Since its inception, social media has become many different things. For some, it’s a method for self-expression. For others, it’s a means to advocate for different causes. And for many more, it’s a community building tool. But for Keith Parris, it’s all of the above.
The 24-year-old known as the “Icy Amputee Warrior”, saw social media as a safe haven. As a makeup artist, model, LGBTQ+/disability advocate, Parris used social media initially to tell his life story. Growing up as a Black queer amputee, Parris was navigating grade school bullying, while coming into his own.
“So my name was in everybody’s conversations, like the last week of school, and people were talking about what I was going through in 8th grade. I had an eating disorder and I had a self-harming problem when I was in middle school. So I just felt so confused, like why is everyone talking about me?“
Parris found journaling as a therapeutic resource. But when things reached a boiling point, Parris chose to reclaim his narrative. His collection of journal entries were turned into a book that was posted on the online literature platform Wattpad. The site boasts over 500 million users and Parris joined their ranks after posting his book Amputee Story.
“I was talking to my counselor at the time and she was always telling me, ‘if you’re going through something that day, if you just feel triggered or anything, just write in your journal. I don’t want you to do anything harmful to yourself,’” said Parris. “One night, I was just like, ‘you know what? Let’s get people to talk. Let me post how I really feel and change the narrative. I posted it, I went to bed, and literally all my friends texted me, ‘Keith, your story is going viral.’”
Parris’ Amputee Story on Wattpad detailed intimate moments in his life and drew more attention than he anticipated. His family, friends, and peers were given an inside scoop into his world. The viral story garnered apologies and empathy from Parris’ classmates, but it also demonstrated to Parris the power behind his narrative.
As a young makeup artist and aficionado, Parris was using Instagram to highlight his various aesthetics. When his story went viral, fans of his work asked to follow him on the social media site. Once they did, they were able to dive into his passion for makeup.
“I was so starstruck when her employees were telling me [my] post and Rihanna’s post were the only two that did very well when we were promoting the product that I was promoting for them. To hear from her employees saying mine and Rihanna’s [posts] was like neck and neck engagement wise, that speaks volumes.”
Parris no longer follows the initial aesthetics that started with his social media journey. But that’s because his taste in makeup styles and looks expanded, as did his interest in different platforms. An avid anime fan, Parris is known for incorporating his love of the Japanese artform into his makeup tutorials or donning cosplay. But if it wasn’t for a friend sharing the hidden gem that is anime TikTok, Parris wouldn’t have found another safe haven.
“During the pandemic, when the world was starting to open back up, TikTok came to me. One of my friends, she used to send me a bunch of anime TikToks,” said Parris. “I’m like an OG anime watcher and I used to be like, ‘oh, my God, I never knew there was a side of anime TikTok. Then, I started doing some anime TikToks. And then literally the same day, I took a nap and those videos blew it up.”
I actually do like it 🐰💖 #dva #dvacosplay #genderbend #bunnysuitboy #bunnysuitboys #pecs #gay #gaycosplay #gaytiktok #femboy #femboysupremacy #icyparris #bunnysuitcosplay #bunnyboy #fyp #fypシ #icyparris♬ original sound – Simpson’s Funniest Clips
Now, he’s merging his two passions on both sites, letting his followers in on his world and his creative inspirations. Whether he’s highlighting his latest cosplay, showing off his latest makeup routine, or modeling for various brands, he’s busy expressing himself through his platform encouraging others to do the same. But one thing is for certain, Parris consistently exudes Black queer joy.
Thankfully, the platform is appreciated. Parris made the Out Magazine’s Out100 in 2020 amongst the likes of Bretman Rock, Karine Jean-Pierre, Keke Palmer, Jameela Jamil, Lizzo, and Janelle Monáe. Speaking of modeling, Parris has built a platform on just being himself and major brands noticed.
“I think my first opportunity was for a brand ambassadorship, for Rihanna, for Savage x Fenty Skin. Rihanna’s company, she’s just amazing. When her team reached out to me, it was a no brainer,” said Parris. “I was so starstruck when her employees were telling me [my] post and Rihanna’s post were the only two that did very well when we were promoting the product that I was promoting for them. To hear from her employees saying mine and Rihanna’s [posts] was like neck and neck engagement-wise, that speaks volumes.”
Parris has been called upon by the likes of Adidas and Rihanna’s makeup line Fenty Beauty and her lingerie line Savage.
“Adidas literally changed my life. All of my family members from back home. They were like, ‘hey, I was getting a uniform for soccer. I see you on the website. I’m like, ‘a website?’ And it was Adidas. I didn’t even know because when you do some modeling jobs, they don’t really tell you when they’re uploading the images or whatever. So I was so surprised when they did it quickly, said Parris. “They flew me up to Portland, Oregon, I went to the headquarters, and I did it. Then, I came home the next day and when I landed, all of my family members were telling me, ‘oh, it’s on the website.’ What was so funny from that opportunity, too, a lot of people were like, ‘I don’t play sports, but I’m just going to buy this because I just see your face on it.’”
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“I have to be that person for myself because I’m not seeing that. And I wasn’t even seeing that from social media at the time when I was getting bullied and stuff like that. I just always thought I was the only person in the world who was an amputee,”
But he doesn’t take these opportunities for granted, recognizing that representation means everything.
“I used to watch Bernie Mac, Eddie Murphy, Will Smith and stuff like that. I could connect to these amazing Black men, but let’s be honest, we may have the same skin tone, but they’re not going through the challenges of what I’m going through as an amputee,” said Parris. “So I used to be looking at the TV like, ‘okay, I love you guys, but I need someone who literally looks like me. And by looks like me, I need someone who has a prosthetic leg, who used to get bullied, like when they were my age, and just living in their truth right now.’ And I wasn’t really seeing that for a very long time.”
Instead, Parris became the representation he wanted to see in the world. Now, he recognizes that with each post and with each campaign he’s in, members of both the disabled and Black queer communities will see him, find joy in his station, feel represented, and be inspired.
Here’s a quick video of me at the doctor trying on my new Cast 🥺🙌🏾🦿. #icyparris #fyp #fypシ #viral #amputee #amputeelife #amputeelifestyle #amputeelivesmatter🦾🦿 #dayinlifevlog #prostheticleg #amputeetiktok #amputeeawareness♬ LOVE DIVE – IVE
“I have to be that person for myself because I’m not seeing that. And I wasn’t even seeing that from social media at the time when I was getting bullied and stuff like that. I just always thought I was the only person in the world who was an amputee,” said Parris. “The only time I used to see people who were disabled or connect with people who go through the same thing that I’m going through was when I used to go to the hospital to adjust my prosthetic leg. So I’m just grateful for all the modeling opportunities that I got throughout the years, just showing who I am, but also showing my community and just showing everyone I’m here to stay and I have something to prove.”
But Parris’ story doesn’t end here, and neither does Amputee Story. Parris is remastering the book that started it all with new chapters for a new beginning in his life.
“I’m just really excited for this new space that I’m in right now,” said Parris. “And when I’m writing, it’s more transparent. I wanted to really remaster my first book, but I wanted to experience life a little bit. I wanted to get older and just have fun with life.”
Two months into 2023, and Parris is looking forward to collaborating with more brands, spending more time writing, and, most importantly, just living his best life. ♦