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Culture, Interviews

Humble, Grounded and Always Trending GK Barry

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“My running joke is I’ve got the flattest arse in the UK”
GK Barry

When I spoke to Grace – better known online as GK Barry – she’d had just come back from the States where she has been promoting her chart-topping podcast Saving Grace in which she hosts an impressive range of guests including Madison Beer, Alison Hammond, Rob Beckett and Fred Sirieix. The term viral sensation can woefully overused but in this case it applies: since she started posting on TikTok, her videos have gained her over three and a half million followers and 11 million monthly YouTube views. Funny, sharp and very relatable, her fans love her for her humour and her honesty and within minutes of meeting her, I can see why.

You’re obviously really smart; what do you say to people who say social media isn’t a ‘proper career’?

Well, it wasn't even a thing 50 years ago, so I think people struggle to get their heads around the fact that this is a career. I think we should be embracing all sorts of new and different careers, I don’t think we should be judging or bashing stuff. I mean, I’m doing well, so I’d say this is an amazing thing to get into. A lot of people hate the careers they worked so hard to get into, and I feel like life is a bit too short to be unhappy with what you’re doing. I want to go back to my school and tell people, go to uni obviously (I did that) but also experiment with other stuff.

How long do you think a career like yours can last?

I think it all depends on what you want. I’m not someone who really wants to settle down. I’d love to go into more of the comedy side of things. I think with this career you can do whatever you put your mind to, especially when you get to a certain point you can do what you want.

As well as the funnies, I know you talk quite expansively about issues surrounding mental health…

It’s a difficult one because I think people, especially with TikTok, will see something and take that as bible, even stuff to do with mental health. It’s not something that they go out and research for themselves. I think it’s really hard sometimes to express your emotions and especially on social media, because everything's so fake. It’s just this whole bubble of something that’s not real.

Do you feel the responsibility to show a balanced view of your life?

I definitely feel some sort of responsibility. I always get messages from girls saying, ‘I’m so happy that you’re just someone that feels normal’, you know? When I first started I had such bad acne and people were like, you made me feel more confident. I feel I should be normalising being normal.

I heard you talking about trolls, and you said, ‘If I’m getting trolled does this mean I’ve made it?’ I thought that was a great comeback, but it made me wonder what impact that has.

I’m someone that has very self-deprecating humour, so before anyone can say anything I will have 100% said it first but it upsets me. Especially if I’m in a bad mind set already and they say something I’m already insecure about, it’s just heightened. You know, at a normal job you’re not going to have your colleagues coming up to you saying, look at your massive nose. You have to separate it and I always think they'd never ever say this to my face, so I’ve got to take it with a pinch of salt. It’s really difficult to not look. I went through a phase where I would just try and search out horrible things about me on Twitter or Tattle.

You say that you have a self-deprecating humour, does that come from confidence or insecurity?

I think it 100% comes from insecurity. My running joke is I’ve got the flattest arse in the UK because it’s something that I’ve always been told. If I’m around men I’ll straight away be like, oh well I can’t dance, my arse is so flat, look how flat my arse is’. I feel like I already know they’re thinking it, but I just want to get it out in the open so that no one goes behind my back. It’s definitely insecurity, but then it also gives a sense of confidence because it’s like, well I’ve said it now, so you got nothing on me.

You’ve owned it. If you ruled the world what would you do to stop online hate?

First of all I would get rid of hate sites, like Tattle. I’d ban any sites like that and maybe, one thing – I don’t know if they've implemented it I think Instagram has – when you block certain accounts you can block any future accounts made by that person. I think to sign up to social media you should need ID so you can’t have a fake account. I’d stop any way of getting a fake account because people are not that brave; if you can see where they work, who their family is, they would not say half of this stuff.

What do you do when you’re offline to sustain yourself?

I have a very small friendship group. I have about two friends that I’ve been friends with since school and they are just very normal. They humble me a lot if I’m getting a bit too big for my boots. I always go to see them and just chat about things that aren't social media. I’ve got some amazing friends in social media but it’s very easy to get wrapped up in this world and forget about real life.

Where’s the line for you between social media and real life?

GK Barry is definitely me, but it’s a more extra version of me. Obviously I over-share a lot but one lesson that I’ve learned is to not share everything. Say for example a breakup; if you've shared on social media it becomes a thing that people become obsessed with, and you can’t escape it. It’s not healthy when you’re going through a breakup to see all the comments, like where is he? What’s he done? I bet he's cheated, I bet she's cheated, I just saw him with another girl… That’s just something that I’ve learnt now and won’t do again. Keep something for yourself.

That’s good advice. Grace, I know that you work with Teenage Cancer Trust and wanted to ask how that came about.

So, I did Don’t Look Down on Channel Four for Stand Up to Cancer and got invited to an event at the Royal Albert Hall with the Teenage Cancer Trust. I had no idea that it doesn't receive government funding, so it’s all donations. There are so many teenagers suffering with the most awful disease, a lot of my audience are teenagers, and it’s so close to my age.

Finally, if you could offer one piece of advice for any reader in need of a bit of your positivity, what would it be?

Don't be worried about what other people think. I remember everyone was so judgmental when I first started TikTok – even my best friend was like, why are you making videos in your room like a weirdo. But, if I had cared about what people may have thought I don’t even know what I’d be doing right now. You miss every shot you don’t take.

You can listen to GK Barry’s podcast, Saving Grace, via all good podcast providers now.

Image credit: Brett Cove

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