Ian Paget joined TikTok (@ianpaget_) a little over two years ago, and already he’s been named People Magazine’s Sexiest Guy on TikTok, was a debut nominee for GLAAD’s TikTok Queer Advocate of the Year and has amassed over 2.5 million followers on TikTok. With a wide variety of content ranging from dances, bloopers, intimate chats about his life, and sponsored posts, to the occasional thirst trap, at the heart of everything he does is his commitment to authenticity. His very public relationship that helped solidify his place in the social media world eventually become a very public breakup. Instead of shying away from the reality beyond the lens, he used the experience to get real and bring some sincerity to the TikTok world.
In honor of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month, he took to the press and opened up about the mental health struggles that have started to affect social media personalities. He talked very candidly about how we, as a society, can be better and help those going through strife without overstepping boundaries. Breaking through the smoke and mirrors of TikTok, he is sharing the real Ian, and fans from the LGBTQ community and beyond are stanning.
An entertainer from his youth, being a content creator is just one of the hats he wears. His true passion for music and acting has taken him from Broadway to film and television. His colorful career was born out of a colorful childhood. Born in England, he was raised by a Honduran mother, went to French grade school, and was given career insight and motivation by his father, who knew a bit about the business. How could he not be a performer?
I owe it to my parents for sure. I have been lucky enough to have the life experiences I’ve had. Being exposed to so many diverse cultures since I was a baby was HUGE for my self-esteem and is a big part of who I am. I love that I grew up in a house where three languages were spoken. French with my sister and Spanish with Mum and of course English with my dad. Both my parents sacrificed a lot to help me achieve my goals – from sending us to a lycee in London, to finding dance classes, swimming lessons, you name it. My parents knew that exposing us to those activities would only enrich our childhood. Also, my mom taught me so much about loving the people around me and accepting yourself, flaws, and all. That’s my disposition in life – lifting those around me. Watching people win at life brings me the most joy.
Studying his craft at an early age gave him the tools he carries to this day, whether on stage, filming a scene, or creating a TikTok. Nothing happens overnight, nobody just becomes a viral sensation. There’s hard work at the foundation of every one of Ian’s successes.
I learned about discipline in the arts. I learned the importance of studying your craft and working every day towards mastering that craft and making your dreams a reality.
At the age of 12, his family moved to Miami, where he was accepted into the New World School of the Arts’ acting program. After that, New York was calling where he attended Marymount Manhattan College to further his acting studies. Immediately after graduating, he was cast in the first of three Broadway shows. He has performed in Leap of Faith, Soul Doctor, and Mamma Mia, with Mamma Mia marking his Broadway debut. Opening night was a flurry with his parents and an early acting coach in the audience. What has he learned?
I learned how to manage the eight-show per week schedule, which is NO JOKE. Working in theater is so rewarding and comes with discipline. Keeping in shape and being on that schedule is athlete status. I don’t think people realize how much of your day starts before you even show up to the theater. I also learned the hard work it takes to really lean into a role and give it your all for an audience to enjoy themselves and hopefully have an experience to remember.
With his current success as an influencer, would he ever go back to Broadway?
I do miss it. I mean there is NOTHING like performing in front of a live audience. I’ve been wanting to do a version of the play COCK by Mike Bartlett, so that would be a dream show to bring me back.
He has made appearances on Saturday Night Live, One Life to Live, Dancing with the Stars, Mozart in the Jungle, Lip Sync Battle, the Rock of Ages film, and more. As a professionally trained singer, dancer, and actor with years of doing the work, what is his take on the current trend of casting influencers in on-screen roles? The subject has become a hot topic with pushback from the trained acting world.
I love it. I’ve been lucky enough to watch some of my friends around me break through and showcase their talents in a way that may have not happened prior to social media. The opportunities it is creating for us are unique, particularly in the LGBTQ community. There is something very beautiful about seeing someone you know or follow absolutely killing it and shining.
Is Ian afraid of now being stereotyped by casting directors because of his TikTok fame? With a list of professional credits, is he now seen as the TikTok guy?
I don’t think so. At one point, I was concerned I might be typecast for certain roles based on my previous work or being ‘Ian from TikTok’ but we live in a multi-hyphenate world these days, and if anything, it just means more eyes are on me, which is good. So, I continue to take classes, practice my passions, and audition for roles I think will challenge me.
As an actor, Ian has understood the dichotomy that exists between presenting a performer “front” to an audience that may be in contradiction of what is going on in his personal life. Ian’s consummate experience has given him that insight whereas novice influencers struggle with losing their identity or health for their audience.
There is a component of being ‘on’ because at the end of the day being an influencer (or content creator) is a job. But for me personally, I am the same zany guy in front of the camera as I am around my friends. That is what makes it fun for me … I am being my genuine self and the fact that people enjoy and connect to that is very special.
