The Rise To Fame of Internet Sensation Rickey Thompson


| LAST UPDATE 10/20/2021

By Manny Ray

Rickey Thompson transformed from a bullied kid into a viral sensation by sharing uplifting and empowering videos on social media. But even the purest intentions couldn't prepare him for his rollercoaster ride to stardom.

Facing the Pain

Internet star Rickey Thompson was born on February 6th, 1966, in Raleigh, North Carolina, and has one younger sister named Karson. He attended Millbrook high school, where he frequently performed in theater productions.

Rickey Thompson High SchoolRickey Thompson High School
Instagram via @rickeythompson

But his high school days were far from pleasant when he fell victim to bullying. Regardless of the harsh treatment, he persevered. Rickey explained to Nylon, "I would be bullied in school and then come home and talk about my experiences into the camera. Those videos are still important to me."

He Started on Vine

After high school, Rickey moved to LA, where he still resides today. Now an actor, comedian, internet personality, and model, Rickey rose to fame thanks to Vine, the 6-second video sharing platform. Before the platform discontinued in 2016, Rickey reportedly had 2.5M followers, many of whom requested something specific.

Rickey Thompson Vine FamousRickey Thompson Vine Famous
YouTube via Rickey Thompson

Fans wanted him to take them on a trip down memory lane and asked him to upload his old Vine videos to YouTube. By popular demand, Rickey created his YouTube channel in 2013. Like other young Vine-celebs of the time, he never could have known that his collection of 6-second videos would someday make him a viral star.

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Kylie Jenner Helped Launch His Career

Rickey posted comedy skits on his social media platforms, including YouTube and Instagram. These videos soon caught the attention of makeup mogul Kylie Jenner. In 2014, Jenner shared one of his videos, and it changed his life forever. Rickey recalled to the New York Times, "I freaked out because I was getting many notifications."

Rickey Thompson Kylie Jenner Rickey Thompson Kylie Jenner
Instagram via @rickeythompson

Ricky seemed to be starstruck. At the People's Choice Awards, Rickey told TooFab, "She posted me, and I was like, 'Oh my God, I made it!' Seemingly overnight, Thompson became "The most popular kid in school." Even those who once bullied him wanted to be Rickey's new best friend.

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Rickey's Comedy Skills Went Viral

Rickey must have done something right because he gained more than 1.23M subscribers and over 58.3K views on his YouTube channel in a matter of years. His channel welcomed viewers with "Get ready for vlogs, storytimes, rants, look books, etc. THIS CHANNEL WILL HAVE EVERYTHING!!!" And, from the looks of it, he didn't disappoint.

Rickey Thompson YouTube Rickey Thompson YouTube
Instagram via @rickeythompson

His videos are typically loud, vibrant, and full of energy. Some of his most notable videos are 'I Pooped my Pants,' 'Slang Words with Rickey,' and 'Embarrassing Moments.' He's also posted popular challenges, such as 'Would You Rather Challenge,' 'Whisper Challenge,' and 'What is in my Hand,' among many others.

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He Tackled Harder Topics

On his YouTube channel, Rickey committed to posting openly and honestly. This included talking about his struggle with acne, relationships, and other challenges during his early life. Namely, when he was bullied for his sexuality in high school. After gaining confidence and courage, Rickey publicly came out on Twitter in 2016.

Rickey Thompson Bullied Rickey Thompson Bullied
Instagram via @rickeythompson

He recalled to the New York Times, "I was bullied for being an extra-loud person. People would say, 'You're so annoying,' and pick on me for how I looked." Thompson's channel became a safe space for him to share his experiences. Rickey even filmed "One of the most difficult videos" to shoot, called 'I'm out, and I'm Proud.'

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His Instagram Blew up in the Best Way

The 6'1" comedian has over 5.7M followers on Instagram today. He posts photos and videos of his daily life, dancing, and inspirational content, making him an iconic hype man on social media. Some videos include close-up selfies accompanied by a judgmental or bragging monologue. And followers seem to love it!

