Did you catch Todrick Hall falling into formation right alongside Taylor Swift during her video debut for “Look What You Made Me Do” at the VMAs? Well, the YouTube sensation wants you to know that he’s totally #TeamBeyoncé and #TeamTaylor. Actually, he told BET.com concerning T-Swift, “I would consider her one of my best friends.” But don’t get it twisted, he also claims that he’s “a platinum card member of the Beygency.” If you’re not caught up on the BeyHive–Swifties beef, to sum it up, a lot of Beyoncé fans were not thrilled about the creative behind Taylor’s new video, which drew many similarities to Bey’s “Formation.”
Here are some memes that can give you a better understanding of some of the reactions.
However, the YouTube sensation and former American Idol contestant is putting that all aside to promote something way more important — Positively Fearless, the movement that aims to educate and help empower Black and Latinx gay and bisexual men to speak up about HIV awareness. BET.com caught up with Todrick and discussed his raising HIV awareness, his VMA video debut and what's up next for this rising star.
BET.com: Can you tell us why you got involved with Positively Fearless?
Todrick Hall: What I love specifically about Positively Fearless is that they target on the gay, Black and bisexual community, whereas with a lot of other campaigns that I’ve been involved with have not focused on that specifically. And I think it’s necessary, because we are the community that is suffering the most from the virus. So I was not hesitant at all to sign my name and put it attached to theirs, and I’m really, really excited to be a part of this movement and I think we are getting great things accomplished.
B: What have you learned since getting involved with the campaign?
TH: There are a lot of statistics that I learned from being involved with them. It really opened my eyes ... to how much work we still have yet to do. There is a statistic that one in every two Black gay men, bisexual men, will be diagnosed with HIV at some point in their lifetime if things don’t change. That is a very insane statistic and so true. It’s very shocking. Also, only 35 percent of Black men who are infected with HIV are on medication; 37 percent. That’s also a scary statistic. Cause once you know, it seems like it would be very easy for people to get on medication and stay on medication. The third statistic is, of the people who are on medication, we, as the African-American community, are likely to miss a dosage of medication. It’s really a not safe thing when you’re positive and you miss your medication, cause then your body becomes resistant to it. So, it’s very important for people once they are diagnosed to get on medication and stay on medication. And do everything they can do to stay healthy and have a great relationship with their doctors. And I just think it’s very, very important for people to do that and, now more so than before, I became involved with Positively Fearless from the new information and new statistics I’ve recently heard.
B: This is a big change of platforms from the fun YouTube videos that most people associate you with. Were you always so involved with the HIV community?
TH: Well, I think on my YouTube channel people associate me with those types of videos that are bubbly, fun and comedic. I do love those videos, and I’m very proud of them, but they are the videos that get shared the most. Often people won’t watch my videos about more serious topics, but we as a culture, we don’t necessarily share those videos. I have definitely been involved with it a lot more, and my visual album Straight Outta Oz focused on more serious subject matters like the Black Lives Matter movement and just the story of a young, gay, Black man coming out to his family in Texas and not being understood and feeling like he had to shy away and hide because he would be judged for his decisions. And even though that doesn’t have anything to do with the HIV or HIV awareness it falls back into the same thing that we as a culture sometimes run away from the more serious issues and don’t openly have discussions as often as we should, which is the reason why the numbers keep climbing for Black men who are gay and bisexual, specifically, and why we need to discuss it. So I’m glad that I’m able to use my voice, and I’m happy that people know me for whatever reason, and I think it’s a blessing that they’ve watched my funny videos, so now they can listen when I have something important and topical to speak about.
B: So we have to ask about your VMA video debut with Taylor Swift that everyone was talking about. There was a lot of backlash from the BeyHive about the similarities between it and “Formation.” What are your thoughts on all of that?
TH: I can understand why people ... I’m a huge Beyoncé fan myself, and I’ve worked with Beyoncé on videos before and so I understand, you know, what it feels like when a Beyoncé fan feels like somebody has stolen from their favorite artist, and I get that feeling, and I understand the rage that comes and sometimes people don’t understand, you know, when I get so upset about Beyoncé, because I stand for her so hard and I am like a platinum-card member of the Beygency, if you ask me. Because I knew the content of the video, and it didn’t feel similar to "Formation," or any of Beyoncé’s work, when it was looked at in its complete form. I wasn’t really super concerned because I thought people’s reactions and positions and viewpoints would change once the video came out. What I’ve seen on my timeline has been very different since the video came out. It wasn’t what people thought it was going to be. That’s a classic example of don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t cry wolf. I think people got a little ahead of themselves and assumed that she was going to do that. I don’t think that she’s that type of artist and I don’t think, also, me as the big Beyoncé fan as I am, [I] would have been proud to be a part of the project if it was a copy of one of my other idols. I felt like they are both amazing videos and stand up on their own rights and have completely different messages and completely different aesthetics.
B: Are you and Taylor really close? I saw on your Instagram you guys spent Thanksgiving last year together.
TH: Yeah, I would consider her one of my best friends.
B: How did you guys meet? And how did you get to be one of her dancers for this?
TH: I did YouTube videos online, and she saw them and loved them and invited me backstage, and we just hit it off really quickly. So when I was asked to be a part of her new video it was not even a question. I was like, “Absolutely. I would love to be a part of it.”
B: What can we look forward to next from you?
TH: Well, I’m going to be performing at Black gay pride in Atlanta this upcoming weekend on Sunday. I will also be at the Positively Fearless booth and taking photos with the people and giving them information as they needed and trying to answer as many questions as I can, along with Positively Fearless team, who can answer any questions that I can’t. I’m working on my new album that’s going to come out next year, and I’ve been filming TV shows and doing voice-over work for different shows, and I’m really excited for everyone to see what 2018 has in store. This year is not over yet, but that’s the stuff that I’m super excited about for people to see.
You can go to PositivelyFearless.com to find out more about the movement.