“It’s been slightly disheartening to watch my fellow influencers stay quiet on important subject matters, especially when I know it directly affects them. At the same time it’s been so encouraging to watch more and more people around the world stand up to hate.” Life Coach and queer advocate Barrett shares his #MeToo voice, writing a new wellness book and weighing in on fitness pressures and thirst traps in the queer community.
YOUTH and ROLE MODELS
Growing up did you have a queer role model that influenced your outlook on life?
Growing up I actually didn’t have a queer role model. It is something that I often wish I had because I think it would’ve helped me come to understand who I uniquely am a little quicker.
However, today I have two sets of gay couples that I consider family, and who often give me incredible insight into ways of thinking about love, relationships, and my future as a whole. One of the couples has been together for 30 years, they have two children and are incredibly successful and philanthropic. The other couple has been partnered up for 28 years, which is also incredibly successful, philanthropic and offers another idea of what I may one day want my life to look like.
To see two sets of men make a life together work is so inspiring and reminds me that I too can find love and family in a modern and beautiful way.
Personally, I think everyone needs some form of a mentor and to think that I may be that for some of my followers is an incredibly humbling thing, but also reminds me to continue to be the best version of myself. The best life we can live is one of example and I’d like to think I am doing just that.
How does the intersection of your Jewish heritage and queer identity shape who you are?
It’s funny, growing up I was one of the few Jewish kids in my town, but my family lacked any real sense of religion. However, when I went to New York University, I found myself extremely interested in Judaism because it was a part of me that I had never explored. While at NYU, I also finally found myself questioning my sexuality, and ultimately my queerness, so in many ways the two developed at the same time, and have in evolved with one another.
I personally don’t like labels and feel as if religion often wedges greater distances between people rather than facilitating closeness, so for that reason I consider myself more of a spiritual being. For ease I often say I am Jewish and gay, but when I have the time to truly sit down with someone I explain that I believe in Love, and think that all sexuality is fluid. I think we get so caught up in our egos and identities that holding onto to something like being Jewish or gay becomes more of a categorizing factor rather than an expression of our truest selves, and I don’t want to close myself off from anyone or any experience that feels right and doesn’t harm another person.
I love the term queer because I think it is more encompassing and accepting without creating barriers even between our LGBTQIA family members. Yes we are different, but as humans we are all far more alike than we are different, and when we remember this is when we start to create real change.
In your personal life you actively endorse femininity – exercising the power of embracing your feminine side. What female influences in your life and pop culture inspired this?
I think that when we can accept all sides of ourselves, we have the ability to be kinder to ourselves and others. When we allow the marriage of our unique femininity and masculinity to fully collide, we allow ourselves to be more vulnerable. Vulnerability is truly the key to connection and I find nothing in life more rewarding than connecting with others.
If you ask any of my friends or family who my greatest role model is, they will all laugh and say Oprah. I didn’t grow up in the most stable home and I lacked an extended family, so Oprah in many ways was a safe place to sit and listen and learn like one does with a grandmother or aunt. I truly credit Oprah for helping me understand many of life’s deeper concepts and I know one day she and I will sit down and have a beautiful chat about life.
Do you have a morning routine to set your state of mind for the rest of the day, if so what does it involve?
Every morning, before I look at my phone, I say five things I am grateful for. It is something I’ve done for years and it is a habit that I hope everyone reading this interview adopts today. It is just a moment before anything has happened in my day to take stock of how lucky I am to be alive and live the life I live. Some days my “gratefuls” include: waking up, breathing on my own, being able to see the world with my own two eyes and having access to clean water. Other days my “gratefuls” can be anything from my bed, to my favorite shirt, to something fun I have planned for the day.
My only rules are:
1. Say five
2. Say/think them before you look at your phone because whether your phone has a good or bad message on it, it is still linked largely to stress.
3. Make your “gratefuls” different everyday.
Sure, there are some days you feel really grateful for something you’ve already been grateful for, so it’s ok to say it again, but what I remind everyone is that if it is in your life you should be grateful for it, so don’t judge it and just be grateful. You’re more of an ass to not be grateful for your cute shoes than you are to be grateful for them because you have them and they are in your life.
I promise that if you start to do this, your days will become brighter and lighter and good things will continue to unfold. It simply is a quick way to set a positive intention for your day to be amazing!
Your ultimate dream?
My dream is to continue to inspire more and more people through my work. The big dream is to collaborate with Oprah and have her mentor me while creating a medium that inspires more people as I continue to travel and explore the world.
I’m currently working on a book that takes the idea of self-help and lightens it up a bit. I think too many people are turned off by the seriousness of New Age thinking, and I want to help more people realize that we all truly hold the key to our happiness. I know what it is like to think you are helpless and your life will never get better, but I also know how incredible life can become when we take control of our lives and allow love, positivity, and hard work to guide us in our journeys.
