MY NEW YORK: PARKER KIT HILL
On the fourth episode of "My New York," the social media star details his multi-faceted Big Apple journey.
On the fourth episode of "My New York," the social media star details his multi-faceted Big Apple journey.
Growing up in rural Texas, Parker Kit Hill always had his eyes set on the Big Apple. At 17, Hill relocated to the bustling city to pursue dance. "I remember on the plane ride to New York, right when the plane took off from Texas, I was just like, 'I'm done. I'm never looking back. My life has officially started,'" Hill recounts of his New York-bound journey to attend the prestigious Joffrey Ballet School. While attending university and managing city life on a tight budget, Hill amassed an impressive following on the now defunct social media platform Vine — thanks to his hilariously viral content, of course. Since, Hill has worn many hats as he navigates the ins and outs of the city — acting, modeling, social media, and more. Not only serving looks for millions of followers, Hill has walked the runway for brands like Sandy Liang, Calvin Klein, Christopher John Rogers, and Valentino. Having spent his early days in Manhattan's Seaport District, the multi-hyphenate has relocated to Brooklyn, where he continues his dominance on TikTok and Instagram, all the while making moves for the future. Surrounded by fashion, creativity, and an overwhelming sense of self expression, Hill's love for New York City is stronger than ever. "New York represent[s] freedom, wholesomeness, and that there's more out there," Hill says. "There's a world beyond your hometown. There's this amazing city sitting right [here]. You just have to get on a plane."
Stay tuned for new episodes launching every Friday here on Vmagazine.com, the series will spotlight NYC's movers-and-shakers as they guide us through the formative spots in the city that have inspired and cultivated their craft.
Read the full length interview with Parker Kit Hill below!
V Magazine: Take us back to your first time in New York. How old were you?
Parker Kit Hill: I moved here in September of 2014. I was 17 at the time, which is crazy. And it was such a journey coming from Texas and seeing a big city. Coming to New York was just like, 'I made it. I made it out of Dallas. I'm away from my family. I can do what I want now.' It was just everything, moving here was just perfect.
V: What's it like where you're from?
PKH: So where I'm from, it's very Texan. Super rustic and the people don't really care about anything. Anything meaning fashion, cinematography, videography, artistry, things like that. It's not a big thing. And I was very, very, creative at a young age. And so I always knew that I wanted to move to New York. I was six, on AOL typing in New York City and pictures would pop up and I'd just be like, ‘I'm gonna live there, I'm living there. I want to live in Brooklyn.’ I told myself that at six, and now I live in Brooklyn. And it's just like a full 360.
V: When did you move to New York?
PKH: So I moved to New York in 2014 for ballet. I actually got into a ballet school, the Joffrey Ballet School, which is so crazy to me because my whole thing was [that] I wasn't a dancer. And then once I got into high school, I did musical theater. And then I fell in love with ballet because in musical theater, you have to learn how to dance. And so the choreographer at my musical theater company, she was like, 'Oh, you can dance, you should think about this, and get into it a little bit more.' And once I did that, I fell into it. And I worked my ass off really, really hard and danced for the last three years of high school everyday, intensely. I worked so hard, and ended up getting a scholarship to my school and everything was paid for. I just had to get on the plane and go. So once I got here, it was just all about dance.
V: Did you suffer from imposter syndrome? And if so, how did you deal?
PKH: I didn't really feel any kind of imposter syndrome or anything like that moving to New York for dance. I felt like I belonged. With dance, it doesn't really matter the age, it's all about how you are on the inside and how much you're willing to work for it. And I was just ready at that time. And it's all about self discipline and being on a tough, tough regime. And knowing when to stop and go and how to pace yourself.
V: Do you feel like you're a disciplined person?
PKH: You can probably tell just from how I am, I'm very stoic and pensive. But I think that stems from dance and my teacher is literally punching me being like, 'You need to stand like this or do that with your hand here.' All these different things I've heard [and], surprisingly, I love getting direction and listening to people. I just want to make sure everything is perfect and if people are telling me how to look perfect and how to act perfect, then of course, I'm gonna listen. It's kind of weird, but I know they're just looking out for me.
V: What’s your sign?
PKH: I'm a Sagittarius.
V: Really? Do you identify as an introvert or an extrovert?
