I grew up watching Ellen DeGeneres and I believe she still says it best; “Be kind to one another.” We live in this world where people still feel like they are lonely and that frustrates me to my core. We are not alone, and I will not stop my movement until we all feel like we are together.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Joey Kidney. Joey is a YouTube sensation, mental health advocate, and author of his new book titled What’s The Rush?, released on October 22nd.Joey Kidney has built a 6-year-old brand based on his endless knowledge of mental health, personal battles with anxiety and his ability to look at his life objectively through the camera. He began like most YouTube creators, focusing on typical videos, “challenge collaborations” and relationships. Almost two years ago, he pivoted toward mental health and found the success he was looking for in the world of content creation. Joey recently partnered with WE Day, Telus, McDonald’s, Crocs, and other legacy brands that allow him to explore the U.S. and Canada as he grows a sustainable mental health brand called “Stay You” that features a clothing line, live events, and a lifestyle brand. He calls Ottawa home as his channel has surpassed 750,000 subscribers and tens of millions of views. His focus is to begin producing sustainable long-form content that educates as well as entertains. In 2018, Joey released his first EP “This is Love” with the single “Milestone”, spoke at WeDay Toronto in front of over 15,000 attendees, walked the red carpet at the iHeartRadio much music awards, and wrote his first book.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Joey! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town called Greely on the outskirts of Ottawa in a small bungalow with my dad Greg, my mom Lil, my brother Paddy, and my dog Eddie. I was a big hockey player, and my dream career path was to play in the NHL until I broke my arm, my leg, and then suffered from 5 major concussions. The head injuries put me out of school for 121 days straight and it truly changed the entire course of my life. While I was in my wheelchair with my broken leg, I decided to try out this whole YouTube thing; a very different lifestyle than that of being a hockey boy. I worked 2 jobs, graduated college, and was on tour every second weekend when I was 18 years old! My life growing up was a big rollercoaster ride but I’m thankful it brought me to where I am today.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Due to the concussions, I was seeing a lot of doctors and got diagnosed quite often with mental health issues. I found my entire personality shifted just from the change in my career. That really opened the door to speaking about mental health, and for myself to learn more about it. Growing up with a mom who is a nurse, it has always been in my blood to help people and it truly upset me that I never knew how until now. Going from hockey every day, seven days a week, to now inspiring people with my words, videos, and a book — It has truly started a whole new journey.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Every YouTuber has a certain milestone that they are overly proud of when they hit it. For me, that milestone was hitting 26,000 subscribers. That number means a lot to me because of hockey; I knew that amount of people fills a hockey arena for a game. Last year, I had the opportunity to speak at WE Day, which takes place in the ScotiaBank arena in Toronto. That means that I spoke in front of 26,000+ people that day and it meant so much more than anyone could imagine.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I remember when I first started social media, I was very well known on the app GifBoom. The main place I would get noticed was in malls, and one day I was at the mall with my mother and this girl comes up to me and asks, “Are you Joey Kidney?” I reply with, “No, nope, not me.” And my mom had to force me to take a picture because I was just so shy and introverted that I didn’t know what to do.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My book, What’s The Rush? was just released on October 22nd, and that has been the main focus. A book full of instalments from my life experiences over the course of three years. Aside from the book, I have new podcast segments getting ready to be filmed, as well as new music and merch! I also have live events, such as Stay You NYC, Stay You Ottawa, and many more coming up! Very much an action packed life that is hard to keep up with, but all exciting stuff that people can really benefit from.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I believe it goes a lot with identification. We value entertainment and it affects our upbringing and how we see the world. There is a show on TV called “The Good Place,” and the creator Michael Schur made a statement about creating the after-life for the show and how the cast couldn’t be “just white” as the population of India is 20% of the world’s population, so for someone to truly identify with his comedy he had to make it reflect the actual world. Three reasons why diversity is important is to a) reflect what the actual world is like, b) send a proper message to today’s youth that doesn’t shine importance on one’s race over another, and c) remind ourselves that we are all equal. Our culture can be negatively affected by painting a picture that doesn’t exist, and this picture creates a “shock” when someone travels to another country thinking its “so different,” which can lead to racism, inequality, etc.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Don’t be friends with YouTubers. They aren’t that great.
