Alex Hayes: “24/7 my mind is ticking”

It’s not everyday you see somebody attending a media event in bare feet, accidentally knocking over coconut waters on their way in – but then getting away with it all with a cheeky glint in the eye and an apologetic grin. Right from the word go, I knew I was going to enjoy interviewing Alex Hayes.

Meeting for the first time at a recent GoPro event – Alex is an ambassador for the brand – the 19-year-old had an energy that was hard not to love right from the get-go. Hugging and high-fiving his GoPro “family”, it was pretty clear the digital influencer had a few fans in the room. And not just in the room – Alex is currently sitting on 567K Insti followers.

Stealing him away from his breakfast, I held back on my fan-girling for just a moment to chat everything from his first involvement in content creation, why his ADHD is working for him, and thoughts on Jay Alvarrez comparisons.

What’s it like being one of Australia’s most successful male lifestyle influencers?
I wouldn’t call myself the most successful. I don’t want to look at it as a competition. I personally have a lot of fun, I love what I do. I’m lucky to do what I do – social media has been the best platform for me to be able to do that.

How did you first get into it?
It pretty much started for me at the first Australian Surfing Open in 2012. I was hanging around all day – I’d wag school and come down and hang out in the VIP section. I think early on I did some interviews with the surfers on their YouTube channels. And then I was just regularly posting photos on Instagram and Facebook and my following went up a little bit from there. My account actually got hacked on Instagram a year later so I had to restart. At the time I had about 23K followers – which back in the day was pretty good.

I started taking social media seriously as soon as I finished school. I went to Hawaii and met a good friend of mine who creates all this content and does similar stuff to what I do. He motivated me to realise that what I was doing was an actual thing – that it could lead to success. He made me realise that it was possible to do what you love, create content in a positive way, and make a living. It flicked a switch in me and I was like “Okay I want to do this. I want to be one of the best in Australia at doing what I do”. From there my following took off a little bit, but I’m always trying to grow more.

Do you see a situation and work out how you’re going to make something creative from it?
Always! 24/7 my mind is ticking. It almost drives me crazy! Sometimes I’ll try and have an early night and go to sleep at like nine and I won’t sleep till four in the morning because I just physically can not sleep. I get too excited. I’ll be listening to the radio and find a good song and think ‘Holy shit. I just wanna go home and make a video to this and I’ll have to film this to do that…’

Do you create all the films yourself?
I have friends who film but I pretty much edit everything I do. I want to be known as an editor as well because I feel like it’s a talent of mine. I take pride in editing my own stuff, but obviously I can’t film myself – unless it’s like a selfie, which I do a lot too! I need my friends. I’ve got a lot of good friends who love to film and be behind the camera, so it’s kind of like a little team of little friends.

Do you compare yourself to someone like Jay Alvarrez?
I very much respect Jay. He’s one of my good friends and obviously we do a lot of the same stuff, but I really would like to see myself as a completely different person. I don’t want to be known under someone else’s shadow. He’s helped me through a lot though. He showed me how videos like what we produce are possible. But now I want to take it to the next level for myself, so I’m trying to think of new and different ways to do that.

You’re creating incredible films all on your own. Do you feel like you are able to compete with major film production companies?
I think that’s definitely where it’s heading in terms of social media and video producers. It really can be a one or two man show in making a full professional commercial nowadays. It’s not how it used to be. I’m not going to say it’s simple because it’s a lot of stress to create it, but what it was and what it is now is a completely different ball game. The whole advertising market has completely changed.

How much time do you put into creating a video?
Sometimes I could be up all night, literally all night and I won’t sleep. And then I’ll film the next day and crash the night after that. I have these five minute adventure videos that are from my whole year and I’ve spent nights and nights in a row with no sleep because I’m so motivated to edit. When I’m not motivated to edit, then I just don’t even bother. That’s when I’ll go out and I’ll hang with my friends. And then when the motivation hits you, it’s unavoidable.

Do you create content everyday?
I’m on Snapchat every day. I post a lot! Instagram stories too. I try to do daily blogging on YouTube; it was cool for a little bit and I respect people who do that, but I don’t want to be forced to put up content if I’m not 100 per cent feeling it. So now I post a little less regularly but more quality – I think that has more long term value rather than trying to do stuff for the short-term.

If you’re not creating content, what are you doing?
Partying, hanging out with my friends, surfing. I actually don’t party too much, I tend to not drink. I’ve just turned 19 and I don’t really drink or do any of that sort of stuff – I’m really just trying to get ahead. I’m only young but I’ve got a lot of dreams that I want to do.

I’m presuming you’re a full-time influencer…
I don’t have a job elsewhere. I could never see myself working for someone else. I’m too ADHD really, I get distracted too easily. People think it’s a bad thing, but I love it. It sometimes gets me in trouble for saying stuff without thinking, but it’s my personality and it’s different.

And just lastly, where can we see you in five years?
Flying a private jet around the world doing whatever I want! My main goal is to be happy and be with my family. I’m super happy being at home at the moment but I just want to know that I have financials to fall back on and not have to worry. To just be happy and do what I love.

All images and films: @AlexHayess

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