Denzel Dion

by Christopher Andrew Armstrong

“What’s good? What’s popping?” Denzel Dion asks his 1.1 million YouTube subscribers at the beginning of each video he uploads onto the site. The social media celebrity, who has also amassed nearly two million devotees on Instagram, is known as much for his biting comedy, which directs its sassiness towards the pop culture and fashion world, as for his own personal style.

Standing at six foot five inches, it’s hard to not notice Dion whenever he’s on your computer screen. With a high-top fade, a la Christopher Reid circa House Party, and usually decked out in clothes seemingly pulled from Will Smith’s wardrobe in Fresh Prince of Bel Air, he first found viral fame on the now defunct Vine platform by uploading comedy based skits such as “when ratchet girls ask to use the bathroom in school,” and “#awkwardmoment when you call your friend’s house thinking they’ll pick up but their parents do.” After abandoning ship right before Vine sunk, Dion relocated his comedy to Instagram and YouTube where he has gained an even larger following thanks, much in part, to his signature style, featuring fanny packs, track suits, and windbreakers. And the Internet has noticed —  with Denzel receiving nominations for “Best Breakout YouTube Star” at the best “Fun & Entertainment” YouTube channel at the forthcoming Shorty Awards and Global Social Awards, respectively, this year.

What does one do after conquering all forms of social media? Well, in Dion’s case, he’s aiming his targets at the fashion world. His clothing line, Dion By Denzel, made its debut this past February, with a collection of hoodies and t-shirts emblazoned with phrases which match Dion’s signature confidence, such as “Heartbreaker,” and “Voluntarily Single.” In the upcoming months, he plans on expanding his fashion brand, by focusing on less merchandise based clothing, and more on everyday fashion. He also floats ideas about starting his own podcast, where he can break free from the cameras for a bit a create a more lucid environment, where he can touch on topics not discussed on his Instagram or YouTube page. “With a podcast I can just get on there and talk,” Dion says during our phone conversation. “Because if you give me a mic, oh I can talk. I can talk, for hours.”

There’s no doubting Denzel Dion was blessed with the gift of gab, now the only question remains is, are you popping? Because I know Denzel is.

How long have you been uploading videos to YouTube?

My first video was in 2014, but I started YouTube in 2016…February 2016.

Tell us about your first experience going viral…how did (going viral) change the way you use and interact with social media?

Going viral changed the way I use social media because when you go viral you’re obviously seen more. Yeah, subscriber growth is always good, but there’s always hate and backlash because not everybody is going to like you. It made me stronger.

How so?

I’m from New York, so I would always respond to comments. Now I don’t respond to mean comments, I just laugh because they don’t make me mad anymore. I don’t stoop to their level and respond with the hate they give me. I just respond with a positive pushback.

Are you still reading the comments on your YouTube page?

Yeah…I feel like everyone does. Others say they don’t read their comments, but I think they do because they want to see what the feedback is.

You start every video with the phrase “What’s good? What’s popping?” Where did this phrase originate?

I’ve just always said “What’s good? What’s popping?” when I greet people. It’s are you popping, because I know I am… it’s a confidence booster.

It is…You feel good when you hear that.

Exactly.

What does your fan base mean to you?

Without my fan base I feel like, obviously nothing would happen, but they’re not ordinary fans. They ask me for outside ideas, like styling tips. They’re like “Denzel, oh my god, I wanna wear this to the place where I’m going.” They’re like my friends, sort of. I sometimes give them advice, styling tips, on how to go about things in life. I feel like with my videos they feel very connected to me, because my videos are very raw and real. I feel like they can come to me for anything.

Do you encourage interaction between you and your fans?

Yeah, a lot. Sometimes on Instagram but mainly through Twitter.

When was the first time you remember being recognized in public by one of your fans?

