From BSL to #DeafTok, how TikToker Louise May is normalising being a child of deaf adults – Screen Shot
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From BSL to #DeafTok, how TikToker Louise May is normalising being a child of deaf adults

Which side of TikTok are you on? Personally, after making my way through messy sleuthing videos and sexy chef thirst traps, I finally found myself settling within a wholesome community of daily TikTokers who post short clips about their favourite lip balms and which tube line is giving Aries energy—spoiler alert, it’s the Northern line. In reality, I was on a quest to find the closest thing to the magic and mystique of 2013 YouTuber vlogs. I’m thinking particularly of the Zoella, Marcus Butler, and Tanya Burr era—aka, the Brit crew.

Now we’ve reached 2022, I’ve established a new circle of online favourites, and one of those happens to be Louise May Mosley, a 20-something gen Zer living in Bath who emulates the quintessential relatable messy British woman. Glamour even recently deemed her a modern day Bridget Jones—I don’t think anyone could receive a higher honour. Mosley has a hankering for acting, singing, Taylor Swift, and skincare. And she also happens to be a child of deaf adults (CODA).

Normalising having deaf parents

SCREENSHOT had the opportunity to chat with Mosley about navigating TikTok, the current lack of accessibility to British Sign Language (BSL) and, most significantly, how the notion of filming alongside a deaf parent online should not automatically be considered a form of radical political activism, it should simply be received as an everyday normality.

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A post shared by Lou (@louisemaymosley)

For those of you who are part of the creator’s 1 million followers on TikTok or have come across any of her content on your FYP, you’ll be aware of the very sweet and genuine relationship Mosley has with her mum. One of the first things we discussed during our chat was how she got started on the video-sharing app, and how her mum felt about the subsequent success she garnered online.

@loumayyy

The moment we’ve all been waiting for @starbucks 🌲❣️ AD #JoyInEverySip #BSL #StarbucksRedCup

♬ original sound - louise may

Mosley explained: “It first started with me posting random videos of me, singing videos, acting videos, and people soon clocked that my mum wasn’t listening to me or paying attention. That’s when the views started to come in more rapidly.”

After seeing the many questions about her mother left in her video’s comments section, Mosley realised that, “there was an obvious need and want to learn more. As time went on, people just became more and more interested. People would write ‘How can she talk?’, ‘How did she learn to drive?’, and, of course, these things are so obvious to me but they are not obvious to everyone else.”

It’s blatant to see how there’s very little deaf awareness both on social media and within mainstream society. This is an unsettling reality when you consider the fact that there are approximately 12 million adults in the UK who’re hard of hearing.

Putting emphasis on how, despite the vast amount of deaf people both in the country and around the world, hearing loss is still perceived through such a narrow lens and can sometimes feel almost as if it’s a “taboo.” Mosley stated that “there’s a quarter of a million people that use BSL in the UK and so many people watch it as if they’ve never seen it before. I get stared at in the street when I’m signing with mum.”

@loumayyy

the way my mum thinks i’m famous breaks me #deafmumcheck #bsl #deafmumhearingdaughter #signlanguage #cochlearimplant #bath #mumchats

♬ original sound - louise may

Some netizens have gone as far as to accuse the TikToker of using her mum “for views” and insinuate that she’s the only reason Mosley has managed to build such a fast-growing audience. To this, the gen Zer answered: “I know in my heart of hearts that I didn’t start posting on the app to get this supposed claim to fame by having a deaf mum. That was never the case and I think when people are commenting ‘She’s only getting views because her parents are deaf’, I think ‘How cool is it that I get to have deaf parents and experience sign language’.”

Of course, with any kind of criticism or hate, there’s an uncertainty that follows, and Mosley is no exception to this rule. “There are some days where I don’t want them to think that mum’s this performing monkey and I’m solely showcasing her in my videos to get me views,” she shared. This is another reason as to why the content creator is so keen on normalising having a deaf parent.

“I don’t want to come across as a ‘hearing saviour’, I’m just filming a TikTok with my mum”

One of the most impactful conversations we had was addressing the continued massive generalisation about the deaf community and how—while considering herself a proponent of the cause—Mosley isn’t showcasing her mum online in an attempt to be hailed a ‘hearing saviour’. Instead, she’s filming with her mum because she’s her mum.

On these terms, Mosley explained: “I’m not trying to come across as this person who’s out to cure deafness. However, by simply filming a TikTok with my mum, it now makes me an advocate for deaf awareness.” Rather than being perceived as an activist, the creator simply wants to normalise her lived reality, and in turn potentially encourage other CODAs to speak about their experiences online.

