In Conversation with Max Emerson

“It’s not “Trump’s 2017”, It’s ours.,” I’m told. “The current climate of constant crisis has done some amazing things in organising people to action.”

“People who identify as “other” are no longer sticking exclusively with their subgroup. They’re venturing out of their individual microclimates and learning to stick their necks out for all the other types of ‘other’. If it takes an orange troll in a bad wig to inspire that kind of unity, so be it.”

This is Max Emerson, the underwear model come film director come LGBT activist who is poised and waiting to release his recently created film on LGBT homelessness in America. Racking up just under three quarter of a million followers on Instagram, Max’s social media is saturated in v-lines, well formed abs, hot side-kicks and a perky bum or two. But Max is more than just simply an object of lust and desire and is using his charming features, large social following and privilege as an influencer to benefit LGBT charities, with 50% of profits from Hooked being directed into various affiliated charities.

We caught up with Mr Emerson to chat all things Hooked, LGBT homelessness in America, why more work-spaces need voguing workforces and staying humble with millions of followers online.

You’re about to release Hooked, tell me a bit more about this.

Hooked is a crowdsourced feature-length narrative film that I wrote and directed. It centers around the issue of LGBT youth homelessness and some of the more negative interactions within the gay community. The wonderful thing about the crowd-sourced nature of this project is that we’ll be able to donate half the profits of the film to shelters who work on the front lines of this issue.

And what make you focus on LGBT homeless youth for this?

To be honest it just seemed to fit. I’ve tried for a while to find ways to give back, and this seemed to be the place where I could have the most impact.

Beyond homelessness, are homeless shelters safe spaces for LGBT people?

LGBT focused centers certainly are safe spaces. There’s a need for LGBT-specific shelters because LGBT homeless youth, specifically the trans and non-binary kids, often experience massive amounts of physical and often sexual abuse in “normal” shelters. One of the wonderful things about the shelters my project supports is that some of them (Ali Forney Center, for example) actually has a training program where they teach “normal” shelters on how to properly accommodate kids of different sexual and gender orientations.

Courtesy of Hooked

How are gay men contributing to the perpetuation of the LGBT homeless youth problem?

That’s actually what my film is about. In my experience, I’ve found that interactions between different generations of gay men can actually be quite toxic. For every wonderful and life-changing mentor that’s comes into my life, there’s been at least two or three slime-balls trying to get into my pants. HOOKED tells a story about how the gay community, through misplaced priorities, is cannibalising itself.

You could’ve made a film about anything, why did you decide to make this a charitable project?

Social media is often nothing more than a vehicle for desire and envy. I wanted my first step into serious filmmaking to be the furthest thing possible from what people would normally associate with Instagram and YouTube. As for the charity aspect, it seemed silly to make a film that raises awareness for such an important cause without designing it in a way to make a real and measurable difference. I went to school and came of age in Miami. There, after years of catering/attending “charity” events (usually thinly veiled self promotion for the organizers) foundations that simply “raise awareness” started leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Courtesy of Hooked

Have their been any particular poignant or upsetting moments working alongside LGBT youth for Hooked? Could you tell me a few of them?

Every time I’ve had an opportunity to spend time with the youths in these shelters it’s been nothing less than inspiring. They are total rockstars! I know millionaires who act like bigger victims in their lives than these kids. Although I interviewed a few kids to help make sure the script for Hooked didn’t trivialise anyone’s experience, we didn’t work with any homeless youths in production for Hooked (the film is a narrative, which means it needs professional actors). Since so many of the youths want to work in media, I sometimes hire them to come work as production assistants for web videos. That’s always a treat. We need more people vogueing in the workplace.

Social media has been at the forefront of your success as a model, advocate and creative, how important is social media for you?

Social media has been the key to taking creative control of my work life. It’s been such an astounding thing to have thousands of people encourage and supporting the work, projects and adventures that my friends and I have the opportunity to share online.

@andrescamilo___ tastes like #mangos #today. #lrmoments A post shared by Max Emerson (@maxisms) on May 21, 2017 at 8:48am PDT

What is the key to social media success?

Originality, quality and repeatability… And don’t be afraid to piss a couple people off, as long as your heart’s in the right place.

And you’re not one to get embarrassed about quenching your followers’ thirst with frequent topless pics, how do you handle the bountiful amounts of attention?

It’s important to take the good with the bad and don’t let any of it get to your head. For every supportive follower (or even fanboy), there’s a troll aiming venomous words from the safety of their bedroom. Keeping all of it in perspective helps… the bottom line is that it’s just people looking for attention and connection, so it can’t really be that bad.

@andrescamilo___ says "an officer is always the first to dress and last to undress" A post shared by Max Emerson (@maxisms) on Apr 3, 2017 at 8:27am PDT

Three quarter of a million followers is quite hefty, do you find yourself getting noticed out and about?

My brothers tease that I’m “Gay Bar Famous”… which is actually pretty cool. In gay neighborhoods I’m likely to be stopped by someone with encouraging words. Anywhere else I usually enjoy privacy. It’s best of both worlds!

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