Evolution in life is crucial, but evolving on social media is practically a necessary. For Ian Paget, amassing well over two million TikTok followers has required evolution, honesty, and some absolutely killer dance moves. While his entertainment career has not been without its heartbreaking pitfalls, hitting the red carpet for this year’s Academy Awards is one of the sweetest rewards yet. I sat down with Ian for an extensive chat where we discussed his love for 30 Rock and RuPaul’s Drag Race, and he got brutally honest about mental health challenges for the LGBTQ community and we manifested a little amazing future plans.
Michael Cook: You’ve gone from the becoming one of the biggest names on TikTok to the red carpet of the Academy Awards! What was it like to attend the hottest night in Hollywood?
Ian Paget: WOW; kinda crazy and so amazing for me. That is like my Christmas.
MC: How did you getting to work the Oscars red carpet come to pass?
IP: Someone reached out to my agent and said that they would be having an “Oscars experience” and were reaching out to certain influencers to be there and be a part of it and make content around it. I was going to interview nominees in pods, but then that changed to be on-stage and collecting content. Vanessa Hudgens did a lot the interviewing for ABC and we were all in the background. It was really amazing because we were right at the spot where after press and before the theater, the stars turned the corner. To feel that kid-like energy from nominees was amazing; because you really feel it.
MC: Is there anyone that you totally fan-girled over and got to have a moment with?
IP: I was pretty good about laying low, capturing content, and taking videos of everyone. Anything Jessica Chastain did though, from a smile to a move, I was so excited to see, because I just love her to death. We’re friends on TikTok. Kevin Costner also, when he walked by I was like “Oh my God, you’re Robin Hood…The Bodyguard”! He is a king.
MC: You are one of the most followed people on TikTok with over 2.5 million followers. Your content runs the gamut from dance challenges to game nights with friends. When did you see the pivot from simply posting on a platform to truly seeing it become something else entirely.
IP: During Covid, I think there was a moment where you see the numbers grow and that is a very cool thing; you realize so many eyes are on you. The first time someone recognized (ex-boyfriend)Chris (Olsenfor) and I at the same time, we were in Nantucket and someone came out of a Vineyard Vines and asked to take a picture with us and said that their “cousin loved us”. That was the beginning of feeling like someone was connecting with us.
MC: Doing it with your then-boyfriend Chris and then seeing your relationship evolve, what was it like going through that in front of millions of followers?
IP: it is definitely a love/hate relationship with social media. I grew up in a generation where we did not have the insta and the socials at a young age. I have a harder time saying “yes” to the mess of it all. I can be pretty good at not engaging in a certain way, but then you read a comment or see something and you can’t help but react to it; it cuts deeper than you think. I have had to really ask myself what it is that I want to share and what I want to create boundaries around. I am navigating that and it is an ever learning process.
I want to be someone who doesn’t feel that way because I have all of these eyes on me and be so self-conscious, but then I also want to feel that what I want to share feels authentic and not exploitive with my life. Those are some really interesting things to have to manage and navigate in your everyday life; this is not going to a regular nine to five job. For me, putting dance videos out, sharing fun things that I love, thoughts, cooking, places and activities that bring me joy, that hopefully people like to watch, feels like a good place to live.
MC: To hear certain things unpacked from influencers like yourself not only is helpful to your viewers and fans, but also perhaps helpful to yourself. Certain things you can just condense and simply release into the world in your own way. Is that accurate?
IP: I think that is what hit with a lot of the people with the content that was being made between Chris & I. People were able to say a kind of “Abbot & Costello” where someone was presenting a prank or a ridiculous thought or activity and then the “Costello” was the voice of reason. It allowed for my overanalziying and pontificating self to come out in reaction to him. People would be like “who is this amazing communicator” because I was simply reacting to this moment that was happening. It made it a lot easier because I was actually handling something in the moment that brought up a deeper and more profound thought that made people say “this guy thinks so wildly, it reminds me of me”.
MC: I think that is a very accurate description of yourself, from you. From an outsider perspective, you do have a very disarming quality of sorts, which definitely translates to your viewers, I am sure.
IP: I love that. It’s funny, between friends they’ve asked “if you had a superpower what would it be” and mine is that I make people very comfortable around me. I think I go straight to “okay tell me about you”. If you are a good observer, my way is saying something like “I see there is this thing that you do, do you know that you do that”? It is a way that I am connecting with you to say “I see you”.
