If you don’t already know YouTuber, producer, and all-around awesome human being Riyadh Khalaf, get to know him. He shares stories on his YouTube channel that will give you chills to make you laugh, ranging from lifestyle content to educational videos about being part of the LGBTQ+ community. We talked to Riyadh all about how he started on YouTube, digging yourself out of a rut, and the hardest video he has ever had to make.
You created your channel in 2008 and started posting videos about 4 years ago. What motivated you to start posting videos on YouTube?
I made videos way back in 2008 after seeing Tyler Oakley’s channel and feeling absolutely inspired and entertained. Unfortunately, in the early stages of YouTube there were little protections for creators so I suffered some serious and persistent online abuse which ranged from homophobic trolling to death threats. After going to the police as a closeted teenager seeking help, they simply told me to stop making videos.
I went offline for 7 years while studying and working in radio. It was only in the past 2-3 years that I have returned to YouTube as an older, confident and creative 26-year-old. I decided that I didn’t care about the trolls any more. I actually found them amusing. I had a burning desire to create again and that’s exactly what I did! Thankfully my channel grew to over 300k subscribers very fast and it’s now my full-time job.
You’ve transitioned off of YouTube a bit this past year with your documentary series. Are you continuing this move? Do you think there’s a point you’ll leave YouTube behind?
Working on TV and making feature documentaries has always been a dream of mine. My channel is the force that led the BBC executives to me so I am super thankful for that. Although it was an absolute dream come true, I think it would be silly for me to abandon the platform that has given me so much success and happiness in recent years.
For me, YouTube is my mother platform and a place where I can be 100% creatively free. It’s a luxury you cannot get on mainstream traditional media. I can make what I want, when I want and say what I want without the need of approval from a producer. No matter how big my TV career (hopefully) gets, I think I’ll always call YouTube home and will continue to make content on it.
At the moment I’m developing a high production value chat show format for my channel and on the TV side of things, I have just finished shooting two very exciting pilots. So it’s just a matter of time until we find out if they will get the green light!
We all have those moments when we feel like we’re in a rut or don’t have the drive to do anything except scroll through our phone or sleep for endless hours. How do you motivate yourself to snap out of it?
I get into these ruts on an ongoing basis and it kills me emotionally. I think it’s a common thing amongst creative people. We have bursts of inspiration, motivation and ideas that seem to fly into our heads. This is sharply contrasted by times of utter demotivation, self-doubt, comparing one’s self to others in the industry and just generally feeling dejected.
I’ve got a few tricks that I employ to keep myself on track:
You’ve posted some brave content on your channel from speaking with your parents about coming out to calling out an old bully. What was the hardest video you’ve made?
The video where my mom, dad and I discuss my coming out story and how it affected them was, without doubt, the hardest video to film and the one that had me the most worried before and after uploading it.
In the video my parents speak so openly and unfiltered about the difficulties they faced when I came out. Thankfully my parents are the most loving and accepting people I know and have put love above hate time after time. From those dark times, my parents are now outspoken LGBTQ+ activists, they attend at least two pride parades a year, they go to gay bars and they are incredible allies. Can you tell I love them?
My parents are a rare breed. No matter how big, unrealistic or crazy my dreams were, they always said I could do it. It was that positive reinforcement, undying affection and closeness that has made me the man I am today and I will be forever thankful for that.
You’re part of the LGBTQ+ community both online and offline. What’s the best part about the community to you?
The best part of the community is the sister and brotherhood that exists. I can’t describe the joy it brings me when I go to a gay bar in a city that I’ve never been to and instantly feel safe, like I have found ready-made friends and am surrounded by people who share the same struggles, stories and love that I do. It is an unwritten closeness that I have not felt anywhere else.
What’s the one piece of advice that you always remember?
I always remember this Oscar Wilde quote whenever I feel anxious or begin comparing myself to anyone else:
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Janine Maral is culture writer and content strategist. She enjoys podcasts, Notion, and internet communities.