When it comes to Tyler Oakley, humor is the gateway to knowledge, acceptance, and helping a greater cause. Known for creating lighthearted YouTube videos like Tyler Oakley Reacts to Teens React to Tyler Oakley, the comedian is also an avid social justice advocate, speaking out against high suicide rates among LGBT youth and shedding light on political circumstances within the community. Using the Internet, his personal anecdotes, and a great sense of humor, Oakley shows the good we can do with a laugh.
We caught up with the Youtube star during his stay at W San Francisco, connecting over everything from travel essentials to politics to childhood dreams.
How did you start making Youtube Videos? Why do you think this medium is best for your message?
TO: I started making videos back in 2007, as a way to keep in touch with people while I was away at college. It was perfect for me because I could talk into a camera, show things around my dorm room, and introduce my high school friends and family to my college friends. Nearly a decade later, I could never have imagined it would turn into what it is now.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done for a video?
TO: I once reacted to a video of my own birth with my mom, to celebrate my birthday. Let’s just say nobody should ever have to blur/blackout their mom’s crowning, frame-by-frame.
Who would be the ultimate person you could make a video with, and what would the video be about?
TO: I’d love to have a sit-down chat with Lady Gaga and truly dissect her career, from a super-fan’s standpoint. There are so many things I’d love to ask her about and get to the bottom of, and truly chat about.
You share so much of yourself with your fans. What’s something you think they don’t know about you?
TO: There’s PLENTY they don’t know about me! Being in charge of what I share is something I really have to remember and be conscious of while creating, and making sure some things are just for me is so important. And if I told you, then it wouldn’t be for just me, would it! (Next time we’re together, I’ll tell you some of my secrets… haha.)
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
TO: I always thought I’d be a teacher! In fact, I went to school for it at Michigan State University, but it never ended up coming to fruition. In a way, YouTubers are kind of teachers. We have an opportunity to use our platform to share what we know with the world, and maybe get people to think a different way or see a different perspective.
You’re involved in the #WeTrumpHate movement – why do you think it’s so critical to speak out against injustice?
TO: I am lucky and privileged enough to have the platform I have, and there are so many people out there who are more articulate and knowledgeable about so many things that could use my platform 10x better. I just want to do the best I can, and to amplify the voices of those who can do better, to make sure that I’m having a lasting positive impact on the world.
What is a change that you would love to see in the next year, either in yourself or in society?
TO: I’d love the Internet to be more open to the idea of humans being complex beings, who are capable of growth. One slip-up doesn’t make you a terrible human, and just because someone said or did something bad five years ago, doesn’t mean that’s consistent with who they are now. Call-out culture only works if we allow those we call out to apologize and be better.
What’s a talent you have that no one would suspect?
TO: I can do the ABC’s backwards! Okay maybe that’s not interesting. I can always tell who is going home based on the edit they’re given during the first 5 minutes of an episode of a TV reality show. It’s more of a curse than a blessing.
What are three things you always bring when you are traveling?
TO: A friend, an iPhone charger, and a pair of sweatpants.
What is your favorite spot in San Francisco?
TO: The Castro! I used to live right next to The Lookout, so anytime I’m in town, I always have to make my way to the best district in the country. A slice of Gabriel’s Pizza at Marcello’s, a vodka soda at Q Bar, and a gander at the new photos in Hot Cookie, and I’m set. The Castro is magical & charming, and I’m reminded of that every single time I visit.