Standing at 6 feet 7 inches, “larger than life” is the best way to describe the huge presence and personality of Darryl Perry, a Big and Tall model who aims to change the world with his What’s Up, Lil Bro? video series. The clips motivate boys and young men to become their greatest selves by teaching fundamental life lessons like anger management, building confidence, healthy coping skills and busting through the world’s stereotypes, all in a relaxed, open, engaging manner.
Perry, who is known as @khololifestyle on Instagram, launched What’s Up, Lil Bro? to inspire Black youths to strive for greatness — and to address life’s challenges.
“I wanted my platform to have meaning. You don’t have to be big or tall, rich or poor to have experienced the traumas of life. There is no specific look or aesthetic to someone who has experienced life’s hardships. You’re not always able to look at a child and ‘hey he’s going through something,’” he says.
Perry knows all-too-well that growing up can be tough; he was always bigger than his peers. He remembers being mocked, which led to serious body image issues and a lack of self-confidence that plagued him all the way through his 20s.
“I was able to fake it. I was really good at masking what I was going through,” Perry adds.
He aims to use the platform to destigmatize shame and embarrassment surrounding emotional vulnerability. “As a man in general, you are taught to be tough, to be strong. And sometimes the things that young men go through can be embarrassing. They don’t feel like they have anyone to talk to about it due to fear of judgment. That’s where I want to come in and let them know that what you are or have gone through isn’t your fault and isn’t anything you should be ashamed of.”
Videos begin with a smiling Perry asking “What’s up, little bro?” in an effort to connect with his young followers on a personal level. He then delivers a short life lesson in an engaging, caring and often humorous manner. Lessons center around striving to be your personal best self, never giving up, hygiene, learning to cook, anger management, staying away from violence and confidence.
Perry personally found strength and healing when his eyes were opened to the Big and Tall modeling community. By surrounding himself with people who had been through similar challenges, his confidence emerged. Now, he uses his stories to inspire others on both of his Instagram platforms.
“I feel like where we started is just as important as where we’re going. To really get to know who I am, you have to know where I come from and what I’ve been through. The man that followers see today is a product of pain, trauma, hard work, faith and healing, though the healing process can be continuous.”
The newfound kinship of the Big and Tall modeling community inspired Perry to speak out about his own pain and embolden other Big and Tall men and plus-size women who are struggling with the same issues.
“Sometimes we feel like we are the only ones experiencing a certain issue until we find that there’s a whole community that shares the same struggles. We can feel isolated in our problems, but most times there’s a whole community dealing with the same thing.”
As his @khololifestyle platform grew to influencer status, Perry developed a deep desire to give back. The desire stemmed from lessons he wishes he could have learned in childhood.
“I would tell my 10-year-old self to understand that there’s greatness inside of you. You just have to believe in yourself instead of believing what others say. The guy that I am forming into today is who I ultimately wanted to be growing up. I would hope that the kids would look at me as motivation and see their greatness.”
Perry tells his young followers, “I know right now whatever you’re going through may seem tough, and you may feel like you won’t make it through. I need you to know that it does get easier and this moment in your life will pass.
Think of it like a storm. It may be rainy and cloudy and you can’t imagine what life is like outside of it. Just know that the sun will shine again and you will look back at everything with a smile and say ‘I made it’ and ‘everything that I went through was worth it!’ These tough moments are preparing you for where you are going to be. I love you, ‘lil bro!”
Parental feedback is one of the most rewarding parts of his platform.
“I’ve had single moms say, ‘Hey I show my son your videos whenever you post.’ It makes me feel good to know that what I am doing and the things I am saying are making a difference and that I’m actually reaching someone.”
Whether you’re a little bro or a big bro, or even a little sis or a big sis, who doesn’t need to hear “I believe in you” once in a while?