PKH: So I identify with being an introvert. 100%. I would rather be at home watching Korean dramas, and playing my PlayStation, period. That's all I want to do all the time. But I can't because I'm always working.
V: And what was the transition to New York like?
PKH: I was fully immersed immediately when I got here. And when I moved here in 2014, it was super untouched by social media, because that's back in the Vine era. And I was the only person from the internet that moved to New York at that stage of the internet. And so I felt like the entire city was mine. And I could literally just do anything, and no one knew what was going on because technology and social media just wasn't there yet. Me and my friends, we would run around with our phones and record everything and just act crazy. And now it's like the blueprint of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and all the kids that come want to just act crazy. And it's not the same, because everyone expects it. So my transition was super easy and I love it. I love being here, you can be so open and free and do whatever you want to. But now, I feel like it's changed a little bit just because of social media. It's all bubbled up [with] Tik Tok, YouTube, and all these streaming platforms. It's everywhere, it's hard to escape it sometimes. So that's why I live in Brooklyn.
V: How do you fare as an introvert in such a loud and bustling city? Does that get overwhelming?
PKH: I'm used to it at this point. I know how to move around in the city and have my own lane for everything. I'm not gonna stop for anyone, I'm just gonna go and do it and get my shit done so I can go home. I'm just [go] to point A [and] point B and that's it. I keep to myself, I have my headphones in, glasses on, mask on, we're good.
V: Do you get noticed a lot?
PKH: Yes, I do. I dress really crazy. But at the same time, it's just me, I'm not gonna hide who I am. Sometimes I do want to be super low key, but when I'm low key, that's when it's more aggressive. And people are like, 'Oh, my God, like it's you.' And I'm just like, 'Hey, good to see you. Thank you.' I'm so awkward. I'm not used to that side of social media fame. I hate calling it that but it is what it is. And it's just a weird skill that I've had to learn, knowing how to socialize in that kind of way. When someone comes up to you and they're like, 'Hey, how are you?' [and] they want to know things about you. You can't really say anything and give everything to that person. It took me a while to stop opening up all the time because there's nothing left for myself.
V: And is that in relation to what we talked about earlier about not sharing as much?
PKH: Yeah, because everything is online. And I think these days people associate posting online with what you're doing and where your life is [with] money and jobs. I don't care about that. I would rather work behind the scenes sometimes and not have to post about it or not have to share it with everyone. And I have a good relationship with my followers. I view them as my friends. And even if we meet in person, we're just friends. Like, you know me, so of course I'm gonna be open. I let all of it go. But it's just a weird and touchy thing these days.
V: Is it weird though? It’s not natural that somebody comes up to you and knows so much about you?
PKH: It does feel a little unnatural, I will say. And it is kind of strange. When it first started happening, I was in Texas. My mom would literally look at me and be like, 'What are you doing? How do these people know what's going on here?' And then she started to pick up on it. And she was like, 'Oh, okay, like, I get it.' And, now when I go home, she's the one in front of me like 'no, this is my son. Please don't touch him. Don't talk to him. He's at home. Just relax, y'all. It's okay.'
V: What was the transition like going from viral Vine star to a fashion model? How did that happen?
PKH: The transition from internet virality into fashion and modeling was a crazy journey. So when I was dancing, I got to this point where I was just like, ‘I can't do this as a career, I don't want to dance all day, every day.’ Because on the side, I have this thing that can create revenue and also propel me into the place that I want to be, which is fashion, acting, and film. I want to show the world who I am in that way, but dancing, it's a part of me, it's in my body. So I know I'm okay if I let it go for a little bit. So I did that. And my first role was Broad City, which was insane. Abbi and Ilana reached out to me, Instagram DMed me and they were like, 'Come and visit us on set, we're filming like tomorrow.' And I went and did it. And they cast me in the show immediately. And boom, I stopped dancing and I got on TV. And then just kept on going within that. And then I ended up meeting my old manager, Kevin. And he helped me and steered me along. Still thinking about it now, I don't know how I did it.
