9th February 2024
Jake Kneesh is a trailblazer, a different kind of influencer, and he’s leading the charge in body positivity in men. His open and honest posts are a stark contrast to the typical content we see from influencers, and his perpetually growing following indicates that the people have really responded to his refreshing vulnerability; he currently sits at over 150k followers on Instagram. We were lucky enough to chat to Jake about what inspired his style of posting, how he got to the position that he’s in, and what his plans are for the future.
Hi Jake! Thanks so much for the interview. For people who may not know you, who is Jake Kneeshaw?
I'm a full-time influencer and model, which is kind of one of those weird ones when you say it out loud. You're like, oh gosh, I'm one of those people.
And what do you stand for?
I think I'm what I'd like to call a modern age liberal-thinking human that wants to bring around a conversation about concepts like masculinity versus femininity. I also want to just start helping men feel better about themselves.
A lot of your posts are related to body positivity. Why do you feel so strongly about showcasing different body types?
I think that especially in the fashion industry and social media, growing up a lack of representation can lead to a lot of self-hate and I think I still experience that. But I have definitely experienced it more so in the past where you're trying to live up to an expectation. And because of the gender I was born with, I need to look this way to be considered more of a man or to be considered successful or something like that. So I really wanted to sort of actually showcase how I look, so hopefully some people might appreciate it and be like I look quite similar and then I can actually have an idea of what clothes would look like on me or how I can dress when I look this way. So I think that's why body positivity sort of screamed out to me. I've done my fitness influencer era, but I'm now in a position where I love my body. It's all about just encouraging self-love. We're all on our own journey of body positivity where we show ourselves more love some days and more hate some days and I showcase that. Some days I'm not feeling myself as much, but some days I absolutely love myself. And men don't get to see a lot of that on social media. We tend to see the top 0.5% of male physiques that look like Greek gods and compare ourselves to those.
Did you feel any apprehension at first about showing your body in such a public forum? Do you ever still feel nervous?
I think I always had a certain level of confidence. Growing up as a kid or a young man I was always quite confident with what I would wear or how I could showcase myself. So when I started to put myself online, there was obviously a tiny bit of apprehension because you're worried about how people will respond to your body, cause it's definitely a cruel, cruel world. Being on the other side of the camera I just thought to myself, this is exactly how I would behave if I wasn't in front of the camera, so yeah, I was quite confident. We're always on that self love journey. Like there's always peaks and troughs. Sometimes there are times where I might look in the mirror one day and think I look like shit. Like I'm skinny in all the wrong places and fat in all the wrong places. I think that's the journey everyone goes through sometimes. You're really loving the way you look and you like the outfit that you've put on and confidence can make such a difference on the day of how you look at yourself in the mirror. So some days I feel a little bit more confident. But for the most part I love my body and the journey that it shows that I've been on even if at that moment in time I've woken up that morning not feeling great. I think it's time to embrace those feelings and actually try and turn them into a positive.
You’ve also showcased the dismantling of gender stereotypes in your videos. Why do you think this is so important in the current climate?
For me, gender stereotypes has been something that even at a young age I've questioned. I think gender stereotypes for me is such an expansive topic. I think it ties in almost with that male image. But gender stereotypes are so encompassing. I think it starts from young. I remember growing up, even little things - like I loved the pink Power Ranger. That was my favourite Power Ranger. I had the pink Power Ranger costume, but even as a young boy that comes with labels that he's very camp or and things like that. Or the girl that likes football is a tomboy. And we're so ingrained in society at the moment that your interests, hobbies, likes, dislikes, should all be wired towards the gender that you're born. Then when you step outside of those societal norms, it's considered as wrong and people sort of shun you for it. We then have this movement of what is now toxic masculinity. I just don't think the masculine and feminine argument has any place in today's society. I think what it does is it breeds an element of sexism and misogyny because it looks at masculine men and masculine traits as being higher and above feminine. There's a lot of men that would see a powerful woman and call them intimidating. This group of men might look at a man that embraces femininity, maybe he's more caring or empathetic, and they then have labels for that person. This social hierarchy is what then leads to so much misogyny and sexism. And not only that but it kills individuality and it makes men have a really hard time questioning their internal monologue when they're growing up because they might like the pink Power Ranger, but they're getting shunned. The girl might really like football, but she's discouraged from it because she's encouraged to be into Disney princesses. So I think it causes a lot of conflict within people's own mind that leads to a lot more issues later on in life, whether it's questions around their own sexuality or anything like that. We should be moving towards a liberal world. And just being yourself is the most important part.
