This weekend at the technology and arts conference South by Southwest (SXSW), creators took center stage in many events, parties, and panels—including at a content creators meet-up hosted by 25-year-old Harry Jowsey, a creator with over 9.1 million followers across TikTok and Instagram and a former reality TV star known for Netflix’s Too Hot To Handle.
At the panel, Jowsey shared his insight on a variety of topics, including monetization, brand deals, audience engagement, content strategy, and career development. After a young creator asked him about online controversy and how it can fuel influencer careers, he advised her to avoid it.
“I was telling that girl to stay away from it, steer clear, because, yeah, sure, it looks cool for numbers right now. It’s a good short-term game. But people don’t care, they’re going to go so quick,” Jowsey told Passionfruit in an interview after the panel.
Jowsey further explained how drama can damage a creator’s long-term relationship with their audience, noting how some people with millions of followers struggle to sell anything to their audience, while others with smaller audiences sell out of stock “every time they drop something.”
“Being controversial is tiring, you’re not really building a fan base and an audience that is in love with you and is ride or die. You’re building a fan base that is riding for the drama,” Joswey said.
That’s why, Jowsey said, he is starting to “pull back” and close down his life a little bit more as he develops his career.
Recent content from Jowsey is funny, laid-back, and personality-driven. Alongside his humorous takes on viral TikTok trends, he’s landed fun brand deals with companies like Postmates, Fox, and even Wienerschtnizel.
Jowsey also recently participated in a viral video series promoting a new Netflix show, Next In Fashion, where he surprises celebrities, like Tan France, Gigi Hadid, Reese Witherspoon, and Ashton Kutcher, replicating iconic looks they’ve worn in the past.
Jowsey’s recent videos are somewhat divergent from his past social media presence, which stem from his Instagram underwear modeling and sexed-up Too Hot To Handle roots.
“My audience is a little bit older, from 18 to 40s mostly, and they just want to see funny stuff, they don’t care about me shirtless or me trying to have sex with the camera,” Jowsey said. “They want me to find a funny sound and put text on the screen that is self-deprecating and laughing at myself. Not many people really like straight white guys. So I’m like, you know, let’s take the piss out of myself.”
Scrolling back on Jowsey’s Instagram page, there are endless shirtless pictures (at the gym, on the beach, on horseback, at lunch, at home); expensive cars, clothes, and hotels; and a stream of other expensive, at times controversial, influencers making guest appearances.
These people include collaborators Tana Mongeau, past podcast guests like the infamous Jeffree Star, gym bros like Bradley Martyn, and Hype House stars like Tayler Holder. In clips saved to his Instagram stories, he asks his collaborators provocative questions, like, “Have you ever had head so good you had to pull the sheets out of your asscheeks?” and, “Are you guys fucking?”
Other reality TV stars also populate Jowsey’s page, including his current girlfriend Georgia Hassarat, also a former contestant on Too Hot To Handle. Most recently starring in another Netflix dating show Perfect Match, Hassarat is currently involved in some internet drama with Jowsey’s ex-girlfriend Francesca Farago. Still, Jowsey has remained largely quiet on the situation this week, appearing to want to stay out of it.
And although Jowsey has invited his fair share of controversial guests to collaborate with, he said he avoids anyone who gossips or posts information about other influencers’ or celebrities’ private lives.
“If someone’s a good person to me, I’ll be a good person to them,” Jowsey said. “But if there are, you know, people that are posting their private information or always gossiping about other people’s stuff. … I tend to stay away from those people.”
Jowsey said his content creation roots are in modeling. He said he aspired to be a Calvin Klein model after hearing from a friend that underwear models got paid $250 an hour. To do so, he started putting his time and energy into social media, namely on Instagram, where he initially accumulated around 10,000 followers.
While the allure of underwear modeling soon faded—with Jowsey saying he didn’t like to stand around posing and “flexing weird parts” of his body—his interest in being an influencer grew. “I started getting free products, and that was the coolest thing,” Jowsey said.
Jowsey also enjoyed showing off his personality and making people laugh, which is what he said led him to pursue reality television. Specifically, he mentioned an interest in bringing humor to people’s lives after he lost a friend to suicide.
“I wanted to make people laugh, but I didn’t really know how to do that on Instagram because there wasn’t any video content on there,” he said. “I wanted to make people feel a little bit at ease.”
In 2018, Jowsey flew to New Zealand to film a reality show called Heartbreak Island. Afterward, Jowsey said he applied to “every single show” he could find, eventually interviewing for one that was supposed to be for a “really big streaming platform.” He said he didn’t know the show was for Netflix until after it aired.
But while he didn’t know it was for Netflix, he did forecast the sexual nature of Too Hot To Handle. Jowsey said he purposely “played up” the hypersexuality he could tell the show was looking for.
“The questions that they were asking were so hyper-sexualized, trying to make sure I was the right guy for the job, asking me about threesomes or, ‘What’s the most amount of people I’ve slept with any day?’” Jowsey said. “Some of the interviews as well, I would just come in without a shirt on.”
After his Too Hot To Handle debut, Jowsey said he doubled down on the brand of being the “horny guy that has a lot of sex,” but the hypersexualized stereotype became at times difficult once it crossed over to real life.
“People feel like because they’ve watched the show, they think they can touch more or try and grab me,” Jowsey said. “You think you’re entitled to my body because of how you see me on the show. But I’m not like that.”
Jowsey said he strategized before the show’s release by banking up as much content as possible, building a website and print-on-demand service, and even exploring other career options, like consulting with a music studio. “I was doing as much as I could because I know when this show happens, this is going to be a huge audience looking for me everywhere on the internet,” Jowsey said.
In August 2020, the show dropped. Although he received massive amounts of online attention, specifically being heavily scrutinized for lying over a kiss scene, Jowsey said he was glad for any time he got on screen.
“Even when I lied about a kiss. There was so much stuff before and around that that got cut out to make it more dramatic and look way worse for me. And I still get comments, like, ‘You’re horrible,’” Jowsey said. “At least they remember me for something.”
After the show aired, Jowsey said he tested a lot of different kinds of content, posting every day, trying to understand what people liked, and showing as much of his personality as possible. He also took notes from other big creators at the time—namely, by speaking with and studying the members of TikTok’s infamous Hype House.
“Month two was when I really started studying it and trying to focus on, ‘Okay, what are these other big creators doing?’” Jowsey said. “That was when I went to the Hype House, and I started picking their brain about TikTok.”
He said his main takeaway was that the Hype House creators succeeded largely due to their frequent collaborations and public friendships. “People love friend groups. People love figuring out their next storyline,” Jowsey said.
Jowsey said his willingness to learn from others and study videos was what helped him stand apart from other reality television stars and pursue a longer-term content creation career. “Instead of having ego, I was so curious to learn,” he said.
So what’s next for Jowsey? He said he’s been working with an acting coach, a dialect coach, and agents to book more scripted content.
“This biggest goal this year has been landing a lead in a TV show and movie. I’ve been focusing on the scripted stuff,” Jowsey said. “I’ve been putting everything, all my energy, and all my love into getting good at acting.”
With a strong passion for comedy and “taking the piss out of himself” to make others laugh, Jowsey also appears to want to help others by providing wisdom to up-and-coming creators and being a robust member of the creator community. In closing our interview, Jowsey offered some inspirational, cheesy advice for aspiring creators.
“It’s so corny to say, but just don’t give up. There are so many people on this planet that will shoot you down, and will always try and destroy your plans, because they’re either jealous, or they’re just losers,” Jowsey said. “Don’t be around people that shoot down dreams. Don’t give up, be consistent with it, because it is gonna pay off.”