TikTok star Boman Martinez-Reid is inspired by ridiculous reality TV
The Toronto actor uses satire to show his audience new perspectives.
Photograph by Eden Graham
The BTF100 is a list of Black creatives, artists, and tastemakers who are globally disrupting the art and media landscape. These individuals, co-curated by the teams at both Blacktag and i-D, sit across multiple disciplines, industries, and spaces, unapologetically defying stereotypes and clashing traditions to make space for new ideals.
_Each week, for the next four weeks, we’ll be dropping 25 names from the list alongside special features delving deeper into what it means to centre, celebrate, and create equity for Black voices. Head over to the BTF100 microsite for the full list!
Like so many of today’s rising stars, Boman Martinez-Reid got his start on YouTube. A dedicated student of reality TV drama, in 2016 he and a handful of his high-school classmates created their own impeccably crafted parody called Reid It and Weep. After graduating college with a degree in theatre and media production, he spent lockdown experimenting with the reality show format on TikTok, filming short spoofs of shows like Love Island and The Bachelor with family and friends in his Toronto hometown.
Having recently hit the coveted million mark with his following on the platform, the actor turns inward to explore what it means to create for others, while continuing to honour himself.
What purpose, or force, drives you to create your work?
To put it in the simplest way possible: I can’t take life seriously! That’s not to say that I’m not serious about life, but I believe you can’t be serious about life without being able to laugh at it. Much of my content is rooted in things that I find to be incredibly silly; things that are so commonplace, that we never take a moment to reflect on them. I started making reality TV parodies because, although I love reality TV, I often can’t watch it without laughing at the way it’s structured, shot and edited. In the most incredible way possible, it’s silly! My purpose has always been to entertain others and to make them laugh. My driving force would be to show them, through my content, a new perspective on life.
How would you describe Black culture's influence on popular culture?
A large percentage of the memes we consume are rooted in Black culture. As well, I would argue that most of those memes are derivative of Black women in entertainment. For myself, as an actor and creator, I’m constantly inspired by reality TV legends like Nene Leakes and Tiffany Pollard who have created some of the most prominent memes, TikTok sounds and iconic television scenes. It’s been very interesting to see phrases that I originally heard for the first time on shows like The Real Housewives of Atlanta begin to pop up as trends in TikTok comments.
What nuances or tensions are you finding as you navigate the creative landscape as a Black Creator?
I had never questioned my Blackness until I became an online creator. I experienced this weird duality between being ‘too Black’ for some and ‘not Black enough’ for others. This notion has been so incredibly hurtful to experience. When people first saw my parent’s home, they made comments about how it must be in an incredibly affordable neighbourhood, because me growing up in a nice home needed an explanation. In contrast, if I shared a musical opinion online that people didn’t agree with, I was met with derogatory remarks, as if I was not Black enough to have an opinion on R&B. I often have to remind myself that I’m allowed to stand in my Blackness.
I remember filming a parody of Rupaul’s Drag Race where my best friend Eden and I dramatically enter the kitchen in the morning. I had given her a line to say where she states that she was the first “Miss rise and shine bacon and eggs pancakes flippin’ on a skillet… of colour”. We laughed for a moment and then she said to me, “wait but… can I say that? Will people get mad?” We constantly have to remind each other to be who we are and not care as to whether or not it’s sufficient enough for others.
What ground is left to cover in representing Black voices in the arts and in media?
I find that, in some ways, I am not given the chance to reach my full potential. I know this to be true for a lot of other Black creators. Once you are seen as one thing, it’s hard to break out of that. To be frank, the same is never true for a white TikTok creator. Black creators are versatile and talented and need to be given the same chances and opportunities that their white counterparts are given. I have been creating a show on TikTok for the world to see for two years but every month, another TikTok-er is given a new show. (But my show is funny AF, so believe I’m going to keep going!)
What work do traditional content platforms need to do to better support Black creativity?
Black creators need to be included in the conversations! Put Black creators on your ‘hot lists’ and give us chances to be heard — to tell our stories! I feel that there’s such a strong focus on viral Black creators but there are so many talented and important Black creators with important points of view that might not have as many followers as myself or others. They deserve to be heard!
Looking towards the future, how will you define success in your field?
My mom says that success is about how quickly you pick yourself back up after your fall.
What does the community you’re a part of mean to you and how do you want to give back to it?
I am privileged enough to be a part of so many vibrant communities. The Black community, the Hispanic community, the queer community… to be completely honest, growing up where I did, I was never really given the chance to find any of those communities beyond my family. It has been the people that come up to me in person or reach out online that have reminded me of how much of a privilege it is to be a part of these communities; to entertain and relate to these communities. I will continue to give back, donate and most importantly listen and learn new stories about these amazing, beautiful groups and cultures.
Which peers do you look to for guidance and inspiration?
Early in my days as a creator, Kalen Allen replied to one of my videos. Ever since then, he and I have shared such a lovely friendship. Whether he knows it or not, he has mentored and guided me through this last year in ways that nobody else could. We’ve bonded over all of the implications that come with being in this business.