In a society that discards content in seconds, Rickey Thompson has managed to crack the code to being iconic on the internet: to be authentic and unapologetically addictive. He exudes pure joy that instantly captivates his audience in a dopamine-inducing scroll amid all the doom and gloom crowding the other corners of the internet. The 26-year-old just wants to make people laugh but as a gay, black creator who has seemingly effortlessly translated his talents across social media platforms, from Vine and YouTube to Instagram and TikTok, he recognises the role he plays in serving as a blueprint for younger creators.
As he hops on a call with me, fresh off a vacation, Thompson is already buzzing about being booked and busy for fashion month. “I want to go in and really show the fashion girls what I can do,” he says excitedly. Despite most modern-day influencers expanding their online presence, Thompson is invested in more old-school ideas of fame as well: “I want it all.” The ‘all’ encompassing his flourishing modelling career, his engaging podcast We Said What We Said, an acting career in movies and television, and a hopeful Broadway star. The fame that he’s set his eyes on plains his natural comfort in front of Amber McKee’s camera as his persona morphs with every outfit change.
Rickey’s enigmatic personality translates beautifully into the lewks he serves online, and that is what forms the foundation of Luca Kingston’s vision of him. Kingston shrouds Rickey in an almost avant-apocalypse aesthetic in Balenciaga influenced biker outfits and black puffer jackets with pops of red and green in crochet undercut the leather, drawing focus to Rickey’s light wit.
Rickey Thompson wants everything and as we delve into his life, his honest dialogue peppered with his trademark wit proves that despite the success he’s achieved so far, he’s just getting started.
Catch the fourth season of 'We Said What We Said' with Rickey and Denzel podcast on Spotify and other streaming platforms early 2023.
What is one meme that would sum up Rickey Thompson?
Oh my goodness, the meme that I would say would sum up me…. Oh my gosh, there are so many memes, what do I say?! So, I love NeNe Leakes so much. She has to be one of my favourite people ever. And I love the meme where she says, “I’m a rich bitch”. I love that one so much. And the meme shows that I'm very confident. I’ve been working my ass off these past couple of years and it shows. So I would say that's my favourite meme that describes me.
If the internet didn't exist for a day, what would that day look like for you?
I would say that it wouldn't be a bad day, honestly. A lot of people don’t know this but I'm really not on my phone all the time. I'll make a post and I'll put my phone down. I love to work out and drive around and listen to music. I love shopping. Even if I don't buy anything, I love to window shop and just look at the new things that are out right now. I love just going out. I love hanging out with my friends. So, my day would be pretty normal without the internet, I would say.
For a lot of millennials, evolution on social media hasn’t been easy despite growing up with the internet. How did you manage to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to new platforms constantly?
I was literally talking about this to my friend the other day. I will say, it was very hard because trends come and go every day. And it was difficult, but I just figured if I stayed, my authentic self, and still keep up with everyone and everything, I should be fine. And it's worked! I'm so proud of myself that I haven't fallen off. I've always been there and people haven't forgotten about me. I've just been paying close attention. I studied everything to understand how I could stay hot, but also stay myself.
You've managed to be your authentic self through the years. As a gay black creator on the internet, you've been an idol for a lot of young creators. Does that pressure of being an idol for young creators ever get to you?
Yes, I do sometimes feel a lot of pressure because a lot of people look to me for help. I remember, there was a point in my life where I was sad and people were going on about how I made them happy and I was like, ‘I’m sad you guys, I’m going through a rough patch in my life’, but everyone has those bad days. So, I try to look past it. I'll take a break and my phone down. I'll always come back to start making people happy again, but I will say it is definitely a lot of pressure.
Is there a particular way of coping with that pressure that you employ apart from just taking a break?
The main thing that really does help with that is just seeing people's comments. Things like, “Oh my god, Rickey, we hear this. You're having a bad day. We love you. You're so important to us. You've made us smile for years and you've made us feel better for years.” When I read those positive comments, they make me smile. I've had people tell me I’ve stopped them from going to therapy just by talking. That really helps me out.
