Now this is living
Carrie Lyell meets YouTube star Shannon Beveridge.
The first time I meet Shannon Beveridge is on the red carpet at the British LGBT Awards. It’s mayhem all around, photographers jostling each other to get the best shots and journalists vying for a minute with the stars, but she’s quiet and looks around anxiously as flash bulbs pop over and over and over again.
The nerves are understandable. The 25-year-old YouTube star is nominated for a gong at these prestigious awards – LGBT+ Celebrity Rising Star – and is up against some formidable opposition. But she needn’t be worried – it’s hers – and Team DIVA watches from the wings as fellow YouTubers and last year’s winners Rose and Rosie present their friend with her award.
In the press room afterwards, a beaming Shannon – clutching her prize tightly to her chest – tells me her heart was “pounding out of control” as she heard her name announced. “I had half a thing prepared. I was just going to say thank you if I was too nervous, then had the second half prepared if I could get it together. Then I made eye contact with Caitlyn Jenner and I was like, ‘I don’t think I can do it!’” she laughs. But she pulled it together, she says, “because it was my one second to say something that’s important and I knew people were watching so I wanted to say it for them”.
That principle of doing it for others is one that runs not just through Shannon’s YouTube channel, Now This Is Living, but through her veins too.
Talking on the phone a few weeks after the awards, from her home in LA, she tells me that she started making videos because she needed to talk to the younger version of herself – the same one she dedicated her award to – who was “so scared and lonely”, and four years later, she’s talking not just to that version of herself, but to hundreds of thousands of other young people who are struggling like she was. Now, she describes being a role model to the LGBT community as “like an addiction”. “I’m so attached to this community and I just want to keep helping as long as I live. I don’t know what that entails or what it will become but I’m going to find a way to do that as long as I can.” She’s the embodiment of that somewhat saccharine phrase It Gets Better, but she’s so genuine and heartfelt when she says she wants people to know that when they are able make those first tentative steps out of the closet that “they have such an amazing community of people who are waiting for them with open arms”.
No wonder she’s so passionate about this stuff. The message she’s spreading is one the Texas native desperately needed when she was younger. Her first experience of someone finding out she was gay – the parents of a girl she liked in high school – had been a “nightmare”, she says, which left a “bad taste in my mouth”. “They actually put a baby monitor in her room, I guess because they were getting suspicious of what our relationship was, and overheard her talking about something. Their reaction was just horrible. Everything you don’t want. I think it tainted my hope and faith in people.” Terrified the reaction of others would be the same, 16-year-old Shannon climbed back into the closet, locked the door behind her and threw away the key.
Read the rest of our exclusive cover interview with Shannon in the July issue of DIVA, available now at divadigital.co.uk.
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