YouTube’s 5 Million Man and “Work in Progress” memoirist Connor Franta is scheduled to flex his entrepreneurial muscle Friday for Urban Outfitters at the MOA. Franta will be back in the state where he grew up, promoting his new Common Culture clothing line.
I got 10 minutes of the 24-year-old’s very valuable time. “Really interesting questions, by the way,” said a thoroughly charming Franta, “and they’re questions a lot of people are afraid to ask.”
That’s just me, with a pointed assist from my pal Evan Kail, author of “Ubered: My Life As A Rideshare Driver” and anchor of YouTube’s “In the Closet.” Kail has been hounding me to track down Franta since he read the memoir of the fellow Minnesota kid making it huge in L.A.
Q: Do you feel a disconnect having lived in L.A. and becoming a star coming back to simpletons in Minnesota? Mr. Kail insisted on the use of “simpleton” in this question.
A: [Laughing at “simpleton”] I feel very fortunate to not really feel disconnected. I talk to my family almost every single day. I go to visit them every couple of months now. Because I want to stay so connected to my Minnesota roots, I have.
Q: When you come to Minnesota to visit your parents, are you treated like a Hollywood celebrity or do you occasionally get told to take out the trash?
A: Oh, honey, no, I am not a celebrity at home! I am just me in all forms. The difference is that when I go out in public and I’m not with my family, things do happen that are very Los Angeles.
Q: What’s the hardest aspect of becoming a star at such a young age?
A: I feel very fortunate that all of this happened after the age of 18. There are a lot of kids who are using social media and getting well known at such a young age — 13, 14, 15 — and I can’t imagine dealing with something like that at that young of an age.
Q: Do you see other YouTubers like you who get sucked into a poisonous lifestyle?
A: Definitely. Since I do live in Los Angeles I think there are a lot of temptations … kind of a rock star lifestyle. I see people in my industry do things that I don’t think are smart or personally wouldn’t want to do.
Q: How often do you get a sense someone’s trying to take advantage of you?
A: I am very selective. I don’t make really good friends very easily because of that. There are certain people I meet who I [think to myself], “We can’t be friends: I can tell what type of person you are.”
Q: Do you think your clothing brand will become such a source of passion that you’ll lose your verve for other creative outlets such as YouTube and writing?
A: No. Doing this clothing line and putting it out in a U.S. retail store use fuels my creativity in other directions as well. It again reminds me that I am doing very, very cool things. If anything, it fueled my creativity in all other realms.
Q: How heavily involved are you in the creation of the clothing line?
A: It is all me. I’m a very hands-on person. [Laughs] All the inspiration comes from my personal life.
Q: What innovations in clothing will there be from you?
A: As of now, I’m sticking to the basics, because I am so new to the clothing and fashion industry. I would like to push, in future collections, a unisex look for clothing, I don’t like the kind of the divide in fashion right now.
Q: Are there any girls from your pre-famous life who were surprised when you announced you were gay?
A: A lot, actually. Most people who knew me personally had no idea. I was fortunate to have a smooth coming-out experience and all of my friends and family just embraced me.
Q: With the atmosphere in America looking as if hate speech is back in style, do you feel a duty to combat it?
A: More than ever. I feel the need to amplify other people’s voices because there is so much negativity in social media and regular media. I feel a need to constantly remind people to be nice to each other, listen, not attack verbally or physically.
Q: Will you use your platform of 6 million social media followers?
A: 100 percent. I’ve already been doing that for the past year. I hope that I won’t have to, but I am very prepared to speak up, speak out and, more importantly, do something.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.