21-year-old Orion Carloto is as creatively driven as they come. With more than 200,000 subscribers, her YouTube videos portray matters both serious and colloquial through nude color schemes and simple camera shots. From writing advice to fashion tips, insecurities to coming out, Carloto’s work provides a direct and authentic guide to life for teens and young adults across the world. Lithium editor-in-chief discussed the writing process and what it means to be driven for our “Childhood” issue.
Lithium: Our theme last month was “The Peak,” in reference to one’s high points and what they’ve overcome. We want to know—what’s the happiest you’ve ever been?
Orion: It’s no surprise, but it was the summer of 2016 when I lived amongst the mountains of Italy. I was teaching English to a young girl who I saw [as] a reflection of who I once was: 14 years old, boy band crazy, and trying to figure it all out just as a teenage girl does. Despite the fulfillment [of] having her by my side, that summer was spent not only discovering a foreign country but also discovering more of what I wanted out of my own endeavors. Learning about a culture, the people, and the history gave me a retrospect on what I give and receive in my everyday life. It taught me how to appreciate every little thing just a little bit more. This was truthfully the happiest I’ve ever been.
Lithium: I think your video on insecurities is one of the most compelling pieces on your channel. Was it scary to share something so authentic and honest online?
Orion: I think vulnerability within itself is quite literally the most terrifying thing anyone could possibly experience. This [particular] video was a sort of “I told you so” to my followers. Having a social platform is wonderful, but I think it gives an illusion that I lead a perfect life. Truthfully, outside of strategically placed decor and grainy VSCO filters, I am just a normal 21-year-old girl that cries herself to sleep 3 times a week. I’m growing. There are parts of my vessel that I’m still learning to love. When I take my makeup off at the end of the day, I will stand in front of my mirror for 10 minutes contemplating what I could do to make myself look different. I will spend hours Instagram-stalking women I could only dream of being. It’s a toxic recurrence that most of us face and I think it’s important to share that vulnerability with people because frankly, we all feel it.
Lithium: You came out a couple of months ago—congratulations on that! What would be your advice to teens who are navigating the process of coming out?
Orion: Thank you! My biggest piece of advice for everyone reading is to come out when you wholeheartedly feel ready to. That’s what I struggled with the most. After spending all of my adolescence questioning my sexuality, I openly came out to my best friend, Camo, at eighteen. It took three years down the line to come out to my family and the rest of my friends, and one more year to come out online. Although my family was beyond accepting, I found them holding me back for a while when it came to coming out online. I was ready, they weren’t. My parents feared [that] people would see me differently and not in a good way. Yes, the thought is heartwarming and I could never thank them enough for trying to protect me, but I knew deep down, more than anything, that I was ready. It was my life, my voice, and I could never be ashamed of that. Don’t let others lead you to believe there’s a “right” time to come out. Do it on your own time, even if it means waiting minutes or even years.
Lithium: Can you describe your writing process for us?
Orion: I don’t believe that I have a particular writing process outside of finding what starts a fire in me and expressing that as much as I can on whatever canvas is in front of me.
Lithium: You’ve talked a lot about preferring to write sad things. Is that still true?
Orion: I wouldn’t necessarily say that I prefer writing sad things; it’s just when I am in my blues, my inspiration to write increases.
Yes, I still stand by my quote. It’s not that I veer towards my void, [but] it just brings more out of me. I’m working on trying to write outside of that, though. There are plenty of things in my life that bring me heaps of joy (more than anything sad) but I struggle with expressing that [in] words. How do I explain to people that a certain person feels like the color yellow to me? Or [that] the way a willow blows with the wind reminds me of an endless summer when I was a child? I struggle to let others into my happy because I want everyone to see it just as perfectly as I do.
Lithium: I think there’s something to be said for young people like yourself who are so driven by a need to create. Have you always been such a self-starter?
Orion: Always. Driven by my own ego, I’ve always loved the attention, even though at times when I do receive it, it scares me to no end. But I knew that no one would give me the time of day unless I had [something] that they liked. I grew up falling madly in love with other artists. Actors, writers, painters, musicians—I admired them like no other. To the point of wanting to be just like them. There’s a particular sort of magic to it and that alone drove me to create. Not only for the enjoyment of others but mostly for the enjoyment of myself.
Lithium: You and your girlfriend, Brittenelle, are easily one of the cutest couples in the spotlight right now. Is it challenging to be in a relationship when you have such a large following online?
Orion: I think for any public couple there can be a challenge, but we went into our relationship completely aware of that. Brittenelle is the first woman I’ve ever been in love with and I’m immensely delighted to share that with others, but she and I make sure that outside of our relationship, we continue to be our own [individuals]. We don’t make each other whole. I fell in love with a strong and whole woman, not the other half of a relationship. I strongly believe [that] with that mindset, we are able to navigate a healthy relationship in the spotlight. Are there challenges in every relationship? Absolutely. Is sharing our love with our platform one of them? Never. We could never possibly allow that to happen.
Lithium: What’s next for you?
Orion: My debut book of poetry and prose, Flux, makes its release this year! [It’s] something that has been years in the making that I have been anticipating for so long! As that page turns, I’m hoping to begin writing my second book. Hopefully this time around, it won’t be as sad.
Keep up with Orion on YouTube and Instagram, and don’t forget to preorder Flux.