Queer Careers – Riyadh K, YouTuber
Queer Careers is an ongoing series featuring ‘out and proud’ professionals. This time, we speak to Riyadh K, the presenter of Queer Britain and an established YouTuber who we previously nominated as one to watch this year. Get ready for a master-class in how to break into your dream career, from a man who has already blazed his own trail.
Hello Riyadh, tell me, how do you describe yourself professionally?
“Hello PLANETROMEO. I’m a content creator, a film-maker, a social media person, and a bit of an activist as well. I just like to do many things and jump around. I’m lucky enough, that I get to wake up in the morning and think, OK, so today I’m directing a short film, or tomorrow a YouTube video, and the next day I could be developing a television series.”
More Queer Careers Curtis M. Wong – HuffPost
Who do you look up to?
“A lot of people. I look up to different people in different ways. But, as we’re talking about careers, there are some key people who I have always admired and had a warm feeling for: Oprah, Davina McCaul, Graham Norton, and Stephen Fry.”
“The best interviewers out there and the best investigative journalists, are ones who allow the subject to be the storyteller, but still entertain. It also comes down to the fact that I just want to be them.”
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
“I think it’s two-fold.”
“Firstly, the thing I’m most proud of is the fact that I never gave up. Over the eleven years since I decided I wanted to work in media. There were all of these roadblocks that were in my way. I still pushed, and I pushed, and I cried, and I lost gigs, and I pushed, and I got small gigs and when someone got in ahead of me, I got a different gig. My parents would say, ‘You got this, you got this,’ and then I just kept going and had that self-belief. Then I set up a pirate radio station. I did all these things in the knowledge that they were all small little steps towards the dream, and I’m still on my way there.”
And what’s the other thing, you’re most proud of?
“Secondly, is the series that I made for the BBC called, Queer Britain. It explored a lot of aspects of my own life, and my own psyche, that I needed to look at and question. I think it made a lot of people – gay, straight, and otherwise – think about themselves and society. It made the viewer reflect on the issues we have around racism, body-shaming, homelessness, porn, religion, sex-addiction, all of these things. At the same time, I got to fulfill a lifelong dream, which was to work in television and to make something that I think is not only needed, but also very well produced. It’s something I can look back on in 10 or 20 years and think – that was good.”
What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ kids starting out in multimedia/journalism, future YouTubers, or documentarians?
“Number 1, really ask yourself the question, ‘Do I want this?’ And when you answer it, answer as truthfully as you can, because it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to test you, it’s going to make you emotional. People, who you might think you’re better than, are going to get in ahead of you.”
“It’s going to mean at times, you’re going to have very little money, and you’re going to be very tired from working every living hour under the sun. But if after asking yourself this question, there’s still a burning desire within you to make great content, then it’s definitely for you.”
What’s the next step?
“The thing is to try and differentiate yourself, stand out from the crowd, do whatever you can to politely shine from the rest, and that for me is not just working hard, but also find a niche and do that; knock on doors; find contacts; be tenacious; do whatever you can to get in somewhere, into some broadcast organization or publication.”
If they get a chance, what do they do then?
“If you do get lucky enough to get in, that’s the point where you really need to show them what you’re worth, and give them no option but to take you along; give them no option, but to need you. The way you do that is by solving problems they didn’t know needed to be solved. Here are a few things you can do:
- get in there early;
- leave slightly later;
- have a smile on your face from the moment you enter until the moment you leave;
- make people laugh;
- inspire them;
- tell them your story.
The best way to tap into the minds of the gatekeepers, the people who are going to give you opportunities, is by humanizing yourself to them. So don’t just go in as an experienced person who is hungry for an opportunity. Also Tell them why you are hungry; tell them what you did to get there and thank them for having you.”
“Don’t be shy in saying what you want to achieve in the future. If you can allow them to see themselves in you and look back and think, ‘My god, this kid has the same burning desire that I had when I was starting.’ Then you’re much more likely to be given an opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask for a chance and don’t wait for an opportunity.”
“Say, ‘Hey, I’ve done this for you, and I’d love to do more for you. I have the ability, I have the want, and I think the organization could benefit from it.’ That’s not ego, that’s confidence.”
What would you most like to do next?
“I would love to make a big-budget, feature-length documentary and tour it across film festivals around the world, and get it picked up by Netflix or Hulu. Something that I could really sink my teeth into; with a long film shoot, a long period of research, and subject matter that hasn’t been done before.”
“In my entire professional life, I’ve looked at things and thought, ‘OK what do I really want to do?’ And I’ve just figured a way to make it happen; even if I haven’t got the resources.”
“‘I don’t think I’ll ever stop growing and learning and chasing; now I understand that the chase is the beauty of it. You have little pit-stops along the way and that’s where you find happiness, when you reflect and think, ‘What would 16-year-old Riyadh in his bedroom doing a pirate radio show think of the fact that he has just presented a documentary series for the BBC?’ These are the moments that I really enjoy and relish. No matter what age you are or what your dream career is, start the journey towards it today. Most importantly, make it fun, fulfilling and full of authentic joy and creativity.”
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Enjoyed this story? Then be sure to read the previous Queer Career Interviews: