Bryan – aka the über-popular TikTokker, Bryan The Diamond – and I are joking about trauma.
Well, not about the trauma itself, but about how trauma builds character, whether you want it to or not. He’s been through plenty; plenty that I won’t repeat here, because it’s not my story to tell.
What I can tell you? His fabulous answer to my infamous opener: “Who are you?”
He rambles a bit, telling me about his life, but it’s what he settles on that, I think, fully encapsulates why Bryan has millions of followers – sorry, besties – across platforms:
“When you ask who I am, I guess I’m just… a ride or die. I’m a person who cares.”
And as we continue talking, it’s clear to me that he is just that.
Bryan grew up in Orlando, Florida. He didn’t have the most positive experience growing up. “I just went through a lot of things that would kind of minimize me,” he says. “That’s what I was used to growing up. I was very minimized by everyone around me.”
He’s not being minimized anymore – during our phone call, he looks fabulous, wandering around his current place of stay and filming content with friends. (I don’t ask who, though a part of me is dying to know.) And though he’s not yelling, he’s talking loudly at the camera. I don’t need to ask why; he jumps into an explanation.
“So when I first started doing TikTok, you noticed I yelled a lot,” he says. Yes, I did notice this, I say. Turns out, “It’s literally because I got accustomed to yelling in my life, because no one would ever listen to me.”
It was the constant feeling of being minimized and silenced, coupled with the trauma, that led Bryan to YouTubers. “They would make me feel better because of all of the hate I would get in school. They’re making videos and I’m part of their life and it makes me feel so included.”
Bryan attempted to practice what his content creator idols preached. At school, he made sure that no peer was sitting alone at lunch, “because you don’t have to sit by yourself, you know?” He was, essentially, determined to create the environment for others that he’d desired having for himself. And as he continued to fill his lunch table, his dream continued to develop: becoming an influencer someday.
As he says, watching his creators made him realize that he wasn’t alone, despite the hurled insults and trauma. “I would always think, ‘damn, there are people that are literally doing exactly what I’m doing right now. And possibly going through even worse,’” Bryan tells me.
So, Bryan decided to take on TikTok. And suddenly, he was a sensation, doing exactly what he’d hoped to do. A large reason: the people on the other side of his screen.
Bryan refuses to call his followers “fans.” Instead, they’re his “besties.”
“My besties are like family to me. They wake up and they go on my page. They go and they check up on me,” Bryan gushes to me. “At VidCon, I literally told my manager and all my friends, ‘we need to go out there. I need to find my besties.’” His besties’ reactions were a full circle moment for him. “I never thought I’d have people excited to meet me. They make me feel loved,” Bryan says.
And Bryan gives back just as much energy as he receives. While we’re accustomed to seeing bored celebrities with half smiles in fans’ pictures, Bryan believes in bringing his entire self to each interaction.
“I refuse to ever give someone that supports me low levels of energy, because that’s not what they deserve. No matter how tired I am, it’s what I do. And it’s what I like.”
It all comes back to those moments in the cafeteria. “All my encounters with my besties are really in-depth. I feel like it’s a blessing that I have people that actually like me, ‘cause I didn’t have that many growing up,” he tells me.
It’s a quiet admission, one that makes my heart ache. But Bryan quickly dives further into his love for his following. “I just care about everything in their lives, even the little things. Some of them have issues at home and they’ll DM me and ask me for help or advice on what they should do. And I always just talk to them and try to motivate them,” Bryan says, and I can tell he’s genuine. “It’s a really big thing to me.”
This is partially because of Bryan ultimate goal: to be a voice for those who can’t speak up. He wants to use his platform for good – and forever. “I tell my manager all the time: this is a thing I’ll be doing until the day I die. That’s how dedicated I am to my besties,” he says.
He shares stories with me about encounters, gives me a scroll through a collage of photos from VidCon. He looks thrilled in every single picture, as if he’s the one meeting the celebrity with over five million followers on TikTok alone.
“It’s really cool that, even though people might hate me online and they might be really mean to me, I also have that group of people that thinks ‘this kid’s not that bad.’”
It’s here where I stop Bryan for a second and call attention to his nails. They’re decked out and took eight hours to complete. They’re really, really f*cking gorgeous. I mention how QUILL got its start with nail polish, and how QUILL has evolved into a full platform advocating for gender inclusivity in the beauty industry. Bryan immediately jumps on it.
“I wear nails and I’m a man. You can tell me that they’re for women. However, I paid for them, so when you start paying for my nails, then you can talk,” he says, and I give a dramatic snap to the camera in response.
He continues: “Makeup is not something that should ever be tied to a gender. Like, we can touch up whenever we want. My best friend wears a tinted moisturizer – what’s wrong with that? This is not an era where makeup is just for women Men can use makeup as well,” he finishes.
I ask him if he has any favorite makeup, or if he has a skincare routine he can’t give up. He admits that he has a lot to learn with makeup, but that he loves skincare – lip care, especially. So much so, he pulls out his three favorite products: Drunk Elephant’s Lippe Balm, Neutrogena’s lip gloss, and Total Hydrate chapstick. He tells me how to use them for the perfect pucker.
And the secret to not breaking out? Nope, not Tatcha – the affordable, customized Curology. “I tried it for a full month. I love it,” he tells me.
Neutrogena, Curology… am I talking to a TikTok influencer, or a real person? Bryan is showing me that you can be both.
As we end the interview, I ask Bryan if he has anything he’d like to say. It’s extremely eloquent: “The most loved people are also the most hated people. It just means you’re doing something that’s worth talking about,” he tells me.
I agree – but is any press really good press? What about the press that points out flaws, or that simply criticizes him? Bryan doesn’t bat an eyelash. “I always want to be held accountable, but I think it’s important to help people grow and learn instead of trying to tearing them down,” he says.
On that note, what’s next for Bryan?
“I started when I was almost 21, and I feel like my besties and I are growing together. So, I want to continue to share my life with my community and give them a closer look into my world.” He plans on doing this with longer clips on Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.
Ultimately, though? It’s all for the besties.
“I hope one day I get the opportunity to meet all of my besties; it’s very important to me,’ he says. He smiles widely and nods.
“At the end of the day, who am I without them? I’m nothing.”