I believe they are great people on the platform, but once someone considers themselves at the top of a platform, it can truly get toxic. I receive a text about once a month from any creator that lives in LA, and it’s always them telling me I need to go out there to create content with them. I have always gone with high hopes and I always get stood up for no apparent reasons, and then the excuses flow in. Invest in your real friends, because they aren’t edited.
2. You don’t need to spend money.
Being in this space, it is very common to have to “flex” for likes and traction. When you are surrounded by people doing the same thing as everyone else, you will follow without even trying. So keeping that ground is truly important. We don’t all need a Tesla like David Dobrik, we don’t all need boosted boards like Casey Neistat, and we don’t all need Gucci like everyone else. You can seriously watch some influencers waste away all their money just because they are trying to fit in.
3. You come first.
With creating content and having a fan base, it is very easy to lose yourself in the content that does well and what others want. I often find myself making videos I don’t really care about, but doing it just because of the reaction that it gets.
4. Gear doesn’t make the creator.
I am a big fan of buying new gear, like laptops, cameras, lenses. I always wanted my content to look better and be better, and I would feel the need to buy the latest new tech. However, recently all of my gear got stolen when my car got broken into in Vancouver and I lost about $15,000 worth of gear. That’s when I realized something — I’m still here. My gear is not me, my gear is not my content. Heck, I started on an iPod 5. I can still create.
5. Be you.
We are always trying to fit in to create and then stand out to make money. It’s really not worth it at the end of the day when you go to bed unhappy because you faked your way there. Stay you.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Do what you love, it is very simple. Yet, we all seem to put too much on our plate and we all end up burning out. However, I don’t believe it is as bad as what people say. I believe it is a milestone, and it is your inner-you saying, “Hey, this isn’t it. Slow down. Rethink this.” We are so built to believe that burning out is the end of a career when really it is the start of a new one. Just be you and stay you and your burn out won’t be so scary.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I grew up watching Ellen DeGeneres and I believe she still says it best; “Be kind to one another.” We live in this world where people still feel like they are lonely and that frustrates me to my core. We are not alone, and I will not stop my movement until we all feel like we are together. If I had one thing to share with the world and with people who are nervous about where their life is going, it would be “slow the fuck down.” We are not new to the knowledge that we are dying, so why are we constantly trying to rush our way there? There is no rush to make money, to get married, to do this, to do that. Do it at your own pace because life has a way for you, and all you need to do is simply follow it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Normally, my go-to would be my own mother. This time, I have to give credit to my manager, David Graham. He has been by my side, heck sometimes he’s even ahead and dragging me with him, for the past 5 years. He’s been there for me during the times I’ve wanted to quit, the times I have gotten too nervous to be interviewed, cancelled flights, denied deals, you name it. He was always there to encourage and support me and when times got tough, and has always been there to tell me the cold honest truth. This man deserves a lot more credit than he has been given in his life and I’m thankful to call him my manager and one of my best friends.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Whatever happens, happens.” This quote was proudly told by my mother when I asked her about something she would like to tell the world. It is such a simple phrase but it reminds us that no matter what, it is going to work out. There are things in life that we cannot control, change, or adjust to and that is just something that we have to deal with. Making sure you have a good head on your shoulders is what is key, and my mother is always there to remind me of that.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would love to have a private meal with Justin Bieber. Cliché, I know. Watching him grow up has been the most interesting, and saddening thing and I would love to hear his insight on it — from his fame to his childhood being taken away, and having the world hate him for doing what teens do best, making mistakes. He is someone that truly inspires me to stay humble and work hard. He makes me proud to be a Canadian.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Luckily my last name isn’t too common, so it is @joeykidney on all platforms and my newest book “What’s The Rush?” Is out and available on stayyou.ca, as well as streaming the song on Spotify!