We sit down with Lewys Ball to discuss life in front of the camera, weird celebrity interactions and how to be your truest self.
Lewys Ball, perhaps better known by his YouTube handle LookingForLewys, is an influencer, YouTuber, presenter, fashionista and now regular club DJ. Throughout a 10-year career that started with observations of life at primary school, the creative has continued to promote an authenticity admired by huge audiences across the internet. In an age where many influencers continue to advertise unrealistic looks, Lewys takes pride in authentically sharing his personal experiences growing up in the public eye.
Choosing to document his life for the enjoyment of others, Lewys Ball’s teenage story is far from normal. Cultivating a community based on honesty, Lewys has ensured his closest fans have felt comfortable confiding in him throughout a meteoric rise to internet stardom. Candidly addressing his viewers with a likeable exuberance, Lewys’ hundreds of thousands of followers, and tens of millions of views, have merited success far beyond the YouTube-sphere. As well as hosting his own ‘Pop Off’ podcast, which humorously analyses popular culture with a range of guests, the personality has hosted live streams for the BRIT Awards and shows for CBBC.
Continuing to draw a dedicated viewership who share in all things Lewys, this week also marks his first column for Notion. We caught up with the star to chat about everything from Gen-Z nostalgia to becoming a DJ and growing old on the internet.
- Lewys Self-Styled Throughout
In the yearbooks at school were you the person where people were like, ‘he’s gonna be famous’? What was your childhood dream job?
My yearbook quote was, ‘Don’t follow your dreams, follow my Instagram’. When I was younger, I wanted to be a singer so bad. I wanted it to be like Rihanna, Britney Spears and Katy Perry. I was 13 when I started YouTube and that was when it was becoming more known. People like Zoella, and that generation were blowing up. Ever since I saw them, that’s what I want to do.
Would you ever transition into singing now?
I can’t sing anymore. I used to be a choir boy and sing all the time. I was late going through puberty, so my whole thing was that I was 16 and still had a really high singing voice. As YouTube started taking off, my voice broke and my singing teacher was like, we can still do this, but you have to take some time. I was like, nah, I want to go and film what’s in my bag for school.
At what point did you decide to start putting yourself in the public sphere and build an audience? How old were you and what was behind that first decision?
So, I was thirteen when I first started and that was 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve uploaded pretty much every week of my life.
That’s crazy. Do you ever watch back the old stuff?
I can never tell if it’s me being the most narcissistic person ever, but it’s so cool because, I basically have a video diary of my entire life. All the different friends who have come into my life, the different places I’ve lived, the different hobbies or interests of the time. So, I’m always like, it’s not narcissism, it’s just reminiscing.
Do you think that you’ll carry on, for the next 10 years?
I’m sure there’ll be a time or even if it’s already happening, where I start to slow down. But I think I’ll always upload, even when no one’s watching; I literally love how over the past ten years, I have so much to look back on. People who I used to do YouTube with, who stopped when they were 16 or 17, they always say to me that they wish they continued. So now I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m not ever gonna stop’, because even if it’s just once a year and no one’s watching, I can still always look back and watch my whole life when I’m 88, trying to remember the good times.
How did you deal with that early influx of followers and how do you deal with people’s opinions now? Is it something you’re used to or is it still bizarre?
I think I always had thick skin, because when I started wearing makeup at 14, a boy doing everyday glam was not a done thing. This was three years prior to the whole beauty-boy blow up. I said to myself when I was 14, if you’re going to do this online, you already know that there’s going to be so much hate. So, before I went into I knew that I was going to receive more backlash than your average YouTuber. Anytime anyone comes for me personally, it goes straight over my head. The only time it ever affects me is when people come for my friendship or relationship or family. I purposely don’t really post my family online because none of them are into that. I also do get it, because as much as I post YouTube videos and social media, I consume loads of it as well. And I’m a nosy cow, I’ll do the same thing to other people. I can’t throw stones into a glass house.
How do you find balance between sharing your life and keeping certain things just for you?
There’s nothing that I actively keep secret, or actively keep away. At the end of the day, as I said, I like having lots of my life online, because I get to go back and watch it. There are relationships in my life that I don’t put online as much. But that’s usually because they aren’t social media people themselves. People like my boyfriend or all my best friends from uni, they’ll occasionally be in the background or in a TikTok, but it’s less heavy than my friendships with other social media people.
From YouTube to presenting you’ve made a career out of talents that are closely tied to your personality which is the biggest compliment! How do you deal with times when you need to be “on” but don’t feel like it?
