Talking Activism, an interview introducing social media influencer Armani Walton

Updated December 4

Armani Walton is an Atlanta-based model, activist, and social media influencer. He’s a brand ambassador for Fashion Nova, Beard King Brothers, Rockstar Denim, Stallion Underwear, DC Black Gay Pride, PrEP SQUAD DC, and Project PEACH in Atlanta. Armani uses his platform to bring awareness to social justice issues. PrideIndex recently had the chance to sit with him. He shared his coming out experience, why activism is important, and more. 

PrideIndex (PI): I’m talking with social media influencer Mr. Armani Walton, a.k.a. Armani Versace. How are you today, Armani?

Armani Walton (AW): I’m doing great. I’m feeling good. 

PI: Tell me about yourself and the journey that has brought you to where you are today.

AW: I am originally from Memphis, Tennessee, and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. I started in entertainment on a teen talk show called The Bridge, I did that for two years while in high school and going into college. When President Obama legalized gay marriage, I came out online, and it went viral. Now, this was about ten years ago. It started from there, on Instagram social media. Then, I started getting brand deals with Fashion Nova, Six Silk, and Rockstar Denim; all these brands reached me at one point when the first influencer wave started on Instagram. I was one of the first openly gay influencers on there. It transitioned into more gay pride parties, and club appearances. So that’s how I got here, being brave. I will say back in the day, when Obama legalized gay marriage. I grew up on the DL with my family and friends in school, and going through that transition was very hard. My journey is continuing throughout the gay community, working with the PrEP SQUAD DC, promoting the prevention of HIV, and all kinds of things I do now relating to the community.

PI: What does being a social influencer mean to you? 

AW: So, being an influencer means, so much more than what people think it is. It is great to have the power to influence an audience who wants to be like you or looks up to you. As an influencer you’re able to promote things and ideas. It could be promoting stuff as a consumer, a buyer, or just sharing ideas on what you like to do for fun on social media. I feel that as an influencer, I am the blueprint to share what the black gay community wants. Young kids in college and high school are reaching out to me telling me, “you inspire me to be bold, to be more adventurous, living my true colors and wear what I want to wear.” That’s what an authentic influencer is, not just a paid spokesperson who puts on clothes and puts the post up; it goes much further than that. My purpose is to influence people who are young, black, and gay to follow in my footsteps and try to make something of themselves truthfully.

PI: Does that mean that as a proud black gay male, you automatically have to be loud, too? 

AW: Not necessarily. I feel like, in this community, you could be a discrete person and still be a proud black gay man. It’s your decision. You choose what works for you. Just because I’m an out proud and loud, person on social media doesn’t necessarily mean the next guy has to be like that.

PI: Have your friends and family supported you since you came out? 

AW: When I first came out, most of my straight guy friends, turned their back on me and did not speak to me anymore. They didn’t take it too well at first. Some started to come back around, after a couple of years later while I was in college. It was a shock to my friends because I had girlfriends, so they had no clue. When it came to coming it to family it was a shock too. There were questions and concerns, but eventually they came around. I am the first openly gay person in my entire family to come out.

PI: Earlier, you started to talk about your activism and giving back to the community. Why are those things important to you?

AW: Yes, they’re essential to me. The two organizations I work with are PrEP SQUAD DC and Project PEACH. They both work to prevent the spread of HIV. So, what do I promote? I have engaged in different seminars and panels relating to promoting the prevention of HIV AIDS. According to statistics, the infection rate is still very high in my community. And, of course, people will do what they want, but there’s a safe way of doing anything. Taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a pill that you take once a day, every day, is highly effective against transmitting or contracting HIV. Educating folks means a lot to me. 

PI: Follow me. I have to refrain from mentioning your o – – y – – – s page and use different words to prevent this article from being tagged as p – – -. As a person who engages in “fun time entertainment for grownups,” how do you promote the safe – – -, using PEP or PrEP without sounding like a hypocrite? 

AW: I look at it like this: we’re all grown; grown people do grow things. I promote safe activities at all times, at any cost. That’s something most people may not understand.
People use that platform to promote many other things. They use it to communicate exclusively and privately with their fans. For me, it is about celebrating, enjoying, and being proud of your body in a marketable way where fans can enjoy your particular views that can’t be viewed on other social media platforms. I’m confident, and it took me a while to get to this place where I would even think about doing a platform like that. As long as it’s done legally with integrity and respect for yourself and others, it’s okay. I’m at this point where I don’t mind showing, you know, what God has blessed me with.

PI: Has your decision to engage in “Funtime” affected your relationships? If so, how?

So, I will keep it 100% honest with you right now. Doing that type of platform has expanded my relationship life to the point where it has become too much. Before I started my platform my dating life was boring. Once I began that, I’ve been contacted by NFL athletes, pilots, attorneys, and guys that I never thought in a million years have reached out to. I’ve never thought that it would be this much fun. I used to think that being on a platform like this I would automatically be judged in a bad way.

A lot of these guys that I come across now, one might not realize they could be in adult industry guys like me. They love me. They want to talk to me about their problems. It’s like I become a date and a therapist simultaneously. So far with my dating life, is extraordinary. I would have not ever imaged I could pull the type of guys I pulled now.

PI: Being a person whose “milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,” how do you self-edit or decide which boys you want to shake the milkshake for?

AW: It’s the old-fashioned way of going on a date, getting to know the person, and keeping the vibe with the compensation. You then look at things such as what they like, want to do, and what they’re interested in. Where do they see this going within five years? How do they view me? How respectful are they? It starts off when they see me online and if I am intrigued. The person hit me via DM, and we take it from there.

PI: How do you keep yourself safe from those who want to harm you physically?

AW: I’m very cautious and safe. I always think outside the box when it comes to dealing with guys. My best friend, or someone else knows where I’m going. I always let them know details such and when I should be back. It is all documented. In some situations, I could be “carrying something.”

PI: What advice would you share with those who want to get into the “fun time industry” because they think it’s all glamour? 

AW: Some people do things for clout, and they’re making little money. That’s okay for some brand ambassadors. I would tell someone looking to enter the “fun game industry” to always stay true to yourself first. And this has to be something that you know is already within you. Do not think it is for you just because you see others doing it online. This is not for all. This game can eat you up and spit you back out. I’ve noticed that many guys get big-headed and get involved with the wrong people. I’ve seen some folks do things and not get a dime for it. You must know how to navigate the game and know your worth. You must have tough skin; it is not for the weak. I like to refer to that old term, earn money. Don’t let it make you.

PI: What other projects are you working on?

AW: I’m doing a panelist tour, where I will be traveling to different cities and participating on panel discussions with other black gay men. {The first show took place in Atlanta, Georgia.} I’ll be doing more panels in the future. I’m also working on some projects that I still can’t speak about yet.

PI: What else would you like to share with our audience?

AW: I want everybody to be uplifted and elevated. I’m aiming to be the best I can be and to elevate my community. I have my hands in some of everything now: bookings for different kinds of events and some might think that all I do is photo shoots for products and promotes stuff. It is not true. For me it’s about giving and being true to the game and motivating others too.

PI: Tell me what the future holds for you.

AW: What the future holds for Armani? World domination! What the future holds for me is that ultimate purpose. And that ultimate purpose is me breaking the odds of what the society thinks that I can be. I want to give back too.

To contact Armani, check him out on Instagram @ArmaniWalton. His email is Armaniversace9@gmail.com.