Content creator and Colorado native, Alex Terranova is down-to-earth, open-minded, and a strong advocate for mental health. He created the 7-part YouTube series, "The Unwanted Truth", to speak on the mental health issues he faces and create a safe space for his subscribers to talk about theirs. I had the pleasure of talking to Alex as he opened up to me about his career goals, his views on mental health, and the dark side of the modeling industry no one typically talks about.
The Unwanted Truth is your YouTube series about mental health. What is the hardest and the best part about filming that series?I'm at the end of the series, I'm filming one more video. It's been really hard to do this last video because I want to make sure I capitalize on the whole series. Each video I make, I want to make sure it's not just a video to put out there just to get views, or just another video to add to my channel. When it comes to a mental health series, you want to make sure each video is something that you can look back on two years from now and be proud of what you said. I had some experience from the very first series I ever tried doing and it's not on YouTube anymore. I took it down, not because there's anything bad in it, I just took it down because I think I was just young and I didn't know what I was doing with creating yet. That taught me that, two years later, I think about things a little bit differently. So I wanted to be careful about this series and mindful about doing that. That's been the biggest challenge. The biggest blessing is just the connection with everybody that's seen the videos. That's been the coolest thing for me. It's very meaningful to receive feedback like that. Someone's willing to open up to you about their story, and maybe I won't even respond, but still, it's the start for that person to willing talk about something that they're going through, and that's the whole point of the series. It was to encourage people to speak up about mental health because we're all going through stuff.
How do you navigate taking care of your mental health while having a career on social media?
It's tough. I feel like mental health is like a roller coaster. You're going to have your ups and downs. Just because you're opening up about mental health doesn't mean that you're going to figure everything out right away, you're still going to struggle. Some people with mental health issues may need to get professional help and there's nothing wrong with that. It doesn't make you a crazy person, it doesn't make any of your feelings or thoughts invalid. I just think that the biggest thing is to let people know that mental health is something everyone deals with.
Some people are very good at controlling it. The way I control it is with my family. That's something that I had to learn over time. I didn't realize that the tool that I've always needed was right in front of me. Living away is what taught me that my family is my tool for maintaining good mental health and positive thinking. It's the thing that motivates me, helps me remember my morals, and reminds me to not let the bad things beat me down. We're going to have good and bad every single day. They're a reminder to appreciate the good more than the bad.
What is some advice you would give to your younger self?That we're always learning and to never be afraid of learning. Every single day you're going to have good and bad. You just have to have that mindset to appreciate the good around you. There are going to be things that we don't want to happen in our day, every single day. You can't let those things bum you out and create a chain or pattern for the next day. I think that's where you start to develop mental health problems and when you start to develop bad habits. It's very easy to let yourself have a bad day, but then that bad day turns into a bad month. I think that's when you have to tell yourself that you're being stubborn or I need to change something, or I need to speak to someone, and that's okay. So I would tell my younger self to just not be afraid. I think that's the biggest thing. As you get older, the more afraid you get of life. I think that's something I'd tell myself: don't be afraid of getting older, keep being that young soul that's excited about things.
What was your drive to go back to school and what has been the most exciting and challenging thing about going back?
What motivated me to go back to school was that when COVID happened, I found myself in a very dark place in the middle of writing my series. I wasn't really happy, truthfully, with my career. It had nothing to do with the success of it. I just was not finding joy as a creator, I didn't like the attention I was getting and, that might not make sense to a lot of people, but it was just something mentally I was dealing with. So, during the time I moved back to LA, which was a year ago, I moved back temporarily and I wasn't in a good place again. I was trying to figure things out and was asking myself, "What am I gonna do with my life?". I was kind of in a quarter-life crisis, didn't know what I was doing, and that's okay. That's another thing I'm kind of realizing, that it's okay.
Ask yourself, do you have good people around you? If yes, then that's all that matters. You have good people around you and they're going to guide you, you're going to find yourself and you're gonna find yourself on the right path again. It's just about believing in it. So I didn't know what to believe in. It took a lot of rediscovering things in my childhood. I'd ask myself, what did I like when I was a kid that made me happy? Well, I wanted to be a baseball player, but that didn't work out. I tried doing the modeling thing and that was okay, but it was never really my passion. So I started realizing that I love helping people. That became the motivation right there to give what I'm studying a try because that is something that I've always wanted to do.
