caspar lee
Credit: Caspar Lee

Caspar Lee

Staying positive today’s current climate is bringing challenges like it’s never been before. Nevertheless, with a goal to instill hope, internet icon Caspar Lee and leading psychotherapist Owen O’Kane have launched the #LookingForward campaign, in association with British youth charity, The Prince’s Trust.

With guidance from Owen, Caspar launched the much-needed cause. In a video, frontline workers and a whole host of celebrities – including Mabel, 5SOS, Joe Sugg, JP Cooper, David Hasselhoff, KSI, and many others – share what they are most looking forward to after the lockdown.

We caught up with YouTube sensation and influencer marketing platform entrepreneur, Caspar Lee, to delve into the details of the campaign and discusses how he’s personally been coping. We also learned how content creators have kept their creative juices flowing and what hope means to him, amongst other things.

How did the idea for the #LookingForward campaign come about? How did the idea take root?
I wanted to do something to help people right now as they struggle through the pandemic. There are a lot of causes out there who need help and so I wanted to figure out something to correlate with the audience I have on YouTube and where I can make the most difference. The Prince’s Trust works with young people so I approached them about my idea that I had with Owen O’Kane, who is a former NHS Mental Health Lead and one of the country’s leading psychotherapists. Our idea was to get people to think more hopefully in their current situation and tell us something they are looking forward to. If they can donate to the Prince’s Trust that would be helpful as well.

How did you connect with Owen O’Kane?
His partner Mark is someone I work with and I’d known about him, his books – he’s a bestselling author – and I’d been wanting to do something with him for quite some time now. I went straight to him to ask how we can help young people with their mental health because that’s probably where they are being hit the hardest by the virus; by the economic devastation, trauma, and the uncertainty. He said there’s been a massive increase in the number of youngsters suffering from mental health issues. The Prince’s Trust has also done research that indicated that 80% of young people who have pre-existing mental ill health have found their conditions worsening during the pandemic. Thinking about what we could do to make a difference, we came up with the idea of hope. It’s been clinically proven that having something to look forward to in life helps regulate and boost your mood.

In the campaign video, there’s a small snippet of your conversation with Owen. What was the biggest takeaway from your conversation with him?
He mentions that this isn’t some “fairy-dust” approach, it’s getting through tough things with a certain degree of trust that you will cope, that’s something to motivate not just me but everyone else. Our mind is capable of incredible things and if you can focus on something hopeful it can be powerful. We’ve got some amazing voices involved, hopefully, the hashtag spreads around and makes a difference. If people have a little extra to give then a donation would be great, but it’s a difficult time for people right now so just using the hashtag to spread the word would be more than enough.

caspar lee
Credit: Caspar Lee

What does hope mean to you?
It’s about knowing that better times are going to come. We’re all dealing with different levels of difficulties but everyone is struggling in some way. Right now all our lives have been paused and hope is thinking of a future that’s going to be better and knowing that things will eventually return back to normal, and we’ll come stronger on the other side. For me, hope right now the thought of seeing my friends and family.

How have you personally coped with things? What’s kept you motivated and focused?
I think I’ve turned into a professional runner at this point… not really, but I’m trying. In the UK we’re allowed one hour of exercise a day, which before all this I took for granted. I’m originally from South Africa and they’ve only just been allowed to go out for exercise, whereas here we’ve been allowed this much at least. So I’ve been running a lot and it’s helped my mind focus on something. It’s nice to have something to get excited about every day. I’m also lucky enough to be with my girlfriend, best friend, and his girlfriend so we’ve formed this kind of team. We haven’t had too many fights either so we got lucky there as well! If I get tired of them, I just go for a run, come back full of endorphins and I’m back on it.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced during this time? Have you managed to overcome it?
I have a few companies. I have a company called Influencer and a management company called Margavine, it’s definitely difficult in the advertising space where most of our clients make their income from. We’re working really hard to make sure we look after our clients and staff – trying to get through this so we can get to the other side and continue. But having conversations about saving costs and things like that can be difficult. Fortunately, none of my family and friends have been affected by the pandemic so compared to many people I really don’t have much to complain about.

What’s something small or silly that you took for granted that’d you never take for granted after this?
To be honest, exercise. It has become such an important part of my day. I appreciate it so much more because it’s the only thing getting me out and about for an hour every day. Other than that freedom I guess and seeing my family – all those small things.

caspar lee
Credit: Caspar Lee

On the social media side of things, how do you keep up your creativity?
It’s different from usual in terms of creativity. I’d be out and about, so it’d help me create more interesting content, whereas right now it’s mostly between four walls. So, you need to become more creative with the content you’re putting out. In general, I’ve seen other creators do some amazing things. Some of them have managed to travel around the world while still in their bedroom through Photoshop and After Effects so it’s definitely possible to be creative.

Particularly with so many people turning to their favorite online personalities for comfort and escape during this time, do you feel a pressure to keep posting?
People are definitely looking at their phones more and spending more time on social media because people feel like they’re all in this together and like knowing how the favorite people they follow are doing. Right now, everyone is living a similar kind of lifestyle, so people find comfort in that. In terms of my content, luckily a lot of my content is based on being true to myself so it’s just about me in this situation and there’s no real pressure.

You didn’t say in the video what you were looking forward to most. So finally, what are you looking forward to both personally and professionally?
Personally, I’m looking forward to going back to South Africa at some stage, I don’t know when that’ll be yet but can’t wait for it. Professionally, I’m looking forward to doing the work I do with my colleagues in person. Right now, we’re working but we haven’t seen each other, so it’ll be good to give them a hug.