Kyle Parsons says he goes for a more “high-end” aesthetic on social media. A good scroll through his Instagram page shows what he means.
The self-proclaimed #RKOI (rich kid of Instagram) isn’t shy about showcasing the stacks of money, designer attire and European escapades that populate his Instagram, Twitter and personal website. An appraisal of his profile seems to show it all. With Parsons, however, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. In real life, the senior business student is far more personable.
He’s soft-spoken, polite and — while visually fabulous — fairly humble. Parsons’s social media accounts paint a different picture. What viewers might not know is that Parsons’s eagerness to flaunt his extravagance isn’t a reflection of his character, but a part of his online persona — a carefully crafted identity that allows him to connect with people of similar values and interests.
“[My Instagram] definitely has a target audience. If you don’t like it, it’s probably because I’m not trying to target you as someone to follow my account,” he explains, not rudely ,but matter-of-factly. “It doesn’t necessarily reflect me as a person, [but it’s] more something I do for fun to market myself toward a certain group of people.”
As the 2015 Puget Sound Area Marketing Student of the Year, Parsons knows all about the power of advertising. Self-promotion is exactly how he scored his break into reality television. Parsons is an official cast member in two reality television series scheduled for production in 2016.
It’s an opportunity made possible in large part by his image on social media. His casting in “The Majors” — a reality series that documents the lives of “young, affluent individuals” — virtually depended on it. Parsons was contacted by the show after the producers peeked at some of the content featured on his website.
The lavishness of the content drew them in, the photos of his travels, high-end style and modeling sessions. The production company sent him a message through the site, letting him know they were interested in having him on an episode of the show.
“It was pretty exciting to find out [that they wanted me], especially because I didn’t have to audition for it.”
Parsons’s upscale portrayal may have earned him a gateway to potential fame, but his lifestyle wasn’t always a means of garnering attention. In fact, as a early teen, he used his wealth as a way of deflecting it.
Parsons’s personal experience with bullying in middle school was the catalyst for his online identity. His tendency toward luxury — especially in terms of fashion — developed as a means of silencing the hate. As the son of a wealthy business owner, Parsons found his freedom in purchasing power.
“I knew that the only thing I had as a defense mechanism for myself was the fact that I came from a more privileged background than the people who were picking on me,” he says. “So, I kind of used that to my advantage. I started dressing a lot nicer, I acted a lot more confident [and] I flaunted more of what I had.”
It worked. The bullies backed off and Parsons discovered a way to keep them at bay. Throughout middle school, Parsons not only dressed impress but also to intimidate.
“It was almost like playing a character for seventh and eighth grade. It was like putting on a show.”
However, by the time he reached high school, Parsons’s facade had fused with his personality. He formed a true love for fashion. Donning designer clothes wasn’t something he “used to make people feel bad about themselves [anymore].” Now, Parsons genuinely enjoys sporting the custom Fur Hat World coat and the Topman houndstooth pants he’s frequently pictured in on his Instagram. He thinks dressing up is fun — and the compliments don’t hurt.
Parsons’s favorite designer brand is Louis Vuitton. He says it reminds him of “old money.” He’s drawn to the simple, traditional style and the recognizability that the famous monogram carries. Photos of him toting brands like these sent “The Majors” his way.
“The Majors” is a reality television show that follows its subjects for 72 hours, gathering footage of their daily activities. The subject’s “best” morning, afternoon and evening are edited together to present a day in the life of “a Major” – or affluent, young individual.
Come spring, Parsons will likely be seen walking around campus with a camera crew at his heels. The cameras aren’t daunting to Parsons. They’re a dream come true.
“I have a very outgoing personality, so I always thought that reality TV would be super fun to do,” he admits. “For only three days, it’s like you get a glimpse into what other celebrities — [who] are doing TV shows all the time — are going through.”
Parsons’s reality television experience won’t end after “The Majors.” The Lute has also been cast in another reality television show that’s not the typical day-in-the-life documentary.
The details are still top secret, but the premise of the unnamed project is likened to reality shows like “Real World” and “Big Brother.” It’s a reality-competition format that features several individuals living together in a house in LA, competing for a grand prize.
To earn the chance to star in the show, Parsons underwent a three-month long audition process that began in May 2015. He filmed and sent his first audition video, then waited several weeks to find out if the producers liked what they saw. They did, and reached out to let him know he’d made it to the next round. But he still had two more months of convincing to do.
“Then they want more content,” he explains. “After your first broad audition video, they want specific questions for you to answer. So, the next couple months was going over specific things they wanted [me] to address before they finally decided who they wanted on the show.”
In the end, Parsons was picked to be one of the unknown number of participants to be featured in the new reality series. He was surprised to find that he’d been chosen, especially since his summer travels in Europe interfered with the audition process. Lack of time and internet access left him feeling like he hadn’t put his best effort forward. Nevertheless, the producers were impressed and Parsons was ecstatic.
