ENTERTAINMENT

YouTube Is Giving LGBTQ Creators The Perfect Platform To Find Their Audiences

While mainstream media drags its feet, YouTube is giving LGBTQ creators the perfect soapbox to find their community.

05/07/2017 2:45 PM AEST | Updated 06/07/2017 10:32 AM AEST
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Mainstream gay characters on TV fit a pretty standard mould. From the flamboyantly gay folk from 'Will & Grace' to the flamboyantly gay folk of 'Modern Family'.

In recent years sexuality has come leaps and bounds ahead in representation with shows like 'Transparent' and 'Sense8', but for all that work, mainstream shows are still yet to catch up to the one place where LGBTQ creators are key: YouTube.

HuffPost Australia caught up with several creators at the 2017 VidCon -- a massive conference for YouTube creators, industry professionals and the hordes of fans hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite YouTubers.

YouTubers make a name for themselves on building relationships with their fans, and the closer they are and the more convivial they appear, the stronger their audience becomes.

Entering VidCon you were greeted with the smiling face of Joey Graceffa on billboards and posters everywhere, advertising the second season of his YouTube Red series 'Escape the Night'.

"They call it 'sureality' I think," Graceffa explained of the genre-bending series.

Taking place outside of time, the show is a murder mystery dinner party that invites several of Graceffa's YouTube mates to solve a mystery, interact with actors and solve escape room puzzles before voting each other into challenges that result in each other's "deaths". It's like if the Real Housewives of YouTube were locked in a Cluedo-themed escape room.

Graceffa was one of the big personalities at VidCon this year -- just the mention of his name was met with screams from an auditorium full of fans during a massive stage show. His fans are incredibly engaged, and they were that way even before his very public coming out.

"Before I was out it was one of the biggest questions on my channel. People wanted to know so badly and then when I finally came out I was just my true self. I didn't really have to hide or feel any different. I was just being me."

Aside from the second season of 'Escape the Night' and being the poster boy for YouTube Red, Graceffa's released two books and is working on his third, updates his channel every day, has a second channel for gaming and has just released Crystal Wolf, a line of nail polish he created.

A post shared by Joey Graceffa (@joeygraceffa) on

Men in makeup has become a rising trend in general, most of which stems back to influencers on social media who, most often gay, are releasing contouring tutorials, partnering with brands and refusing to accept that makeup is a strictly gendered concept anymore.

"Not to brag but I'm pretty sure I'm the one who brought the trend back for men to wear polish," Graceffa said, "I was the first one that I had seen of guys that were doing it and suddenly there were more and more that felt comfortable and confident wearing it. So... I'm glad I brought it back."

Men in makeup is a category of YouTube in itself, a pond Graceffa is just dipping his toe -- or fingernails as it were -- into, but there are others that exist in this world loudly and proudly.

Patrick Simondac, or Patrick Starrrr as he's better known online, is a YouTuber who dove right into the world of men in makeup, unapologetically.

"I call it the 'ultimate minority'," Starrrr told HuffPost. "I'm plus sized, I'm brown, I'm gay but I'm not a drag queen, so it creates a conversation -- who is he, what is he and how is he?"

Starrrr's viewers have in the past asked if he's transgender, they've asked him to clarify his gender identity, but it's never stopped him.

"At a very young age I became an entrepreneur. At 16 I was charging people $25 for photoshoots. I brand Patrick Starrr like Tyra Banks. She's an entrepreneur and a minority in her space. Me as a minority in this beauty world I thought I'd diversify so I can be socially accepted."

"What Tyra did with 'America's Next Top Model' is she used different types of beauty on her platform to exemplify all types of beauty. So if I as Patrick Starrr can transform into Kim Kardashian or Kylie Jenner or have other types of beauty on my channel -- black, white, Hispanic, a man or even wedding makeup -- my audience are able to be inspired via diversity with the medium of makeup."

Starrr has been a leading force in the men in makeup trend, which has attracted younger boys to embrace the medium and shrug off the gendered labels of the industry.

A post shared by patrickstarrr (@patrickstarrr) on

Standing in a clothing store, Starrr famously looked around noticing they didn't have a plus size section and came to the conclusion "makeup is a one size fits all".

"I treat makeup as an expression no different to your clothes or what you eat. It's a craving. So I wanted a red lip today, lashes and a lot of makeup. It's a mood."

It's interesting to note that both Graceffa and Starrr are creating vastly different content -- Graceffa dabbles often in fantasy and storytelling while Starrr's focus is on makeup, beauty and lifestyle -- though there's a definite connection between both.

"I think by showing how I live my life, and how I live it without ever having to show I'm gay," Graceffa said. "Not necessarily marching the streets and being in people's faces but giving a different perspective to people who might not know what its like."

The pair create content that's of themselves, both unapologetically queer, and their predominantly young audiences couldn't care less.

In an early series called 'Storytellers', Graceffa played a fictional straight character. "Watching Joey be a straight character is... strange" one commenter wrote. There are 38 responses all in agreement.

Outside Graceffa and Starrrr, there are creators who have amassed huge audiences of impressionable youngsters and are using their influence to educate, inspire and give a voice to those who may otherwise feel lost in the world.

One of YouTube's biggest names, Tyler Oakley, celebrated Pride month in June by creating a series called 'Chosen Family', where he explored LGBTQ stories and experiences and "stories of queer resilience".

When those in the closet were isolated and alone, these creators provide windows into the community to feel connected and part of something greater, and their audiences keep growing. YouTube's nature -- part confessional part broadcaster -- means audiences get to connect with their favourite creators and feel like, if at the very least, they're not alone.

When we asked Graceffa why queer creators seem to rise to the top on YouTube it almost had never occurred to him. "There are a lot of gay YouTubers actually," he mused.

"I think there's a few things. A lot of us felt secluded in life, so we found our place online with a community that was ours. I think YouTube is a place where people can find their people. I can connect with people online, see their stories and be open with themselves. I felt connected and less alone in the world."

As these creators continue to rise to the top, it's giving a voice and an outlet to those who want to connect with the LGBTQ community.

"Makeup comes off at the end of the day," Starrrr said, "You're not harming anyone. For people to call and make fun of people, you're taking time out of your day when someone is just expressing themselves. Birds of a feather flock together. Find your people, find your tribe. That's what it takes."

Mat Whitehead travelled to Los Angeles to attend VidCon as a guest of YouTube Australia.

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