While Instagram feeds are usually filled with influencer vacations, memes and whatever the latest aesthetic craze is, there's one particular account whose content stops us in our thumb-scrolling tracks: Rickey Thompson. "Well, hello, you!" he says with a laugh in one of his video posts, wearing a bright red cropped shirt, high-waisted blue jeans, a backwards cap and his signature layered necklaces. "You look good, bitch! You look real good!"
Sometimes what we consume on social media can make us feel FOMO or downright bad about ourselves, but what Thompson provides is the complete opposite. There's his dancing videos that are both entertaining and delightful; an occasional selfie or outfit post (and the dude can dress); and a whole lot of ranting, which we learned is Thompson's favorite type of video to make. "Look, if someone is not treating you right, you got to go!" asserts Thompson in another video.
"I look at Instagram and the rest of my social media platforms as a journal for me," he tells Fashionista. "And instead of me holding in that anger, maybe I can take it, or whatever that I'm going through, and create it into something funny, like a rant video. I noticed that a lot of people love those types of videos, too."
The soon-to-be 23-year-old's stardom began on the now-defunct, short-form video platform Vine when he was in high school, living in Raleigh, N.C. Eventually, Thompson made the switch to creating content on YouTube and his Instagram account, and over the past five years, his following has grown to about 3.6 million users, collectively, on both platforms. At the age of 19, he opted out of attending college to move to Los Angeles, growing his fan base and garnering more creative gigs, from a starring role on the web series "Foursome" to collaborating with hip-hop artist Aminé — all while making us laugh on social media.
During Thompson's hilarious and too-real online videos, his cool style is usually an afterthought, but now the fashion industry is finally taking notice. In 2018, he's snagged a Best Dressed YouTuber Award from Highsnobiety — "I actually got put into the competition later," explains Thompson. "I didn't want to compete because I don't usually talk about fashion. I'm just obsessed with getting dressed up, looking good and being confident." — as well as the November 2018 cover of Out Magazine.
But it wasn't until December of last year when Thompson truly — and quite literally — rubbed elbows with some of the fashion industry's biggest names. After a casting director slid into his DMs on Instagram, Thompson was on a flight to New York City to walk Alexander Wang's Collection 2 runway show. Naturally, he was also tasked with taking over the brand's Instagram Stories while backstage before the show.
"All of the models welcomed me with open arms," recalls Thompson. "Usually people say models are stuck up and mean, but they are the sweetest people ever. I was sitting next to Kaia [Gerber] and she's talking me and I'm thinking, 'You're iconic. Your mother is Cindy Crawford.'"
At the start of the new year, we caught up with Thompson over the phone to find out what he loves most about getting dressed, shopping and the fashion projects we can expect from him next.
In past interviews, you mentioned you didn't get into fashion until you moved to LA. What was it like trying to find your own sense of style?
I have always been into fashion when I was growing up. I love to dress up nice. I remember I was a big fan of Tumblr, studying people's looks and trying to incorporate it into mine. I totally got into fashion when I came [to LA]. Being in the social media spotlight, you always have to look good. Everybody is watching you. I've been obsessed with coming up with an outfit and getting compliments.
How would you describe your style now?
It's very thrifted. I love the eras of the late '90s and early 2000s. I try to give you a little bit of that.
Do you mostly shop at vintage stores then?
I hate shopping for big brands because I feel like once I buy something from a bigger brand, somebody has it. I hate going into a room and someone has the same thing as me on.
What's your favorite outfit at the moment?
My go-to right now are big baggy blue jeans, an oversized T-shirt and oversized hoodie. I love that whole '90s-grunge type of look.
Do you have a piece of clothing that you find yourself wearing all of the time?
My favorite are these blue jeans that I literally have worn so many times. They have six buttons and they're high waisted. I got them on Etsy.
Jewelry is also a large part of your wardrobe. What do you like to wear most?
With accessories, they make an outfit — they make an outfit amazing. I love wearing my rings. I feel so naked when I'm not wearing my rings. I'm always wearing my three necklaces — my cross, a sword necklace and a Chanel necklace.
I'm also always wearing my ear piercings. I remember when I was back home, I had to beg my parents to get one earring. Now I get them one at a time and have eight total so far.
Do you set a budget for yourself while shopping?
Sometimes I'm like, 'Rickey, let's set this budget.' But if I do a great job or really want a reward, I'll spend a little bit on good quality. For designer brands, I like to shop at Ssense.
What was the last thing that you bought and really loved?
My Balenciaga bag, a fanny pack, that I got at the end of August. I literally walked into the store and fell in love with it.
Do you look to certain people for style inspiration?
I look to anybody who was really big in the late '90s or early 2000s. I was obsessed with that era of fashion. Now — and people think it's crazy — I love how relaxed Shia LaBeouf's style is. It is so cool. He looks so cool.
Aside from Alexander Wang, have you been approached by other fashion brands lately?
I have gotten approached from a few brands who want to send me stuff. I must be on some PR list for cool people and that's so amazing. For the future, I really want to be able to book a campaign. Fingers crossed.
What luxury or high-end brands do you really like?
Let's talk grooming. Do you have a skin-care routine?
No, I don't actually! I drink a lot of water and I wash my face with Cetaphil's Gentle Skin Cleanser.
Can we expect any fashion projects from you soon?
I'm definitely working towards modeling more. I'm actually going to be coming out with a merch line — not like a merch line, but more of the start of my own line. I really want it to be very simple, but very fashionable. When I thought about this whole merch thing. I didn’t want it to be just a billboard T-shirt. I didn't want my face on it. It would be something that you can pick up and wear with any outfit. There are lot of fashion things coming in 2019.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.