Still walking on clouds from this day! It’s @Jessica Chastain for me❤️ #oscars
MC: Social media for so many people is a launching pad to bigger and better things. You were on Amazon’s Mozart In The Jungle and you were also on the much-beloved soap opera One Life To Live. What comes next for you? And who did you play on One Life to Live?
IP: I played a character named Lou, it was a one liner. That was when One Life to Live switched to being aired online. I have never seen the footage, but he was an office aide. It was the beginning stages of set life. As for what I want to do next, I just started a podcast, the first episode we recorded just yesterday. I am doing this with my friends Sloan and Zack, I’m usually a guest on their podcast called Mummy Dearest. That show started off as a fan reviewing of the film The Mummy with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. They realized that they couldn’t just talk about one film for 17,000 episodes so now they talk about other movies as well.
We had such a great rapport that we created a new podcast titled It’s Giving Share and we are pretty proud of it. We are the ones producing it and it is going to be a place where we talk about mental health, wellness, and wrapped around the way that I am and the way that I talk about the most random things and how they can bring up something possibly a little bit more profound; it is really all about the small things. Hopefully, the show will be a place where people can come and hear a more long form version of things that I am going through and things I want to help people feel better about. That is the biggest project.
MC: The shame in the LGBTQ community regarding mental health continues, with many people turning to substance abuse or alcohol as opposed to getting assistance for the root of their issues. What do you think it is about mental health that still has such a stigma applied, even in today’s day and age?
IP: My initial answer is that I think it is because I think we are scared to tackle it in ourselves. What we hate that we do, we avoid in ourselves. Therefore, when we see it on other people we either don’t want to hear about it and/or deny that it’s true. You don’t want to be reminded and faced with the mirror in front of yourself, because then you would have to deal with it. Instead, we poo poo it and we shame other people about it I think. I feel like there is that, but in 2022, there is a huge shift in terms of mental health being really important. I don’t know if it is because it is on my feed and in my ether, but ever since people like Esther Perel and Brene Brown, we just have to much at our fingertips. I feel like there is a good amount of support, especially on TikTok.
There is such a prevalence in support for people going through things when it comes to mental health and people coming in droves behind you saying “thank you for sharing, I can totally relate to that” because I think a lot of people are…scared to share. There is shame around “well if I share, it makes this…more true or people see it” etc. There is so much fear around the subject and I deal with it daily. I am going to have to push through that and managing that with my podcast because I do want to share a lot and be as honest as possible, but also want to set boundaries for myself. That can be really tough and lovely in theory, but in application, applying it is a lot harder putting your money where your mouth is. I am an ever-evolving human with many things that I think are a mess that I don’t want to the world to know abut that I avoid. I think my way of handling that is that I go to therapy and talk about it with my friends. I do feel like I can help people feel better about where they are at because that is what I would want someone to help me do for me as well.
MC: When you aren’t crafting content, working the Oscars red carpet or kicking off a new podcast, what are you doing to unwind? Anything bingeworthy you are into right now?
IP: When I am just chilling and hanging out with my friends, I love a game night. I love having an activity in that way. A form of mediation for me is making a meal, I made a one-pot pasta recently. Sometimes I will just go get some ingredients, chop them up, and make a dish, that really makes me feel better. I am watching some 30 Rock right now, which I am obsessed with. It is so good, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin have some brilliant performances. I am also rewatching some Wil & Grace, I am in a comedy mood right now. I think in this time that we are in, when I have been going through a couple things these past couple months, I want to feel better when I am watching something. Wil & Grace, 30 Rock, those things feel good.
Ozark I am just about to start the season that just came out, and a new thing that I just started to do that is making me feel good is that I just started to watch Drag Race this season. I had fallen off the past couple of years, but now I have a Friday night with friends and we watch it and I really love the show. Those queens are getting put through the ringer and it is an exercise in wow; improv, make something work in the moment, everything. That has been a new favorite of mine. I am enjoying it no matter what happens.
MC: What is something that you want to manifest for yourself right now?
IP: First, I love this question. It scares me because you have to think of something that you really want. I think of that Marianne Williamson quote that says “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us”. Six months from now, I would love to be on a sitcom. I would love to be own a show in an ensemble of actors. A 30 Rock, Wil & Grace, maybe even in the world of Veep. Somewhere in the world of it being opinion, a well written show and I get to come in and I am sharing my zany, quirky, comedic self and also mixing with some drama and that starts to happen for me. Maybe my podcast has blown up; that would be so cool.
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