There's nothing wrong with going back to school. The hardest part is getting into that routine of being a student again. I've been out of school for seven years, and for the last seven years, when people would tell me they were busy because they had to study, I didn't get it, but now I do. I used to be the student that didn't care. I would study for 30 minutes and if I got a B or a C that was a success for me. But now, I want to get an A, because with the field I want to be in, you have to know what you're doing.
What is your go-to TV show?
Quarantine has made me watch everything. Right now on Netflix, I've been into Cobra Kai. It's awesome. I got into it during the very first season, it's amazing. Also, I will be honest, at nighttime, I like to have a light-hearted show in the background. So growing up, iCarly was one of my favorite shows. So, I love playing that in the background before I go to bed. I have no shame in it!
Five years from now, what do you want your life on and off camera to look like?
I don't really like ever answering that question. Of course, we all want good things in our life, so I am always projecting and hoping for good things. I guess a personal goal of mine is, of course, to have a family. That's always my goal and I think five years from now I'll be 32 and I think that would be the perfect time to start thinking about settling down and having a family. I would hope I'm at that point where I'm ready to have that foundation, financially and everything. So, I think those are those goals for five years from now.
"Pain can either be your fear or your purpose" is something that you share online. What does that mean to you and what would you like others to take away from it?Whatever your pain is, it should be your purpose to motivate you to do anything in life and it doesn't need to put you down or make you feel like you're not good enough. You're going to experience pain no matter what, so you might as well just make it your purpose of wanting more in life and going further in life.
Where did that quote come from?
One time I was at a church conference, and the pastor Karl Lentz who I know has recently been in the middle of a lot of accusations and that he has stepped down from Hillsong. First I want to say, I think a lot of people need to have a little more grace towards anybody that has had some kind of fame or attention because they're still a human being. I don't think we should judge their actions because there are things that I've done in my life that I'm not proud of - everyone has. That's the first thing I need to say from taking anything from this person, but there was one time I was at a church conference and he said something similar to it. I liked what he said: "Fear can either be your prison or your platform." I liked what he said, but I don't necessarily think that you need to make fear your platform. You don't need to build everything around your fear, there are great things about us that are not fearful. So I wanted to twist what he said up a little bit. It just took me a few years to figure it out, but then I have realized it's more about pain, not fear. It's the pain that you feel towards things that are putting you down - that's your purpose. When you feel like something didn't work out, I guarantee you there's a breakthrough on the other side. Something better is going to work out and you just have to believe it and not let those thoughts that are telling you that you're not good enough get to you. Those things and those thoughts aren't true.
What have you done to take care of yourself physically and mentally during quarantine?I'm going to be fully honest, when quarantine started, I fell off completely. I wasn't doing healthy things and I feel like a lot of people kind of went through that. I was unsure of a lot of things, and I wasn't really happy with my career. I was working a lot but not finding joy in it. I just felt like I was slaving away editing videos. No gyms were open and working out helps me and helps me do life. I need to have a routine for me to see how my day is set up. Not having that threw me off, I started building bad habits. Had some realizations and moved back to Colorado. When I started getting back on the right track, everything was starting to work out again. The gyms were open here and that gave me the motivation to not sit around and I wanted to do something. I just now want to make use of my time, because time is so valuable. I think that's been the motivation in quarantine: how can you make your time valuable? We're all suffering, and it sucks to see some people take advantage of traveling and stuff because there's a lot of things that a lot of people can't do right now. Just focusing on your life, I think the biggest thing. We're having all this time for ourselves for that reason, this isn't a simulation, it's not going to end tomorrow, this is our life for a few years now so we have to adjust to it. That's the purpose of life, just adjusting to new things each day.
What is a stereotype about the modeling or social media industry that you do not agree with?
So actually, I feel comfortable answering this question now. Earlier last week, I had a dream and it was telling me to leave my agency. I have been signed for so long and I had a dream that I should leave it. For a few days, I was in a bad mood. I didn't know why and I couldn't control it. I woke up upset for no reason and just kind of moody with myself. Then I was like, I'm just going to do it: I'm going to write an email to my agency and say that I'm done with this. So, I just left my agency last week. I feel like I stayed there because I had an expectation of one of the agents. I believed they would be making a difference in my life through the things that they knew and and the tools that they had. I think that kept me around for so long and nothing ever worked out, but I always thought in the back of my head that someday it will.One thing now that I have to tell people about modeling is that you have to fully own it and be yourself. Don't let anyone take advantage of your innocence. That is the biggest thing in modeling. You can't be innocent in modeling. You have to have a sharp mind and you can't let anyone sense any innocence in you because once they do, they'll take advantage of you. I have been sexually harassed in that industry. A lot of people don't know about that. I've been very quiet about the whole modeling thing because a long time ago it ruined a lot of opportunities for me. The agency I was with knew about this a long time ago, too. The thing about being a man that has been sexually harassed is that you feel like you shouldn't say anything because you're ashamed of being a man that has been sexually harassed and you don't realize what has been done. So, it's really hard for you to open up about it. I was also constantly battling with my weight for no reason. I'm in really good shape and I love being active, but to be a model you have to be very thin.
