Pen and paper may not seem like they’d be the go-to creative outlet of choice for a guy who built his career making YouTube videos, but Connor Franta has been forging his own unique path. Franta describes himself as an “emotional creative” (more on that below), but in a nutshell: he puts it all out there, and writing is the outlet that pushes him hardest.
That’s not to say Franta is switching careers, he’s just adding more to his collection. Almost re-defining the term “multi-hyphenate,” Franta built a very successful YouTube channel (over 5.6 million followers as of this writing), started his own coffee and clothing lines, launched a record label, and written two New York Times best-sellers… all by the ripe age of 25.
Written By: Jason Bowers
Photographer: Kaleb Khu
Stylist: Star Burleigh
Grooming: Christopher Miles Using Sisley Paris and Tom Ford
First and foremost, Franta knows his heart and soul, not his face or follower count, are what’s really on the line. It’s also why he holds heartwarming moments he gets to share with fans in such high regard. By pushing himself hard, Franta knows he’ll work through his struggles, and that in turns helps his fans work through theirs.
Coat: iiJin Sweater: Standard Deviation Jeans: Dolce and Gabbana Shoes: Vince
We caught up with the West Hollywood resident/Wisconsin native/Minneapolis transplant/our 2nd Life co-founder about all his creative, entrepreneurial, and philanthropic endeavors, being more than just a social media influencer, the importance of diversity, and (of course) what it means to be a gentleman like Connor Franta.
You just celebrated 7 years since you uploaded your first video to YouTube (congrats!). Looking back, is there a specific moment you can point to where you knew this was a real career path?
There was a point in my sophomore year of college, about 2 years after I first posted, when everything began to steadily take off. It didn’t happen all at once for me; it took time, effort, and ruthless passion. Eventually, I just knew it was the right path for me to pursue fully.
You’ve been very open about areas of your life including your sexuality and your experience with depression. Have you ever let people see parts of your life that you’ve later regretted?
Definitely. I’m what I like to call an ‘emotional creative’, so when I’m feeling something with extra intensity I typically write a poem, photograph a setup, or design a digital graphic. There have been times where I’ll share that art on social without realizing how vulnerable I’ve just been in the piece and, at times, later wish I just kept it to myself.
Do you ever get writer’s block/video creator’s block? If so, how do you pull yourself out of that creative slump?
All the time. I’m constantly looking for new ways to be inspired or stimulated. I think that’s one of the hardest parts of working in the arts for me. Most of the time, I end up having to wait it out until an idea finds me vs me finding the idea.
Can you tell us about the most fun you’ve ever had making a video?
Honestly, the ones that were the most fun to film were the collabs back in 2013-2014. YouTube was still a young, carefree platform and the community’s potential felt limitless. It hard to describe, but my friends and I felt like we were on top of the world back then. That’s not to say I don’t still feel that way, but I don’t know, I guess things are just different now.
Sweater: Roberto Cavalli Trouser: Z. Cavaricci Shoes: John Varvatos
Of your different business ventures (your YouTube channel, your New York Times best-selling books, your record label, your coffee line, your clothing line), which one has taught you the most and what did you learn?
Writing has taught me so much about myself. It pushes me to my vulnerable breaking points, then quickly pulls me right back together; somehow more whole than before. I’ve worked through some of my biggest struggles with just a pen and some paper.
How much are other YouTubers coming to you for entrepreneurial advice?
Here and there, yeah. I’m always surprised when other creators I admire, new and old, speak highly of me or think I’m worthy of asking advice. I’m not necessarily following a traditional path, so to have my route respected is pretty nice.
You built your fan base through video which is obviously such a visual medium, but for your first book you were adamant about your face not appearing on the cover. What was your thinking behind that?
I still do everything, creatively speaking, myself, so I ultimately want the content I put my heart and soul into to have the spotlight. It’s not about me. It’s about the chapter I spent hours writing or the commercial I spent weeks directing or the coat I spent months designing.
Jacket: iiJin Shirt: Jacob Holston Trouser: iiJin Shoes: Standard Deviation
You’ve said your first book was a reflection of your external life so far, and your second book was a reflection of your internal life. Will there be a third book and what will it reflect?
Who knows! I really enjoy writing, but it’s a lengthy, draining process. I’m going need some time to think about what it would if I ever did write another book.
How do you feel about the term “social media influencer?”
Candidly, I loathe it. It belittles all the hard work I do down to a follower count or the quantity of likes. I’m so much more than that.
You’re a bit of a workaholic, but is there something or someone that can get you to drop everything to leave the work for another day so you can go have fun?
Many, yeah. More recently I’ve found a better work/life balance. There are certain people I’d drop most anything to see because they make me genuinely happy just to be around. At the end of the day, I’m going to value the time I spent holding my stomach from laughing so hard with my friends higher over a late night tapping away at the keys on my laptop.
Coat: iiJin Button-Down: Jacob Holston Sweater: Rag & Bone Jeans: Roberto Cavalli Shoes: Santoni
What’s funniest or strangest interaction you’ve ever had with a fan?
I’m not sure about funny or strange but I have had many heartwarming moments with my fans. On my recent book tour, I helped a young girl come out to her dad as bisexual on stage at the event. It was beyond special. I still tear up thinking about it.
You’ve devoted a lot of time raising money for GLSEN. Can you tell our readers about the organization and how you got involved?
Happy to! GLSEN’s mission is to ensure every student, in every school, is valued and treated with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It’s important stuff and they’re making real change happen across the United States in a climate where we need it more than ever. As a gay man myself, I think it’s very important for kids to be exposed to diversity at a young age and to learn how to embrace the spectrum of humanity. It sets them up for a life of acceptance towards others and themselves. GLSEN is wonderful and I cannot speak higher of them.
Sweater: Gucci Jeans: J Brand Shoes: Prada
You recently turned 25 (Happy Birthday!) What’s your ideal b-day celebration?
I flew to London to spend the week with some friends. I’ve never been a big birthday guy, so honestly, I’ll be happy with going out to eat then staying in with all my friends, a few drinks and some good music. Nothing crazy.
What does that word “gentleman” mean to Connor Franta?
Being respectful, considerate and just a damn sweetheart.
Fall Forward with Connor Franta BTS Video