I feel like everything just started happening so quickly. And it was hard for me to process but I was just so happy – I still am very, very happy with all the work that I do. And in the beginning, it was very small. So it'd be me, a photographer, and either a stylist or makeup, it was very organic and natural. And we'd meet up in a park and just shoot and move and do all these crazy things. And it will get picked up and people will be like, 'Oh, my God.' And I started building my book. And just doing all that kind of stuff traditionally. I did the traditional model thing. I did it all the way up to IMG, which is where I'm signed now, which is great. But it took a long time to get to that point. I would say it took me three years to actually get a real agency because I had to develop a little bit. I actually met with IMG in the beginning and the agents were like, 'Oh, you're premature.' And I didn't understand what that meant. And premature meant, I'm not seasoned enough, I'm not comfortable enough. You have to learn your body and learn all these different skills. And so when they told me that I went and learned it and did what I had to do. And I remember I went to Paris for the first time and my friend Tommy, she's everything. I love her. And she was like, 'You should meet with my agent in Paris.' And I was like, 'Okay." She set up a meeting and I went there, and her name is Netta. She's everything. She saw me. And she was like, 'So we're gonna sign you.' And I'm like, 'Okay.' I got signed in Paris. So that's where my original contract is, it's formed in Paris. And then globally, it all came after that, which is crazy. And so I've been with IMG for two years now, which is great.
V: So how did you get more comfortable with your body and moving?
PKH: Getting more comfortable within my body, movement, and all that took a while. I got more comfortable when I was dancing just because I could see myself in the mirror. And I have people analyzing me and just tweaking these small things. And I think that really helped me get more confident. And also I just stopped caring. I can't always be perfect. I've just learned that it can never be perfect all the time. And I think that grounded me a little bit. I just have to do it and trust the process and you can't really analyze it. But if there is something that does help on set, it's having a mirror behind the camera.
V: Fill in the blank - New York is…
PKH: New York is maximalism.
V: How would you describe your style?
PKH: My style is maximalist. Sometimes I'm very simple, just all black. But if I'm wearing all black, it's textures, layered, and there's shapes and all these different things. I just do my thing.
V: And since coming to New York, how do you feel that your style has changed?
PKH: Since coming to New York, my style has changed in a crazy way. I feel like I'm more experimental. I love to just wear women's clothing, men's clothing, skirts, kilts, and corsets. And a jersey or something random, and then putting a twist on something very simple.
V: So on off days in New York, where in the city do you like to explore?
PKH: So on my off days in New York, I tend to explore Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. It's really beautiful, very quiet. There's a promenade. You can see the city. There's cute coffee shops, there's families, there's original New Yorkers. You just feel at home and don't feel the hustle and bustle of Manhattan or even Williamsburg, Dumbo, or Greenpoint. They're all very commercialized now. But Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, are so perfect. That's where I go to retreat.
V: And Seaport - why Seaport specifically?
PKH: So Seaport is special to me because that's where I started in Manhattan [and] in New York. When I first moved to New York that location is where I lived. And I just remember I had so many days where I'd be walking around, and I'm like, 'Wow, I actually live here.' No money, literally no money, I moved here with $20 a week. Like, what? Are you kidding me? I made it work. And usually that kind of stuff is enough to scare people away. And I just had to make it work. I didn't care. And it was super close to my school. So the commute was probably like two stops on the A train, back and forth, super easy. I think it was $1 to catch a train, which is in my budget, and I could eat ramen noodles and a banana and be fine. I just wouldn't go out to eat. I didn't really have any friends. So it was kind of perfect, that was my life at the time. And being in the Financial District, it was just even better because everything closed down after 5pm. So once I would get out of school and go home, no one would be Downtown. And it was just great. And so being in the empty Downtown area at night, walking home, sometimes I would walk all the way from my school down to Water Street where we were because it'd be so quiet and easy. And I just loved it because it was so grounding, coming Downtown. And it meant so much.
V: When you moved to New York, how many roommates did you have?
PKH: When I moved to New York, I had 10 roommates. There were 10 skinny ballet bitches in this apartment. Five bedrooms, two people to each bedroom, bunk beds, two bathrooms. It was a big apartment, though. It was like a shotgun apartment, which is really long and skinny. Luckily, we could fit in there. And we would all wake up together, get ready together, go to school together, then come back home together. Easy. It was like a little pack.
V: It was like your family.
PKH: Yeah, that was my chosen family for sure. Because that's all that I knew, the only people that I knew. And we all have something that we related to, which was dance and being alone. We all moved from other places to come here. We didn't know anything. It was really nice, actually.
V: What did New York represent to you growing up?
PKH: New York when I was younger, it represented freedom, wholesomeness, and that there's more out there. There's a world beyond your hometown. There's this amazing city sitting right there. You just have to get on a plane."
