This Pride month, Influencer’s creative strategy lead Danny Crutchley sits down with lifestyle creator Joel Wood to discuss what it means to be an LGBTQ+ creator, how brands can show their support and Joel’s personal experience of coming out publicly.
How did you manage your coming out publicly and what impact did that have an on you?
I didn't manage it in the way I was planning to, which was both good and bad. My boyfriend was spotted in the background of one of my videos and people started putting two and two together and questioning me on it. They then found him on Instagram and I felt like I had to address it quickly before more rumours started. So I kind of felt a bit of pressure to come out, however, it was good and I'm actually glad it happened that way because if that hadn't happened I might still be hiding it from my audience today, because I was waiting for "the right time" but I've realised the right time doesn't exist!
What is the impact you would like your content to have on your followers?
I want my followers to watch my YouTube videos and feel validated. The amount of times I've shared something deeply personal and embarrassing only to be met with hundreds of comments saying "omg me too, I thought I was the only one", that makes me so happy, because I've made people feel less ‘weird’ or less alone. And equally in leaving me that comment, they've done the same for me!
How can brands work with creators to become more diverse and be more inclusive?
I think the biggest things brands could do for LGBTQ+ creators is to show their support all year round and not just during Pride month. It doesn't mean you have to be flying a Pride flag all year, but just make sure the creators you're working with come from a whole range of backgrounds. I also think it's important not to overlook the "less visible" members of the LGBTQ+ community, for example, bisexual, asexual, and trans creators and particularly, BAME LGBTQ+ creators.
What steps can a brand take to diversify their feed and overall look and feel?
I think it’s important to ensure that as a brand, you're using a wide range of people in your campaigns and marketing. There really isn't an excuse nowadays, it's so easy to find creators or influencers from all walks of life. On Instagram, follow some hashtags that might lead you to discover new creators from under-represented groups.
How can creators help brands reach/ speak to their LGBTQ+ customers?
If you're wanting to reach LGBTQ+ customers, I can’t stress the importance of using LGBTQ+ creators. Having Straight allies in our community is wonderful, but if a brand uses predominantly Straight allies to promote themselves to the LGBTQ+ community it just looks like you're doing it for the wrong reasons.
Tell us about the challenges you faced being an LGBTQ+ creator
I think my biggest challenge was before I came out publicly, not knowing how my audience would react. I truly thought I would lose it all and everyone would unsubscribe and that would be it. But I couldn't have been more wrong. I think now, my biggest challenge is how to be a voice for the LGBTQ+ community, without changing my content to be LGBTQ+ focussed.
How do you navigate any negative followers or activity?
To be honest, I got way less negative feedback than I expected and all the love drowned out any negativity. But if I do see a horrible comment which happens from time to time, they just get blocked and banished from my corner of the internet!
Has coming out had an impact on your following?
It's grown a lot! And as I've already said that was completely unexpected. It's been amazing to get a whole new bunch of followers who either identify as LGBTQ+ themselves or are allies.
What can other creators (allies) do to support LGBTQ+ creators?
I think trying to gain an understanding of the difficulties we still face is a good start. You can be forgiven for thinking being gay is totally acceptable in this country nowadays but it isn’t. I still worry that if I hold my boyfriend's hand in public that I might get spat on or attacked. I still worry that when I meet a new person that they might be homophobic. I still worry that a brand might not want to work with me because I'm gay. These are all worries that straight people don't ever have to think about. And I think in everybody learning about these struggles, it could lead to change.
Finally, give us 3 LGBTQ+ creators that inspire you…
My good friend Niki Albon from Niki and Sammy, we came out around the same time and it's been amazing to have his support. I love Elle Mills, she's so creative and her YouTube videos are incredible. And Rose and Rosie, who I think do an amazing job at normalising a gay relationship, plus they're hilarious.