@loumayyy

In Elsie’s words “I love playing tiktok” 🥹 I can’t #deafparentscheck #coda #signlanguage #bsl

♬ love nwantinti (ah ah ah) - CKay

Continuing with our conversation about the generalisation of the deaf community, Mosley reiterated a number of ways in which her mum only represents herself. The deaf community is essentially a varied spectrum, so while the creator’s mum may be of the opinion that she’s not disabled, other deaf individuals may feel differently.

Mosley also recognised that some deaf people are incredibly proud of their condition. But although her mum may accept that she’s deaf, she has always wanted to be hearing. The creator added: “All of her family are hearing and she understands that currently, it is superior to be hearing in this world.”

@loumayyy

mum will always try my iced coffee even though she hates it. Hi @pandorame we love you🤟🏼 <3

♬ original sound - louise may

Ableism is a topic that is gaining traction on a variety of social media platforms. Defined as “the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior,” this term can often lose its meaning amid tumultuous discourse online. However, as noted by Forbes, conversations surrounding this societal issue is a crucial way in which disabled individuals can express themselves and fight against both personal and systemic ableism.

Lack of language accessibility

Mosley also went on to recall her journey learning BSL and the difficulties she’s faced along the way—particularly from a financial standpoint. “I really wanted to complete Level One during my GCSEs but they cost money and my school said no—bearing in mind four of my siblings had gone through my school before we even broached the conversation of maybe we should get our qualifications in sign language,” the creator recalled. 

Mosley then started taking Level One during her A levels as an evening class that she paid for. Later on at university, she self-funded her Level Two and has now paid for her Level Three by raising the money through TikTok.

@loumayyy

so grateful I screen recorded this. this is why I do it. making mum proud is everything. all for her X

♬ Get You The Moon - Kina

Now, it’s no understatement when I say that the financial backing needed to gain even a basic understanding of BSL is outrageously high. In order to obtain access to the six levels of necessary courses, training, and assessments, students are expected to shell out approximately £6,000 ($7,300).

While BSL has been recognised as an official language by the UK government since 2003, there has been no serious move to introduce the same into the national curriculum. After a recent petition garnered over 35,000 signatures in support, the government responded with a predictably useless statement: “There is time and space in the school day and in each week, term, and year to range beyond the national curriculum specifications.” I mean, did we expect anything less?

There have been some strides within the creative industries to try and introduce greater accessibility for deaf individuals, such as captions and interpreters. But, at its core, Mosley feels as though there won’t be true inclusivity until BSL is given greater priority. Ultimately, the language remains inaccessible even today.

@loumayyy

This was so hard to translate into captions lol #deafawareness #deaffamilyhumor #deaffriends

♬ love nwantinti (ah ah ah) - CKay

Being a creator on TikTok can be overwhelming for anyone, particularly when you feel as though it’s your responsibility to disseminate so much information about an important topic. Speaking on this, Mosley confessed, “Sometimes, I can feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, as though I’m trying to fix the world.”

However, Mosley’s online presence and the growth of her audience has also come with a number of positive outcomes. More specifically, in terms of her relationship with her mum. The TikTok stated: “It has made mum and I’s relationship so much better now because I’m not hiding her. I think I spent my whole life—or she, perhaps felt this way—hiding her, she never came to parents’ evenings and now, it’s brought us so much closer.”

Meeting viewers in public

Ah, the dreaded public sighting. We’re currently living in a time where online creators have become so entrenched in our lives that seeing them buying toilet rolls in Sainsbury’s is both a thrilling and magical experience—for us, of course, not for them. This false reality, however, often means that some individuals feel entitled to approach these creators and their family members in an invasive way.

Mosley’s priority lies in monitoring the way in which viewers might approach her mum in public. And, according to the creator, these interactions don’t always go smoothly, “They’re adamant that they know sign language and they’re signing the most randomest things, or people will come up and say ‘I love you’ and then just start signing the alphabet while my mum is just trying to do the food shop.”

@loumayyy

one thing about me is, I can’t drive

♬ super freaky girl nicki minaj out now - #1 nicki defender

Continuing to recall these often uncomfortable impromptu meet and greets, the gen Zer added, “I did have to make a TikTok about a year ago saying ‘If I’m not with her, please don’t approach her’. It’s not fair on her, there is a communication barrier.”

Moving forward

One of the most valuable things Mosley has gained from the platform is watching other CODAs who’d previously followed her begin to post with their own parents. There are now entire FYPs filled with #DeafTok and #CODATok—an important development the creator has massively contributed to.