V: How do you come up with your TikTok ideas?
PKH: The way that I come up with my TikTok ideas, it's usually just organic and natural. There's no real thought behind it. If I have a quick little bulb pop off in my head, I'll just do it. Just set my phone down and do it in the moment. And I can't re-record it, because then I'm thinking too hard. It has to work perfectly the first time because that is how you do it in my mind. And then I just post it and forget about it. And that's how I was with Vine too, and Instagram, everything. If it's something you see, it's the first time that I did it, it's one take and that's it.
V: So, did you always want to work in fashion?
PKH: Yeah, in the beginning, I never really thought about working in fashion. I didn't think that it was for me. I felt like it wasn't meant for me when I was younger because thinking about being Black and queer in Texas, the only kind of fashion that I got was from my mom because I went to private school for a little bit and I wore a uniform every day. And my dad was a policeman. So he wore a uniform every day. My sister was also in private school so she wore a uniform, but my mom, she worked in an office. So she got to wear whatever she wanted. So she would just dress up all the time. She's wearing heels, cool pants, nice glasses, jackets, bags, like, 'Damn, where are you going? I want to go.' She will come home late and she put on Sex in the City, of course, and I'd be like, 'Oh, I love her. I love Carrie Bradshaw.' And I'm picking up on it. She's getting her fashion intake from that. And she would have Vogue around the house and all the different magazines. V Magazine as well, like everywhere. And I'd be like, 'Okay,' and it inspired me. And once I got to New York, I felt like I was able to see the fashion industry for real, see how it works, and where the things live. And I think that made me more interested in it.
But in the beginning, I didn't really think about it. I was like, ‘I want to be on stage, I want to be an actor at an opera house or something like that.’ Then once I got here, I was like, ‘wait, I really love fashion.’ It's so important, it's political, you can make a statement without even speaking. And that's what I love about it. And I love that you can actually just put something on and just not care. And people's emotions change when they see someone in an outfit that someone feels confident in. And I love color, that's the one thing that I've realized, I love color. Color is important. And that's something that Anna Wintour says all the time. If she sees a collection or something, if she doesn't like it or there's something going on, she's like, ‘where's the color? There's no color. Where's the flavor?’ So I think that's one thing that's been super important to me and finding my space in the fashion world. It's been a journey, for sure. And I do see myself starting my own brand, possibly, I would love to. But I just don't know how to do that. That's my next thing to tackle, learning how to build my own brand. And people reach out to me all the time wanting me to like to sell merch and all this kind of stuff. And I'm like, 'No. Why would I sell merch? Why would I make a shirt with my face on it? No, I don't like that.' I would rather create my own fragrances, create my own candles, home goods, cookbooks, hair products, bags, glasses, nails, I want to do everything. But make it very unique. I want it to have meaning, I want it to be thought about.
V: What drives you?
PKH: Myself. I don't let myself get too caught up in my feels and I can't get taken off track of who I am and how I'm feeling. Sometimes someone will say something where I'm like, 'What?' or I'm just like, 'Okay, ouch, that kind of hurt.' But, I take it, I process it, and I move on. I'm that type of person. And also, I feel like I get really motivated by new forms of media. And absorbing new art, like music, motivates me in a weird way.
V: Is it like ‘I could make that too,’ or what is it about?
PKH: I think it stems from just being in the dance world. I would hear really beautiful music and cry or see someone dancing and cry. But it's really motivating. I think seeing someone very entranced in whatever they're doing and doing a good job at it, that motivates me. And I'm just like, ‘I could do that too. I want to emulate that. I want to have that energy.’ And I'm happy for that person, I'm glad they're doing that. But it gives me this energy, it's hard to explain what motivates me because it changes all the time.
V: I think it is a lot of self-motivation on your part because you’ve bounced from so many different roles and worn so many different hats.
PKH: There's so many things, I feel like I can't depend on other people. I have to do it myself because that's what I've been doing. People don't realize, having a [modeling] agency is great, but you're the one that is in control of your career, your life, your work. I literally tell my agents what I want to do. You can't let people speak for you all the time. You have to say, 'no,' that's one thing that I've learned. Saying no is okay.
V: Who taught you that?
