Back in 2006, when former ‘N Sync-er Lance Bass was grabbing people’s attention (“Wait, he’s the one that likes dudes?”) and reviving his career (not as a singer, but rather as a perennial “yes” to every single red carpet invitation ever) by coming out as gay on the cover of People magazine, Atlanta native Qaadir Howard had only just set foot on the then-fledgeling YouTube scene. Little did early viewers know that Qaadir would go on, unapologetically and with all the steam of a 1900s locomotive, to become one of the leading LGBT trailblazers in online video. For all the talk about pride this, LGBT that, Qaadir simply was — minus all the PC bluster. He exemplified pride, he exuded sexuality, he defied gender conventions; he was simply himself, without hesitation and without censorship or regret. And that is what the fight for LGBT rights could always use more of — more people who just matter-of-factly walk the walk. Or in Qaadir’s case, more like a stomping of the pavement. Unlike the video content of LGBT creators who bank on the shallow stereotypes of their sexuality or who just talk the incessant, fanatical talk of activists, Qaadir is an innovator for simply being himself in the face of it all, and for being damn good and damn entertaining at it.
Needless to say, Qaadir’s influence as an LGBT creator has been considerable and can be traced all the way down to the newest wave of popular LGBT creators, and thusly, he had to be included in our hand-in-hand series with YouTube for their #ProudtoLove campaign.
You were on YouTube very early as a prominent LGBT creator. What was the scene like back then?
Qaadir: Well the tone of YouTube from my perspective when I joined, it’s always been for the most part to me a place for people like myself to be heard — I’ll give it that. Before YouTube there really wasn’t a platform to do that type of thing, to press “record” and share your talents, your music, et cetera. And so what it really did is give people who didn’t have an outlet, whether they were vocalists, comedians, whatever the case may be, to really showcase their talent and perform, and after a period I definitely realized that in utilizing it in that way, because YouTube really was to me a place for people — gay or straight, whatever the situation was — to really use it and showcase what they do, you know what I’m saying? And to have an opportunity to potentially be discovered. I think that people really caught on to that pretty soon after the revelation of YouTube. Yeah, a place where you can really get an opportunity.
How much of a role do you think YouTube as a platform has helped to advance LGBT causes?
Now I think it’s been a huge part. You know, social media in general has been a huge part. Anytime something happens, there is a cause or an election, whatever the case may be, between Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, now even Instagram, these different platforms, they all to me play a part because it’s so easy to record an idea or a message and get it out to the masses whereas before you kind of had — not saying there isn’t a place for this anymore — but back in the day you had your street canvases and door to door and petitions on the street, whereas now between YouTube and this and that and that and this. I remember when the creator of “Kony” back in the day like a while ago like a year or two ago, he did that, and even though he lost his mind, the point is before he lost his mind, he did that video, uploaded on YouTube and it exploded, so same thing with gay causes or any cause really, but gay causes for sure. When there is something that’s happened, Prop 8, this, that, that and this, it’s easier for you to get your voice out with YouTube, and I definitely think that YouTube was a part in getting and aiding that.