My motto since I was a child is: “I want to leave this world a better place than how I came into it,” and the humbling thing when I sit down and reflect is that I feel I am. I often tell people I am living my dream, and that is a truth that often brings me to tears of gratitude because just a few short years ago, I didn’t look at my life in this context.
“We must stop supporting the people who have been named multiple times. We must stop following them, hiring them, and buying their products. We must hold them accountable, and we must stop allowing these people to be let off the hook with barely a slap on the wrist.”
MODELLING and ACTIVISM
Take us through a killer “Barrett Pall Abs Workout” and what is your Go-To workout track?
Woof! Abs are something that I have been a monster at for a long time. As a competitive swimmer, ab work was built into my sport, but once I quit swimming competitively, I knew I had to keep up the workouts.
I actually have a few killer workouts for your abs on my youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/
Also it’s super important to understand that fitness is 80% what you are eating and 20% working out. A fit body is largely made in the kitchen!
You’re politically outspoken on social media, as a queer advocate is there an organization that you wish to give a shout out to?
I think there are so many amazing queer organizations that are doing incredibly important work, but I personally give a portion of my Heart Happy Intention Bracelet proceeds back to Hetrick Matrin. They work with homeless LGBTQIA youth, and are an amazing organization. I also think the Trevor Project, Ali Forney Center, and Lamda Legal are doing amazing work to help so many people.
What are three books off your bookshelf that you would recommend and why?
I have to cheat and give you six. These books will truly change your life and I credit them with opening up my way of thinking more deeply than I could’ve ever imagined.
The first book is Velvet Rage by Alan Downs. I wish the moment anyone was questioning their sexuality that they had a fairy godparent drop this book in their lap and have them read it. This book breaks down the stages of being gay in such an interesting way and is a must read.
The second and third books are by Eckhart Tolle, who is one of the most profound thinkers of our time. A New Earth and Power of Now helped shape so much of how I think about the ego and how I view myself – wildly important reads that will change your life.
The final three books are Conversations with God Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. These books, written by Neale Donald Walsch, are not about God in the traditional sense, and truly will push you beyond your barriers in every way. From love to life after death, Walsch hits on so many subjects and coupled with the other books I’ve mentioned will leave you transformed.
I can’t stress how important these books have been to my own personal development and how they can help anyone truly change their life.
You’ve mentioned as a model you felt pressured to be “in shape.” Where are you on your journey of self-acceptance now and what advice would you have for someone inhibited by the pressure of feeling like they need to be perfect, an ideology still prevalent in the gay community?
I think self-acceptance is a never ending journey. As soon as you get over one piece of insecurity that exists within yourself, you quickly find there are endless other layers to work through. In many ways, I find this exciting because it means you get to know yourself better and therefore relate to the world in a more mature and compassionate way.
As I continue to travel and see the struggles that many people face in their day to day lives, I can’t help but feel like my looks mean less and less. Don’t get me wrong, I know they have opened many doors for me and I’m grateful for everything I have in my life, but I’ve always valued my brain, education and my desire to help more than how I look. Developing in every sense was hard while I modeled, and my career was solely about how I looked, but as I mature I find myself challenging more and more concepts about body image.
I still think everyone should focus on being healthy and fit before worrying about a number on the scale and fitting into a certain size. I love the body positive movement and the fact that we are seeing all different shapes, sizes, colors and ages in mainstream media. I’m curious to see where we will go and personally I’m excited to push more gay men to think about why it is that we strive for these Adonis bodies.
There exists the notion that “wellness and personal development” are glorified “health and fitness” principles repackaged to consumers that still perpetuate toxic masculinity. How do you think the landscape of the “health and fitness” industry is developing and how do you personally address these assumptions and redefine masculinity and “health and fitness” through your work?
I definitely think that wellness and personal development are closely linked to health and fitness. My personal practice as a Life Coach combines mind, body and soul work; and I am a full believer that you must be working on all of these things all the time rather than just focusing on one.
I do think that as social media continues to grow and we put extra emphasis on images, and thus, the way we look, there are many conversations that we need to be having around masculinity, especially when it is based on masculine toxicity. I wrote a piece in 2016 called Beauty, Body Image, and Being Gay (link below), in which I looked to dive a little deeper into these conversations because I know so many people struggle with how they look, and I want to help people understand that until we go deeper spiritually and mentally, we will be facing these problems over and over.
The last thing I’ll say on the matter is that we often strive for these hyper masculine bodies which I call porn star bodies because we are looking to make up for years of torment and shame based around being gay. When we really think about why we want these perfectly chiseled bodies, it often comes down to the fact that they then allow us to have sex with other bodies that look like this. The majority of us aren’t lifting heavy things or doing manual labor, so to have a body that is rippling with muscles is purely aesthetic.
I’m not saying one way or the other is right but what I want to stress is that we need to continue to challenge our own thoughts, beliefs, and desires.