I don’t know. If it’s ever something I’ve been booked to do, like presenting, I’m always so gassed that I get to do it. I reap so many perks and am so blessed to have this job, and this job comes with so many benefits that if there is a few bad things, like the hate, you have to take it on the chin.
What are some of the highlight experiences you’ve had this year?
I had a really fun year. The Brit Awards was crazy. I’ve watched the Brit Awards every year with my mum since I was 13. She bought me tickets to watch it when I was 15 and I still have pictures from going to that on my bedroom wall at home. I always love it when I get to go away. I went to Iceland with 66 Degrees North for Skepta’s show. It’s always so crazy getting to see parts of the world I never would normally.
With the Brits, was there any behind the scenes stories or things that were funny that happened? Or was it all just a blur?
Oh my god, yes there was. We had just come from doing the red carpet and we were stood waiting to go back over to the O2. And I got a hand on my shoulder. I said, this is a big man’s hand like this is a sturdy man’s hand. And then this voice goes, “I really like your outfit mate” and I was like, who the hell is this? I turn around, and it was Matt Hancock. I was like ‘no no no take that back’, this is not a compliment from you.
What areas do you want to explore more with the platform you’ve created? You obviously do a lot with fashion on your channel. And you’ve been involved with some music stuff. What other stuff do you want to do?
I would try my hand in anything that comes my way. I know this time last year, I was so in my head about everything I do. All my best uni friends were moving jobs or getting promoted. And I was like, ‘Why am I still making the same videos that I did when I was 18 years old?’. Going into this year, I wanted to try some other things. I’m just about to start up a podcast again, which is all about pop culture. I’ve started DJing which has been so much fun. I had my first set at a bar called Queen of Hoxton. I want to do lots more DJing and more things with fashion, just more fun things.
What kind of music do you DJ?
Mainly R&B, rap, hip-hop, that kind of stuff. That’s just what my natural music taste is.
And with the podcasts and the pop culture and everything, what kind of eras do you like?
I love the current era. The podcast is your weekly catch up on all the things that’s been happening in the pop culture world, but this season we’re going to do special episodes where we go into the vault and look at something like Azealia Banks’ messy Twitter history. I love late noughties – early 2010s, where social media was just starting to become a thing. It was always the messiest era because social media was so new that celebrities didn’t know they were going to get affected as well. We never get anything like that anymore.
I love that era. It was one of the trashiest eras for music. It was like LMFAO, Nicki Minaj and the peak X Factor era.
I will back X Factor until the cows come home. I was obsessed with that show. There’s just so much nostalgia associated with it.
I miss the X Factor. Who were your favourite judges? Cheryl?
I love Cheryl. I used to have a fan account for Cheryl when I was 11 years old. My Twitter @ was ‘lewysthesoldier’. I loved her and I loved Kelly Rowland and Tulisa as well.
Did you see videos from the N-Dubz reunion tour? I really regret not going to that.
I’m hopefully going this week. I’m so excited. But I did see videos of Tulisa getting a phone thrown at her head.
How are you feeling about the new column with Notion and becoming a columnist?
I’m very excited. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for ages. I studied media at uni and I did a bit of journalism on the side. I’ve always wanted to be able to express my opinions and what I think is cool on something other than my own thing. Being able to have something like Notion back you, it means a lot.
In 10 years time, what will your videos look like?
I think I’m a city boy for life. I’ll always be in London. I hope that I’m still happy, I hope that I’m still bleaching my hair. I never want to go back to brunette in my life, because there’s something about me blonde that makes me a lot hotter. I hope I’m still doing everything I’m doing now and still have the same interests but amplified. All the things that I’m interested in and passionate about now are things that I have wanted to do for a long time but I’ve never had the confidence. So, I hope that I’ve still believed in myself and backed it for 10 years and it’s still going well.
Well you seem strong minded. I know you inspire people in loads of ways even just through fashion or whatever. Having an engaged and sometimes impressionable audience do you feel responsibility to be a role model, or do you try not to overthink and just live your life?
I hope if there’s one thing that someone can take away from me, it’s that it’s okay to live authentically as yourself and be who you are. Because they’re the people that I look up to, like Lil Nas X, ShyGirl, Alex Consani; they’re all people who are not your traditional person in that realm and role and they’re not trying to conform to anything else. They’re just being themselves. You might not get any educational value from me, but if you can take that, then that’s fine.