It would be all but hyperbolic to say most young people who find fame on social media go on to more traditional mediums - Amanda Steele went from YouTube to IMG model, Brendan Jordan used his Lady Gaga-inspired viral moment to defy gender norms on a global scale, Aaron Carpenter is using Instagram fame to launch a music career. 17-year-old Los Angeles-via-Idaho starlet Aidan Alexander's story is almost the inverse; he started acting before he could talk and found fame on the web later in his career. Now, he uses both platforms in harmony to express himself and connect with his audience. We called Aidan to talk about his transition from small town hunk to social media superstar, his first acting experiences, and what's in store for the future.
When did your interest in social media begin?
I was acting before I posted any videos, before I was big on Instagram. I've always loved acting. In the beginning, I made little films. Then I would go to the grocery, burn them onto DVDs and distribute them to my family. I've always loved the concept of making things and sharing them. The internet enabled me to do that even more. I really connected with Instagram and YouTube and stuff because it was another place to be expressive and connect with more people.
already tired at coachella
A post shared by Aidan Alexander (@aidanalexander) on Apr 14, 2017 at 1:29pm PDT
It's interesting that you started with making DVDs, a physical medium.
This was 2006 to 2010. I had this old camera that I found in one of my mom's boxes and I would film little shorts with my friends from middle school and elementary school. I was so obsessed with the hard copy that I would go to the grocery store and get a huge stack of DVDs that comes on those little spindles. I would go on Windows Movie Maker and edit them together in the worst way. It was essentially me sticking the clips together. They were not masterfully edited. So bad! I would burn them and then I would take a DVD case, remove the sleeve that had the cover of the real movie, flip it, draw my own movie covers and give them away.
You were so proactive!
I was a really efficient 6 to 10 year-old.
Acting came before your social media success story. When did you notice that, as you were pursuing your dreams, people were getting really into you on Instagram and YouTube?
I never had a viral moment. I was never on Vine, I never worked on YouTube like a ton of influencers did. It was more the process of filming and editing that I really enjoyed. I did notice when I hit 500,000 followers on Instagram. It kind of clicked with me and I was like, "Wow, that's 15 times the population of my hometown. This is insane!" I hate to look at the number and the likes because it feels so trivial, but that's when I noticed people cared. It was never the goal. I never started thinking, "I want to be a YouTuber; I want to be a social media person." It coincided with my acting. It gave me another place to be expressive when I wasn't on set.
When did you first realize your passion for acting? You grew up in Idaho; it doesn't seem like there's a lot of opportunity for that.
It's so cliché when people say, "I've been doing it as long as I can remember!" but that literally is the case. When I was 2 or 3 years old I was mimicking commercials, trying to get the verbiage down. In Idaho, there's nothing to do so I loved going to the cinema and watching anything, even if there was nothing good showing.
What do you consider your big acting break?
The first job I ever did! I didn't have a big role in it, but it was definitely the coolest for me because Luke Perry played my dad. This was Red Wing, the first thing I ever booked, in 2013.
Has there been an acting gig that was especially challenging for you?
My first project was pretty hard. It's the most trivial thing and it's not something that would stop me now but I was so new to acting. On Red Wing, I could not get a Southern accent down to save my life. Luke was trying to help me with it. After a few minutes I got it, but those four minutes were the most terrifying four minutes of my life. That was pretty difficult.
You're an influencer but not in the traditional sense. I read that you don't like to be referred to as a YouTuber. Why?
I have so much respect for the YouTube community and that's not just a polite cover. Posting for as long as I did—a year and a half or so—it was so difficult to get a video up and a video edited every week, especially after schoolwork and all that stuff. The reason I didn't want YouTube to be my identifier is simply that YouTube wasn't my passion. Acting was my passion. That's what got me to LA and that's what ignited the spark of wanting to create things. Acting and movies are what I want to be known for because they are what is most important to me.
I think that is, singlehandedly, the most important thing you can do, especially given our current state. I won't get into politics, but I think it's so important to listen more than you talk, especially if you don't know what you're talking about. I think the biggest thing people do wrong is talk and post on social media about things they don't know. It creates more misinformation. As an actor or singer or influencer or YouTuber, if people follow you, you should be talking more about the things that are important to you than photos of your lunch. It's so important to discuss the injustices and the hurt that so many people are feeling globally right now.
If you're in middle school or high school and don't have money to donate to the ACLU, if you don't have the means to help in those ways, sometimes the most important thing you can do is try to create conversation and educate as many people as possible.
You just put up your first cover on YouTube of Miley Cyrus' "Twinkle Song." Are you looking to pursue music?
I've always loved singing. I was either too busy or too scared to do anything about it. It's a beautiful song and I love how simply she conveys a complex emotion which is just, like, missing someone. I'm actively music-ing now. I've recorded a lot of covers. I love so many bands and artists. When a new song comes out I'm like, "I want to sing this!"
Really! What have you been listening to?
I love "Sweet Creature" by Harry Styles. I was listening to that before you called. I love "Nights With You" by MØ. MØ in general is just killing it right now. I love Robyn. I love Frank Sinatra; I listen to so much Frank Sinatra. "Don't Leave" by Snakehips ft. MØ is my favorite song right now. Of course DAMN by Kendrick Lamar. Cupcakke's new album, too! She rocks.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I'm working on a film right now. I'm working on music and trying to post a few covers. As I've been doing since I was little I've been writing so much: screenplays, songs, poetry, anything really. I'm doing a lot and I'm still finishing school. Hopefully, you can see my graduation in my future. That's what you can expect: I graduate high school first.
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