A Conversation With Kyle Ford (@kidzombie666)
If you’re a gay man on social media, there is a very good chance you’ve come across Kyle Ford’s content. Perhaps better known as kidzombie666, the 33-year-old social media personality and queer meme-maker consistently delivers what the gays want. But what do we want, exactly?
“The gays don’t want censorship, first of all,” Ford shares. “They want to control their sexuality and to find a place in their community. We’re all one big fucked up dysfunctional family and I love all of us. I don’t take this community for granted for a single moment because I know what it’s like to be on the outside.”
Ford reflects these sentiments online (primarily through Instagram and Twitter) through lewd memes, painfully true sentiments about gay culture and nearly nude selfies. But beyond the surface level humor lies a dedicated following borne from segregation.
“I know what it’s like to live in a small town, to be called a faggot, and to be beat into the ground for being who I am,” he says. “Thankfully on the internet you get to choose your family and the folks you share your life with. I’ll never be able to repay everyone for the love that I receive on a daily basis. All I can do is show up and be my most authentic self, no matter the cost.”
RIDE spoke with Kyle Ford about building an influential social media brand, creating authentic porn, and his fascination with Shawn Mendes and Satan.
RIDE: What did you do for work prior to becoming a social media influencer? Was there a particular career path you planned on pursuing?
Kyle Ford: My first job was actually as a lifeguard at a waterpark in Fresno, California when I was 16. Since then I’ve had a million varied jobs. Everything from putting together floral arrangements, stocking at Target, and managing an adult store. Am I where I thought I would be today? No. Life is often a ride you can’t get off of and for the time being I plan on going with the flow.
RIDE: What do you do for work now? Is social media your full-time job?
Kyle Ford: This may sound like a shocker, but it’s not. I work full-time at a cafe and coffee roasters. For many years I’ve worked two jobs. I’ve always had a strong work ethic and as much as I think I was built to be a lady of leisure, the workforce continues to be my mainstay. Social media has always been my outlet for escapism. There is something special about having the privilege to cultivate a niche environment that welcomes people from all over the world.
RIDE: How did you manage to cultivate such a large social media presence? Was it a singular post that went viral? Or was it months/years of hard work?
Kyle Ford: I’ve been on social media in every iteration from Stickam to Myspace. I remember really getting into social media during the “Scene Kid” moment of the internet. Thankfully, Myspace had a full turnover and no one can find pictures of me with my pink and black mohawk and horrible hair extensions.
Social media really picked up for me during the golden age of Tumblr. During that time I had moved home to take care of my grandmother as she was passing away. Being her primary caregiver, I wasn’t able to leave the house. I found a genuine family on Tumblr because it afforded me a space to escape. I found that the more I poured myself into that site, the more people started to notice me. I’ve always been and insanely social person, so I was able to connect with folks and started diverting a lot of my followers toward developing my Instagram. From there it all started to take off! Next thing I knew I was running two very popular blogs, an emerging Instagram account, a maxed out Snapchat and an active personal social life. My goal was never for any of this to happen. I just wanted to present myself as authentically as I could for people on the internet. I guess it worked?
RIDE: What does a day in the life look like for you? Is it all internet, all day?
Kyle Ford: I usually wake up at 6AM and plan my posts for the day if I haven’t already planned them a few days out, then I get ready for work! I’m usually at work from 7AM until 530PM. I try to publish three posts a day. One in the morning, one mid-afternoon, and one late-afternoon. Having analytics really helps pinpoint the time of day when your engagements peak. The more information you can get on your followers, the better!
But outside of browsing casually on my phone, I’m hardly on the internet. I’ve learned the importance of investing time in your physical reality. I’m probably the last generation to remember a time before the internet. I’m someone who has been very open about living with depression and anxiety. It’s so important to me personally to separate out my ability for instant gratification on Instagram because it can be incredibly addicting.
RIDE: Who would you say is your average follower. How would you describe them?
Kyle Ford: Thank the Dark Lord, my followers are anything but average. Everyone comes from varied backgrounds, genders and locations around the globe. My followers are often folks that see through the rest of the bullshit that the internet has to offer. They’re not afraid of sex or expressing themselves to the fullest extent. My internet family has been there for me in the darkest moments of my life. My ability to show up and post something that gives them a momentary relief from all this existential dread is the least I can do. When I get the chance to connect with someone in-person that follows me, it restores my faith in humanity. I think we tend to only see extremes online. Fortunately, my followers transcend all of that.
RIDE: Care to explain your fascination with Shawn Mendes? What is it about him that drives you wild?
Kyle Ford: Let me count the ways [laughs]. I’ve been following my sweet baby angel for many years. I remember coming across his Youtube cover songs back in the day and being instantly hooked. I’ve spent a great deal of time watching interviews, seeing the way he interacts with his fans and those around him. There is such a sense of honesty and genuineness that is irrefutable. When it comes down to it, there is a very specific look in his eyes that I can’t get enough of. You can tell that he doesn’t take for granted a single second of the opportunity that he is being given and to me that sells it. Sure, he is sexy as all hell and I do daydream about his sweet Canadian maple hole, but at the end of the day I am genuinely a fan of his. I think I will be forever, if he’ll let me.
RIDE: What was your coming out experience like?
