Photo credit: Paul Harnett
We caught up with Kids Presenter and West End Performer Olly Pike who is the creator of the much acclaimed YouTube Channel Pop ‘n’ Olly, an LGBT+ Eucational resource for children, parents and Teachers.
He tells us how he turned a passion into a successful business and how not to limit yourself as a performer and a person.
What were you doing before Pop ‘n’ Olly?
I trained as a Performer and I always loved dancing, acting and singing but I also loved drawing and being creative. I think sometimes you go to a dance school and you think it’s all or nothing. You have to forget everything else you’re good at. But you can’t define yourself through one outlet. I think the majority of people have skills in areas that they don’t even know. I didn’t know I was good at making films, animating and writing stories but apparently I am.
Why did you start Pop ‘n Olly?
I’d been doing some kids TV and I needed a showreel. I didn’t want to put clips together of my old stuff and so I thought I’d make something new. I was always getting down to the last few for TV kids presenter roles but they’d always told me I wasn’t “boyish” enough. I knew what they meant but I didn’t think that was a good thing. I think they wanted a stereotypical boy who liked football and climbed trees. So I wanted to create something where I could be myself.
I have always loved cartoons. I’d rather go and watch the ‘Spongebob Movie’ than a musical. I think cartoons are so creative and powerful. You can draw anything, you’re not limited by special effects. It’s the first thing most kids watch so it’s a great place to start with positive messages.
I also loved YouTube as its a powerful platform for everybody. It’s a window to show people who you really are, especially in the performing industry.
Did you teach yourself all the videography and animation?
When I first started doing Pop ‘n’ Olly I actually got someone else to draw the first few episodes. It’s like I’d forgotten I was good at drawing. I didn’t think I was good enough to do it and then one day I just decide I would give it a go. I also look back on the early videos and it’s nice to see how far they’ve come in terms of production value. It’s nice that I can see the journey right there on YouTube. I mean it’s been really hard work, I spend hours working on it and I feel like I’m still at the bottom of the mountain. There’s so much more left to do. I know how far I’ve come already, children are reading my books in schools. It’s crazy.
Did it start as an LGBT+ quest?
No, it started as a fun comedy thing.
More and more people starting commenting and parents were writing to me. I realised I had a great platform. I’ve experienced LGBT+ discrimination myself and I’ve always wondered where does that come from? Who’s taught people to be like that? Who’s not taught people not to be like that? Respect has to be taught. If they’re learning about Mummy and Daddy, well then they need to learn about Mummy and Mummy too. There’s no need to wait to teach kids, if you wait then you’re saying these people are different.
I get 90% positive comments. But the odd really negative comment does come through. Usually telling me it’s inappropriate to teach kids about ‘Gay Sex’. Well, they’ve missed the point completely. I wouldn’t dream of doing that. I’m teaching kids about love, equality and different types of people.
What’s the long term vision for Pop ‘n’ Olly?
The biggest goal is education. I want the brand to grow and build on YouTube so I can reach more people and make people’s lives better. I had a boy come up to me and thank me for writing Jamie. He said “this is me, my name’s Jamie and this book reflects me.” You don’t realise how big an effect you are having.
I want to do this for a living because it makes me happy. I try not to let other things take over. I listen to lots of motivational videos when I’m drawing and my favourite quote is:
“Go after it as if your life depended on it. Why? Because it does?”
I’m not out to be rich. I’m happy to have a more basic life for a richer experience.
Do you consider yourself an LGBT+ Activist?
I’ve been called that and that’s awesome. I never would’ve dreamed I would be that. In fact, the whole LGBT+ idea has changed so much in the past few years. I used to be embarrassed to go to Pride but now I realise how important it is to be visible.
I like to think being an artist gives me the upper hand. I recently had some hate mail and if you’re one of the good guys you can deal with it in a funny and creative way. I thanked him for his opinion and as the man was so upset about my book, I offered to donate a free book to a school of his choice. And not to worry as I would pick the school myself and donate on his behalf. I’m now donating 26 books to schools as other people found out and wanted to donate books on his behalf too. So one man’s hate was turned into a lot of love and charity.
Tell us about your newest venture Proud Unicorn?
That came about as Paul Harnett and myself were working together on a lot of projects and decided to create an umbrella company that looks after everything we do. We looked at the skills we had together; design, videography, sound, logo production, digital production and illustration, then created a company around that. I think if you want to set up a company look at what you can already do and work backwards.
We’ve recently worked with London Pride and A MAD Drag Night.
Click here to check out Pop ‘n’ Olly on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/popnolly
Click here to check out Proud Unicorn: www.proudunicorn.com
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