Your videos are particularly important to male viewers. Why do you think that is?
I like to think that my content resonates with a large group of men in the sense that whilst they really don't get on board with everything in terms of the gender stereotype stuff, they do really appreciate the body positivity aspect and and I think there's a lot of men that constantly feel like this shirt they're going to buy online is going to arrive and not fit them. I think body positivity is just going so well with women at the moment, but men are still so caught on beating themselves up every time they look in the mirror. And honestly, even my group of like male friends, the amount of them that say good things about themselves in the gym or in the mirror at home is just so little. None of them are ever sort of self complementary to the shape of their body or the way it looks, they're always aspiring to have something better. So to actually try and affect men and be like you know what? I appreciate the body you've got and what it's taking you through and everything so far. I think men are actually like, yeah I agree with that.. I've got a bit of a gut at the moment, but I'm just bloody enjoying myself. The thing is like we live such a short life. The focus should be on being happy and loving ourselves rather than being too strict on yourselves. There are people that want abs all year round, so they're like diet 24/7 and every time you talk to them, they're still not happy with the way they look. I can't forget about the fact that I still need to care about my health and enjoy myself and live a good life.
You said that it was losing your job which inspired you to start posting more on social media. What was going through your mind at the time of becoming unemployed?
Oh, it's an interesting one. So I lost my job. I think it was the start of September 2023. That was when I lost it. I had basically gone into this job working for this vegan company and I thought this was it, like I was earning a salary that my dad could be proud of. I was on the straight and narrow. It came crashing down and that job was no longer there. I think, like anyone in their 20s, regardless if they have a job or not, you begin to question your meaning and what is the purpose of me being on this planet. Like what is my thing? What am I gonna look back on and say this is what I did? So I spent a lot of time in self-pity, wallowing. I settled on this bit where I was like I actually wanted to start a separate Instagram breaking down gender stereotypes and toxic masculinity. And I want it to approach fitness and body positivity. I had all these avenues and I was just like, I'm going to throw myself into it. I went back to a PT job, which just gave me money to put petrol in my car type thing. I was like I'm going to throw myself into it, I'm gonna continuously post and really try to get my message out there as much as I can. The reception was unbelievable and by what, three months later, I was over 100K followers on Instagram. I remember watching the followers go up and up. There were moments where it wasn't the followers going up that was making me proud, but the fact that so many people were clearly appreciating the message that I was putting out. I really wish that I could have done this sooner. And in those moments where I was questioning what my purpose was, I could look back on now and be like. I'm proud of the message I've put out there.
Did you ever imagine that you'd build such an amazing such an incredible following?
If I'm honest, I have the worst imposter syndrome ever. I'll look at my followers and I'll be like they must have done it by accident. Or like they don't care. They're just gonna unfollow me. I don't truly appreciate when I meet someone and they're like, oh, I already follow you on Instagram. I get so overwhelmed. I feel like every single person that I interact with is so close to my heart. I'm absolutely overwhelmed with how many people have come on board. I think it's just nice to have a community where everyone feels because it's a safe space like mine. My community is never gonna shun anyone. And so it's nice to have.
What are your career goals? What would you like to achieve in the future?
Fashion. I really want to push the boat out there a little bit and I would love to sort of run my own campaign fashion company focusing on breaking down societal norms in terms of what we wear. And creating sort of that ambiguity around clothing just being for everybody, regardless of whether society dictates it's for this gender or that gender. Showcasing not just real bodies, but all bodies. I'd love to branch out into other social media platform, do more TikTok, do more YouTube and start podcasts that can be aligned with what I'm doing already and help more people. I'd love to speak as well. I would love to be that male TV presenter that wears a skirt whilst presenting. Even to stand up on a stage and talk about gender stereotypes to a room full of students. It would be a real honour just to display what I feel is like the liberal society we should be working towards.
Amazing, thank you so much Jake and good luck with everything!