There are a lot of preconceived notions that come with being a TikTok star. Some people assume influencers on the app are unreliable party animals or dramatic. Others say they're insincere and self-centered. Perhaps some TikTokers do check all these boxes, but some are attempting to smash those stereotypes to smithereens. Josh Richards and Griffin Johnson are two of those people. As 2021 approaches, Josh Richards and Griffin Johnson are all about avoiding drama and focusing on growth. Not only are they taking the lessons they've learned in 2020 and channeling them into self-improvement, but they're aiming to change the world in the process.
Richards and Griffin are part of the mega-popular social media collective Sway LA, aka Sway House, and it's quickly become one of the premier content houses since its January 2020 inception. But fame inevitably came with a few scuffles and scandals along the way, like the time Johnson publicly aired out the dirty laundry surrounding his relationship with Dixie D'Amelio, or when Richards admitted he got caught up in the Los Angeles party scene. But Richards isn't letting a murky track record dictate his future.
"I got lost in that partying scene," Richards tells Elite Daily. "I was just in an unhappy state of mind. I wasn't being productive. It was a wake-up call for myself ... If you're going to go out with the boys any night of the week, you better wake up with the men and get to work. That's the new mindset."
That's precisely what Richards is doing. He's since joined venture capital firm Remus Capital as a partner. It's just one example of the entrepreneur's growing portfolio. His work as an angel investor has included investments in companies like Esports conglomerate ReKT Global and financial service company Lendtable.
Another inevitable part of being in a content collective? Facing conflict among its members that distracts from all the good work they're doing. The Sway boys admit living under the same roof raises issues from time to time. "We’re all the most loud, energetic, competitive, 18-to-22-year-old men. Of course, there’s going to be times when we’re a little more annoyed than usual with each other," Richards says. "But we really are that family we portray online. It’s not just fans editing things to make us seem like we’re a lovey-dovey family. I would do anything for the Sway boys."
"There's never been an actual falling out with anyone, ever," Johnson adds. "There's been times where we've all been mad, but at the end of the day, you know how life works, especially in LA. We only have each other."
That team-player attitude seems to give them the courage to admit when they're wrong, even in the face of controversy. During the pandemic, social media influencers have had to figure out how to film content for their eager fanbases while adhering to strict social distancing guidelines, and there have been missteps along the way. When asked about Ariana Grande's clash with TikTok stars who have frequented crowded Los Angeles restaurant Saddle Ranch (such as themselves), Richards and Johnson admit she had a point.
"I don’t think Ariana was wrong," Johnson admits. "I think the other thing was, she was seeing the parts when it got out of hand. When we went there at first, it wasn’t like that. We’d go there, have a great time, and felt kind of normal for a moment ... It did get out of hand towards the end, and we even kind of stopped going there just because of that aspect." While defending their initial decision to go to Saddle Ranch, Richards agrees things took a dangerous turn. "What slowly ended up happening was, when we started going there, fans started noticing," he says. "People started coming just for the sake of taking photos... that's where it got out of hand and started getting dangerous with COVID."
Perhaps the reason Richards and Johnson make a point to own up to their mistakes is so they can shift the focus back to the charitable endeavors they take pride in. In November, they and their Sway House cohorts — Noah Beck, Bryce Hall, and Blake Gray — donated 100,000 face masks to their local high schools and colleges, which they say was a 2020 highlight.
"I used to do a lot of giving back with the [high school] sports teams I was involved in, whether it was doing a food drive, going and cooking for people, or raising money," Richards shares. "I got a feeling of nostalgia there because it was like I’m back doing what I was doing when I was growing up — giving back with my team."
Johnson, who attended nursing school before his social media career took off, says it only made sense for him to join in. "It was right before my hometown area [of Dennison, Illinois] had a COVID outbreak, and I knew many of them weren’t wearing masks... Overall, it’s just about helping out the place that you came from."
So, while Richards and Johnson will be the first to admit the Sway House guys are far from perfect, they want fans to know they can always expect them to grow in a positive direction. "It’s just really surreal for me. I see Josh literally becoming a crazy successful entrepreneur. Bryce has his brands taking off," Johnson says, praising his fellow Sway members. "We all take our own lanes, maintain a group... make our mistakes, and then learn from them."