20-year old Tyler Schrage is everywhere. Billboards, magazines, even the sides of busses feature the image of this fresh-faced newcomer, seemingly beaming with confidence, and more often than not, smiling. Schrage boasts more than a million followers, across his social media portfolio, and keeps company with some of the biggest social influencers around. Famous friends like Ashton Sky, Kyle Colver, and Tyler Ashton can be seen making guest-appearances on his viral videos, creating what would look like an impenetrable self-confidence. Tyler Schrage is here to tell you, that is bullshit.
“I was mercilessly bullied in high school and middle school.” says Schrage. “I was small. Like, really small. Even today, I’m only pushing 130-pounds on a good day. I was picked on and called a faggot by the bigger guys. I was definitely a late-bloomer. It was even harder for me, because I didn’t have a great relationship with my father, so when I got home to what should’ve been my safe-space, it was kind-of more of the same. It was not a great time in my life.”
Despite all of that, Schrage found solace in social media, where he could connect with people who were relatable to him. He trudged through his Senior year of High School, and picked up odd-jobs in his hometown of Festus, Missouri, while continuing to grow his social media presence.
“My glow-up was kind of ummm…. It was intense. I went from feeling like a total shit bag, to seeing a selfie of myself, and feeling kind-of attractive. It was a bizarre feeling for a while. It still is, to be honest. Sometimes I look in the mirror, and I’m not sure what to do with the person looking back at me.”Tyler
Armed with a confidence he had never felt before, Schrage began creating regular content on TikTok and Instagram, showcasing the fact that, aside from boyish good looks, he also has a remarkably relatable personality. His photos and videos began regularly going viral on the platforms, and less than a year later, he had a million followers.
“That was surreal for me,” says Schrage. When I hit 500,000 followers on TikTok, I sat and starred at my profile page for a long time, trying to imagine what half-a-million people even looked like. My hometown only has 12,000 people in it, so if you can imagine what it feels like to have that for a perspective… It felt like a ton of responsibility to have so many people looking at me.”
Under a year later, Schrage was signed to a major Hollywood management deal with PopWrapped Entertainment Group, under the watchful eye of C.E.O Zachary Jaydon, joining a team already ripe with successful talent, including viral superstar, and Survivor alumni, Daniel Rengering. Schrage’s videos had hit an astounding 3-billion impressions on TikTok alone, and the level of attention he was receiving hit a fever pitch. Then, Schrage, emboldened by the desire to be “free,” as he calls it, decided that 2020 was going to be different than the year before.
“I had really played it safe for all of 2019,” explains Schrage. “I had found a niche, but at the same time, I felt like I was in a rut. I was still struggling with my own body image, and doing my best to love myself, but always ended up feeling like I couldn’t just be ME. I felt like a hypocrite, because I spent so much time preaching positivity, and encouraging everyone to be comfortable in their own skin, but I was struggling so hard to do that myself. I saw so many people I was friends with and admired posting ‘thirst traps,’ and showing off what they had worked hard for, and I wanted to feel the same. I decided that on New Years Day, I was going to let myself out of my own prison, and finally say ‘fuck it. This is me.’ So, I did what any sensible dude would do, and I stripped down to my underwear, and started taking pictures.” *laughs*
On the evening of January 1, 2020, we met up with Tyler Schrage to talk body image, self-love, and his quest for Hollywood.
Fashionably Male: What initially drove you to social media?
Tyler Schrage: I guess it was a need for positive human connection. I wasn’t getting that at school, and when I got home, I was mostly withdrawn, because my relationship with my father was so toxic. That was really hard for me too, because my mom is one of the greatest women I’ve ever met, and worked incredibly hard to make sure I always had what I needed. Looking back on it, I feel bad that I spent so much time in my room, avoiding my dad, which in turn took me away from her too.
FM: What were you trying to accomplish on social media? Did you set out to be a famous presence, or to have millions of followers?
TS: No way. I never even considered that I would become a popular creator. That wasn’t my goal. I honestly just wanted to have fun, and find other people that I could connect with. I wanted to feel accepted on any level.