Often, TikTokers get a bad rap for the kinds of content they peddle online, and it’s important to note that while there are some obvious exceptions, formulating and enforcing a content hierarchy is only going to limit creative expression.

The creator has also faced a certain level of disdain when it comes to describing her full-time job—it comes with the territory. Concluding our conversation, Mosley stated: “I think when you tell people you’re a TikToker, you feel this instant drop in respect. In reality, if everyone could do it, they would. There’s this phrase ‘Anyone could be a TikToker nowadays’, and I always think ‘Please do!’”

I ‘got messy’ with Pottery Boy, everyone’s favourite clay-slapping Aussie TikToker

In this very experimental and increasingly aesthetically oriented era of gen Z-dominated social media, users have been gifted (and sometimes bombarded) with a plethora of new creators bringing expressive artistry to the app in some of the most appetising ways. Now, in an attempt to lift the all too see-through veil, we find ourselves wanting to learn more about the sometimes not-so-subtle art of sexy TikTok.

There’s Cedrik Lorenzen for example, the self-proclaimed sexy chef who exploded onto the platform and brought a whole new meaning to the online world of ‘food porn’. We also can’t forget Thoren Bradly—the hunky lumberjack whose forest antics could motivate even the laziest of netizens to take a laborious hike in the woods, solely in hopes of catching a glimpse of his axe.

While we might like to pretend that we use the video-sharing app to keep up on daily news, participate in worthwhile community conversations, or stay up to date with trending medical paranoia—and don’t get me wrong, this does happen—we would be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit that every once in a while, we pray to the TikTok gods that the algorithm will work its magic and feed us something slightly more promiscuous and naughty.

Well, after dipping our toes into #WetTikTok during our recent talk with Lorenzen, we couldn’t just stop there, so we reached out to another creator who has begun to make waves on the social media site.

Enter Guy Vadas, or as he’s known online, Pottery Boy. The 24-year-old creator—picture an Australian version of Patrick Swayze’s character in Ghost—is bringing the art of shaping clay and other ceramic materials to the masses by convincing us all that we too can become masters of the wheel. SCREENSHOT spoke with the Aussie potter about his journey to TikTok fame and where his signature ‘clay slap’ originated from…

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A post shared by Pottery Boy 🥣 (@pottery.boy)

Taking the wheel

Pottery comes to people at all different kinds of ages, for some, it’s an interest sparked from a primary school party, for others, it’s a skill you take up later in life after deciding that listening to podcasts is in fact not an actual hobby.

For Vadas, one class was all it took to get the Australian hunk hooked. “I started the pottery journey after a friend of mine asked me to go to a class with her. I went and I sat around this table with four to five 60 to 65-year-old ladies and we made these pieces by hand. Soon after, I rented a wheel at my house, started making videos here and there and people just really started gravitating towards it and that was kind of how it all kicked off.”

Pretty soon, Vadas had rented a studio and was teaching his own classes. Meanwhile, his online audience was growing, and Pottery Boy was born. Currently boasting over 1.2 million followers on TikTok, Vadas has cemented himself as the go-to potter on the platform.

@potteryboy

Just making a funky bowl, I really enjoyed this process. V satisfying 🍶 #pottery #potteryboy #onlypots

♬ original sound - Gurtêj

This ‘clay cowboy’ has conquered the algorithm—his most popular video amassing over 48 million views—by engaging with an enthusiastic audience that simply cannot get enough of his fun creations. I also assume that the shirtless factor of his content doesn’t hurt.

@potteryboy

Making a huge spiral vase. It’s been a minute since I’ve been on the wheel but it’s good to be backk pottin #potteryboy #onlypots #ceramicstudio #satisfying #ceramics #pottery

♬ Just the Two of Us - Grover Washington, Jr.

It's claytime!

Vadas maintained his following during the COVID-19 pandemic by bringing pottery straight to people’s doors. He explained: “The reason for the DIY claytime kits was sort of in response to everyone going into lockdown and people not being able to come into my studios where I was teaching, so we created the kits so that people could continue making and continue engaging with clay from home.”

@its.claytime

This is How to make a mug in 20 seconds 😱 #pottery #potterytiktok #potteryboy #claytime #diy

♬ Just The Two of Us - Kauai45 & Sweet Cocoa

When it comes to his chosen platform, Vadas never intended for his page to be focused solely on promoting the claytime kits. “I didn’t find TikTok the best platform to engage with customers, it’s never really been about the business side for me, it’s more about the fun side and reaching people—most of our advertising when we were selling kits was always through Instagram and Facebook,” he explained.

