Celebrity guest Demetrius Harmon brought his popular personality and powerful mental health message to ISU AfterDark, which was a hybrid event of online and in-person activities.
Harmon is known for his popularity from Vine and YouTube. Harmon took part in a live Zoom call with the Student Union Board (SUB).
After a brief introduction, Host Liz Durbin asked Harmon rapid-fire questions about topics including his preference over Vine or YouTube, morning or night, and a night in or night out.
One of the first hard-hitting questions Durbin asked was how Harmon first got into Vine.
“I was in like ninth grade,” Harmon said. “When Vine first came out, Instagram didn’t have videos, so it was another way to create. It was another way to create video content without having to do all the extras of editing YouTube videos.”
Harmon went on to talk about his first viral video.
“It was like a domino effect,” Harmon said. “I kept getting put into vine compilations. It was hard for me to reach a mass audience quickly, but it was also weird because my family started seeing shit.”
Harmon had a very relaxed and informal presentation to bring to the Zoom call. This fit in with his well-known demeanor of being friendly and caring.
He also incorporated his personal side into how he reacted to people recognizing him in public for the first time.
“In school, I was pretty shy,” Harmon said. “When we graduated from middle school, I went to a different high school and made new friends, so it was very awkward. It was like a double life, where I flew under the radar but then people were recognizing me. It was an adjustment.”
Harmon incorporated his own feelings of his life-long fight with anxiety in most of his answers.
“I don’t watch my old ninth-grade YouTube videos, they’re cringey,” Harmon said. “I went through the phase of creating things that people would like for the sake of going viral. It turned into being happy with the things I wanted to make and everyone being okay with it.”
A touching response was given by Harmon to how comedy has affected his mental health advocacy.
“Comedy just kind of happened,” Harmon said. “I’ve had a lot of tragedies, and I cope with humor. It’s a lot easier to find community on social media. I feel seen.”
In answering Durbin’s question about what inspires him to advocate for mental health, Harmon went in depth into his own state of mind.
“I think everything I do is to help other people,” Harmon said. “Even recently, I was very suicidal, and if that ever overtakes me, I want my legacy to be of helping people.”
Durbin will be putting together a mental health kit event in November where students can make their own mental health kits, containing items meant to comfort those in distress. Harmon expressed his opinions on what should be included in these kits.
“Blankets,” Harmon said. “I love blankets, hoodies and teddy bears. Things I find comforting. I call them my 'corner.' My corner helps me have something that calms me down. Also, snacks.”
Durbin went on to ask about the meaning behind his merchandise line.
“I’ve been making merch since seventh grade,” Harmon said. “It was always meant to be about something I feel a lot of pride about, whether it was about Detroit or mental health. When I looked at it, it encompassed me.”
Durbin consulted the live chat before ending the Zoom call, and Harmon closed out his interview by giving advice to any students who may be struggling with their mental health.
“I know for me, I have to recharge a lot,” Harmon said. “I try to come back to things. Things that are intangible.”
Other virtual events at AfterDark included two dance classes, “Hamilton the Musical” and “Beyoncé,” hosted by Alistair, a New York City-based dance instructor. A virtual escape room, “Tigerland," based on the hit series “Tiger King," also took place throughout the night.
In-person events included bingo, a Workspace craft, Cybowl, billiards and a “Thinkfast Game Show." SUB members made sure to make the night fun by hiding plushies of AfterDark’s owl mascot throughout Memorial Union. Students who found the figurines could bring them to the bingo area for a prize.
All in-person events on campus require face coverings and social distancing. The next ISU AfterDark event will be Nov. 6.