Updated: Jan 15
Starting out a world apart, Matt and Omar found themselves falling in love in the beautiful city of Toronto and building a wonderful relationship together. Matt grew up in a small town in the American state of North Carolina, whilst Omar grew up in the bustling British city of Manchester. I came across Matt and Omar earlier this year on TikTok and was in awe of their upbeat, authentic and unfiltered content - I’ve been in love with them ever since. Having racked up over 650K followers on TikTok in less than a year, they are on a fast track to being one of the most inspirational (and adorable) queer couples on the platform.
1. What’s the one thing that never fails to make you smile?
Yvie sleeping for both of us, she’s always so cute!
2. What animal best represents your personality?
Matt- A dog
Omar - A bird of prey (take that as you will)
3. On a scale of 1-10, how are you feeling today?
Matt - 7
Omar - 4
When asked how their social media presence has made them feel, they both recalled the lack of representation and role models that were available to them growing up as young-gay individuals. This has become a source of inspiration for the pair as they seek to become exactly what was lacking for them in their adolescence.
“It’s great to show people of minorities or those from less accepting countries that a happy and successful life is attainable.” - Omar
Matt has actually been running his social media accounts professionally for almost four years and has since created a sustainable career for himself. Omar didn’t start creating professionally until two years ago, and it was only earlier this year that they decided to embark on joint content creation by setting up YouTube and TikTok accounts together. The growth of their TikTok has been exponential during the course of 2020, most likely due to their positive, honest and heartfelt content giving people a place to escape to and a sense of hope. The difference with their joint profiles however is the lack of focus on their relationship and the broadened content range. They create content both together and separately on their profile and have been able to use it as a versatile content creation space, almost like a 24/7 TV channel with a variety of shows throughout the day.
Whilst they have managed to create a positive place for content creation, it is still very difficult to escape the expectations that come from having a large audience. Most creators start to feel the pressure of having a large audience and feel the need to keep up the persona that gains the most positive response, but not Matt and Omar. When asked whether they feel pressured to keep up positive appearances online, Omar quickly responded “no” with Matt adding “We’re very real people”. They have been able to authentically respond to their audience when they’ve commented on the perfectness of their relationship, by saying quite simply that it isn’t. Relationships all have their ups and downs irrespective of who you are, and this beautiful pair are no exception. Thankfully, they are part of a rare breed of creator where their content is rooted in authenticity and transparency with their audience, which was perfectly summarised by Omar’s final note on this question:
“Yeah, if I think you’re a twat I’m going to tell you you’re a twat” - Omar
Something I found the most interesting about Matt and Omar was the similarity in their characters but the evident difference in their backgrounds. This was something I really enjoyed talking to them about. Matt grew up in a very small town in North Carolina, U.S, whilst Omar grew up in the bustling metropolis of Manchester all the way over here in the UK. Despite the differences in location, they both grew up in fairly conservative and religious households, which comes with its obvious challenges. The benefit for Omar was that growing up in Manchester meant that he was exposed to the multicultural epicentre of the UK. This allowed Omar to meet likeminded and diverse people from quite a young age which, despite their conservative background, gave them the confidence to come out to a close friend at the age of 12 and to their family at 15.
Matt’s location was less than diverse stating that “I didn’t even meet any POC until I was 18”. As he had much less representation around him, it meant that he didn’t feel comfortable making any of the decisions that Omar did until he was 18. This shows that it’s not only a person’s upbringing that matters, but also the environment outside of the house that matters. Being brought up in a rural and distant area means we can be shielded from the realities of the world which can make us feel even more alone.
Despite Omar’s diverse surroundings, he still wasn’t that comfortable expressing himself at home. I wanted to discuss the biggest challenge for Omar on his journey of identity. Growing up in a very male dominated household, it is easy to feel like you’re alone when gender is plain and simply, boys and girls. This is something I can certainly relate to. Although I grew up in a very liberal household, I grew up with two very masculine brothers and so whenever I liked anything that was deemed to be feminine, I would easily feel misunderstood. This feeling, paired with the bullying that Omar was subject to, led to him regressing and hiding his true self from the world, something that none of us should have to go through, but unfortunately most of us do.
The struggle was even harder for Omar as his journey runs much deeper than mine, as earlier this year he finally came out as non-binary. Following the outpouring of support that he received on TikTok, he realised that he wasn’t alone in his gender expression after all and there was in fact thousands of people just like him. This can serve as a reminder to anyone that is growing up and who may feel like you’re alone in what you’re feeling, just know that you are not. This is the message that Matt and Omar strive to relay, and they’re doing a bloody good job at it.
