7 LGBTQ+ Influencers to Know About Beyond Pride Month

Jun 23 2021

Pride Month is coming to a close, but brands should be paying attention to LGBTQ+ influencers year-round—here are seven to know…

Earlier this month, YPulse reported that 32% of Gen Z identifies as LGBTQ+ compared to 17% of Millennials. This generation is, by far, the most likely to embrace their non-binary sexual identities: A recent survey from Ipsos also reported that people 24-year-olds and younger twice as likely to identify as non-straight compared to those over 40.

One reason for the significant differences between this generation and those who came before them is the amount of LGBTQ+ representation they’re seeing on social media and beyond, at young ages. Celebrities and young stars who are openly gay, non-binary, and non-conforming are the norm for Gen Z, who are growing up with easily found and high-profile LGBTQ+ role models. In the last year alone, Umbrella Academy star and actor Elliot Page came out as transgender, YouTube (and merch) sensation JoJo Siwa came out as queer, Disney star Dove Cameron affirmed her “super queer” identity publicly, and pop icon Demi Lovato came out as non-binary—just to name a few. Meanwhile, Lil Nas X, who came out in 2019, fully embraced and celebrated being “unapologetically queer” in his massively popular song and music video for “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).”

This representation is undoubtedly a force behind Gen Z’s openness about their own non-conforming sexual and gender identities. Another is the existence of LGBTQ+ influencers and creators on the social platforms that Gen Z is devoting hours to daily. After all, our 2020 influencers and celebrities report found that 70% of 13-18-year-olds follow online celebs and creators on social media, compared to 43% of 19-37-year-olds. They’re learning about LGBTQ+ individuals and communities on social platforms, potentially finding representation of their own feelings and experiences, even if they’re not able to access these IRL.

We’ve told brands that supporting LGBTQ+ communities needs to go beyond Pride Month to reach Gen Z, and warned against 30-day rainbow washing—but another marketing tactic that needs to live beyond June is tapping highly influential LGBTQ+ creators. Young LBGTQ+ identifying influencers have millions of followers and views across platforms, and their creativity and fans don’t disappear on July 1st. Here are seven LGBTQ+ influencers, both emerging and established, who have been representing the community across YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok that brands should be paying attention to beyond Pride Month:

Bretman Rock

Hawaii-based Bretman Rock started out sharing comedy and memes on YouTube and Vine before transitioning into posting food challenges and beauty tutorials. In 2016, he went viral for a contouring video, and in the same year signed a management contract under ABS-CBN’s creator network Adober Studios. Currently, he has 8.6 million followers on YouTube, and 11.7 million followers on TikTok, where he actively participates in trends and challenges. The Filipino-American influencer has been featured in YouTube Original series like Escape the Night, Instant Influencer, and No Filter. He partnered with companies like sunglasses brand Dime Optics for a line of limited-edition genderless sunglasses and blue light sunglasses, and most recently appeared in Nike’s Be True campaign. Earlier this year, MTV announced that he is getting his own reality show MTV Following: Bretman Rock, where he vowed to be “unapologically queer.” While he said it was important for him to bring more BIPOC LGBTQ+ representation to reality TV, he also wanted to highlight where he’s from: “There are so many reality shows, but there’s none that really shows the island life and what influencers are in the islands. We don’t have the same resources as people in L.A. do,” Rock told NBC News. He also frequently collaborates with other fellow LGBTQ+ and AAPI creators: He lists Patrick Starr as one of his biggest inspirations for getting into the beauty space and has teamed up with him for content, and recently appeared in Bella Poarch’s “Build a B*tch” music video, which currently has more than 191 million views. (Both Starr and Poarch were featured in our roundup of BIPOC influencers that brands should know about.)

Alok Vaid-Menon

Alok Vaid-Menon, a.k.a ALOK, is an Indian-American mixed-media artist and activist who has used comedy, poetry, performance art, and fashion design to explore the themes of gender, race, and trauma, but in recent years, they have been especially vocal on social media when it comes to advocating for body positivity and gender neutrality in the beauty and fashion industry. On Instagram, ALOK has 679K followers and launched the #DeGenderFashion hashtag movement on the platform in 2019 to “strip gender from the fashion and beauty industries.” They also published the book Beyond the Gender Binary last summer to document their own experiences as a gender-non-conforming artist and creator as well as highlighting other activists and artists in the LGBTQ+ space. This month, ALOK was tapped by Verizon Visible for the brand’s #ProudlyVisible campaign, alongside other influencers like Pattie Gonia, Matt Bernstein, and Tarek Ali in an effort to uplift the voices of various LGBTQ+ artists and activists. While that campaign is Pride Month-focused, Visible wants to make sure its influencer campaigns with LGBTQ+ voices go beyond just the month of June by continuously investing in partnerships with the community.