You've spoken very openly about being shy back in high school. How did you break out of that mould?
I will say acting. I was very, very, very shy in high school. Once I got into the theatre programme, I started pushing my boundaries. Just being on stage and acting in front of people really helped. Being on social media and making all those videos also really helped a lot. It gave me a voice.
What did you imagine your life would look like in your 20s?
Oh my goodness, I literally saw myself as how I am now. I always dreamt of the person I am today. I always knew I would be him and I kept working harder and harder towards that. And now I’m at a point in my life where I actually see what I manifested. This is exactly what I wanted my life to be. And I'm still manifesting what my life will look like when I’m 30 and 40.
Do you believe in the power of manifestation?
Yes. Yes. Yes. My mum has always taught me to make mood boards, she's really big on that. So I made mood boards of seeing who I want to be in my mid-20s - where I want my career to be, what type of fashion I want to wear, how my hair looks and how I want to showcase myself. So yeah, I really do believe in manifestation. It’s so much fun.
As a gay black creator existing within the algorithm that's mostly skewed towards heterosexual white people. Have you found the imbalance particularly difficult in trying to grow your following on new apps?
I will say yes. I feel like it's easier for a white person to gain quick followers, but as a black gay creator, it was harder. I had to find a demographic that I catered to and it was rough, but in the end, I decided I was just going to be myself. Now I have followers from all different types of races, genders, and sexualities, and I’m so thankful that I decided to do that.
Who would you say has influenced you the most over the past few years?
My mother. I love my mum to death. She is someone who is always telling me to keep going and she's really been this great hero. Anytime I have a bad day, I always call her. There have been times when I've gotten mean comments and she'll give me some uplifting words. My mother has to be the strongest person in the world. So, I give it all to my mom.
You’ve made the shift from comedy content to high fashion which is immensely impressive in itself. How would you say you use fashion to represent yourself?
I like to try different things. I mean, in the fashion world, so much has changed. I feel like before getting into fashion, I was very nervous about trying new things but now I'm not scared to buy anything different. Now I’m ready for courageous fashion choices, like wearing skirts which I love doing now. I feel like it’s very daring. Fashion is just me trying daring looks to exactly describe who I am.
Who is one fashion creative director that you would love to collaborate with?
Rick Owens. My money has been thrown at Rick Owens. I will buy anything. I just love everything that man has done over his years in the fashion world. The shoes. The clothes. Everything. It makes you feel sexy. I'm obsessed.
You’ve created a very successful podcast and you've done it with a friend. So with the fourth season releasing in 2023, can you share with us what you guys get up to on your podcast and what we can expect from season two?
Oh my gosh, get ready. We have the funniest stories ever. So much has happened over this summer that we can't wait to tell our podcast listeners. We've been wanting to talk about it on our stories, but we can’t. Get ready for some crazy, crazy, crazy, feel-good best friend memories. We’re going to have some cool guests that we can't talk about yet, but this season of our podcast is going to be the best one yet.
What would you say is the best thing about working with a friend?
It's honestly so amazing. And this person isn't like any other friend. This is my best friend, my ride-or-die, literally my everything. I love Denzel Dion so much. We’ve been friends since 2014 and we're finally able to build this amazing brand together that we've talked about for years. So it's literally everything. I know people say you shouldn’t go into business with friends but we would never let anything get in between our friendship. We literally don’t even look at this as a career. We look at it like a hobby. It's fun. We have the most amazing time recording. So, it's really easy for us and I love him to death.
But is there one bad thing about working with a friend?
There are times when we get into a little butting heads sort of situation but it’s never anything serious. We don't have any problems in our friendship. We always come together and figure stuff out in the end.
If you had to pick the top three favourite milestones throughout your career graph, what would they be?
