Who makes a difference in your life? Every semester I am blessed to learn from my students. I ask about their favorite content creators. Each time, most of the names are new(s) to me. Each time, I used to feel “out of touch” until I realized this was actually a great thing … a celebration of internet’s truly awesome capacity to inspire, empower, and sustain individuals, communities, industries, us. Here’s a half-dozen wow-now people I discovered thanks to my students at the Academy of Art University Fashion Journalism department as well as the fashion media management program at IFA Paris. The fine folks of the 2022 cohort seek, explore, and provide access to various forms of self-discovery and healing for their followers. Onward!
Sam Dylan Finch: a community healer-at-large
Sam Dylan Finch (SDF) is a mental health advocate (currently on a mental health hiatus from social media, a smart idea!) I don’t remember if it was their ADHD Survival Guide: How I got my sh!t together in a pandemic or vulnerability in navigating lifelong impact of eating disorders that first got me fully on board as a follower myself. Looking cute while doing the damn right thing for oneself and others?! Liked and subscribed, yes I did. We are – personally and collectively – a work ever in progress and SDF is great company for the unruly process of being human. Also on Patreon.
Terrell Jermaine Starr: a journalist extraordinaire
This was a perspective that made the Russian war in Ukraine relevant/relatable to many of my students in the United States and the Global South. Terrell Jermaine Starr (TJS) has been covering Ukraine long before the invasion and remained on the ground during the battle for Kyiv and the refugee exodus. His brand of emotion-informed, fact-checked, human-centered “old school” journalism in today’s algorithm-driven digital mayhem caught the eye of Politico and Oprah. TJS is a host of the Black Diplomats podcast and a prolific Twitter reporter who is into fashion diplomacy. What’s not to like and follow?! Also on Patreon.
As an avowed edutainer myself, I am in the business of connecting the unconnected and seemingly unconnectable dots. Eating disorders awareness as a social justice issue with an antiracist decolonization lens?! Say what now?! Yes, please. Can I have some more?! Between unconventional memes, informative merch and historical context content, this account has quickly become one of my top reasons for powering up the good ole ‘Gram on the daily. It’s fun, funny, and (trade)fair. Aside from quality content, this is also an ongoing live masterclass in running a people-first business in a digital-only economy. Viva la Vida Nalgona!
Idzie Desmarais: champion of (un)learning
Listen, school is where you find it. I encourage my students to see and seek education beyond the confines of both the physical and virtual classrooms. This is why I was so thrilled to be introduced to the work of Idzie Desmarais, a passionate advocate for self-directed lifelong learning. She reigns on Twitter and has contributed to one of this year’s most exciting anti-academia books: Trust Kids! Stories on Youth Autonomy and Confronting Adult Supremacy. Her social media accounts also feature cats, recipes, and make-up reviews. Meet your next favorite queer anarchist! Also on Patreon.
The Sharok: adult entertainer on a mission
When life gives you lemons, we all know what to do… When your students give you a porn star as a favorite influencer, there is no protocol for that. Following Sharok, I
fell for met a human rights activist, an advocate for animal welfare, an inter-cultural ambassador, a legit style icon (impressive for someone who works naked) and a skilled slayer of Twitter trolls. And there is also porn. From his 2022 Grabbys Awards speech: “I love being able to represent my Persian and Middle Eastern community in such an unconventional way.” Y’all treat yourself too to a man redefining a notoriously toxic industry. Also on JustFor.Fans
R.C. Waldun: the readers’ reader … on YouTube
Anyone on a mission to resist the TikTok-ization of the human mind is a friend of mine. This Australian student began teaching others about the hard-earned joys of reading, the life changing small miracles of journaling, the thrills of engaging with philosophy in one’s life, etc. All the while looking like someone from a latest L’Uomo Vogue editorial complete with great eyewear. Waldun’s recent video is How To Stop Buying And Start Reading Books. This is required viewing for all book
lovers hoarders getting itchy every time another year’s end Best-Of list hits the internet. Also on Patreon.
Also, my Patreon folks get one more (very special) reference that didn’t make this list, but regularly makes a difference in my mental health. Subscribe and see for yourself… Hint: it’s “out of this world” 😉
You may also revisit Who My Students Taught Me, Class of 2021