V: Experiences in New York or…
PKH: Yeah, New York gave me really tough skin. And if I don't like something, I just say no. Or I get up and leave, Irish exit. I did it last night. I went out with my friends and I looked around, put on my bag. and left. My friends were like, 'Where'd you go?' And I'm like, 'I went home. I'm in bed right now.'
V: How do you weigh comfort versus style?
PKH: If I know I'm going outside, it has to be style, period. I can't leave the house without a boot on or a cute sneaker. But if it's comfort, I'm at home, or about to hop into an Uber, go to my friend's house, and stay inside and be hidden. That's it, that's how I weigh it. If I'm ever outside or doing anything like walking around the city, I have to be presentable.
V: And so you identify as an introvert, right? So you might not use your words to express how you’re feeling and you might be communicating with that many people in that way, but you let everyone know in your clothing?
PKH: So being an introvert is great. But it's hard in the city because there's so many people. And you're always, always, always surrounded by energy, cars, buildings, birds, and all these different things. And sometimes it's better to just be quiet and pull it in a little bit, especially in a city like this. You can't be loud all the time, because you would be affecting people's lives and that's one thing that I've learned here. Hearing a motorcycle coming down the street, I'm just like, 'Can y'all please just park it in a garage and walk? Or get on a Citi bike? Why do you have this loud thing? You're affecting my life. This is rude.' And I think that's just me being a New Yorker at this point. Like, I just can't. And so when it comes to showing people how I feel, I don't really talk about it, I just show it with what I'm wearing. So if I'm happy, then the clothings gonna be happy. But if I'm kind of down, or not feeling it, it's gonna be more relaxed, simple. Like a green blazer, white shirt, black pants, black shoes, period. If I'm happy, multicolor everywhere.
V: Where do you see yourself in five years?
PKH: I'm really thinking about it because this is like a manifestation moment. I see myself owning a global corporation in five years. Parker Kit Hill, or PKH.
V: And in five years, are you still in New York?
PKH: Yes. I will still be in New York, for sure. I love it here.
V: Would you ever want to leave?
PKH: I've thought about leaving, because I've been here for so long. But I don't think I would move away. I think I would just take time away from the city for X amount of months. Maybe a month or two in a different country. But I wouldn't move away.
V: And you've worked in fashion in so many different cities around the world. How is New York fashion different from Paris, London or wherever it may be?
PKH: The fashion industry in New York is more homey, I would say. It's more connected and grounded, as compared to Paris, Milan, and London [where] it's very scattered, it's everywhere, you aren't connected with everyone. It's just so different. But here in New York, it's very close. If you know one person in the fashion industry, you know everybody. I love it. But overseas, it's very nose up, they're doing it, they're getting it done, and they're out the door. It's better here, for sure.
V: How was the transition from Vine to TikTok?
PKH: So my transition from Vine to TikTok was so interesting. It worked out perfectly because I was against TikTok for the longest time. I was just like, 'Ugh, another platform that I have to learn about and do things, here we go.' And I just wouldn't look at it. I wouldn't do it. But then when the pandemic hit, I had all this free time. So I was like, ‘Okay, I might as well learn how to use it.’ And so I took a good two weeks and just absorbed the app and learned how to work it and learn how to make my For You Page. I learned the algorithm. And I saw what people were posting, and I saw how people communicated on it. And then I was like, ‘okay, I can do this.’ And boom, it was an easy transition. I can't really complain about it, it was really easy. But I did realize that there's so many young kids on TikTok and I think my audience has changed a lot because of TikTok. I think people have noticed that I've grown a little bit, I'm more wise and older. And I feel like I'm more respected in a way. And so I think the younger audience, they're like, ‘this is too much.’ But I feel like people my age and people older, really resonate with my content now. And also people in Brazil, Thailand, and Singapore. I love everything about Brazil, Thailand, Singapore, everything, I'm here for it. Even Korea and Japan, everywhere outside of the States. It's this thing that's just happening around me.
V: Your ideal day in New York. How would it go?
PKH: My ideal day in New York, I would wake up at 10am. Get out of bed [and] turn off some music for a little bit. Get ready for an hour, leave around noon. Hop on the train, going into the city, into Soho. Walk around for two or three hours, chilling, go to Washington Square Park, sit there, and listen to some music. Then I would meet up with one of my friends who lives in the area. Get some wine, get some dinner. Maybe go to a bar, a club or something. Have some fun, dance, and then go home.