Kyle Ford: I came out to my family at 16. There had been signs my whole life. I remember printing out porn images of men off of our Gateway desktop, putting those pictures in a ziplock bag so I could jerk off in the shower. The worst was forgetting the ziplock bag in the shower and having to explain it to my parents!
The day I came out is forever ingrained in my memory. I came home from the mall with a super tricked out Nokia 3365 and this phone was G-A-Y! It had a purple case, light-up pink front button and a rainbow flashing graphic on the back. I was so excited to show my mom when I got home. When I showed her, she backed me into the corner and confronted me.
“Goddamnit Kyle, I’m tired of this bullshit,” she said. “You tell me right now, are you gay?” I looked at her and said yes. She gave me a huge hug and told me that she loved me. I think that she was just mad that I didn’t have the courage to tell her. From that day on she was the most loving and supportive mother I could have ever dreamed of. I would say that it took my family a little while to get used to it but everything is perfect now. I’m an out and proud gay man with a loving and supporting family.
RIDE: You often post racy content. On an average week, how often would you say your IG account is flagged?
Kyle Ford: I would say that I get flagged on average once a week. I try really hard to be good about adhering to the community guidelines and standards, but it feels like these standards are constantly changing. Recently I had 14 posts taken down in seven days, an all-time record. What I find frustrating is that some of the posts are ones that I had permission to repost and the originals stayed up and mine got taken down. After a while it’s hard not to think that you’re being targeted. I guess this is what happens when part of your brand revolves around pushing what censorship really is.
Thankfully my account has only been suspended once. I feel like I’m always rocking a shadowban, so my engagement really varies from day to day. I think my current follower count rests at 63,259 on my main and 11,543 on my second. Word of advice to anyone out there: Do your best to spread your followers around. Even growth is essential!
RIDE: Since making it big as an influencer, you’ve dabbled in porn. Did you enjoy the experience? What influenced this decision and do you plan on doing more?
Kyle Ford: I would say porn was something that helped bring me up further into the ranks online. When I started on Tumblr I saw so many folks expressing themselves so freely. At the time, I really didn’t have very much confidence in my body or my sexuality.
When I eventually put sex on video, I wanted it to be real. I wanted to genuinely capture an honest moment between two men that cared for one another. Since then, I’ve posted more pictures of myself and a few videos on Twitter. I’m not into adult content for the money. I just wanted a free space to express and accept myself; which I have done.
To my shock, I was one of the top trending search topics on Pornhub this year for a week! That’s a lot of folks watching me pee in someone’s butt! I guess to the irony of it all is people’s interest in seeing me do more killed my drive to create more. However, I think that 2019 might hold some more surprises for me in the realm of adult content. I just need to find someone that I honestly care about to share that experience with.
RIDE: As a big personality in queer social media, how do you feel about all of this James Charles drama? Knowing how cruel the internet can be, do you sympathize?
Kyle Ford: The internet is a fucked up place! Watching mob mentality firsthand puts the fear of Satan in you. I think at his core, James Charles is a 19-year-old millionaire with zero idea of who he is or what he’s doing. I think back to when I was 19 and I’m pretty sure I was on drugs, saying things twice as fucked up as him and solidifying a one-way ticket to nowhere fast. Looking back at where I was then to where I am now, I am so thankful for the mistakes that I made.
Now, on the other side of the coin, the content that the internet came up with regarding this matter was AMAZING! They dragged that kid so bad. While I do sympathize with James a little bit, I’m not one to pass on opportunity to make content on the mistakes made. All I know is that it’s been over seven months since the drama happened and everyone is over it. I think everyone involved has benefitted in some way. On the internet, everyone forgets. I mean, when was the last time someone brought up TanaCon?
RIDE: Explain your relationship with Satan. Judging by your social media presence, you two seem to have something of a connection.
Kyle Ford: Well for starters, he’s 6’6”, and have you seen those horns!? WOOF!
Satan for me as always embodied the outsider. I grew up attending church but the entire time I was going I never really took it to heart. I remember sitting there, praying and hoping to hear someone talk back to me. No one ever did. I would sit and look around and feel as if everyone was buying into something that I couldn’t get behind. I could see the true evil behind religion and all the pain it caused those around me. If God was responsible for all the bad in the world, why was Satan being cast in such a negative light? The Christian God is a jealous God after all. Before I get too deep into this, I’m a devout Atheist!
Satan will always represent anti-authoritarianism. I have “No God, No Masters” tattooed above my knees for a reason. Religion is abusive and self-serving. I can only hope to wake up as many people as I can. You only get this one life, be who you know you are at your core! I can’t think of anything more sad than a life not lived to its fullest potential at the expense of some old book written by man to ensure the control of its followers.
RIDE: How does a social media influencer make money? Which monetary avenues are available to you, particularly?
Kyle Ford: I’ve definitely been asked to help promote brands which I think is the main avenue for a lot of social media folks out there. I’m a really big believer that once you start doing this for the money, the way you conduct yourself changes. I love what I do and I don’t want that to change. The moment that it starts to feel like work is the moment I’m going to hate opening that app.
What I’ve come to understand about social media is that the number on that screen is just social currency. It gives a sense of validation to you and to those around you. It means nothing and it can all be gone in a second. What is has personally allowed me to do is further participate in the community that I love. It’s given me the chance to travel, go-go and meet the people that follow me. I’ve always viewed my followers as friends. If you’ve found yourself at my page for whatever reason, you’re probably as fucked up as I am. Welcome home!