Kody Eslayed

Words by Mandolin Wyn, Art by Jaws Stewart

In September 2021, I was a sophomore at Kent State University. I was scrolling through TikTok in my dorm and a man speaking about queer relationship advice popped up. His screen name reads “OhhKody,” alongside the name Kody Elsayed in his TikTok biography.

He speaks on his personal anecdotes, and sprinkles in silly stories from his youth – whether that be coming out, his first kiss or figuring out queer love in general. It was something that insanely resonated with me as someone who was out for a multitude of years, but had never experienced their first kiss until college. 

I found solace in knowing that there were people out there offering their own words of advice on navigating a difficult world that is not necessarily welcoming to anyone that is not heteronormative. 

I was stunned when I went to follow Kody on instagram after continuously seeing his content on my for you page, and to my surprise I saw he was a Kent State Alumni. I immediately lit up, as not only was this person giving out advice that really resonated with 19 year-old me, but it gave me so much aspiration – as at this point Kody was living in New York City and attending New York University (NYU) for graduate school.

I was absolutely stunned, trying to wrap my brain around how he was once in my shoes. Of all places to come from,he went to ol’ Kent State University. In 2023, he popped up on my LinkedIn as a mutual connection,so I immediately sent a request. He accepted and soon followed me back on Instagram. 

Later in 2023, when I took on the role of Editor for Fusion, I was trying to muster up ideals of what I had to say; what things were crucial to my experience, as well as things that could benefit to have out there for emerging LGBTQ+ people who also attend Kent State University. People who are not quite out yet, or need some words of affirmation from upperclassmen who have once been in their shoes. 

It came to the forefront of my mind that it would be so fun to sit down with Kody and pick his brain about his development as a Public Relations (PR) major who ended up getting a major following, along with attending graduate school at NYU for business. 

Kody gave very articulated answers, and walking away after getting coffee with him felt truly inspiring. I had asked a wide range of questions, some pertaining to his time at Kent State University, and some were more on the end of PR, which he happily obliged to delve further into. 

As somebody wrapping up their bachelor’s degree, it felt comforting to hear him speak on prospectively looking at graduate schools, elaborating that “grad school is great, especially if you’re feeling like your undergraduate program is giving you enough to start, but you need just a little more.”

He also mentions that when looking into graduate schools, to search for people who are in those positions that you aspire to be in stating, “When you decide what you want to do as a job or career path, you need to make sure you have those skills. So first tip before you decide grad school is look at people doing what you wanna do today and what are their credentials?” 

Kody elaborated about his start on TikTok, and what that was like as somebody who also grew up in a tiny town.He spoke about how social media had always piqued his interest, but especially when he was in a PR class where he could use it for research. He immediately jumped on it, writing papers, and eventually testing its algorithm on his own.“How do these videos go viral? Why do they go viral? What does the algorithm want?” 

He goes on to say that instead of going home for fall break, he instead opted to stay in the dorms where he was a resident assistant, and test the waters. “I’m gonna produce content for the entire break. I don’t have classes, I just have my part time job so I’ll just go be a little barista and come home and go on TikTok and see what happens.”

He discussed his time in being a marketer for American Eagle, with things like meeting Addison Rae, as well as it being his dream job, and how having a master’s degree doesn’t necessarily mean breaking out of entry level. 

Concluding that “They wanted me to have more work experience,so I have three years of corporate work now, which is helping me, but I didn’t get moved right up the ladder because I have a master’s. I think some people think grad school gives them that edge of ‘I won’t be in an entry level now.’ I still started as an entry level.”

He addressed the current undergraduates at Kent State University about how he wishes he would have smelled the roses more. “I blinked and I graduated. I was like ‘What do you mean it’s over? I just got started!’ So, definitely take it in, and enjoy it.” 

He also regrets not leaning into Kent State University’s resources more. He describes not using Kent State’s multitude scholarships, as well as grants, advisors and getting involved until his sophomore year. “Kent State has phenomenal resources. I went to NYU and I promise you my experience at Kent was better. Everything about Kent State was better.”

I was curious to know what his key takeaways from the TikTok spotlight were.He elaborated that he had branched out into a multitude of media. He started a podcast,“Boytalk,” as well as overcoming hurdles that came along with new territory. 

also said he learned that each platform has different wants and needs, where some content has the ability to have better reach on Instagram. “You have to approach it completely differently. It really helped my PR/Marketing side. I also learned how to manage brands. I started getting brands reaching out, I started getting PR packages, I started getting paid to post content.”

He also talked about how it was such a crucial learning experience for him to learn and grow with. He stated that, not only was it on a professional level helping him, but on a mental level it boosted his self-confidence, as well as his aptness storytelling. “I learned that my voice mattered. I learned that my voice was important, and that my voice was needed. What I think is so beautiful about that experience, and I think looking specifically at TikTok as a platform, was that I was able to get really niche and connect with people who wanted to hear what I had to say.” 

Kody also spoke on the journey over the past few years, and what it was like to build a community from the ground up. “ I was like ‘I can’t be the only one who feels this way.’ So my community came around me being someone who had a voice saying things they needed to hear and wanted to hear.” 

Alongside that, he said that he noticed his content was filling this void that things, like health class, never did for him in his upbringing. He also wanted to help queer people navigate queer dating, because as he said, “it isn’t at all like heteronormative dating at all.” He saw that there was a lack of gay sex and dating, which he saw as an opportunity to spread the word with something that he could’ve relied on in adolescence. 

“My community became this pillar of we’re not alone, we’re all experiencing the same thing, and we don’t have resources. So some of my content is talking about how to just take care of your body as a gay person, how to prepare for intercourse, and other adult things that we do.”

He emphasized using your voice, because people will listen. You don’t have to have a million followers to get your point out into the ether, it just matters that you are passionate about it and want to share it. “Even if you aren’t an influencer. Even if you aren’t a person who ends up obtaining a platform.” 

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