When asked why he decided to audition for reality TV, he says his boredom drove him to it. He was simply lounging in his room, wasting time on his laptop, when the idea came to him.
“I was like, ‘Let me see what I can do. Oh, I’ll just audition for a show.’ It was a last minute thing.
It’s a spontaneous decision that could likely change his life. If he were to win the competition-reality show, Parsons would earn his own reality series as a prize. Even if he doesn’t win, the experience will surely have some lingering effect. As Lifetime’s summer series “UnReal” revealed, reality television is not for the faint of heart. Parsons seems to know that.
“They want to know peoples’ personalities very well before they cast them, because they want to make sure it’s a fun dynamic where they can make drama happen,” he says.
He’s also a bit nervous.
“In the contract I had to sign [it says], when you sign this, you know you’re a character. If they want you to do something, then you do it. Keeping that in mind, it’s a little nerve-wracking not knowing how I’m supposed to be acting or what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Parsons’s main fear is that his actions on the show will warp his public image – that playing a character on “reality” television might give his peers a false impression. He’d hate to see people in his life see him differently because he’s “assigned a character that isn’t the best person.” It’s almost as if he’s back where he started, playing a character for the sake of affecting an audience.
Only this time, the audience will include plenty of family and friends who will be tuning in to cheer him on.
“I think it seems like something that would be a really fun opportunity, especially while I have more free time when I’m younger.”
Parsons feels the same way about modeling, which he does fairly frequently. Images from his various shoots live both on his Instagram and under the “modeling” tab of his website. Several of the photos featured are from nude photo shoots he’s participated in. Parsons got into nude modeling following the release of Marc Jacobs’ line of t-shirts for the “Protect the Skin You’re In” campaign. He saw the buzzworthy image of a naked Miley Cyrus on the front and was inspired to do something similar.
“I just thought it was so much fun,” he says. “So, I started doing more photoshoots, and then that’s when I reached out to the professor on campus to do [nude] modeling for the figure drawing class.”
Parsons was featured in an early 2015 issue of The Mast for his participation as a nude model in a PLU art class. He says the reaction to his amateur nude modeling career has been mixed, earning both positive and negative comments. But Parsons doesn’t really do it for the attention of others.
“I do [the photo shoots] myself for myself.”
It’s an interest born out of his curiosity regarding art and freedom of expression. Ultimately, he’d like to see males given the freedom to explore these things more freely in American culture.
“I [like] being able to express different emotions and different ideas and different feelings. It seems more weird to have a male doing something like that than a female. I feel like guys are afraid to […] express themselves in more emotional or vulnerable states. [My photos] just show it’s okay for guys to do it, too.”
Parsons openly shares his nude photos on his website, but must keep them off of his other social media for the sake of representing PLU’s School of Business. Parsons is a senior Business major with a concentration in Marketing. After a painstaking shift through the various business concentrations, he found a home in the Marketing department. Business, however, has always been the main goal. He specifically chose PLU because of the business school’s high ranking by the Princeton Review.
Despite being the child of a business owner, Parsons says his father didn’t fully support his quest to follow in his dad’s footsteps.
“He wanted me to go into the medical field and be a doctor,” he says. “His idea of me working in the business world was that I was just going to be stuck in the mailroom for the first five years of working, and I wouldn’t get as far as I hoped.”
Parsons, however, is determined to make it in the corporate world. He dreams of being a marketing executive for a famous fashion house, such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel or Hermes.
“I just want to work in the fashion world because I love fashion, and I think it would be amazing to have a career where I can tie in my passion for marketing and my love for fashion.”
In addition to being President of the Puget Sound American Marketing Association, Parsons hosts a radio show on PLU’s Lute Air Student Radio. “After Hours with Ramy and Kyle” airs weekly, Wednesday nights at 7 p.m.
“It’s more of a talk show. We have music in there, but [Ramy Carter and I] spend majority of our time conversing over the radio.”
Their popular segments include “Would You Rather,” “Buzzfeed Quizzes” and “Text Messages with Ramy and Kyle,” where they read the last texts they’ve sent from their phones. Parsons has a lot of fun as a radio host, and he says he enjoys his dynamic with Carter on the air.
“I think our chemistry meshes very well on the radio,” he says. “We banter back and forth, and it’s just a lot of fun to do.”
Fun seems to be a focus for Parsons. He leaps at enjoyable experiences, whether they be connecting with people through social media, taking photos to add to his website or diving into the world of reality TV. He wants to make the most of his life, as per the self-spoken quote featured in his Instagram bio:
“True immortality is being remembered both in life and death; so make sure you live a life worth remembering.” – KSP
DON’T MISS: What’s in Kyle’s closet?