By Amelia Poor
Earlier this month, I caught up with Gen-Z activist, strategist, and content creator Olivia Julianna. In just three years, Julianna has gone from a bored 17 year-old in lockdown to the Director of Politics & Government Affairs at Gen-Z For Change, and has worked with people from Megan Thee Stallion to President Joe Biden. If you don’t recognize Julianna for her political POV’s and yearly predictions, you may know her as the Texas teen who was publicly body shamed by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz on social media. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v Wade, she was able to turn his ignorance into $2 million in donations for reproductive rights.
With 641,500 followers on TikTok, Olivia Julianna is one of the biggest political influences of our generation, and a very busy person! But she was able to chat with The Beacon Beat about her activism, political heroes, future plans, TikTok favorites and more just this week.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
AP: While you’re doing your makeup I might as well ask, what’s your favorite product you’re using right now?
OJ: My favorite product is probably the Anastasia Beverly Hills Cream Bronzer in Golden Tan, and I also am using the Rare Beauty Matte Lipstick in the color Fun!
AP: I love Rare Beauty! This is a slight shift, but I know you started off as a digital content creator, can you tell me more about the moment that led you to begin your work as an activist?
OJ: Oh 100% yeah. I lived in a super-rural, conservative town in 2020. I lived about an hour outside of Houston, and when George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed, I really wanted to go and march. My dad, for a multitude of reasons, was like “well if you go and march, don’t come home.” So instead of marching, I downloaded TikTok, and I started making videos. That’s how it all really started, because my first video (that has since been deleted) was about who I thought President Biden was going to pick as his running mate, and after that I was making a lot of political content going into the 2020 election. People really liked it, so after the election was over, I had a platform and a responsibility. I started covering more state and government things going on in Texas after Senate Bill 8 [ed. Note: SB8 in Texas codified restrictive abortion laws in the state] passed. I transitioned from just the presidential election to covering state and local politics as well.
AP: That’s incredible! Do you have a piece of advice you would give to young students and activists looking to do the same?
OJ: I would say not everyone has to do everything. I feel like when you are a young activist, there is this kind of pressure that you need to be involved in the climate space, you need to be involved in the repro space, you need to be involved in gun violence production. I encourage you to pick one issue and stick to it, and do as best as you can on that one issue instead of trying to spread yourself thin covering a billion different topics. There are always going to be activists in other spaces wrong on other things, and you might be the person who makes a difference by focusing all of your attention on one specific issue.
AP: You are an activist who has done so much, and because you’ve built your career up this high, would you ever consider a career in politics?
OJ: I love politics! I work as a political consultant outside of my work at Gen-Z for change, and I work as a digital ambassador for planned parenthood. I love politics and I love being politically involved, but I love being behind the scenes and the strategy of it. That being said, I love talking to people and traveling the country to meet people! I absolutely could see myself running for office one day, though it’s not a priority for me. I didn’t start all of this because I want to be in politics, that will come later maybe, it’s not a guarantee. If I were to become a politician, I would very much like to stay in my home state of Texas, and probably stay in the city of Houston where I now live.
AP: Who are a few of your own political heroes?
OJ: I really love and respect AOC. I don’t agree with her politically on 100% of things, we have our differences, but what I really respect about her is that she normalized being a proud, bold Latin woman, you know the hoops, the red lipstick. She’s an inspiration to me in that way, as well as being so outspoken, she’s been able to help me have such a pride in my heritage professionally. Now when I go to events I am always always wearing gold hoops and brown or red lips, because that is a part of my culture. I attribute a lot of that to her. Again, I have my differences with the vice president, but I deeply respect her for the very history, role and position that she has taken. The politician who I probably feel the most love for is Congresswoman Barbara Lee. She is what people call the original progressive. She is the person who has set the agenda for progressive politics, and I feel like she is so underappreciated and under-recognized for the real difference she has made in this country.
AP: As a TikTok influencer/activist, how do you think platforms like TikTok, and social media in general, are changing the political landscape today?
OJ: It’s giving space to people who didn’t really have a voice before Tik Tok and social media existed. Before TikTok, I would’ve been just another kid who grew up in a small town and went to community college. I probably would’ve moved home to be a teacher, and stayed home for the rest of my life. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not what I wanted. Because of TikTok, the trajectory of my life and my career has completely changed. I was given a voice in a way that a lot of people like me haven’t been able to have before.
AP: I know you’re running low on time so I have one last question, is there a content creator on TikTok that you’re living right now and want to shout out?
OJ: Oh my gosh, I love Octopusslover8!
AP: Oh I love him.
OJ: Yes, I’m obsessed with that page.
AP: So am I!
OJ: He’s so funny, I love good bi-partisan, political, historical humor!
AP: Thank you so much for speaking with me! I know you have a very busy schedule and I really appreciate it!