When you see photos, it's very deceiving. These models are very paper-thin. If you see muscle models, they're not super big guys. They're just very thin and ripped guys. I would be told that I need to get down to a slimmer weight and I'm 6'2 and I used to play baseball - my body shape is not going to be that way. So I developed an eating disorder, and it played a big mental part in my health for a long time. Recently, me leaving my agency has made me feel that a huge weight of toxicity has been lifted off of me. I'm not dealing with anything toxic anymore.
I think for the days that I was moody, it was because I was battling with wondering if I was okay with starting a new chapter in my life. When people ask me how I feel about my modeling career...To be honest, I don't feel like I have been a true model since I started YouTube. So, I would tell anyone that wants to model to not show your innocence because it happens a lot to innocent people, like me, that have good intentions and aren't trying to use people for the money or fame to get anywhere. Just be careful about that, because that world is a land of snakes, you have to be careful.That happens a lot to men in the modeling world more than people realize. Guys are going to be quiet about it, they don't speak up about it and you can just kind of tell that when it happens to anybody, it takes a part of their soul away from them where they feel like they can't speak up about it. Like I said, as a man, it's really hard to speak up about it because you feel like your manhood has been taken away from you and it's like an ego thing as a guy. Hopefully, one day when I'm able to feel comfortable with myself enough to make a video talking about it on my platform, maybe that can be an encouragement for guys to speak up about that kind of thing.
What is one thing you want to accomplish in your career?I still want to be a video creator and still be on social media. I just need to find the balance of it right now, but I'm figuring it out. So, that'd be a huge accomplishment to find that balance. Ultimately, I think the biggest accomplishment that I want to do is that I want to have my own foundation. I want to have a foundation that can give back to people who are struggling to find financial help for mental health resources. I feel like that's something that I would love to have. Have a foundation called the Nova Foundation. Most people don't know this, but nova means a new star that appears and then over time it goes away because a new nova appears. So I've always loved my last name because it means a new world. Nova is specifically like a star, and I feel like we're all stars. We all have moments in life that appear that are bright and awesome. We all need some help sometimes, so that'd be the biggest accomplishment, having a foundation like that to give back to people.
What is your favorite Fanola product?
I am a huge fan of Fanola, like huge. For once, my scalp feels healthy again. I dyed my hair bleach blonde a year ago. I went platinum for a little bit when I was doing the New York City Marathon. Before that, I had a really bad dry scalp and bleaching it made it way worse, of course. You hooked it up, you sent me so much. I love how the Nutri Care and Sensi Care shampoos feel on my scalp. It feels like it's massaging the skin and the hair doesn't feel like it's being damaged because a lot of shampoos have bad stuff in them. That's another thing I appreciate about your guys' shampoo. There's nothing that's going to damage your hair - and it smells so good. I think that's the best thing about all the products. There's no bad smell.The Nutri Care shampoo smell reminds me of Rice Krispie treats. The 10 Action Maschera Spray, I don't know what it is, but I've gotten complimented so many times on this smell. People will ask me, "What is that smell? It's not your cologne.", and I'm someone who loves cologne. So I'm thinking it's gotta be this expensive cologne I have on, and people are like "No, no, no, trust me, it's not that." Then they feel my hair and they're like, "It's your hair!" You also recently sent me the Wonder Wax, and I like putting it on after the shower. I have really thick hair and it's very curly, so instantly when I put this in, I feel like I have control of my hair. A lot of times I feel like I don't have control of my half after the shower because my hair goes either way. For styling, I like the Styling Tools Working Wax. All the products smell so good. I've used hair products that either dry your scalp out or just don't smell good. They might work really well, but that's another thing that I just love is that I've never felt like my hair was being damaged, that it doesn't make my scalp feel weird or anything, and that it smells so good!