boyfriend, we first need to examine the nicknames we attach to them. Think about your first crush in elementary school. After pinky-swearing each other to secrecy, my friends and I would concoct the most ridiculous aliases for our crushes. I don’t know if this is an original experience, but the name would almost ALWAYS revolve around food (shoutout to cake from fifth grade).

And while these conversations have definitely matured past the playground, our love for nicknaming our significant others/sneaky links/situationships/etc. has enjoyed an extended recess. Not only does keeping our partner’s name a secret prevent us from getting too invested too quickly, but it lets us spice up our stories and keep our friends on the edge of their seats.

But looking beyond these nicknames, the soft-launch boyfriend offers a particularly alluring opportunity: the ability to balance our love lives and our individuality. Looking at the portrayal of female celebrities like Taylor Swift in the media (this article in particular aged like milk), women are so often defined by their relationship statuses. And while most of us don’t have to deal with that level of public scrutiny, it can still feel frustrating when it seems all anyone wants to talk about is who we are dating.

For Alix, she is in the process of building a social media empire – just look at recent projects like her podcast, “Hot Mess with Alix Earle.” So it only makes sense that Alix would want to stick with her soft-launch approach to NFL Man: why should she have to let all of the cool stuff she has been working hard on get overshadowed by her new boyfriend?

Whether we realize it or not, the soft-launch boyfriend is a way for women to gain greater autonomy over our own identities. Men so often control the narratives of their past girlfriends (see Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears), so it’s about time that we find space to rewrite our own stories. With the power of the soft-launch, we can be everything… and he can be just Ken.

Instead of feeling pressured to reinvent our online images with each new romantic partner, we can keep our social media focused on who matters most: ourselves. So even as Alix ventures away from the NFL Man mystery (watch her most recent “Hot Mess” episode), I’m happy to say that the soft-launch is definitely here to stay.

Mallory is a second year English major from Los Angeles, California. She loves thrifting, traveling, and listening to Taylor Swift.