VMEN FALL/WINTER 2019: LUCAS DELL
Presenting influencer Lucas Dell and how he found a community within social media.
A “dandy”—turn-of-the-century slang for a flamboyant male—is, according to writer Tara Burton, one who “transform[s] every gesture, every look…into an intentional performance designed to produce an effect; a hyper-field of signs.” If, in the social media age, such hyper-fields are de rigueur, the dandy’s successor may be the thirst trap, which Dictionary.com defines as “a sexy photo posted to attract attention—a social-media crush. G.O.A.T.” Attached to that online entry is a picture of a shirtless Lucas Dell, a.k.a. @LucasDell across YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
“I’d just moved into a new apartment and [wanted] to take a random photo in my new bathroom. [Whoever made the post] linked it back to Pinterest,” says Dell of how his image ended up literally defining “thirst trap.” “It didn’t really relate back to me at all,” Dell laughs. (Although since then, Dell has reclaimed the term, naming his recently-launched swimwear line “Thirsty by Lucas Dell.”)
Born in the sticks of Missouri, the 23-year-old influencer, who identifies as gay, soon outgrew small-town expectations, pursuing a grab- bag of activities—“job interviewing, acrylic painting, website design”—through his local Beta Club chapter. But social media soon proved to be Dell’s strong suit. “It was like my secret second life; my parents didn’t allow [social media], so I went by ‘Lucas,’” says Dell, born “Luke.”
For the son of a military man and grandson of a preacher, the virtual world’s promise of escapism and affirmation, initially via forums like DeviantArt and Tumblr, was especially alluring. “The only [gay kids] I knew of weren’t out, and still aren’t,” says Dell, now based in West Hollywood. “I was also a lot more overweight. [Only] after 9th grade [did] I start fitting this very standardized form of beauty.”
With his Ken Doll-like looks, Dell is an object of both thirst and curiosity. (He’s regularly alerted to catfishing schemes hinging on his stolen image.) But the thirst, good and bad, says Dell, is a byproduct of sharing his authentic self. The selfies were “something I entertained more ironically, as a joke,” he says, echoing OG dandy, Baudelaire. “I always say that I am finding myself every day, and discovering what [my] purpose is. But naturally, whenever you attach yourself to irony long enough, it kind of morphs into reality.”