Rickey Thompson Instagram Rickey Thompson Instagram
Instagram via @rickeythompson

Rickey explained to Nylon, "I love the internet because it's a place where it's cool to be weird and different, and I love that." Along with Instagram, Thompson has racked up nearly 972K followers on Twitter since creating his account years prior. There's no doubt that Rickey is making his mark.

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Walking the Runway

Thompson walked in his first runway show for designer Alexander Wang. Wang commissioned Rickey to walk in her "Collection 2" at New York Fashion Week in 2018. That day, Rickey exclaimed to Essence, "This is my very first runway show. I have never modeled before...The experience was absolutely amazing!"

Rickey Thompson NYFW Rickey Thompson NYFW
Daniel Zuchnik / Contributor via Getty Images

When Essence asked Rickey what his inspiration was behind his hilarious Instagram feed, he replied, "I'll take inspiration from different problems that I'm going through, what my friends or what the world is going through, but I just try to make it funny." From the looks of it, Rickey is right on track.

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He's Actually Really Shy

One thing that many people don't know about Rickey is that he's an incredibly shy person. Rickey described his offline self to Teen Vogue, saying, "I'm not a loud person all the time. I hate causing a scene, I really do. I love to keep to myself with my friends. I'll make them laugh."

Rickey Thompson Shy Rickey Thompson Shy
Instagram via @rickeythompson

"But I'm not always that loud, screaming person. I like to keep it down sometimes," he continued. Rickey does what he can to push himself out of his comfort zone, to help "More people realize that it's okay to be different and be yourself." He concluded, "It's boring being like everyone else."

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His Personal Style

That all could've led to Rickey's colorful and eye-catching wardrobe. In 2018, Thompson described his personal style as a "Very '90s, early 2000's type of look, very baggy but also fitted at the top." His heartthrob fashion inspirations include Brad Pitt "From back in the day," Dennis Rodman, and boy bands like NSYNC.

Rickey Thompson Personal StyleRickey Thompson Personal Style
Instagram via @rickeythompson

In 2020, Rickey doubled down on his response. He said he fell in love with the '90s/2000s era, and by the looks of his Insta posts, he wasn't kidding! We have to admit, this style did seem to come back in a big way recently. Fashion gives Thompson "A way to really express [himself] through clothes," according to Who What Wear

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Rickey's Calvins

In October of 2019, Rickey announced on Instagram that he landed "A dream come true" for a modeling gig. Thompson knew he made it big when he modeled for Calvin Klein. In fact, the brand made Rickey his very own #MYCALVINS promo video, where he proudly stated, "I'm just being myself."

Rickey Thompson Calvin KleinRickey Thompson Calvin Klein
Instagram via @rickeythompson

Fans could feel the emotion in his Instagram post. He said, "I remember growing up afraid of being the real me, afraid that no one would accept the real me and afraid that I wouldn’t make it as the real me." He continued, "Always remember, LOVE who you are and live YOUR life to the fullest! Don’t let anyone EVER bring you down!"

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Rickey's Key to Success

Rickey told the New York Times that his key to success is being relatable. Thompson doesn't "Really do multiple takes." He shared, " My ranting videos I can definitely do in one take, and for those, there's no plan. I turn on the camera and talk, and it's done." The internet star seems to have found his niche!

Rickey Thompson SuccessRickey Thompson Success
OGUT / Star Max / Contributor via Getty Images

Rickey revealed that he films all of his hilarious videos and ranting monologues on his phone. In fact, he balances his phone on the windowsill of his bedroom, just like the rest of us! According to Rickey, "The more relatable a video is, the better." Rickey uses Instagram as a digital journal, letting all of us in on the tea.

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Gives Followers What They Want

Rickey gushed to the New York Times that he is still in shock over the number of followers he's racked up in recent years. Thompson said that having such a large platform "Really drives me to do better," which fans have loved, from the looks of it. "If I can put a smile on your face, I'll keep doing it," Thompson continued.

