…You can have your cake and eat it. The amount of people who have told me to stick to just one thing; whether that be one particular type of character, or you can’t do acting and presenting at the same time. I can and I will. You can and you will.
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tommy Hatto.
He was named as one of Hollywood’s rising stars after being thrust into the limelight in roles such as Thor 2: The Dark World, and featuring in campaigns for Calvin Klein and Rayban. However, Tommy Hatto has turned entrepreneur with his award-winning business and is now on a mission to deliver step-change in the world of wellbeing.
Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led you to this career path?
I’ve been reflecting a lot on how I’ve got to this point, and there’s been lots of different moments which I can associate it to. At first, I just wanted to share my fitness and wellbeing advice to whomever wanted to know. I had friends and people on social media reach out to mean asking for these tips, and I was going away to Hawaii for my birthday, so I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to document my fitness journey’. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some of the world’s leading personal trainers and life coaches, so I felt a sense of commitment to pay that knowledge forward and share that with people who didn’t or couldn’t get access to those services. However, the real turning point came when I started receiving messages online from men all over the world saying that they wanted to look like me because they didn’t like the way they looked, or they wanted my life. That was when I made a more conscious decision to let people know that my life isn’t perfect, and I started being vulnerable about the insecurities I had faced. I suffered an eating disorder as a teen, and then experienced a lot of body image issues starting out as an actor. This business is tough and not everyone can handle all that comes with it. I’ve had the trolling comments, been the butt of the jokes, and scrutinized over the way I look — eventually those things drain you mentally. But I realized that after having so many men share their own personal stories of body image and eating disorders with me, that this is a huge issue, and I’m going to fight to break the stigma.
It then led to myself and my girlfriend (and co-founder), Lorna, having a wider conversation on how we can do more to support people’s wellbeing and thus Tommy Hatto Online was born. An idea to change the way education and business approach wellbeing, with my own personal agenda to focus on men’s body image.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I think of funniest mistake, there’s only one that springs to mind, and I’ve never revealed it publicly but here goes. I was filming a show in England called New Worlds and I had to shave my head for the role. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it initially because I didn’t feel comfortable having my head shaved, but as an actor starting out — you can’t be too picky, and I needed the money. So as my contingency plan, I bought a £5 (approx. $7) black wig from Amazon, and after we wrapped filming, I wore this wig on my head and went about my daily life. At the time, I thought it looked exactly like my normal hair, but it so obviously did not. It was even more embarrassing than if I had just walked out with no hair.
You may think that story sounds trivial, but it taught me to own your decisions. Every decision or mistake I’ve made since then; I’ve walked into them with accountability.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
Follow your gut. It’s the deciding factor on whether you take good or bad advice. There’s going to be so many times in life where you’re at a crossroads and conflicted about which way to go. You’ll have people telling you to do this, do that, but it comes down to what feels right for you. Of course, surround yourself with mentors but don’t neglect what your heart tells you, what your gut tells you — lead through purpose and feeling and that success is going to happen authentically. You aren’t always going to get it right, but it comes back to what I said earlier about owning those decisions. I am responsible for my success; I am responsible for my failures.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I think all the men who have been brave enough to reach out to me on social media and share their experiences have had a huge impact. I now use my public profile and platforms to eradicate any stigma that’s associated with men’s body image. It’s not considered feminine to be concerned with the way you look or feel — at the end of the day, we’re human and our thoughts shouldn’t be neglected or unspoken. There was one young guy, from Brazil, who reached out to me to say he had suffered from body dysmorphia and was at such a low point in his life because he felt isolated. On paper, you wouldn’t suspect that of him — he competes in fitness competitions and plays semi-professional football. He messaged me to say he appreciated some of the posts I had put up. His message compelled me to do more.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?
I’m working on an incredible campaign with Nicole Ponsford, who’s co-founder of a company called the Global Equality Collective, around understanding body image issues within young people globally today. We’ve put out a survey online earlier this summer and we’ve been inundated with responses from young people wanting to share their stories. It’s been fascinating to see how different genders, cultures, ages all view themselves and their appearance, and the effect that society and culture has on that. For the record, it’s both positive and negative stories on body image but what we can see from early analysis is that we need to do more to promote body positivity and acceptance. So now we have all this information, the next steps are about translating that into something meaningful that we can put back out there into the world. I don’t know what those initiatives look like right now, but I have ideas around bringing the different strands of who I am: media, entertainment, and business together and developing something impactful.
Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
I have a godson and a nephew and when I think about them growing up, I don’t want them to feel inadequate in their ability or themselves. I want them to love themselves for who they are. Growing into young men, I don’t want them to feel ashamed of speaking about how they feel.
