Max Balegde: 'This past generation of influencers that don't welcome new ones can get in the bin'

20 December 2022, 12:48 | Updated: 20 December 2022, 12:55

Woodrow Whyte

By Woodrow Whyte

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TikTok superstar Max Balegde shares his highlights of 2022 in 'The Year According To'

12 months ago, Max Balegde was at university, living in the north of England, struggling to balance finishing an undergraduate degree and his thriving social media career.

According to figures on Social Blade, Max started the year with 1.5 million TikTok followers. Now, as we reach the end of 2022, Max's following has ballooned to 3 million. He's ditched his degree and become a full-time content creator, media personality and host, partnering with several brands and major media companies. Earlier this month, Max launched his new podcast The Useless Hotline with George Clarke.

Explaining the appeal of today's influencers, Max shares his theory. "The trend used to be, 'your lifestyle is so cool, I want to be like that. I'm going to follow and live vicariously through you'." According to Max, that all changed following the lockdowns during COVID-19.

"Everybody got an opportunity to look at their lives and realise what’s actually important. Designer everything is not important. Being flashy about your money is not important. The people around you, and maybe comedy or just being authentic, is what's important."

Max is the undoubtedly one of the stand out stars of his generation of TikTokers, a new breed who reject aspirational lifestyles and #bodygoals for something a little more real. So, who better to get an honest sense check on 2022 than the man himself.

This is the year according to Max Balegde.

Max Balegde
Max Balegde. Picture: Getty

PopBuzz: Describe your 2022 in three words.

Max Balegde: Bizarre, wild, terrifying.

Story time…what was the wildest thing to happen to you this year?

Getting to host the red carpet for House of the Dragon. I literally had this out of body experience where I was like, how is this my job? How is this my life? Other than that, I got to go on a bloody private jet, which was bizarre. Why do these peoples pay that much money? If I had 2 million pounds or however much it costs I can't imagine ever being like 'I need to buy myself a jet'. It was so cool but you can get a Ryanair ticket for 50 quid which makes so much more sense to me.

Which song or album did you have on repeat all year long?

Oh my god. Well this is really embarrassing because I filmed a campaign with Spotify where Sam Ryder and I compared our Spotify Wrapped. As you can imagine, his top songs were these cool indie bands and my top five and four were from the Encanto soundtrack, and then the top three songs were from RuPaul's Drag Race ('Living In London', 'Catwalk', and 'Legends'). Like, why are these my top songs? I listened to Taylor Swift, Beyoncé all year long and then Wrapped comes and it's going 'gay gay gay gay gay' basically.

If you could time travel back to January 1st, what advice would you give yourself and why?

On January 1st, I was still at university trying to juggle both this randomly becoming my job and trying to finish my degree, and working out whether I can do both at the same time. Shocker, I couldn't. I lived in Newcastle and now I live in London. Working out whether I should take that jump...it's just been mental. So I would say just have a good time because sometimes when you're feeling anxious about bigger and better opportunities that you get, it can be easy to be stressed in those moments instead of looking around and realising how incredible it is that you're even given the opportunity.

Who is your personal hero of 2022?

I want to say something soppy like my grandma. My family were very apprehensive at first [of me becoming an influencer]. And you know, it's a lot for someone like a 70-year-old woman who has lived in a small town her entire life to wrap her head around. But I got to take her to Strictly Come Dancing in Blackpool and she was just elated and so proud of me. She was going around to everybody who probably had no idea who I was saying, 'That's my grandson, Max'. I was like, 'Grandma, that's Tess Daley. She doesn't care who I am'. But yeah, I'd say my grandma, because I just think she's great.

Max Balegde goes shopping at Disneyland
Max Balegde goes shopping at Disneyland. Picture: TikTok: max_balegde

Which TV or film moment left you truly gagged?

Stranger Things. People would tell me, 'you need to watch it, you need to watch it' and I genuinely thought it was an 80s-style rom-com. I had no idea what it was until I was watched the first episode. It was all cute, odd, American town vibes and then all of a sudden this big gobbledygooper comes along and he's snatching kids. I was enthralled.

What thing did you unexpectedly become obsessed with this year?

I would say Disney. I've always loved Disney, don't get me wrong. I went to Disneyland when I was in year eight. I love theme parks in general but there was something about Disneyland. I was that child that was a bit too old to be queuing up for Mickey Mouse's signature, but I was having a great time so my mum just kind of allowed it. I got a bit too excited when Peter Pan came along, that sort of thing. I went again recently for the first time as a proper adult and got very drunk. I bought so many things. Then it kind of became a thing on TikTok. Instead of all my professional accomplishments, people are like, 'he's the guy who got drunk at Disneyland'. And then, I mean, I've just run with it. I buy everything Disney now. If there's one thing I did not see coming, it was being known as 'the guy who got drunk at Disney'.

What or who has been your favourite account to follow on social media, and why?

One of my favourite accounts is this elderly lady who has like 50,000 followers. It's just her and her husband. She lives in Louisiana and posts different recipes. She calls herself Grandma and she calls her husband Pop Pop. And she'll be like, 'Today I'm making Pop Pop upside down pineapple cake' and then she'll show you how she makes it and then film him eating it. I love stuff like that. How did this get on my FYP? But now I'm invested. I do feel quite rude when I go to these influencer events and people expect me to know who they are, and I'm like, no, I'm too invested in Grandma and Pop Pop.

What would you like to stay in 2022 and never see again?

Something that I would like to stay is a new generation of influencers that are being praised for their personality as opposed to them being rich, being able to afford fancy clothes, or just being good looking. And what I would like to get in the bin is this past generation of influencers that aren't willing to welcome new ones. I would never have got the opportunity to be a regular influencer back in the day. There's not a chance. I didn't really put myself out there in that way. Also, I wasn't like seven foot tall, buying all these fancy things. So I'd like that old mindset to be gone - not only influencers but brands as well. I think it's time to get on board with maybe someone who has 50,000 followers but people really love their personality. And they can really make a difference to a brand, as opposed to someone who has 20 million followers and flies in a private jet all the time. I'm not talking about myself, even though as you know, I have frequented private jets.

What are you manifesting for yourself in 2023?

I'm manifesting for myself to be better at dressing myself because I dress awfully. People always rip into me online for wearing awful clothes but, luckily, now I'm with my new management they are able to reach out to some nice suit places, so I'm not re-wearing the same clothes all the time. But yeah I manifest for me to look nice because I feel as though a lot of this year I have not. But we can definitely change that!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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