Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can’t be neglected anymore. The philosophy aims to create an environment where people’s differences and unique attributes are celebrated rather than criticized. Whether the difference is in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation, abilities, or socioeconomic status, DEI acknowledges that equal participation means everybody has equal merit and can participate meaningfully in society.
There’s a clamor for influencers who can represent these diverse facets of humanity. The leading LGBTQ+ influencers on YouTube (e.g., Shane Dawson, Eva Gutowski) have more than 10 million followers. Apart from YouTube, influencers have also dominated other social media platforms, mainly Instagram. The LGBTQ+ representation across various platforms reflects the growing diversity in society, meaning consumers are appreciating the non-homogenous landscape of the social media influencer industry.
10 Most Inspiring LGBTQ+ Influencers to Follow:
Why LGBTQ+ Influencers Are Taking Over
The essence of DEI is about celebrating what’s been marginalized before. Years back, it would have been impossible to see people with disabilities in ads; gender fluidity was taboo, and consumers always see the “typical” archetype in all forms of media.
LGBTQ+ influencers disrupt the usual belief that only certain groups of people are worth the attention. They command respect and recognition now more than ever, excelling in the entertainment, political, technical, and other industries.
Aside from putting in the work, LGBTQ+ influencers are also going mainstream now because the youth seek brands that represent them. Consumers are now choosing brands where the influencer is someone they can identify with. Contrary to previous generations that have lauded models and flawless actors and actresses, most consumers today prefer relatable influencers beyond simply being aspirational.
This is an important evolution in the marketing space, as about 15.9% of Gen Z and 9.1% of millennials in the U.S. identified as LGBT in a 2020 survey. Indeed, diversity, equity, and inclusion aren’t and shouldn’t be just buzzwords. With LGBTQ+ influencers bridging the gap in representation, there are more meaningful discussions about the racial pay gap, gender inequalities with revenues, and more.
LGBTQ+ Influencers’ Interests
There are popular LGBTQ+ influencers across industries, but among the most popular include fashion, body positivity, music and dance, arts, pets, DIY, health and wellness, fitness, and travel. These are highly saturated fields, but what makes audiences seek out LGBTQ+ influencers is how they’re able to enrich and add value to the topics with their personal reflections and experiences about the community. For binary individuals, such info broadens their knowledge about the LGBTQ+ communities. For those who belong to the LGBTQ+ community, they strongly relate to influencers’ experiences—LGBTQ+ influencers are thus able to validate their followers’ own feelings.
In some cases, even binary individuals can also relate. After all, who has never felt like an outcast or felt different from a majority group? In one way or another, the struggles of self-identity, actualization, and being judged are something everyone can relate to.
Whatever the main content of an LGBTQ+ influencer, be it makeup tutorials, fitness, cooking, or teaching, they continue to promote discussions on DEI, Black Lives Matter, and healthy body image perception, which makes their content thought-provoking.
10 Most Inspiring LGBTQ+ Influencers to Follow
Social media has become a powerful platform for the LGBTQ+ community to educate others, express their creativity, and give accurate insights into their complex and evolving culture. Here are the top LGBTQ+ influencers to check out this year:
Rickey Thompson gained widespread success on Vine and has continued to broaden his following. He is a successful model, actor, and comedian. He openly came out as gay in 2016 and has continued to rise to fame since. He then appeared on the cover of Gay Times in 2019. Thompson has a distinct feisty personality and a strong sense of humor, which has spurred his career. On IG, he often posts comedic videos that his followers seek.
Thompson has around 5.3 million followers on Instagram, where he posts different content about life, career, and interests. His latest project is as a new face of Benefit Cosmetics, showcasing his new campaign, Brow Tales.
Blair Imani is an LA Times Bestselling author of Read This to Get Smarter, a book that helps readers navigate information and understanding of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, disability, and beyond—in order to reach genuine empathy and compassion as a modern person.
Imani is a member of the Black Lives Matter movement and is an outspoken expert on intersectionality, gender studies, race and racism, and U.S. history. She identifies as queer, Black, bisexual, and Muslim.
While her 515,000 following on Instagram may not sound much, she is a prominent influencer in “fighting the good fight” and educating people about progressive thinking and how history and culture affect policies and events today. Her posts are perky and vibrant, which can capture the attention of the younger generation as she delivers important messages.
Bretman (Da Baddest) Rock Sacayanan Laforga is a Hawaii-based Fil-Am content creator. He identifies as gay and has risen to fame as a YouTube and Vine creator, mostly focusing on makeup tutorials. His contouring videos became so popular back in 2015, and he has become a sensation since.
Right now, Rock has over 18 million followers on IG and 8.8 million on YouTube. People enjoy his content, as he provides unabashed humor and candid takes on different aspects of life beyond being a beauty and fashion influencer.
Aside from beauty, Rock is into fitness and travel. He recently joined Nike’s #BeTrue campaign that emphasizes diversity.
Tom Daley is a British Olympic swimmer who won his first gold medal at the most recent Tokyo Olympic Games 2021. Daley openly came out back in 2013 on a YouTube video and has elevated both his career and his influencer status since.