Given your influential social media platform, how do you own your privilege to shed light on marginalized minorities within the queer community that don’t have the same mainstream visibility?
This has been an extremely important piece of the puzzle for me when it comes to having a social media presence. I’ve always been outspoken about the things I believe in but I think it wasn’t until the 2016 election that people realized how passionate I am about politics, the world and giving a voice to those who don’t have one.
When I decided to come out in 2014 in a very public way, I had already been out to the people that mattered to me but I knew that by doing this I would be able to help so many others. I didn’t realize the weight it would truly hold and how important it was for me personally and professionally at the time. In no way do I think I did anything special as there have been countless men, women and gender nonconforming people who have done so much more, but to know in some small way that I helped others come to terms with themselves is more humbling than I can fully understand. It’s been amazing to watch young LGBTQIA people of color finally have their place at the table and I’m obsessed with getting into conversations about gender as I actually studied it while at NYU.
I’m constantly encouraging anyone I can to remember that no matter how big or small their audience and following, in some way they have the power to impact others. Whether you have five or five million followers, you are an influencer in some way and the more we remember this the more we can start to come up with real solutions for the world’s problems.
I think it is of extreme importance to share our platforms and help educate our followers on a number of topics. I often say that the key to success in any forum is collaboration. We don’t have to compete with one another to get ahead and to take it one step further, I believe that the more we find ways to work with each other, the more successful we all become.
It’s been slightly disheartening to watch my fellow influencers stay quiet on important subject matters, especially when I know it directly affects them. At the same time it’s been so encouraging to watch more and more people around the world stand up to hate.
“When we allow the marriage of our unique femininity and masculinity to fully collide, we allow ourselves to be more vulnerable.”
Are there any young creatives or wellness ambassadors that excite you for the future? What do you define as your purpose?
I think there are so many interesting and incredible people who are challenging the status quo and pushing all of us, myself included, to think deeper and deeper about the social constructs we have lived within.
I love what the Queer Eye guys are doing because they are starting so many conversations and illustrating how we (the LGBTQIA community) are just like everyone else.
I love what Chella Man, Nico Tortorella, Ericka Hart and Cleo Wade for what they are doing and how inspiring they are.
Outside of the social media space, I have been blessed with meeting so many incredible people who are working with organizations like UNICEF, IRC and so many other NGOs. These are the people that don’t have thousands of instagram followers but are truly making the world a better place and who inspire me more than they know.
Having recently come forward as a sexual assault victim and discussing the ingrained sexism within the male modelling industry, what social constructs need to change to help prevent the continuation of abuse of power, how can we assist in the #MeToo movement and how are you now Barrett?
This was one of the most intense and humbling experiences of my life. I am still processing the entire situation of coming forward as it has been an emotional rollercoaster.
I knew that this was something I had to do as more and more people come forward with their own stories, but I also did not want to step on any of the women’s toes who came forward first because I know how long women have waited for this moment.
With that said, I think the most important thing we can do as a community is to listen to the survivors. I never thought of myself as a survivor or a victim because I thought I had processed everything and moved past it. However, when I first considered coming forward, I shared my story with a group of people I trusted and respected and they called me these words. It was something I had not fully processed because I think I was trying to avoid reliving the sexual abuse, the shame and the overwhelming emotions that inevitably emerge and made me break-down.
I personally think that the more we use the term survivor, the more we empower those who have lived through these inhumane acts to stand up tall and say “no more.” We need to avoid jumping to conclusions and blaming the survivors because until you’ve been in these specific situations, you truly don’t know how you would behave, or what you would do.
I’ve received an incredible amount of support but I’ve also received a fair share of negativity and hurtful comments. At this point in my life, I feel strong enough to deal with both sides of the coin and that’s partially why I felt comfortable enough to come forward with my own story; however, not everyone is ready to be shamed and deal with those who don’t understand.
I say all of this to remind people that no one, and I mean absolutely no one, would ever wish these acts on anyone else, and the more we come together, the more real change will occur. We must stop supporting the people who have been named multiple times. We must stop following them, hiring them and buying their products. We must hold them accountable, and we must stop allowing these people to be let off the hook with barely a slap on the wrist.
We must support organizations like Times Up, The Model Alliance and countless other organizations like The Anti Violence Project and RAINN that support the survivors of sexual abuse.
What would you graffiti on a toilet door?
If I had to graffiti anything, it would be “Hike your own hike.” It is tattooed on my right arm in my own handwriting, and is a saying that I first heard while hiking 800 miles on the PCT. I heard it over and over, but one day it just clicked.
I actually just finished hiking/climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, which is Africa’s highest point at 19,341 ft, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world and this saying was something I found myself chanting over and over to myself as I was pushed physically, mentally and spiritually beyond my own limits. Essentially what this means is “you do you” and remember that while your hike may be perfect for you, it may not be perfect for others.
I hope more people hear this message and continue to hike their own hike.