It’s 2014 and we’re living in a time where ‘T.V’ star and ‘YouTube’ star are starting to become interchangeable. You can add ‘Vine’ in there; maybe even throw in ‘Insta-famous’. So how does one differentiate their brand online? Create a message that’s genuine or even establish a working demographic? Where does the connection take place?
Ricky Richards, a London born and raised twenty-something with a substantial following across several platforms has found his success organically by simply, putting himself out there. ‘’I’m always trying to ‘find myself’. Figure out what I stand for and put it out there. I seek inspiration everywhere!” We’re chatting on a sunny afternoon about his rise to being among the recognizable and what it took to get there. (Let me be clear though, I’m the one calling him recognizable – this man is as humble as they come.) “I had this thought that everyone deserves a chance in what they do, so I launched an interview series. I specifically sought out people who are up and coming in their field and I find them and ask them about what they do. If I can shed some sort of light on say, an aspiring journalist, then maybe people will see it and be inspired by that. I make short films and I want to spread them – because if they can make any kind of positive difference in someone’s life, then that’s good. I’m happy.” He’s genuinely grinning and it’s one of the most refreshing things.
We go on to chat about what’s really important in life for us these days. For Ricky, it’s integrity, family, spirituality and growth. He’s faced some adversity in the eye of the online community (a community known for being ruthless and judgmental – just glance at the comments on ANY YouTube video these days) and taken it in stride with a positive energy and a focus on growth. You can actually learn a little bit about this, just by looking at him. Heavily tattooed, with no way of hiding it, he explains his artwork to me: “My favorite pieces are the Buddha and Mandala. I was going through a really tough phase and people have this preconceived notion that you have to go through a steady routine in life. I ended up seeking some spirituality, adopting and applying a lot of the beliefs and wanted to portray this. My brother, Aaron Anthony (London) is my artist – we sit there late at night chatting about the purposes of life and reasons behind these symbols.”His body art perfectly offsets his style, which he describes as ‘bold, simplistic and polished.’
So what about the reaction to the internet fame? He’s reluctant to discuss anything and has only the most humble attitude about it, which is incredibly healthy. He describes the first time someone approached him in the Waterloo station in London; “I waiting for my train and a 16 year old girl came up to me. She was really shy, and when she said she watched my videos, it hit me how insane it was that someone would come up to me and praise me. It’s overwhelming and I remind myself not to get caught up in it. I’m not ‘famous’, but I’m very grateful.”
So what’s next? Here’s where we find our common ground. We’re both in a love affair with Toronto. He recounts his first visit last year, “I fell in love with the people, the culture, ambience and vibe. Canadians are notoriously nice – I felt so alive and regenerated. I felt that I could be a whole new person. I found myself. Of course London is home, but Toronto was a new beginning. If you can go to a place and feel like a brand new person then that’s where you should go.”
So what’s next? Do we even need to ask? As of last week, Richards is back in Toronto, fresh off a flight from London with a focus on creating his brand of art and expression. YouTube is still the main focus, and he’s committed to showing how multi-faceted he can be. It’s really interesting to see this generation of artists and expressionists exercising the ability to move their work swiftly towards their demographic. “I feel this is the beginning of something amazing to me. I’m ready for the forward motion and I’m so open to whatever comes my way. I’m excited for the destination and the journey.”