People don't get Instagram famous overnight — at least, that's not how Taylor Dean describes it.
This average 24-year-old gay dude currently stands at 54,500 followers (and counting), but if you were to peruse through his past social media postings, you'd see he's more like you and me than you think.
His Instagram isn't focused on flaunting his extremely chiseled six-pack, or the occasional V-line poking out from underneath a pair of tight-fitting briefs.
In fact, racking up all those likes by being scantily clad like other "Insta-stars" is the exact opposite of how he operates. Because as much as he "appreciates a good thirst trap" as the next guy, Dean instead aims to post things that represent him to the fullest and express where he is now in life.
That's how he got his following.
"If I do post something that is a little more risqué, it's because I'm feeling it in that moment," Dean says. "I don't like to use my Instagram as a vehicle to garner that kind of attention. For me, it should be a lens of who I am and what I care about. And what my day to day is."
Despite this, Dean believes there's no real justification behind an ill-natured upload, since you're the one controlling what gets thrown out into the public eye for all to see.
"I have an aesthetic to my feed now, and if you compare the last six months [of posting] to the first year, it's a very different feel," Dean says. "I'm a little bit more curated in the presentation."
To Dean, a better photo is certainly a better chance at getting someone to double-tap their screen. If you snap something in a dimly lit bar, capturing a slight blur that mirrors your alcohol-infused state, the best thing is to save it for a good laugh, not for the world to gaze upon.
"If I look awkward in a picture versus a very similar picture where I don't, you're going to get the good photo," Dean says. "You're getting my best self all the time."
It's this deliberateness that got Dean started on the path to Insta-greatness.
Though Dean chalks up his early set of followers to "the right combination of #gay, #selfie and #NY," it's those basic leveled hashtags that helped get eyes on his images, and basically, his life. After that, things just continued to snowball (in the best way possible).
While growing up in Vermont, he made use of every technical advantage that the app had to offer.
"I used its own editing tool within aside from filters," Dean says. "While my peers at the time were like 'sepia, photo, post,' mine just tended to look nicer."
After racking up a couple hundred followers (a lot, in comparison to his friends), Dean took a break from school and whisked himself off to the Big Apple and took advantage of all New York City had to offer.
"You can walk around, go out to bars and meet tons of new people," Dean says. "I was always top of it with posting anything like that. I grew up with my parents taking photos and putting them in photo albums, and I wanted to create a photo album of my time, not just as a social platform in the sense that I wanted to take a picture to get likes."
With the city providing so much opportunity for great content to post on Instagram, he wanted to make sure his pals back in Vermont, who'd never even been in the vicinity of Manhattan, could experience the life even if just through a photo.
This distinguished Instagram fame has managed to open doors for Dean, placing him in environments and situations that he'd probably not have been in otherwise with chances to grab great potential content.
Sure, he receives the sporadic dick pic from his followers every so often ("I'm not afraid of seeing a picture of a penis, I don't need them though in my life," he says), but he also meets up with people in coffee shops and airplanes who are genuine fans of his work and his artistic approach.
While he may immediately discard the inappropriate sexual requests from strange men, Dean does welcome the heart-warming private notes from other young gay teens struggling with their sexuality, just looking to chat with someone who understands them.
"I'm not an expert in any way, but I can imagine being in that space when I was struggling with my sexuality without a person to talk to," Dean says.
"I really do endeavor to be a positive experience for anyone I meet. I'd love to be more of a resource for those people and be more deliberate about posting so that way those people can reach out and feel comfortable."
There's something about the way he's presented himself that makes him approachable and easy to talk to even from behind an iPhone screen.
Though Dean's profile isn't exactly decked out in rainbow flags, if you peek at his feed, you are aware he's gay. But the thing is, he's not only gay. He's your normal 24-year-old who works at a standing desk, pumps iron with his roommate and makes delicious-looking Sunday dinners.
That's what makes his profile more appealing to a general audience. Anyone and everyone can relate, connect on some level specific to their taste, and follow.
"I'm just happy when people see my profile, they feel like they can say something," Dean says. "There's enough of my personality out there to have a conversation."
It's clearly evident that Dean's personality and charisma — and not his rock hard abs — are what's earning him the illustrious title of "Instafamous."
The shirtless photos are just an added bonus.