I think about the younger me, the lost insecure me who didn’t know himself or his identity, and what would I say to him now. I’d say ‘you don’t need to seek the validation of others. You’re perfect as you are’. And younger me then is not an anomaly. That’s evident from the campaign; there’s so many young men and women feeling this way, so if I can do my bit to tell those people that the people you aspire to look like or jealous of whatever — those people aren’t perfect, they have insecurities too and they aspire to look like other people, so we end up in this toxic cycle of never-ending aspiration to be perfect. For a while, I was a part of the problem as I was unconsciously sending the wrong messages out on social media. Also, there is no one standard of beauty. Across the world, those standards change and different looks, body types, hair colors are celebrated — so celebrate you.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
The young men who reach out to me, the young man in Brazil — it’s those comments and messages that drive me to continue fighting this cause. I don’t particularly care for being the one to create this huge impact, but I want to be a part of it, and even if I can positively impact one person then we are making progressive steps forward. I also wasn’t aware of the impact I was having in other areas or communities. I had someone reach out to thank me for representing the South-East Asian community in film because they had heard about me through what I was doing on men’s wellbeing. That adds another layer and purpose to the acting side of my career, and I make a point to say that I’m a proud ethnic minority, working in sectors where we are under-represented and under-served, and I’m going to a voice for all those people who don’t have the opportunity.
Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?
I think changing the education system is a big one. We need to bring it to the 21st century, and start teaching young people about health, wellbeing, nutrition, human psychology, DEI, communication, and life skills. It sounds like an exhaustive list, so I’m not saying let’s create separate academic subjects for each of those but there’s something a bit off when the best teachers are now online and not in the classroom. For example, I did cookery classes at school, which is great, but what I am planning and speaking with schools now is, let’s go that extra step further, and not only teach them how to cook, but let’s teach them how to cook healthy meals and give them nutritional education in the same lesson. So that’s what I’d like the government to do to support.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”
Okay, number one: you can have your cake and eat it. The amount of people who have told me to stick to just one thing; whether that be one particular type of character, or you can’t do acting and presenting at the same time. I can and I will. You can and you will.
Then I would say, I wish someone had told me that you’re going to be rejected a lot, and it’s going to suck. But rejection is going to be your biggest fan, because it’s going to motivate and spur you on to continue.
Number three. You’re not the person people tell you, you are. I sought validation from a lot of people starting out, and I believed them when they would put me into a box. It’s only in the last 5 or 6 years where I’ve gotten to truly know myself.
Listen more. I think we’re all guilty of being fresh out of school and thinking we know everything. My acting career guaranteed would have been way more successfully if I had listened. I lost out on some massive opportunities, lost very high-profile people potential revenue all because I thought I knew best. If I had listened to those people, asked questions, and really understood from their expertise — I could have used that along with my gut feel to make a more informed decision. However, that’s a mistake I own.
The final one. What do I wish someone would have told me when I first started? Enjoy the ride. I was so caught up in trying to do my best, and working crazy hours all the time, being on this rollercoaster ride that I don’t think I stepped back and enjoyed it as much as I could have. If you’re starting a business or navigating a new career path, don’t forget to enjoy it.
You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
It has to be a movement around men’s wellbeing. For all men to get loud and celebrate who they are and put their wellbeing first. For workplaces to take men’s wellbeing seriously, for campaigns to showcase body positivity across all genders. To de-stigmatize men’s body image. I’m just throwing it out there.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
There’s a quote I discovered when I was at college by Sarah Ban Breathnach — “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do”. That quote inspires me to become a visionary. When I told people around me that I was going to start a career in entertainment and become an actor, I was told it was a pipe-dream, that my head was in the clouds. I knew then that whatever I dreamt, I was going to follow-through with. I dreamt I’d go to Hollywood. Check. I went to Hollywood. I dreamt I’d travel the world. Check. I travelled the world and got paid for it. I dreamt I’d work with huge brands. Check. I become the face of huge brands. That quote enabled me to have the confidence to put myself out there, so it holds a special place in my heart. It’s the reason we use it on our company email signatures, so everyday we and our clients are reminded to be inspired.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’m going to choose someone in the business world because it’s the new space I’m venturing into, so I’m going to say Wesley Ng (the founder of Casetify). I was a brand ambassador for Casetify last year, and I choose to work with brands where our values are aligned. I’d love to sit down with him and just talk to him, not only around growing up as an ethnic minority man, but also how you can disrupt an already established and saturated market and become a market leader.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!
Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Tommy Hatto Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.