I remember this because I will never forget this day. It was April 20th, 2014…this was because I made a Vine then deleted the app off my phone, not knowing the Vine got popular when I was off…I used to work at the YMCA and my first paycheck I ever got I went to California and I was only here for about twenty four hours (because that’s all I could afford)…I was here for 24 hours, I came here and I didn’t know anyone here. So I went to City Walk because it was a very touristy thing to do and they were having a free concert there. Basically many people noticed me from the audience and came up to me like “can I take a picture with you,” and I’m like, me? “Yeah, you’re from the Vine,” After that I downloaded the app and literally posted every day after that.

Wow, that must’ve been a confidence booster, your first time in LA and somebody immediately recognizing you?

Yeah, first it was like nothing happened, but it was towards the end of the night, you know a lot of teens go there (City Walk) but you know when you see somebody taking a picture it’s like “you look familiar…oh wait, I know him”

It was a Domino effect?

Yeah, exactly.

Besides your commentary and your comedy, you’re also known for your style. When did you first become interested in fashion?

When I first knew I was fashion-forward was when I was in the fifth grade, so when I was ten, I remember when I used to wear things in school and they were like “Oh my God, that’s for girls,” and I was like, okay…cool. My mom was always stylish, she had clothing stores, so I guess that’s where it came from. But I just always wanted to look good, that’s just what it was. I just like looking good for myself, not for anybody else.

Who are some people who have influenced your look?

Its not more so people, its more so era’s. I was very inspired by the 90’s era. The shows like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or movies like Boyz in the Hood, Clueless. I don’t get inspired by fashion icons, just era’s. Now, I’m into the 2000’s era, like I love the whole “Simple Life,” with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. I was very inspired by era’s, I don’t know why. Now someone I respect is Rihanna for sure, and that’s pretty much it.

Would you say your fashion is changing as you grow older? Or do you keep the same style you had when you were younger?

I’m evolving in my fashion because there are some things I wore like two weeks ago I’m like “eww, why would I wear that.” Every day new things inspire me and I just like to know what works for my body, what works for me. Because, yeah, everyone can wear anything but, to me, I feel like I need to know what works on you first. To me, I feel like, not everybody can pull something off…but there are certain things I know that I could wear but it wouldn’t look right on me. If you get what I’m saying?

Yes. You previously mentioned the possibility of starting your own clothing line…is this still an idea you’re flirting with?

Oh yeah, I’m starting it now. I’ve released some stuff in February but since we’re going into a new month and new season, definitely in April, May, I will be having some stuff come out. But yeah, I’m just designing stuff right now I want to be very different.

Do you have a name for your line?

Dion by Denzel.

Where can fans purchase these clothes?

DionbyDenzel.com, or Dion by Denzel on Instagram.

Back in December of last year you reached one million subscribers on YouTube…how did it feel hitting this mark?

Honestly, it felt so good because my (2019) New Year’s Resolution, I was around 500,000 at the time, I said “I don’t know what needs to happen but before this year ends, I need my million.” I had my million on Instagram and the only thing I was working towards was my million on YouTube. And just for the fact that I never saw myself using YouTube…even when I started YouTube I was like I’d be happy if I just get 10,000 subscribers, you know what I mean? So for some reason I didn’t feel like I was capable of doing it…like, I know I was capable but I just couldn’t believe I could hit a million subscribers, and it’s the point where I take pride in that because I don’t really collab with a lot of people…my channel is basically all me. So for me to be me, doing what I do, and be at a million subscribers, I’m very happy because of that. So if I don’t reach it, even I reached it on January first I would have been pissed. It needed to happen in 2018.

That’s cool it happened right before the year ended.

It was right before I reached it…like December 31st, December 30th. It was very near.

Did you do anything to celebrate?

Not really, I was going to have a party, like have a little get together, but I was like “it’s fine, it’s cool.” I was just so happy, I didn’t really need a celebration. Me having a million subscribers was my celebration.

What do you have in store for your fans in 2019?

2019, I’m trying to come up with new, fresh content which is why I haven’t posted in a week and a half. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with my channel, I feel like my channel is very nice now but it’s like what else do I have to give? So, I’m trying to challenge myself on making my videos better, better quality, and just better content overall. And I do want to make more clothes, I really do want to drop more clothes…because already my merch is really merchy, do you know what I mean? I’m just wanting to take it to the next level.