Rickey Thompson wasn’t always outgoing. “I was a shy kid,” the comedian-actor-influencer tells Vogue over the phone. “I feel like social media really brought the confidence out of me.” These days, Thompson, 25, is “booked and busy,” (as he reminds us in his Instagram bio), modeling in campaigns for brands like Coach, gracing the cover of PAPER magazine, and hosting a podcast, We Said What We Said, alongside his best friend Denzel Dion. “Now, I’m a social butterfly,” he says.
“I didn’t grow up with a lot of friends,” Thompson says, but making people laugh always brought him closer to his peers. “That’s always been my thing.” His rise to social media fame began in 2013, when he discovered Vine through a friend who encouraged him to share his talents. “I would see all of these other people’s pages growing. I never thought I could do it. I was like, ‘I’m shy. I’m scared about what other people think about me.’” He eventually pushed past those fears.
“I felt like each and every time I posted on Vine my confidence started growing more and more,” he explains. His platform continued to grow as well, thanks to his authentic approach and sense of humor. “People are drawn to those who are being themselves. They feel like they can relate,” he reflects. After high school, he moved to L.A. to further pursue acting, modeling, and comedy. “There were times I doubted myself. By me being Black and gay, I’ve had to really work my ass off to get to where I am. When I meet people who have supported me since the beginning of my journey, that’s what keeps me motivated to keep going,” he says.
With his next-level glowing skin and ’90s-inspired braids, it’s apparent Thompson knows a thing or two about beauty, too. l. “I look up to Rihanna for inspiration,” he says. “I am so obsessed with everything she’s doing in the beauty world. She doesn’t follow anyone. She does her own thing. And those are the kinds of people that I look up to.” For his own skin care, he turns to Youth To The People, especially their cleanser. “My skin journey has been crazy,” he admits. “I had bad skin growing up and it was really discouraging.” Lately, he’s put emphasis on finding the right products and committing to habits that will nourish his skin. “I drink my water, I eat better meals, and stay moisturized and use my sunscreen.” He explores makeup through photoshoots but in his daily life he keeps it natural save for the occasional use of concealer. “I just like to let it breathe, let it be natural, with that nice glow or whatever.”
For his hair, Thompson takes inspiration from the ’90s group Kris Kross, and rapper Busta Rhymes. “Really, any guy who was big in the ’90s who had braids,” he says. He gets them redone once a month by his go-to stylist, Erinn Courtney. “It’s important to maintain them. I sleep with a silk cap every night; I’m really protective about my hair,” he says. That also means moisturizing with a plethora of oils—aloe is a favorite.
On those days where his confidence might be wavering, Thompson turns to friends, shopping— “I’m learning about different fabrics and what looks good on me”—exercise, and verbal self-affirmations. “I used to be made fun of for my dark skin,” he says. “And now, as I’m getting older, people applaud it. But we should always love our skin and applaud it. So many people look up to us for beauty and fashion inspiration. We are pioneers and it must be celebrated.”
He takes his own advice: “I look at myself every day in the mirror and say, ‘Oh my gosh. You’re beautiful, you’re Black. Keep it pushing.’”