Matt Mckenley- Born to Shine
Matt Mckenley grew up in a Christian family in a small town in Virginia. Nowadays, He’s a prominent influencer in the LGBTQI+ community and has amassed 1.7 Million followers amongst all social media platforms. At Ultraviolet, we’re big fans of his work and positive outlook on life, so we asked him to sit down for a chat to accompany his new collab with us.
Matt came out on social media when he was seventeen. “I had come out a little bit before that to friends and stuff, just to people close to me in my everyday life. It was an ongoing topic in my family. My parents kind of knew, and they were questioning me about it, but they found out officially when I was seventeen like everybody else.”
“Being gay, I say this from my own experience, tends to be something that is a part of you since you’re born. So you try to hide it and convince yourself you’re not, but it’s just a part of you, and sometimes the people in your life can see it clearly before you do.”
Matt has been out for three years now. He says that since he came out, he’s felt a weight gradually lift off his shoulders. “I made a lot of videos and social media content portraying myself as straight, so it definitely felt like coming out from lying.”
Even though he made a coming-out video that has amassed over 40k views on Youtube, Matt says that at first, many of his followers still didn’t know. “I put a lot more content out on Instagram and other platforms, so many people missed the video and found out later. I thought that was funny because, after a while, I feel like it became obvious;” He tells me as he chuckles.
Matt is grateful he doesn’t get a ton of backlash; when he does, it’s generally on TikTok when people from different parts of the world see his videos with his boyfriend on their “For You” page. He thinks once he came out, his content changed for the better. Before being completely honest, he would find himself copying trends. “I still struggle with it sometimes, but I’m happy to say that for the most part, I post what I wanna post, and I’m myself online and off. I don’t try to be liked anymore, and that has made my content better. It’s more genuine, and people can tell.”
“There’s a lot of things about my videos I wish I could’ve done differently, especially with my coming out video, but I know I did what I could at the time, so it’s okay. I’m proud of myself regardless.”
Matt tells me he’s not too close with all of his family. “I mean, I don’t always feel comfortable around them, but I know it’s not my problem; it’s their problem.”
I asked Matt if he had any advice for the friends and family of LGBTQI+ people on how to be the best ally, he answers, “That’s an excellent question. So many people, especially parents, are scared that [somebody] won’t be accepted or have a hard life. I want parents to know that if their kid is coming out to you, they already thought about the worst-case scenario and decided to come out regardless. Freaking out is only going to make it harder on them.”
Matt says his favorite part of the LGBTQI+ community is that they all share a similar story. “I wish that we could use that to understand each other and have empathy. Not everyone will be as feminine, masculine, or confident in their sexuality as you might be, and that’s okay. There’s space for all of us. We can’t forget about the marginalized communities within the LGBTQI+ community. We should do our best always to be accepting and welcoming towards them. We have more things in common than differences.”
Matt is grateful that there’s more representation for the LGBTQI+ youth on media, but he still wants to see more. He says that seeing gay main characters on TV helps. “I like when gay people are represented as regular people because that’s what they are.” Some of his favorites include Modern Family, Glee, and Generation on HBO.
Matt is happy and thriving in LA. When we asked him if there were anything he would advise to his younger self, he said he would tell baby Matt to come out sooner, that it’s all going to be okay, that life gets so much better when you’re honest with yourself and those who love you.
You can order Matt’s blend here and find him on all socials as @mattmackenley.