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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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 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.
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!"
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.
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."
"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."
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.
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.
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."
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!"
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 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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
"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!
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."
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."
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.
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!
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."
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.
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.
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!
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."
"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.
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!
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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!
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!
'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."
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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!
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 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!