FM: Would you say that you found that?
TS: Absolutely. I’ve learned so much from my experiences over the last couple years, about myself and how the world really works. When you come from a super small town, it’s easy to get lost in everything small-minded that comes with it. I needed to engage with people who were not only balanced, but also more cultured than I was. It made me feel free that people thought the way I did. Small minded people have a way of making you feel dirty when you don’t share their views or values. Perspective is everything.
FM: Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
TS: I mean, everyone wanted me to succeed, but only until I appeared to be more successful than they were. Then it became a negative. You lose a lot of friends when you get serious about your life and goals. They took offense when I left for Los Angeles, throwing shade at me for ‘being too good for Festus,’ but the more I thought about that accusation, the more I accepted it to be true. It wasn’t that I was ‘too good’ for my hometown, but I didn’t share the same hyper-Christian, racist or homophobic views that a lot of them did. My graduating class had a little over 60-people in it. So many people from my hometown die there. I want more for myself than that. I’m still young, and naïve enough to believe that I can change the world.
FM: You mentioned that you were bullied a lot in High School. What do you think made you a target for that? Since you’ve left, has anyone apologized to you for that?
TS: I was a small guy, and a late-bloomer, so I guess I was the easiest target. I wasn’t afraid to wear bracelets or pink. There were no openly-gay or bi guys in high school, and I guess I just ended up at the bottom of the heap, by default. The bigger, popular jock guys had to have someone to put down.
FM: You share management with Daniel Rengering. He is kind of the epidemy of “popular jock.” Do you harbor any resentment toward those kinds of guys, as a by-product of what you experienced in high school? Have you had a chance to meet him?
TS: *laughs* Yeah! I actually stayed with Daniel for a couple of weeks while we shot together, and got to know him pretty well. Daniel is awesome. He’s basically giant teddy bear. I don’t resent him, or anyone else that looks like that. High school is not real life. I’d like to think that even the assholes from mine will grow up and be decent to people. I mean, sure, I wish I could put on size like Dan, but I do alright for myself. I think he’s secretly afraid of me. I’m like a ninja. I’ll just poke him in the eye when he’s not looking. *laughs*
FM: What made you decide to strip down for Instagram?
TS: I was never confident with what I saw in the mirror, but I was always telling everyone else to be, and it started to feel hypocritical after a while. The day after Christmas, I decided I was going to embrace my skinny-ass, and do something different. I had everything figured out on New Years’ Eve, and fell asleep feeling confident. I woke up feeling the exact opposite. I had a mini-panic attack as I pushed the ‘share’ button, but when I was done, it was like walking out of my own prison. The reactions from people were almost 100% positive, and I felt like I was living more authentically.
FM: The comments were more than a little candid. Was it uncomfortable to have so many guys and girls thirsting after you? What did your friends and family think?
TS: My friends were like, “Why is your junk randomly popping up on my explore page.” *laughs* My mom and aunt made it a way bigger deal than it was. I was like, “Mom. I have run around in my underwear for my entire life. It’s not like this is ground-breaking or scandalous.” I think my aunt just wanted something to complain about. I think, more than anything, they just don’t understand why I’m doing things the way that I’m doing. I keep trying to explain to my mom that I have to do things for me for a while. At the end of the day, no one is responsible for my happiness, except me. If I don’t push my own boundaries, challenge myself, and do things that make me happy, I never will be.
FM: What’s next for Tyler Schrage?
TS: I plan on travelling a lot in 2020. I am working on a few modelling campaigns for some big-brands that come out in late-Spring and early-Summer. I wish I could say more about that, but I promise I’ll send you guys the previews first. I’m shooting with a bunch of pretty legendary photographers this month, and of course, continuing to use my social media pages. I’m also starting to work with a few charities that are doing some great work for kids.
Thank you to Tyler Schrage for taking the time to talk with us. Be sure to stay-tuned to Fashionably Male for more exclusives!