Connor Franta talks YouTube career, creative endeavors at PPC event


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

Connor Franta in the William Pitt Union Tuesday night.

By Shreya Singh, Staff Writer

When asked what vegetable he would want to be, online sensation Connor Franta said it was a question that involved some thinking.

“I have to really think about that,” Franta said. “I want to say brussel sprouts? I’m a vegetarian so it’s an important question.”

About 300 students gathered Tuesday night in the William Pitt Union’s Assembly Room as Pitt Program Council hosted Franta, an award-winning author, content creator and entrepreneur, to talk and interact with the audience. Franta has amassed more than 20 million followers across his social platforms.

After getting his start on YouTube, Franta went on to participate in many company campaigns from Calvin Klein to Urban Outfitters. He now co-designs for the clothing company Common Culture.

Quincey Johnston, PPC’s executive board director, interviewed Franta for an hour on a range of topics, followed by a brief Q&A session. Her questions ranged from his experience on social media to his coming out video, which according to her, was “a piece of YouTube history.”

When talking about his experience as a queer person who is famous online, Franta said the online community is vital in making others feel safe and like they belong.

“Visibility matters so much,” Franta said. “Representation matters so much beyond words. It’s one of those things that you don’t know until you finally see yourself on the screen being represented or hear your story being told, and you suddenly feel very less alone. That empowerment can do amazing things for the world.”

Lydon Pelletier, PPC’s public relations director, said part of the reason that the council invited him was because of his social media influence in the early 2010s.

“During the lecture committee, we usually get together with our committee members who help us come up with a list of names and people who they think would be interesting guests,” Pelletier said. “I think Connor Franta appealed to us because he kind of has a nostalgia factor. A lot of my friends were big into YouTube during that time and he was really popular, so we thought he would be a great choice.”

Pelletier also said she hoped students enjoyed the talk, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic halted in-person guest appearances.

“I think one thing I always hope, especially this year, is that students have fun and enjoy being back in person,” Pelletier said. “We did lectures last year and we did a ton of really cool ones, like we had Dan Levy from ‘Schitt’s Creek’ and tons of other cool people, but I think being back in person is super exciting because some of your favorite people are like 50 feet from you.”

Aside from social media, Franta has also published three books, starting with his 2015 memoir “A Work in Progress,” which details his childhood, current life and future aspirations. His most recent memoir, “House Fires,” strays from his life story and instead focuses on his creative talents — a collection of narrative, poetry and original film photography.

Conor Franta is introduced at a Pitt Program Council Event Tuesday night in the William Pitt Union. (Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer)

Franta said the process of writing a book is different from producing social media content like YouTube and TikTok videos.

“With content creation, it’s kind of meant to be as quick as possible,” Franta said. “When it comes to sitting down to write a book, there’s something about it that feels timeless. Because there is a physicality to it as well — it quite frankly could be timeless. It’s a much slower mindset to write three books. You’re in the moment.”

Sahil Khattar, a first-year neuroscience major, said he chose to attend the talk because he watched Franta frequently years ago and related to him and his content.

“I wanted to see him because I grew up watching him on YouTube and he was one of the first people who I watched who came out as gay,” Khattar said. “Being closeted at the time, it gave me solace knowing that I wasn’t alone, and I wanted to be able to listen to him talk about his experiences.”

Payal Amin, a first-year biochemistry major, said she liked being back in person for the events because it made them seem less formal.

“It was really motivational to hear someone who I used to watch as a kid and see what he’s up to now,” Amin said. “I liked that we were back in person for this talk because I feel like it made the conversation more personal.”

Franta said putting himself out there and being himself was a key component to his success. 

“It was nice to be unintentionally vulnerable, especially because I was a shy kid growing up,” Franta said. “In the beginning I thought it was just a creative outlet, but I think in a weird way that was myself unintentionally breaking away from things that were holding me back, and I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing.”