Before Rickey Thompson was an outspoken, beloved social media star, he was a shy kid navigating high school in Raleigh, North Carolina.
But, as he became more comfortable in his own skin and started to spotlight his true self to growing acclaim online, Thompson found that more and more of his peers embraced him for who he was.
“In high school, I was the underdog,” he told In The Know’s Gibson Johns during a recent interview. “And then senior year, I became the most popular guy in school, because I had taken over social media, and I loved it.”
That being said, there were still people who tried to tear him down for being different.
“I was bullied for being gay and being an extra-loud person,” he told the New York Times earlier this year. “People would say, ‘You’re so annoying,’ and pick on me for how I looked.”
Naturally, Thompson didn’t let his detractors weigh him down. As he recalled to In The Know, he ended up finishing out high school “with a bang,” nabbing one of the most coveted titles that comes with the American high school experience: prom king.
“I did go to prom. I loved my prom. My prom night was everything,” Thompson gushed. “I ended up winning prom king, which is so amazing.”
“This happens in the movies, and it actually happened to me,” he remembered thinking. “Like, that quiet kid or whatever, and then finally my name got called — ‘Rickey Thompson is prom king!’ — I was like, ‘Oh, my god.'”
“Yes, oh my god. It was everything,” he added. “Oh, I just remember when they put that crown of my head, I was like, ‘Yes! Oh! I won! I won!'”
Thompson was reminded of his Cinderella prom moment after participating in the Teen Vogue Virtual Prom, which was organized as an effort to give the graduating Class of 2020 some sort of prom celebration after in-person proms were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahead of the event, Axe held the #bemyAXEdatecontest, which fans could enter for a chance to “attend” the virtual celebration with Thompson by putting together elaborate promposals asking him to be their date.
“I’ve always wanted a prom proposal. I never got that in high school, and I always wanted that,” he told ITK. “And I finally got to get one by my girl Shay. She sang all the Beyoncé songs, but then changed up the lyrics asking me to prom.”
For Thompson, the entire virtual prom experience, which came six years after being named prom king at his own high school prom, served as an important reminder for how far he’s come since then.
“I just saw how confident I was in 2020. In 2014, I was confident, but I wasn’t as confident as I am now. Literally no one can knock me down. You say what you have to say — whatever,” he said. “Back in the day, if you said a little comment, I would feel some type of hurt about it or whatever. But, yeah, just really seeing how much I’ve evolved, it really made me feel very good about myself.”
Listen to our full interview with Rickey Thompson below:
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