1st May 2022
Photographer, Interview & Editor in Chief: Owen James Vincent
Make Up Artist: Simmy Sidhu
Logo Design: Emily Curtis
To kick off May, our cover boy goes to Max who is a TikTok star, body positive activist, mental health expert and an LGBTQ+ member of the community.
We got to speak to Max about body representation in the LGBTQ+ community, he gives us tips on how to look after our mental health and he tells us his creation of his online blog, Happy Smiley.
Hello to our May cover boy, Max! Thank you for chatting with us at ReVamp Magazine. You started to get recognized on TikTok for being body confident and representing body activism. How did this all start and how important is this to you?
So the journey for me with body confidence was because I went through a period a couple of years before lockdown where I was going to the gym constantly, I had an incredibly ripped physique but I was still very insecure. So, I had the ideal body type but I still wasn’t happy with myself, and the confidence that I did have came from any validation that I got from any other people and it was a very unhappy time in my life. When lockdown happened the gyms were shut, I was comfort eating and started on antidepressants, so it was a triple whammy for me losing the muscle and started gaining weight. Suddenly I wasn’t getting compliments on my physique and it came very apparent to me that any confidence or self-worth I had was being sustained on the way people viewed my body. It suddenly clicked that I didn’t want to go through my life feeling that the reason people value me or get recognized is because of the way my body looks I want to be seen as more than that and so it became very important to me to go on a journey to accept myself as I was without the muscle, the six-pack, all the things I thought I needed because I had a similar body type before I went to the gym and I didn’t like myself then. I was also very aware of having that body image and constantly posting body images online, face tuning it to a standard that wasn’t realistic damaging anyone that followed me. It became very important to me to create content that makes me make people feel a little bit better about themselves. I’ve been on this journey for so long that I kind of taken everyone along with me and that’s how it all started.
You’ve mentioned to your followers that you’ve struggled with your mental health. What advice would you give to people that are struggling with balancing things in their life?
That’s something I struggle with and am not amazing at. I’m in a fortunate situation where I feel like I’m struggling I take a step back completely, so I would take a couple of days off from work and reprioritize what I need to focus on. I think one of the most important things I make sure I do with balancing things in my life is that I think about what am I dealing with? So If I’m feeling anxious I would sit with the feeling and ask myself why I feel like this rather than run away from it like one of the easiest things to do is throw yourself into a distraction and not deal with the problem. So, I make a conscious effort to sit with what’s going on in my mind or a sensational that I have in my body and then it passes for me a bit more naturally.
So I find it important to be mindful of where your head and what process is going and I do a lot of other things like going to the gym loads which is doing wonders for my mental health, go out for a walk, spend time with my cat and I try and be sociable. Try to do things where I don’t sit there for hours and overthink!
As part of the LGBTQIA+ community I feel like sometimes you need to have the perfect body for people to find you attractive. So what I think you’re doing is amazing! Have any people reached out? If so what did they say?
I get it loads! Every single time I go on social media there’s always a message. It can be a simple sentence or a paragraph from people saying thank you for what I do. I’ve had so many people telling me that they love seeing videos of me saying about having a normal body and going through that process of learning to accept who they are depending on other people for their confidence. It’s been amazing to have so many people message me and it’s not something that I will get used to.
The LGBTQIA+ community is clearly immensely supportive of its fellow members yet unfortunately at this phase too, there are certain members who are afraid to come out of the closet due to several intrinsic and external barriers. Just like how you have stunned the world with your exceptional body positivity movements, how would you like to shine a light on issues relating exclusively to the queer community. How would you promote a healthy mindset like yours to be achieved by the members of the queer community currently struggling with such issues?
I think the one issue in the community is the segregation of the way we put ourselves into such boxes and we label ourselves internally. I think to some extent labeling ourselves can give us a home and it gives us a place where we’re not alone and that there are other people like us but there are other labels that can be very damaging. A good example of this is twink in the queer community where you hear that word and start to associate with a certain body, a certain personality, a certain gender orientation where you kind of lean, where it can be so toxic and nasty place to be.
One of the other ones that are very apparent with what I do is body image and there’s such a horrendous view of body image in the queer community. It’s known as the queer iceberg which I found very fascinating where you have the top 1% of gays that have a certain eclectic at the top and the rest are below the water under the icebreg and you don’t see them and that the queer community is only represented by the top that’s why a certain percentage of the queer community don’t feel seen or don’t feel heard because they only see the top 1%. I think when it comes to having a healthy mindset has to be going through the body images journey I’ve been on.
I was talking to a close friend about this recently where I’ve decided that I’m going back to the gym and do want to change my physique again where I want to feel toned and the reason why I want to do that is that I’ve been on such a long journey with my body that I’ve been at the place now that I’ve had a belly, love handles and at a place like that where I was, maybe 5 years when I use to hate myself I got the same body type where I got to love myself. I realized that I can be confident, happy, and validated that I can be accepted with that body type.
You’ve also had an online blog called Happy Smiley! Could you tell us more about it?
Yes! I set up Happy Smiley a year and half a ago. It started with a little website where I wrote stuff but now it’s become a blog and community which I love. It did originally have another name but we had to change it for illegal reasons and I had to make sure it was something similar. I had a big golden retriever that we, unfortunately, have to rehome and anyone that knows about golden retrievers knows that they have the biggest smiles on their face, they are just the happiest dogs. His nickname was Happy Smiley Boy and it always stuck and it was nice to keep him with me while setting up Happy Smiley.
We discuss topics that people like to read and loads of diverse content but at the moment I have taken a step back from it as I’m going through my body image battles and through my own journey so it’s on a hiatus but I will potentially bring it back as I love it and it’s a passion project of mine. I love it and I love that I managed to create this safe space for me and I’m excited about its future.
You’ve recently told your followers that you’ve started Only Fans. What made you decide to go down the Only Fans journey? And what would people see if they signed up?
I have been considering it for a long time because I’ve included sex on my feed. Although the queer community can be seen as very promiscuous and highly sexualized. Sex as an educational point of view or sex when it comes to discourse analysis doesn’t get spoken in much depth. It’s very much face value like a top, bottom, verse and it can very toxic, there aren’t any construction conversations around and I wanted to kind of bring that in. On top of that, I’ve spoken about being a highly sexual person and sex is something that’s very important to me. I’ve always enjoyed doing quite sensual shoots, especially now that my feed focuses a lot more on lifting up other people I didn’t have that space anymore to do that kind of photography and it was something that I didn’t want to post on my main feed because I want people to come to my profile and not think it’s all about me and that they can see themselves in it. So, I wanted to have my own space where I can experiment with that photography again and feel sexier in me and in underwear and do these kinds of shoots and post them. So I just decided to go for it and even though I was nervous and worried that brands would get funny about it then I thought if they got funny that I had an Only Fans there were not the sort of brands that I would want to be working with.
I’ve only had 2-3 weeks and I’ve got over 600 subscribers which is incredible what you can get from there is no full front on nudity, it’s nothing pornographic it’s just much teasing, and suggestive with photos and videos. It gives me the confidence to show my body in that way and set boundaries there and I’ve made it my safe space.
Lastly, have you got any plans for the rest of the year?
Hopefully going to launch my debut project with Happy Smiley at the end of the year which is an awareness journal. That’s kind of it really but I’m just powering through and I’m on my little journey and I’m loving that people want to come with me but I’m just excited to see what’s going to happen for the rest of the year.
You can check out Happy Smiley here.