Jayde Mcfarlane

With 1.7 million followers, Jayde Mcfarlane gained her large following on TikTok by chronicling her life as a trans woman of color through “confidence, authenticity, and humor.” She was recently named one of TikTok’s LGBTQ+ Trailblazers as part of their #ForYourPride campaign this month—and is known for posting comedic sketches, beauty tutorials, and relationship content on her channel. In April, a troll attacked Mcfarlane by accusing her of “keeping her identity a secret” from her boyfriend Tyler, and suggested that he would break up with her if he found out the truth. In response, the couple made a video together that went viral—garnering 14.5 million views. In it, Mcfarlane asks her boyfriend “Do you know that I’m trans?” and he responds by saying “Yeah, I know that you’re a perfect, beautiful woman, and you always have been.” He took it further by shutting down haters, stating that he was “disgusted” by the comment, which he called out for being transphobic. Since the video went viral, her followers have showed an outpouring of support for Mcfarlane and her boyfriend’s speech.

Antoni Bumba

Another one of TikTok’s LGBTQ+ Trailblazers, New York-based Antoni Bumba has 465.9K followers and is known for their pop culture comedy, astrology and spirituality videos, beauty tutorials, and videos centered on NYC’s queer culture. Bumba has also been vocal about how they want to create “a safe and relatable environment” for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. On their TikTok bio, they refer to themselves as “the black Bridget Jones of nyc,” and helped popularize the BBL Effect meme trend on the platform, which went viral earlier this year. BBL is short for “Brazilian Butt Lift,” and as part of the challenge, Bumba (lightheartedly) pokes fun at recipients of the procedure by showing how their attitude shifts into having a more “haughty attitude, immaculate hair and makeup, and always exuding a sense of fabulous unattainability.” The implication is that those with BBL feel as though they are “a part of a new stratum of society now and become prone to over-the-top diva-like behavior.” In one video, Bumba captioned their video “POV: someone with a BBL ordered a quesadilla for dinner” proceeding to eat the piece of food delicately with a fork and knife while flipping their do-rag. So far, the hashtag #bbleffect has 42.7 million views with many users creating videos with similar scenarios.

Eugene Lee Yang

While Yang is mostly well-known for his previous work on BuzzFeed and for being one-fourth of The Try Guys, the Korean-American influencer and activist has also done a lot of work supporting human rights and LGBTQ+ advocacy through nonprofit groups like The Trevor Project, which focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth, through the years. He has also been involved in a lot of brands’ Pride Month campaigns in the past, including Jack Daniel’s Drag Queen Mukbang from last year alongside Patrick Starr, Gia Gunn, and Laganja Estranja. The four of them starred in a short YouTube series where the drag queens eat while addressing the very hard financial hardships that the drag community faced during the pandemic. It was in 2019 that Yang officially came out as gay by sharing a now-viral and “deeply personal” video on YouTube during Pride Month, which accrued more than 19 million views. Yang wrote, directed, and choreographed the video himself and featured music by Odesza, in which it follows him through “different stages as he discovers, fights for and celebrates his sexuality.” Following the premiere, he tweeted: I created this music video as my personal way of coming out as a proud gay man who has many unheard, specific stories to tell. I withheld because of fear and shame shaped by my background but I promise to give my full truth in the rest of my life’s work.” Yang has also been vocal about the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, and released an hour-long documentary “We Need to Talk About Anti-Asian Hate” earlier this year following the shootings in Georgia to address the racism and violence Asians and Asian Americans have faced in the U.S.

Nikkie de Jager

Nikkie de Jager, a.k.a NikkieTutorials on YouTube, came to prominence in 2015 after her video “The Power of Makeup” gained viral fame and inspired followers to create videos showing their faces without makeup on. Her YouTube channel currently has 13.8 million followers. Throughout the years, De Jager has teamed up with beauty brands like Ofra, Maybelline, and Lady Gaga’s makeup brand Haus Laboratories. At the beginning of last year, de Jager went viral again for officially coming out as a transgender woman on her YouTube channel. The 27-year-old creator revealed that she was fully transitioned at the age of 19, but only came out last year after being blackmailed to “tak[e] back her own power.” In the video, which has over 37 million views, she says she hopes to “inspire little Nikkies” around the world who “feel insecure, who feel out of place, who feel misunderstood.” Her followers and influencers like Manny MUA showed their support on Twitter. Queer influencers on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram have transformed the way Gen Z comes out, and Nikke is one of the most prominent examples of that shift. 

Elijah Daniel

Elijah Daniel has been active on YouTube since 2011 accumulating 542K subscribers on his channel—dabbling in comedy, music, and rap. But in the last year, he’s been less active on his YouTube channel and has migrated on newer social platforms like TikTok, where he currently has 657.7K followers (and 31.3 million likes.) Last summer, he created the first TikTok influencer house for LGBTQ+ users. After being vocal about how he was tired of seeing only “straight” influencer houses, Daniel announced that he was funding the Alt Haust, a collective of his own for more diverse and “gay and alternative” creators. Meanwhile, earlier this year, he ventured into the virtual restaurant business as a response to MrBeast’s successful burger joint, and wanting to see more gay-owned burger chains. With Gay Burger, Daniel started the delivery-only brand to sell burgers—and donated proceeds to LA’s LGBT Center. If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that Daniel has been unafraid to speak out in support of the LGBTQ+ community: In 2019, he made headlines after he briefly purchased the town of Hell, Michigan, and changed its name to Gay Hell, Michigan, and only flew pride flags as a way to hit back at the government’s previous ban on embassies flying pride flags.

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