He's No "Regular-Ass Person" — He's Instagram Sensation Rickey Thompson
Rickey Thompson is feeling himself. Why? Because he's booked, he's busy, and he isn't going anywhere.
Yes, this is a quote from one of his iconic Instagram posts . . . but it's also very much a summary of his current status. The 23-year-old former Vine star and current social media sensation has 3.7 million followers on Instagram, and celebs like Adele and Ariana Grande are fans of his infectious videos. But he's crossed over from digital success — to credits like YouTube Originals' Foursome and a Shorty Award for Instagrammer of the Year — to certified fashionista, walking the runway for Alexander Wang and starring in H&M's new "Stay True, Stay You" Pride campaign.
For the uninitiated, Thompson's videos are part vlog and part fanning over yourself. He's become famous for giving candid advice while worshiping himself, via a hilarious, Instagram-friendly format that sometimes looks like it was shot in an unfurnished apartment. Thompson uses these videos as a recorded runway, strutting and twerking for himself, before stopping to smile or give a pep talk in a way that feels like he's telling an inside joke only he would get. And yet that clearly isn't the case given his wide appeal: his videos allow you to envision yourself as your most confident self. His videos allow you to be Rickey Thompson for a few seconds.
Thompson's inclusion in H&M's campaign is a fusion of his interests and skills, a perfect pairing of talent and product. He's all about making people happy, sharing his spark in the hopes that it keeps others going. The H&M collection fits perfectly with his self-proclaimed '90s aesthetic, full of retro references that collide with wiggling rainbows, sharp blacks, and smart sequins. Thompson shares the duties of modeling with actress and activist Laverne Cox, influencer Shannon Beveridge, and lifestyle bloggers Brock Williams and Chris Lin. As you see in the campaign, Thompson shows that laughter is the best medicine — and he wants his queer peers to have a dose on him.
Thompson says the hate he and his fellow LGBTQ+ folks weather can get him down. It's easy to let the weight of the world get to you — but when you're Rickey Thompson? "I don't want to sound conceited but, when I'm sad, I always turn to myself," he says with a booming guffaw. "I always have to put myself in that happy state of mind. I'm like, 'You know what, Rickey? Today may be awful or rough, but you can get through it: just laugh. Laugh it through.'"
This way of looking inward to heal seems to be working wonders, creating a self-fulfilling success loop. "I will get up in the morning and go, 'Oh my god. Rickey, you look amazing today — let me record it.' It's as simple as that."
When this doesn't work, he turns to his friends, a tight group of both supporters and collaborators. In his eyes, you have to have your own community — especially as a queer person. "It's so great to have a core group of friends," he says. "They're always there to give me advice, they're always there to give ideas. It helps a lot."
His best friend and fellow queer creator Denzel Dion is crucial in keeping him on his feet, pushing him as he pushes back, keeping him grounded while lifting him up. "Denzel is the one that I love to death," Thompson says. The two met at a social media event in 2014, and Thompson says the connection was instant. The friendship has been mutually beneficial, largely as a result of theirs similarities — and their differences being just acute enough. "It's so great, because we do the same thing, but there's no competition," Thompson says. "It's honestly hard to find that . . . It's so good to have someone so real and so amazing like my best friend Denzel. He's always there to support me. He's always cheering me on, no matter what — and I'm so thankful for him."
Thompson also looks to public figures to guide him: Chris Tucker is his comedic icon ("And a lot of people always say that I remind them of [him]"), Rihanna is his fashion obsession ("I love that she's not afraid to push the boundaries"), and RuPaul is his trailblazer ("He has done so much to make for the community . . . He's taken LGBT things to the max").
Still, Rickey is most Rickey when he's Rickey: he's utterly disinterested in trying to emulate anyone else. Why would he? For example: his latest favorite video is also a fan favorite about being ghosted.
"I don't know what it is — I really don't — because how could someone ghost me?" he asks. "I'm amazing. I just don't get it. I don't get it. I'm no regular-ass person. I don't understand why someone would do that." The results speak for themselves: the Instagram video has nearly 1.5 million views in four days, at the time of this story's publication.
Thompson says the fierce tirade was a comment on the dating scene. "Don't even get me started," he says. "It's so awful. I don't understand it. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to meet the right people." He says he's tried Tinder, ending up on dates with people who fawn over his following, and even celebrity-leaning Raya, where he insists he ended up with no responses. "I've come to accept that, if I die, at least I'll die alone and successful and rich. So! It's OK. Whatever happens, happens."
His advice for young LGBTQ+ people having similar struggles with dating is to stick with it. It sucks, sure, but you have to keep yourself going and keep yourself out there before you can get booked and busy in love. "Yes, it is tough. Yes, you will feel like, 'Ugh. What is wrong with me?!' — but it's not you," he says. "It's not cute [but] it's the people. Keep on going."
Ultimately, to be Rickey Thompson is to be you without giving a f*ck about what other people think. That's what he loves about himself. That's what he loves about the youngest generation of queer people coming up behind him. "In this new age, people are out here living their lives, doing whatever they want — and they don't care about the hate. That I love."
"I wish I could have experienced that when I was younger," Thompson says. "The hatred and stuff — people being upset with who they are — it was a very dark time. Now? People are out here, and multiple queer people are really out here really killing it, and that makes me so happy. I want to see more unapologetic people go out there and kill it some more."