Internet Rickey Thompson on Inspiring Millennials to Be 'Booked and Busy'
"I'm very authentic and I don’t act like anyone else but myself," the motivational speaker tells PEOPLE at American Eagle’s Delivering Good collection launch.
With 5.1 million Instagram followers, a YouTube show under his belt and Calvin Klein model on his resume, there’s only one way to describe Rickey Thompson: Booked and busy. In fact, this is the exact way the 23-year-old Internet sensation would describe himself.
“One day, I was filming an Instagram video and I just randomly said, ‘Wait, I am booked and I’m always busy,’ and then it just stuck,” the North Carolina-native tells PEOPLE at American Eagle's Delivering Good collection launch. “It’s such a great feeling to me.”
And because Thompson’s inclusive nature and Internet fame, his “random” notion went viral. “Being ‘booked and busy’ has become a movement. [We say], “Oh my God, I don’t have time for the hate. I’m going to work hard, get these coins. Let’s showcase my talent for the world.’ It makes me so happy that it actually took off.”
The same positive energy Thompson embodies is what launched his career (with the help of Kylie Jenner re-posting his video), and ultimately helped him grow even after Vine, the platform he built his profile on, folded in 2016.
“I think it’s because I’m very authentic,” Thompson says of his rise to stardom. “I don’t act like anyone else but myself. I’ve always been like that in life. I just feel like, finally, people are like, “Okay, cool. Somebody who is themselves. I want to follow that person, see where they go.’”
And, on any given day, that’s exactly what Thompson’s fanbase sees – the real Rickey Thompson breaking down serious dance moves to a classic Christmas song or banging pots and pans while belting out self-compliments that are contagious enough to break through his Britney Spears poster-covered walls.
“It’s so crazy because my whole entire life I would see something on the street and say, ‘Oh my God, that’s funny. I’m going to make a video,” the 23-year-old describes. “Or I will go through a breakup and I will want to talk about it. Everything I make is relatable.”
To feel his most confident self, Thompson needs to be wearing his most confident outfits, which range from retro mesh tops to American Eagle sweatpants and anything purple.
“I feel amazing any time I wear a tight mesh top,” the star of YouTube Premium’s Foursome says. “I love showing off what I got because I work really hard on my body. I just love body positivity.”
He continues: “And purple, because it’s my all-time favorite color and looks the best on my skin.”
While Thompson has his favorite pieces, he doesn’t put a ton of thought into his on-camera ensembles.
“I literally wake up in the morning and say, ‘Okay what are some cute outfits? I’m going to post a viral video. I need a viral outfit.’ Anything vintage, ’90s or 2000s is cute to me,” Thompson explains. “That’s the way to go.”
Aside from his cozy pieces from American Eagle, who is donating 100 percent of the Delivering Good sales to the nonprofit organization, the People’s Choice Awards nominee loves shopping vintage at the online marketplace Depop. And his vintage leather jacket is a staple in his viral energy-boosting videos.
But Thompson wasn’t always confidence-radiating YouTube star. He says he had to push past the shy Southern teenager who battled with insecurities – and still does.
“I used to have really bad acne, but I finally grew out of it,” he explains. “A lot of people don’t know this, but I do have my hard days. But I take my time to get myself together and I surround myself with positive people, my friends and my family. That’s what really keeps me going. That, and retail therapy. I love shopping. It makes me feel so much better.”
Even if he’s not making motivational videos for millennials on-screen, he’s pumping up the people around him off-screen, regardless.
With that said, Thompson makes an effort to give back to everyone around him, including joining American Eagle for the launch of its Delivering Good collection to benefit those impacted by poverty.
“I love how for the youth is our new future,” he says. “I really, really love it. We’re hardworking, we give back, we’re everything. It’s amazing. That’s why we are so niche. We’re young kids and we’re taking over, so get ready.”