The world is opening up about mental health. Whereas previous generations brushed dealing with depression, anxiety, and other mental illness under the carpet, there is a new energy in society and in the media where it is ok to talk about mental health issues, it is ok to share your stories and struggles, it is okay to ask for help. With suicides on the rise from the isolation of COVID, within our LGBTQ community, and in the influencer community, mental health must now be dealt with. Does Ian think social media and the sharing of stories and content have helped spread mental health awareness?
A little bit yes and also a little bit no. Social media for sure gives everyone a voice and a POV to talk about and share anything they desire. The more we normalize talking about our mental health and that it is a part of everyone’s daily life, the better it is for people to know they are not alone. There is a support network there. Especially in our community when so many of us in our formative teenage years struggled with accepting ourselves, you never know what sharing your story could mean for someone else. On the flip side, there is an element of social media that is about curating the best image of yourself and showcasing all your highlights. While that is awesome, being open and genuine is what can make the platforms a more authentic experience – to have conversations, learn, grow, and be inspired. And laugh at cute babies and puppies.
It was only a matter of a couple of months into his relationship before Ian started making TikToks with his then-boyfriend. Even in the non-influencer world, there is that anxiety and awkward questioning on when it is appropriate to add your significant other to your socials. Wasn’t Ian trepidatious?
When we blew up, it was all an accident and was me just being dumb and having fun. But like anything, when it turns into your “job,” it becomes “work.” That was something I hadn’t anticipated affecting me as much as it did. There were certainly conversations about how much and what we share, but ultimately it came down to living in the moment and doing what felt right at the time. Even if I didn’t feel like it, we made content because it was fun and rewarding. What other people think of me, or my relationship isn’t any of my business, and letting go of that care factor has been the most rewarding.
Fans were devasted when the couple broke up. Not being able to work through the breakup in private, Ian and his ex felt they owed it to their fans to address it the same way they started – in front of their fans.
Our relationship had become public, and for us to continue being authentic and true to ourselves we needed to be open and honest. I personally took away from it the support people gave us and the care they showed for us both. Breakups are a part of life, possibly one of the worst parts, but it’s a reality we need to deal with and not feel ashamed of.
One of the first times Ian realized his videos were going viral was during a visit to Nantucket Island where a sales associate ran out of the Vineyard Vines to ask for a photo. His first fan run-in! And even as an experienced entertainer and self-marketer, there was no clear path to follow to be a TikTok star. Any advice?
Cut to a few years ago and I never would have thought I’d be where I am now. My first ‘viral video’ was me rambling about hydrangeas – groundbreaking, I know. While there is an algorithm and it exists to keep people seeing content that they may be more interested in, there is also a huge element of luck/chance. Why does a short video about hydrangeas and focusing on your blooming get millions of views but then a video I put a lot of effort into for work purposes sometimes not? To me, it is the relatable content that draws me in and are my most successful videos. Understanding that other people out there may think the same (or differently) about something creates connections and invites a unique perspective. In terms of making it a job and making money, absolutely anyone can do it. Whether it is more affiliate marketing or building an audience to then work with brands you love, my advice would be to find your niche and lean into it.
I was saying to a new friend recently that I want to shift to making more content of my life and what I enjoy, like when I’m on vacation or even just at home cooking – not just sponsored content. It comes in waves though and I find that while I want to share more of that, I also like to live in the moment and put my phone away. Striking that balance is one of my goals for this year and I’m looking forward to making some great memories and hopefully being able to share them in a way that doesn’t feel like a chore.
Any follower of Ian’s also knows he is a foodie. Balancing his love of food with being in front of the camera also has its challenges. As an actor, it’s not unusual to be hyper-aware of looks and body, but then add being gay on top of that, then add being at the mercy of keyboard warriors on social media, how does Ian deal with it?
I’d be lying if I said I’ve never dealt with body image issues. I think we all have and can relate to having those days where you feel great about yourself and others where you don’t. Particularly in the gay community the emphasis on body image can be intense and I’m by no means able to shut it all out and pretend I don’t care. What I’ve learned in the more recent years, especially during the pandemic, is to focus on being fit and healthy – less on the way I look and more on the way I feel.
Next up, Ian will be seen in Hulu’s Reasonable Doubt, executive produced, and first episode directed by Kerry Washington. With the allure of Broadway, his continued growth on TikTok, and with his ultimate passion for acting, how does he know what to focus on?
I balance where I put my energy. I’m in acting class every week, I’m making videos when I feel inspired, and I’m auditioning for film and TV all the while surrounding myself with an amazing group of friends. I’m honestly living my dream.
Is it Ian’s cute dance moves that make him popular on TikTok? Is it his random thoughts to the camera that grow his viewers? Is it his shirtless videos that cause a sensation? Is it his candid moments where he is present and sharing the good and bad from his life? It’s probably a bit of everything … but at its core, its authentically Ian.
His Pride message this season?
Honestly … Do good, be good, and have fun! And to all my LGBTQ+ youths: Contribute to the world. Make the weird art. Share your light because the world needs it.
You can follow Ian on IG: @IanPaget
Last modified: August 19, 2022