Frankie Grande has a complicated relationship with social media. On the one hand, his viral YouTube videos and social media accounts are what first rocketed him to stardom, and they are where he creates and posts his artistic content. On the other hand, the internet is the first place he says he was ever bullied, and eventually became a dangerous addiction.
“I’m a creator and I’m an artist, but I’ve learned that now, it could be more like a painter and I create my artwork and then I hang in the gallery and then I walk and I let the museum patrons go walk by and enjoy it without me standing next to my painting asking every single person what they think about it,” Grande said.
The vlogger, singer, actor, and former reality star described his relationship with social media as “intimate,” right from the very beginning. “I started posting two videos a week on YouTube, which eventually became viral and then became the reason why I had enough appeal to get onto Big Brother,” he explained. “And then when I got out of Big Brother, it was like full-on just social media, reality TV star, mega fame. And in those moments, that was when I started to experience bullying and hate for the first time in my life.”
Grande considers himself lucky to have never experienced bullying growing up, but it also meant that when he started getting online hate, he didn’t have the right tools to combat it. Grande says he also identifies as an addict, and the social media bullying became triggers for him in turning to drugs and alcohol.
“I basically had to, in my sobriety, understand, identify those triggers and learn tools on how to combat those triggers. And now I’m capable of having a healthy relationship with social media so I can enjoy it because I always loved it.”One of the biggest reasons social media hate affected Grande so badly, he said, was that he had never been targeted for his LGTBQ+ identity before.
“That’s probably one of the biggest reasons why I was incapable of handling it because I was so proud of my identity. And I had worked so hard to build a community of support so that I felt comfortable being my out proud, gay rainbow, loving, glitter-wearing self. And that was, that was the thing that people started bullying me for,” Grande said. “It was just for being who I am. And that was the thing that truly, truly did hurt me a lot.”
While it took a lot of therapy to unravel the trauma of that experience, Grande said, he also leaned on the support of a loving LGTBQ+ community. He encourages others to seek out in-person or online communities of support, like the Trevor Project or the L.A. LGBTQ+ Center where he volunteers.
“That’s why the community exists so that we can support each other and so that you can have a mentor or guide to show you what the ropes of coming out are. Also that’s the beauty of the internet, because there are people like me, like other LGBTQ influencers, who show the world unapologetically, we are beautiful the way we are, you should not be ashamed, and you should feel safe being yourself in the world.”