“When we were growing on TikTok and I started to see so many people who were like me expressing themselves freely and it really gave me the strength to do the same myself and live how I really wanted to and live my truth finally. It’s only this year, at 28, that I’ve come out as non-binary and started using my different pronouns to describe myself and truly feeling comfortable and confident in my own skin” - Omar
Unfortunately, many people within our community are subjected to prejudice for appearing feminine with the whole “no femmes” bullshit, and the pair had some very interesting insights into the topic. Omar noted quite well that it only appears to be masculine men that are deemed as desirable. For some reason, appearing as anything other than what our genitalia says we should be, is undesirable. Matt actively encourages self-expression and has too started to experiment with his representation by joining Omar in the beautifully painted nails (I actively encourage it; it’s so liberating but just a pain in the ass to maintain). “If you want to chuck on some heals, a skirt and some nail polish at home then do it”, Matt added as he acknowledged that the wider our expression and more unshackled, we are with our identities, the more accepted we shall become.
“we need to move away from the fact that only masc4masc men are the desirable species in our society” - Omar
“I think it just goes back to not giving a fuck about what people think and doing what you want so long as it’s safe for you” - Matt
In addition to this, body shaming within the queer community is one of the biggest problems we face internally and has led to incredibly unrealistic body standards for young queer people to feel they need to aspire to. Matt has spoken openly about his battle with body image, but over the course of this year he has learned to accept himself for who he is and has proudly, and healthily, increased his weight (something that should NOT BE SHAMED).
“For me I just stopped giving a shit about what people thought about me, it doesn’t matter, none of it matters. I work out for myself and eat for myself. I don’t do it for anyone else. It’s just very toxic for the younger gay people entering the community” - Matt
Alongside their beautiful self-love and activism for acceptance, Matt and Omar have built a very successful career for themselves as creators. Their Instagram’s have a glittering of ads that blend in so effortlessly, unlike many influencers who seem to post less than candid attempts at marketing. There are a lot of young creators that are aspiring to make a lucrative career off of social media. This is an industry that receives much backlash from the media, but there is little coverage that details the intense workload and sheer determination that is necessary to make it work. Matt and Omar seemed like the best creators to get some start up advice from.
“Just start sharing what you’re passionate about. Start sharing the brands you’re passionate about, your fashion etc. Share what gets you out of bed in the morning” - Matt
This is the sort of message that creators should be sharing. This is the sort of idyllic inspiration that should drive anyone’s career aspirations - pure passion. Omar added to this by stating that “authenticity is the key to success”. Being an influencer is one of the fasted growing marketing industries in the world and is one that could become highly saturated. It’s therefore super important to stand out and avoid being a “carbon-copy” of just another creator.
“It’s about finding your unique voice and putting your life on the Internet in a real way” - Omar
One thing that I feel stands out miraculously with their content is their beautiful creativity. Their content, to me, has become instantly recognisable through their photographic styling, professional set-ups and cheerful demeanour. Being in the creative industry can become exhausting. For me personally, attempting to write constantly, create new feed content for Instagram, run Happy Smiley, create reels and TikTok’s, write for magazines, all whilst needing to create interesting story content that isn’t just showing me working, is very demanding. There comes a point where you can reach the wonderful wall that is, a creative block. Matt and Omar gave me an insight into how they remain creative. One of the biggest things for them is a change of scenery - and I could not agree more. With them living in the city, they often travel out into areas of nature to find content inspiration or just to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Being in the creative industry means there is a lot of pressure to be constantly switched one, but Matt gave some perfectly simple advice in response to this:
“I think it’s important to realise no one is creative all of the time. There’s a pressure to be creative 24/7 but that’s not how the human mind works. So, if you’re having a non-creative day then that’s completely fine, just take a break!” - Matt
To end the interview, and end 2020, I wanted to know what three things Matt and Omar had learned throughout the year and what they’ll be taking forward into 2021. Being as these are some important life lessons, here they are, completely unchanged:
Everything Happens for a Reason
"Everything happens for a reason and that, things are meant to happen, and things aren’t meant to happen (this was his New Year’s resolution)" - Matt
"Listening to him say this is so interesting because he’s got such a Virgo mindset where he’s super critical and analytical, but I’ve always said to him to just trust the process and let the chips fall where they fucking will. I think it’s super important that when things are going bad that maybe that wasn’t the right path in the first place" - Omar
Cherish the Small Moments
"Cherish each moment as they come, because you’re never going to know when you’re going to get that chance to be happy like that again! At the beginning of this year, we were just living casually and taking things for granted, and then ours and everyone’s lives changed with the pandemic. We miss so many things from pre-pandemic. Going forward post-pandemic, we’re going to hug people for longer, never going to say no to a wine party! I’m going to drink all of the beverages!" - Omar
We Are Living on a Rock Flying Through Space, Stop Taking Things So Seriously
"Like that little argument you have with someone you don’t know. This year, no one gives a shit. There are so many things going on now that these little things don’t matter, so don’t let it take up your headspace"
I want to personally thank Matt and Omar for agreeing to this interview and sharing their story with us. I’m thrilled to add them to the Happy Smiley interview archive!
Have a wonderful 2021 xo
Please engage with this beautiful and inspirational couple on their social media!
Matt’s Insta: mr.benfield
Omar’s Insta: omartakespix