About a month ago, I received a ping on my Instagram profile from my good friend Kate, who works for a tres important French stylist, and is usually @'ing the latest Vogue Italia spread or Mario Sorrenti outtake. I will admit, my Instagram life is still in its infancy, having only tens of followers and less posts, so I check each notice immediately and with excitement. Checking this ping, I was surprised to find that I had been tagged in the latest post from @SheHasHadIt, and my Instagramming (or insta-viewing) has never been the same.
In brief, @SHHI is the Instagram avatar of Jarvis Derrell, a 25-year-old aspiring/working actor from Florida and living in Hell's Kitchen, and to those familiar with @SHHI, he's #thriving.
Darrell uses pictures he himself takes or now, with its increased popularity, fan submissions of mostly unsuspecting urban dwellers who have, well, had it. Whether it's falling asleep on the subway, someone mid-walk of shame, questionable Grindr profiles, or brave, unflinching souls giving you a serious "lewk."
These are slices of humanity with whom we are all familiar and at times inhabit. Each picture comes with what Darrell calls "a read," the blurbs he writes to alarmingly clever effect.
"I was raised in the church, so that language is definitely in there," Derrell says of his witty and sometimes wise remarks. "Also, theatre talk and gay slang. And ratchet culture. It is kind of like I'm talking to myself. I identify with the people in the pictures on some level. We've all been that kween (Derrell's trademark spelling) on the subway, running home after a bad trick, etc." It's a cross between the old Do's & Don'ts section in the back of Glamour and a Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque form of light-hearted group critique, always with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Dana Lorenz, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Finalist and jewelry designer behind the popular label Fenton and Fallon, offers her thoughts: "It's a scream! He has me roaring with his hashtags. I probably owe him royalties for the frequency I use the phrases #everybodyaintable #youdontknowmyjourney and #halleloo."
And I myself admit, Derrell had me at #utahagenchoices ("Uta Hagen choices," a smarty-pants references to the influential actress and theater instructor), 'sensible Ursula eye' (right) and his preoccupation with non-equity tours. The idiom is very specific to a young gay man in New York, but the ebullient and gut-busting hashtags have reached beyond Hell's Kitchen to corporate offices in Colorado, to Los Angeles, to France, and, maybe not so surprisingly, the theatre and fashion worlds. Billy Porter, the current star of Kinky Boots is among She Has Had It's followers. "That was exciting. He's kind of an idol and a huge influence," Derrell says of the Tony winner's attention.
Started on his Facebook a few years ago, when he first arrived in the city, Derrell moved @SHHI to Instagram this past February and has amassed nearly 9,300 followers and almost a thousand new follows each week. "It started just between my Facebook friends, which, reached its 5,000 limit a long time ago," Derrell recounts.
She Has Had It has become so popular that it's expanded to Tumblr, too.
Derrell has no problem making friends quickly, or keeping them, as evident by the number of charming exchanges he has with perfect strangers at the Hell's Kitchen restaurant we met. As for what could be perceived as the incendiary nature of @SHHI, he shrugs it off as good fun. "Look, try reading me, because I've already read myself three times before I walk out the door." The fine line between celebration and lampooning is not always so apparent, most recently with a picture, a fan submission, of a woman breastfeeding her child.
"I didn't realize it was such a controversial subject! I got some really hateful responses, so I took it down," explains Derrell. "Out of the comments and reactions I get, probably 30 percent are negative or angry with every post. I probably have a hundred sitting in my inbox right now." But he doesn't let the bad faze him, or the good even. "When I realized some celebrities or people I respected were following, I started to think twice about what I wrote and change to cater to specific followers, and had to stop myself. I write it for me and my best friend, Josh, and that's when it's the best." But this joke between friends does involve an unwitting third party, so what happens if he meets them or catches him in the act?
"I ran into Janet Jackson/Selena 2 Realness at the Trader Joe's on the Upper West Side. I don't think she really got it when I explained @SHHI, but gave her blessing. Which is all you can ask for!"
And his family? "My family is very accepting. They don't really read Tumblr and aren't on Instagram. But they support everything I do here."
As for the future of @SHHI, Derrell has just finished filming a soap opera for Logo, all on the perhaps-now-defunct video sharing feed Vine, for which he was approached through his Instagram. "My fantasy is that it becomes a coffee table book or something that is strictly visual, like you would buy at Urban Outfitters."
In the meantime, Derrell's immediate plans for the summer include some New York party appearances (all a result of the Instagram) before heading to Florida for a stint in Rent at summer stock. And in case you were wondering, kweens, it is equity.