Besides being a world-class Olympian gold medalist, Daley has a huge following on social media platforms like Instagram where he has 3.3 million followers. Fans love to take a peek into his life beyond the sport, like in 2018 when he and husband Lance Black welcomed their first son. Daley is an avid knitter. In fact, he caused a buzz during the Tokyo games when he knitted when he wasn’t competing. He now has his own clothing brand Made with Love, where he showcases knit collections. Daley is also an Ambassador Athlete for Adidas.
Hannah Hart is an American internet personality, actress, comedian, and author. She identifies as a lesbian and has established a strong following on Instagram and YouTube, where she posts a wide array of content about life. Hart is also known for starring in My Drunk Kitchen, a YouTube series that documents her cooking something while intoxicated. Aside from this series, she has a podcast entitled Hannahlyze This.
With around 1 million followers on Instagram, Hart has become an authentic source of engaging content about mental illness, sexuality, and other off-beat interests. She is an advocate for removing the stigma surrounding mental illness by continuing the conversation about it.
Jazzmyne Jay is an American model and Buzzfeed producer who has a penchant for couture and fashion. She is a popular plus-sized model and a staunch LGBTQ advocate. Her influencer status came from her passion for fashion. Jay focuses on body positivity and 21st-century feminism, as highlighted by her YouTube channel: As/Is. The channel started in 2013 and now has around 10.5 million followers interested in tips about plus-size fashion, learning about women’s experiences, and showcasing a body-positive lifestyle.
She identifies as a lesbian, and together with her partner Kate Kuczynski, enjoys posting content about style and makeup. Jay has a growing following on Instagram, with about 535,000 followers.
Chella Man is an Asian-American actor, model, artist, and famous YouTuber. As a social media influencer, he inspires his follower base and shares his unique experiences as a transgender, deaf, and Jewish person of color.
Back in 2019, Man starred as mute superhero Jericho in the second season of Titans—this spurred his widespread popularity. Man garnered a huge following because people wanted to learn more about his personal experiences on gender dysmorphia, identity, and how he translates songs into American Sign Language. With close to half a million Instagram followers and a quarter of a million on YouTube, Man is a media personality who sheds light on how a transgender and deaf individual navigates relationships with himself and with others.
Ericka Hart is an American influencer who identifies as a ‘Black, queer non-binary femme’ with the goal of encouraging others to be more open-minded about sexuality and identity. Hart is also a breast cancer survivor, who wears her battle scars proudly and posts herself showing her mastectomy scars.
Hart has close to 500 thousand followers on Instagram, where she posts content about race, sex and sexuality, gender, and health. She emphasizes that “Black femmes do not have to be kind, easy-going…” and conform to other societal pressures instilled on women relating to weight, diet preference, appearance, and activism in order for them to be honored and validated. For Hart, all black femmes are deserving of full autonomy, “simply by existing”, as she wrote in a post. Hart strengthens the discussion on what women stand for and how to celebrate true feminism and Black representation.
Munroe Bergdorf is an English model and activist, who is actually the first transgender model in the UK. Bergdorf launched a campaign under cosmetic giant L’Oreal but was dropped because of a racial row. She is an outspoken personality who advocates for trans and racial rights. She also supports the #DrawALine campaign that aims to eradicate female genital mutilation in cultures.
In 2018, Bergdorf was appointed an LGBT advisor to the Labour Party, although she resigned shortly. She has experienced some issues, but Bergdorf is never afraid to call out the systemic wrongs that minorities experience. On top of that, she discusses important social issues while also dishing her most fashionable moments for her 556,000 followers on Instagram.
Nikkie de Jager is a Dutch makeup artist and beauty influencer, who is better known by her YouTube channel name NikkieTutorials. She rose to widespread popularity in 2015 after her YouTube post entitled The Power of Makeup became viral and inspired people to show their faces with and without makeup. De Jager is one of the most successful influencers right now, with 13.9 million YouTube subscribers that have viewed her videos over 1.5 billion times and counting. Her Instagram following is also huge, with 16.3 million followers.
De Jager did not originally indicate her gender identity, but in 2020 she came out in a video (I Am Coming Out) as a transgender, sharing that she had been blackmailed by an unnamed person to make the information public before her revelation. She underwent gender reassignment surgery as a teen. To date, de Jager is still going for bold makeup looks and attention-grabbing fashion and has collaborated with the likes of Selena Gomez.
Embrace the LGBTQ+ Impact
These influencers have the authentic voice to promote diversity in their own respective fields. There’s no better time than now for marketers to showcase the DEI philosophy in their campaigns. Because the public has a more nuanced understanding of what it means to belong to the LGBTQ community, putting these influencers at the forefront will help champion the inclusivity cause.
What’s important for brands is to avoid fraudulent campaigns that only patronize the LGBTQ+ community without really embodying the message. These conversations can be challenging, but they are very important and go beyond sales and brand impressions. These conversations enable you to use social media and uncloud the previous mindset of racism and discrimination.
Therefore, if you want to maximize the influencer component of the LGBTQ+ community, find influencers who are true advocates and those who can provide the right perspective for your brand. Remember that issues are as diverse as identities, so it’s important to collaborate with an influencer who has the insights that work alongside your own company’s philosophy.