Bridging paradigms and cultures alike, Richard Juan is breathing new life to the word influence, perhaps bringing it back to what it really means, you know, before social media took over.
What were you doing at 27-years old?
After a hopefully successfully clearing the hurdle that is a quarter life crisis, and standing at the awning of Saturn’s Retum, this fraction of one’s life can be challenging. With the whims of adolescence appropriately stripped and replaced with the rigors of adulthood, one is expected to pull it together and soldier on for the rest of their lives. Literature has drilled this in our collective consciousness time and again, setting prospects that are quite frankly sometimes too hard to reach. No matter how sane and sorted one may be, no one is expected to have it figured at 26, let alone be at the forefront of a disruptive revolution. At the very best, this time is spent navigating the labyrinthine catacombs of adulthood, stacking up introspections and realizations to build a well-informed view of the phase of your life.
However, this doesn’t give one permission to throw all caution to the wind and chalk every stumble to figuring things out. On the contrary, this should only add fuel to your of passions, making sense of it all in a pace that is comfortable and right by you. Forget what everyone thinks, no pressure. But when and where you can, charge upon any opportunity to thrive and make things matter. Look, if Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old environmental activist and 18-year old Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez can stand up to the arbiters of policy, make the world stop and listen to what they have to say about near-irreversible climate change, then so can you.
A sure stride away from the aforementioned heroes changing the world, actor, model, host, and self-confessed alien, Richard Juan, who at 26 is charting his own contribution to the conversation by breaking away from the trajectory his contemporaries are tracking, especially in the realm of social media influence. Careening from the content churned out firing up our saturated timelines, one of the early influencers, a term he typically shies away from in deference to the actual dictionary definition that has been held a standard growing up, he has since mapped out a professional career that brings a world of connections we once knew pre-internet with the accessibility and innovations of the new millennium.
At 26-years old, Richard Juan is making modern day life better, especially where he can help it the most, one status, one post, and one story at a time.
Do it Better
“Social media has created a platform for everyone to share their opinions. For the first time in human history, we have a platform to share our views. Our voices are finally [heard], you know, to spread good news, to spread positivity, to spread love, that’s great and everything, but it also created a culture where people live their lives based on others people’s opinions,” begins Richard Juan when he was invited to be a speaker at the New York Times Asia-Pacific Writing Competition Awards Ceremony in Hong Kong. Moored on digital disruption and how social media has changed the way we confront life, he goes on to shed light on how a digital native like him has discovered a discrepancy in the virtual uprising, consequently affecting us in a way that we are all too consumed to even begin to realize. “The mobility that technology provided us is also slowly destroying human interactions. It continuously disconnects us from the real world around us. Instead of spending quality time in person with your friends and family, we constantly just send each other text messages, WhatsApp messages, Telegram messages. My point is, where will this eventually lead to? When we get to the point where we do not know how to interact with people in real life anymore?” he asks. “People often forget what’s important. It’s the person behind all of that stuff. It’s all about substance, the credibility, the beliefs, the vision, and the heart. But with over 2 billion active on Facebook, with over 5 billion active users on Instagram, over 55 billion WhatsApp messages being sent daily, this digital and social media revolution completely changed the way the world works. And it will continue to do so in the coming years, but at the end of the day, how do you take in all these chances and how you make the most out of it is all up to you.”
Essaying his thoughts on a topic that is not only near and dear to him, but as his actual living truth, it was nothing short of stirring, forcing one into a corner of contemplation of one’s own behaviour online. But before being inducted to the layman lexicon, Richard Juan hardly knew anything about social media fresh off college. “During that time I didn’t know what trending was; I didn’t know what Twitter was. I had all those stuff, but I didn’t know what those terms really meant? And turns out I was trending online, people were talking about me,” he recalls with same breadth of incredulousness as if it just happened moments earlier. “Thinking back at how I grew up with social media, for example, I first had Facebook when it was launched in 2006 actually, but I didn’t expect it to grow and grow and grow to the age of now where social media kind of, is life in that sense. You know, there are so many good things on social media, of course, as there are so many problems, too. The most important thing in social media is the origin, the reason why they started social media, which is to connect people together.”
This being his first brush with the power of the internet, he didn’t anticipate it to become what it is today, a conduit and catalyst to his professional career and eventual offshoots. “I’ve heard so many people talk about the power of social media, how it kind of like, ruins lives in the same way it helps motivate people. But at the same time, it’s really finding that balance and being able to not feel like it’s a competition anymore,” he contemplates. “The things is, especially being in the middle of all this, I try to use social media in a good way. In a sense that I show people what’s real. Of course, I try to choose the best photo to post, but I don’t have the most curated feed. It isn’t ‘okay, I dress the best’ or ‘I go to this.’ there are still parts of me that is very raw on social media, especially on my videos actually, I show the side of me where I do silly things, but at the same time, I want to inspire people to do better.”