And according to the data shown on the app, it does seem like his slightly more personal content has performed the best for Pottery Boy, with some of his most popular videos featuring insider tidbits about his life or showing off his personality while he’s sat at the wheel.

Where does the ‘get messy’ brand come from?

If you’re a fan of Pottery Boy, or you’ve just taken a quick glance at his soothing page, you’ll recognise the iconic phrase “come get messy with me.” Seemingly both a tagline and mantra, this claytastic (sorry, I had to) expression has become synonymous with Vadas’ online brand. And according to the creator, his online identity is always slightly changing and shifting as he grows.

“I think the ‘get messy’ brand definitely evolved slightly, there are certain elements of the videos that people definitely react more to and so I continue to include those. I’m always trying to add little bits and bobs and see how people react and see if that’s increasing engagement.”

@potteryboy

Anyone need a new art teacher? #ootd #artteachersoftiktok #potterywheel #workwearfashion #onlypots #potteryvids #potteryboy #potterychallenge

♬ cola - user19192570443

Speaking of audience engagement, I couldn’t possibly let Vadas return to enjoy the Aussie sunshine without asking him more about his most recent techniques to attract a wider audience outside of the potter community. Let’s address the elephant in the room—the shirtless pottery videos, we see what you’re doing.

You only have to scroll for mere seconds in the comments section of one of these steamy videos to find yourself drowning in remarks from users appreciating the clips. One netizen wrote, “Oh to be clay,” while another said: “My boyfriend wondering why I’ve played this [three times]… I just really like pottery, ok!”

When I ask Vadas about the clips in question he gently reminds me that he’s “not actually shirtless, I’m always wearing an apron.” I can’t imagine the apron is what all these newly pottery-obsessed fans are concentrating on, but fair enough…

@potteryboy

Because you liked the last one so much. Just making a cute vase for my Mumma. #pottery #potteryboy #onlypots #potteryclass #satisfying

♬ Just the Two of Us - Grover Washington, Jr.

I was also interested to find out if having viewers seek out his page solely for these clay-inspired thirst traps bothered the gen Zer. Unsurprisingly, he’s not fazed: “To be honest I don’t really care what they come for, as long as they come and enjoy the content. You know, some people are here for the pottery, some people are here for the ‘apron pottery’ and some are here for both so I don’t really think too much about it. I just try to enjoy making the content and try to make it as fun and enjoyable as possible for people to watch.”

Vadas may be the most chill TikToker of all time—probably due to his naturally laidback Aussie roots—as when I question him about any kind of online hate he’s received, he’s coy and casual. “I’ve not had anything major, on a platform like TikTok people are really honest and so some people don’t like the content, some people do—I try not to read into it too much. I just create content which I feel is fun,” he shared.

@potteryboy

500K ! You guys are nuts ❤️‍🔥 What should I make next? #potteryboy #onlypots #satisfying #potter

♬ original sound - Gurtêj

It seems that there may be more criticism coming from artists within the clay community. “In terms of fellow potters, especially the close-knit group of potters I know, I’ve never had any issues with them but there are some other potters who don’t know me so well who maybe have this idea about me but, again, I try to take no notice.” I suppose some people don’t recognise true art when they see it.

What’s up with Pottery Boy’s signature slap?

Now, onto the question we’ve all been wanting to ask. Where did the signature pottery slap come from? Is clay satisfying to smack? What magic are you sprinkling into that slap that’s making me rethink my entire existence? Well, wait no longer—Pottery Boy has the answer.

According to the creator, the slap originated “just in [my] brain—I just did it one day and thought ‘ah that felt good’ and it just went from there.” There you have it, some people just get it.

Oh, and if you were at all worried about the mainstream clay community pulling Pottery Boy away from TikTok, don’t fret, he’s only just getting started. “I really enjoy the content creation side of things and I definitely see myself building more of a personal brand around it.”

@potteryboy

#duet with @andrew licout I feel personally attacked #potteryboy #potterytiktok #onlypots

♬ Very Few Friends - Saint Levant

Finally, my favourite question to ask creators on the platform: Who’s your favourite creator on the app? Pottery Boy’s answer: @gucci_pineapple, “He’s a guy from New York and he’s very quirky and unusual, it’s my kind of humour so he’d definitely be my favourite to watch.”

So, there we have it, let’s raise a toast to Pottery Boy—the clay creator who is singlehandedly getting gen Zers pumped about pottery.