Rickey Thompson Authentic Rickey Thompson Authentic
Instagram via @rickeythompson

Although the young creator believes there is a "Lack of realness on Instagram," he's loved seeing many of his followers begin to embrace their unique personalities, just like him. While he feels that some people are on the platform to copy trends, he knows others are exploring their abilities. Rickey's advice? "Be you. Do you."

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Rickey Is a Fan Too

Rickey has set the bar high for rocking personal style, and when it comes to wallpaper choice, he takes the cake. His bedroom walls are full of '90s pop star and girl groups' posters. Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish, who he said are his inspirations, have noticed his impressive demeanor and even followed him on Instagram.

Thompson Grande Eilish Instagram Thompson Grande Eilish Instagram
Instagram via @rickeythompson

Grande and Eilish have certainly taken notice of the rising star. With as many fans as Rickey has, it's easy to forget that he's a fan too! He told the New York Times that some of his favorite Instagram accounts include his best friend, Denzel Dion, Amber Wagner, and Donte Colley.

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Advice For His Younger Self

Thinking about what kind of advice he could've used as a teen, Rickey told the New York Times, "I wish I could tell myself not to change myself. You will be loved for being yourself. Always keep your head up," he shared. "I know that sometimes it's going to be hard, and you'll beat yourself up, but your hard work will pay off." 

Rickey Thompson AdviceRickey Thompson Advice
Instagram via @rickeythompson

"I went through it. I went through so many no's…Now I have my dream in my hands," Thompson revealed. "And if people hate you for you, don't listen. Focus on staying booked and busy." If staying booked and busy has worked this well for Rickey, sign us up for his method!

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His Relationships Began to Change

Throughout recent years, Rickey's had to watch his back in new ways. "I've had to get rid of lots of fake friends. I get stronger and stronger every day," he explained. "I've learned to protect myself in new ways, stay grounded, and surround myself with great people."

Rickey Thompson Relationships Rickey Thompson Relationships
Instagram via @rickeythompson

Thompson sticks to a small circle of friends, and the same goes for his dating life. He told Nylon, "I have to constantly recognize who is actually there for me. I'm pretty nervous to date," he admitted. "I am taking my time in the dating world. It can be challenging, but I feel like [love will happen] when it happens."

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First Acting Job

From 2016 to 2018, Rickey played Dakota in the series Foursome. Dakota is "The gay best friend who is more than confident in his own sexuality," according to the series' landing page. As explained on AwesomenessTV, Foursome is a YouTube Red Premium series production spanned for four seasons.

Rickey Thompson Foursome Rickey Thompson Foursome
Instagram via @rickeythompson

The series featured four teenagers with "Very different personalities help each other navigate the hormone-induced, angst-filled sea of high school," according to YouTube. Rickey recalled that this role helped him realize his long-term goal of becoming an actor. It sounds like we can expect to see him on the big screen in the future!

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Rickey's Werkin' It in Every Way

If everything we've shared already wasn't enough to impress you, the internet comic has a few more tricks up his sleeve. In 2019, Rickey won a Shorty Award for Instagrammer of The Year. According to their official website, the Shorty Awards, "Recognize individuals and organizations producing great content on [the] social web."

Rickey Thompson Shorty AwardRickey Thompson Shorty Award
Astrid Stawiarz / Stringer via Getty Images

The accomplished viral personality also modeled in H&M’s 'Stay True, Stay You' Pride campaign alongside actress and activist Laverne Cox. The collection featured "A colorful range of athleisure-inspired garments and playful accessories for all," according to H&M.

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His First Fashion Splurge

In June 2020, when Who What Wear asked Rickey to spill the tea on his first big purchase, he excitedly shared, "My very first fashion splurge [was] my YSL boots. And the only reason I bought the boots was because of Harry Styles." Thanks to Harry's love of heels, Rickey became inspired and hooked. 