The Human Connection
Of course, we understand how setting out to inspire is much easier said than done, but for Richard Juan, it isn’t that typical Thought Catalog-like platitude that people harp on or share to no end on their timelines. Emphasizing a more effective way of communicating, and with the right message at that, he is parlaying a compromise that everyone should take heed of.
“I feel bad in a sense that, sayang eh. Parang you have such a beautiful platform that so many people wished that they have, and yet you just create content that is just the same, again and again about this and that challenge. Kaya I just realized na, the most important things is the substance you create. You want to show people that the type of content that should be created, while it can be fun, should be used wisely, used to help change the world somehow, at least in a positive way, and not just stupid prank videos or things that have no substance at all,” he ponders. “You have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, because being part of this industry where you’re constantly being compared, you’re constantly being scrutinized, I guess it becomes the art of not caring anymore, realizing that it’s not about the numbers of followers anymore, it’s not about the number of views, likes and comments. It’s more about the purpose that you create online or you create anywhere. I mean, this industry is about art, and people often forget about that. Honestly, if you’re not using the platform right, you’re not using your voice right.” Catching himself talk passionately about this at length suddenly brings him to a halt, before letting out a hearty fit of laughter. “It’s funny because growing up, I was never the artsy type of person, and it was just when I got to this industry that wow, art is something that I can appreciate now.”
Having stumbled on a hustle turned potential, Richard Juan never realized what could become of his interface with the internet and social media, and yet here he is, right in the thick of things, hoping to smack some analog sense into the general populace. “Essentially, it’s that human interaction that is needed, one that we constantly forget about also. We humans, we’re social animals. We need that interaction with people to survive in that sense. At least for me, that’s how I see it, even introverts,” he says. “Yes, you may be an introvert, but then you still need that human touch or human connection or else, you’re not just human anymore.”
In Real Life
Growing leaps and bounds in the industry, Richard Juan has since hit a confident stride, extending his reach by bridging two cultures together with the work he does. “It’s funny because in a way, how I see myself is that I’m more of a global, multi-cultural person, because growing up in Hong Kong, it’s a melting pot of different nationalities and different cultures,” he says. “And because of my platform, my popularity here in the Philippines, people from Hong Kong took notice, and they realized that all that I am and all I can do with my platform is the stuff that people in Hong Kong want to see. If it weren’t for the Philippines that gave me all these opportunities to put myself out there, I would not have the chance to go to Hong Kong and do all these cool stuff like, meeting Paul Smith, Gordon Ramsay, and a bunch of Korean actors and celebrities, Kpop Stars, Taylor Hill, and it’s been such a privilege and honor to be there and see all the things that I never dreamt of doing.”
By acting as a human link to the Philippines and Hong Kong, Richard Juan has opened up his network exponentially. From the infamous yellow house of Pinoy Big Brother to the sights, sounds, and scores of shopping at Harbour City, to now being represented by DigiStarPH, a management firm focused on today’s digital superstars, there reveals a greater world to discover and conquer. Despite being accorded with all these opportunities, he is dutifully taking all things one day, one passion, one project at a time. “I believe that the more you expect, the more you might get disappointed. So, I’m the type of person right now who just goes out there and just enjoy every single moment that I am here in this industry, because we don’t last forever in this industry and I don’t expect myself to last forever in this industry,” he comprehends. “I mean, there are a couple of projects down the pipeline, and there’s so much more that I want to do. As in, I really want to maximize where I am and hopefully bring me to a bigger and better place. You know, I’m someone that is not settled. I want be out there. I want use my platform to be able to inspire people to do different things, and because one of my biggest advocacies is youth empowerment, that is something that I want to actively try to pursue more in the years to come. As it stands, the youth nowadays, they are being exposed to social media and all that stuff but all they want is to be popular, they want the fame, they want money, but I want to inspire them to know what the right thing to do is, that it’s not about all those kind of stuff, but rather creating content to create a necessary conversation and dialogue for humanity, especially now of all times. But more importantly, I want them to truly live a life outside their virtual bubble, you know, IRL.”
Despite any overarching precedent, the world doesn’t assume you to build the blocks of a better, brighter, and bolder future. At 27-years old, it isn’t where you are supposed to be, yet. But if you can go ahead and zip past the years feeling your way through the timeline of your journey, then by all means, go on ahead and prove them wrong. No longer subscribing to the confines of an age-old dictate, it is high time you pave, nay, blaze that trail as you see fit. It’s your life; you can do whatever you want. Richard Juan is doing it as we speak using his influence in what we believe is the best way possible, as it was written to be. Now, what’s your excuse?