So number three, I would say moving to LA was a really big milestone for me. I used to print pictures of California and stick them on my binders. I was obsessed with LA. I said, ‘this is the place I want to be at’. I manifested it and I moved to LA after high school and I've been here ever since. I am so proud of myself for that. Number two, I would say would be gracing my very first cover which was for OUT magazine. I was very shocked. Because I was always told growing up that I was just funny and I couldn’t get fashion, and the fact that I was out here dripped in Louis Vuitton, that was amazing to me. My mum was able to buy the magazine in North Carolina, my friends would send me pictures of me at the newsstands in New York, it was everything to me. Then I would say my main milestone was to be signed to one of my favourite agencies. I would manifest it every day and I ended up getting signed this year. So, manifestation really does work. I'll take those as the three major milestones in my career. I'm just so proud of myself.
You've built this amazing career for yourself. What would you say is your favourite thing about your job?
The opportunities it got me. I don't think I would ever be able to do the things I do now if I didn't do what I'm doing today. Just being able to be in these rooms with these amazing people, meeting people that I grew up watching and listening to, it's absolutely amazing.
What would be the biggest complaint you have about it?
Being busy. Sometimes I just want to stay at home and watch Netflix all day. I feel like I would love to sit down, eat all day and not do anything. But I know I can't do that. I’ve got to be booked and busy. I do miss having that downtime though.
How would you describe the last 10 years of your life in one line?
If I had to sum up the last 10 years of my life in a word? It’d have to be: phenomenal. I'm just so proud of myself. I literally wake up every morning and I'm like, ‘wow, Ricky, you did that’.
You performed in theatre productions in high school. Do you see yourself exploring theatre again in the future?
Yes. Once my career gets bigger after a couple of movies and TV shows, I definitely want to move to New York for maybe a year and be part of a Broadway show.
Is there a Broadway show you would love to be a part of?
I’d love to be a part of Wicked. It’s my favourite, favourite musical. I’ve probably seen it like seven or eight times. My mum introduced me to it and it brings me so much joy. I love it.
Going back to high school, you've been open about the bullying that you experienced growing up. What advice would you give young teens going through similar phases in their life?
I would say - just keep your head up. I know it is rough. Trust me, I have been there and it is the most awful feeling when you have people who bully you for no reason. It is the worst thing ever because you're confused about how someone could be so mean for no reason. But don't let anyone tear you down. Just keep your eyes focused on the prize. That's it. When I was bullied in high school, I would just dream of getting out of there safely. I feel like my bullies actually motivated me to keep going. By them being mean to me, I just had to prove that I am a beautiful person. Now they're all in my DMs telling me they’re so proud of me but I don’t answer. So yeah, I would say: 'just keep your head up, just keep fighting and keep going'.
What is the best advice that you have ever received from someone?
The best advice I got was when I moved to LA, my friend’s mum told me, “Rickey, you’re in this world now where everyone is not your friend.” I'm from the south where we're very friendly so I was just nice to everybody but I had to learn to watch out for myself and always keep one eye open because you never know what someone could be doing behind your back. That made me really find my core group of friends that I know are going to uplift me and keep me safe. That’s advice I've definitely taken for myself and it actually really helped me in my life.
Have you received any advice that you would categorise as the worst thing you've ever heard in your life?
I feel like the worst thing I've heard is people telling me to hang out with the right people. I don't need to hang out in the right circles or be in the right rooms to achieve success. I’d rather hang out with nice people who like to have fun and who make me smile.
If you could star in a 90s rom-com remake, which would it be?
I would have to say Clueless. I absolutely love it. The fashion and being in LA in the 90s in high school. I would love that.
You said you were already manifesting what your life is going to look like in your 30s and 40s. What legacy do you see yourself leaving behind?
I would want people to know that I worked hard to get what I have and that I was a good person. I just want people to know that I was very nice, sweet, and loving. And that would be my legacy.
Are there any new projects that we're going to be looking forward to soon?
A lot of good things are happening. I've acted in some things I can't talk about. They'll be coming out very soon so we're excited about that. I feel like people are really going to see this rebrand. I’ve been very focused on that. I feel like I'm at a point in my life where I love being funny but I want to do it all. I want to really take my career to the next level. Eventually, I want to be modelling more, I want to be acting more and I even want to start maybe designing fashion in the future. I've been online for almost 10 years now. I’ve made my mark and now I'm ready to take it to the next level. I am not going to stop yet. I want be in every single category.