Rickey Thompson YSL Rickey Thompson YSL
Instagram via @rickeythompson

According to Rickey, he bought the boots around 2015. He proudly mentioned that he's "Worn them everywhere, and they are still in good shape." His fashion advice? "If you put your money toward something good, it will stay with you forever." So, hold on to your boots, people!

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Partnership With Coach

In recent years, Rickey's partnered with some brands that have been staples of his life forever. When the opportunity came for him to model for Coach, he was ecstatic! He told Essence's Nandi Howard, "Coach is just so easy to work with, and they always treat me well...Anytime I shoot with them, the shoots are so much fun."

Rickey Thompson Coach Rickey Thompson Coach
Instagram via @coach

"When I was younger, my mom, grandma, and aunt loved Coach bags. A Coach bag was the bag," he continued. "So now fast forward to working with them, I think that is so cool." Rickey was featured modeling the Swinger Bag in December 2020. The bag is currently sold on the Coach website for about $275.

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He Brushed Shoulders With Anna Wintour

While attending a Teen Vogue party that showcased young designers, Rickey's eyes landed on the industry queen. After some light convincing from his party companion and friend, Shelby, Rickey introduced himself to Anna Wintour. Rickey explained meeting the fashionista as "absolutely everything," and we can't blame him!

Anna Wintour Rickey ThompsonAnna Wintour Rickey Thompson
Ilya S. Savenok / Stringer via Getty Images

According to Thompson, he walked up to Anna, started with "Hello, how are you?" and spilled that Anna said hello, smiled, and shook his hand. "It was literally the best moment ever," Rickey gushed. "The fact that I made Anna Wintour smile made me feel so good! Such an amazing moment, and I will never forget it."

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Rickey's Booked and Busy

Rickey revealed that he's still sometimes surprised when fans see him in public and ask for a photo. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Rickey explained, "When I was younger, I saw that happen to other people, and I never thought it would actually happen to me." But, thanks to his comedic charm, he has gained quite the following.

Rickey Thompson Booked BusyRickey Thompson Booked Busy
John Shearer / Contributor via Getty Images

He later let Teen Vogue in on one of his big dreams of having a future in acting. "I definitely want to work with the Saturday Night Live cast," he revealed. "I want to make my big break in the comedy world and then eventually get into drama. I want to play a very dark character."

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He Graced the Cover of Out Magazine

Rickey stole the show, well, the cover, when he appeared on Out Magazine dressed in Dries Van Noten. Aside from the eye-catching photo-op, Rickey got his very own Fashion Cover Exclusive interview. In it, he explained everything from his supportive family dynamic to his future career plans.

Out Magazine Rickey ThompsonOut Magazine Rickey Thompson
Instagram via @outmagazine

Photographed by Danielle Levitt, Thompson shared the inside scoop of what helps fuel his ambitions. "I'm not gonna give up because I have so many people who are watching me today, and these are people who are going through something as well," he shared.

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What Do You Meme?

Until he reaches the big screen, Rickey will have to settle for his budding modeling career or YouTube roles. Perhaps, even his What Do You Meme expansion pack, where players match photo cards with caption cards to find the silliest combinations. And now you can play with Rickey too!

What Do You MemeWhat Do You Meme
Twitter via @rickeythompson

The Rickey Thompson What Do You Meme expansion pack is sold on Amazon, giving players the chance to add some Rickey charm to the fun. His pack includes photo cards and 50 Rickey themed caption cards. We don't know about you, but the game is already in our Amazon cart!

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'We Said What We Said' Podcast

If modeling and being an internet-famous star wasn't enough to keep Rickey busy, he started another passion project. 'We Said What We Said with Rickey and Denzel' is a podcast sponsored by Spotify studios. It launched in September 2020, and as described on Spotify, is a show with "Bold advice, hot takes, and risque storytelling."

Podcast Rickey And DenzelPodcast Rickey And Denzel
Instagram via @rickeythompson

Episodes are about 30 minutes long on average and feature longtime best friends Rickey and Denzel. The BFF's discuss topics from pop culture to music and friendship, relationships to all of the drama. While bringing a new podcast to life, Rickey recalled his initial thoughts about Tik Tok.

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He Thought Tik Tok Was "For The Children"

At first, Rickey did not want to hop on the trend of Tik Tok. He explained to Who What Wear, "I was like, this is for the children. But then when we went into quarantine, I was like, okay, let me just try this out, and now I'm obsessed. I'm on the app 24/7." And clearly, he's not the only one.

Tik Tok For Children Tik Tok For Children
Instagram via @rickeythompson

"It's really a cool way to connect with people," he explained. "It's a really fun and funny app, and there is so much you can do on it." It seemed that Thompson warmed up to the app and to the idea of connecting with people differently. Especially while the entire population was couch-chilling in pajamas.

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Rickey Is a YouTube 'Streamy Award Winner'

According to YouTube, the Streamy Awards honors "The best in online video and the creators behind it." The award show aims to honor brand advertising innovation, creative individuals, and the new wave of celebrities who help brands deliver their message.

Streamy Award Rickey ThompsonStreamy Award Rickey Thompson
Presley Ann / Stringer via Getty Images

Rickey was visibly thrilled to win the Lifestyle category of the 2019 Streamy Awards. Who wouldn't be? In his acceptance speech, he said, "I'm so happy right now." He thanked God, as well as his friends, family, and team, for supporting him. He ended his acceptance by expressing a huge thank you to his fans.

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Doesn't Consider Himself a Celeb

Despite Rickey's skyrocketing career start, he's made it clear that he doesn't consider himself a celeb. In fact, he once told Esquire, "I still to this day think that I'm not a celebrity." But, many of his fans beg to disagree. With celebrity status (whether he believes it or not), many are curious about his net worth.

Net Worth Ricky ThompsonNet Worth Ricky Thompson
Instagram via @rickeythompson

Amanda Bodenstein and Gon Carpel, Thompson’s managers, shared that Rickey "Makes a comfortable living." But, according to several sites, Rickey's net worth is estimated to be around $1-10M. With a growing platform, things are only looking up for the already viral internet sensation. 

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"If You're Hating On Me, That Is So Sad"

There never seems to be a dull moment for Rickey. When asked about having drama in his life, he explained that he's one of the lucky ones that doesn't have drama swirling around him. "I'm never in any beef, and I'm always minding my business," Rickey revealed. "If you're hating on me, that is so sad."

Rickey Thompson Drama Rickey Thompson Drama
Instagram via @rickeythompson

However, that doesn't mean that he had a drama-free past. Rickey has reported that people from high school still slide into his DM's. And, when they do, Rickey's replies are usually along the lines of, "Yeah, you bullied me. So what’s up?” The responses he gets are apologetic, but Rickey still leans more toward the block button.

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A Voice Of This Generation

In April 2020, Entertainment Tonight personality Denny Directo shined a light on the positive attitude Rickey has. He even referred to Thompson as the "Voice of this generation." Describing him as a "Source of light, entertainment, and fun" for the generation as the public takes on the recent pandemic.

Rickey Thompson Positive Impact Rickey Thompson Positive Impact
Jason Merritt / TERM / Staff via Getty Images

In the interview, Thompson shared what he's been up to in quarantine. According to Rickey, he has been "Doing a lot of at-home workouts...learning to cook, and catching up on TV and movies." This sounds a lot like what we've all been up to, and that makes us feel pretty good!

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Rickey's Next Steps

Rickey always keeps it as real as possible with his fan base. He admitted that he started out discouraged with modeling for fear that people wouldn't like him. Specifically, in a space where he couldn't be the 'funny guy.' Yet, he's already booked photoshoots with Teen Vogue and Calvin Klien. 

Rickey Thompson Model DealsRickey Thompson Model Deals
Ilya S. Savenok / Stringer via Getty Images

Rickey is certainly making a splash on the runway. He's also landed partnerships with American Eagle, The Luggage Company, and Coach, to name a few. Rickey has recently been helping to keep fans in good spirits online and doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon!

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