Spring 2014 Issue | By Chris Gabettas
Don't tell Joey Parker, '13, that he dreams too big. He doesn't have time for such talk. He's too busy changing the world from his laptop in Idaho Falls.
Parker, 23, writes about pop culture and social activism for MTV Act, a blog that casts an international spotlight on civic-minded celebrities and organizations bent on improving the world.
He's also the founder and editor of The Joey Parker Movement, a website that highlights the good things the rich and famous do through their nonprofit work. Content from his website is now a highly praised book—"The Joey Parker Movement: Against All Odds"— published in April by Jolly Fish Press with foreword written by heiress Paris Hilton.
"It proves you can embrace your entrepreneurial spirit even from your home in Idaho Falls," said Parker, a May 2013 graduate of Idaho State University's mass communications program.
Joey Parker with Katie Couric at Sundance
Parker launched The Joey Parker Movement website in 2009, shortly after he graduated from high school. He'd returned from a trip to Africa where he worked with school children and orphans whose parents had died of AIDS.
"I felt as if I wanted to contribute something to the world, and thought blogging would be a good start," he said.
At first, Parker wrote about his experiences in Africa. Fueled by an interest in pop culture and social activism, he soon included stories about celebrities who were doing their part to change the world through charitable and philanthropic work.
"I started reaching out to celebrities via Twitter," Parker said.
And many reached back—including high-profile celebs like tennis great Serena Williams and actors Denise Richards, Lisa Rinna, Sophia Bush and Avan Jogia.
"I think they saw that I was not trying to tear them down, but lift them up," said Parker, who is quick to separate his brand of celebrity news from the snark and gossip that line supermarket racks.
It proves you can embrace your entrepreneurial spirit even from your home in Idaho Falls.
— Joey Parker
"I think it's a shift in the way our generation is thinking. I think that we're tired of the negativity and the cycle of vicious bullying and hateful energy that's being put out there," said Parker.
Parker's website has a following in more than 100 countries and served as the impetus for his new book. It highlights the positive work of celebrities while telling Parker's personal struggle of growing up gay in a conservative Idaho community, coming out to his family and learning self-acceptance.
"Every chapter is a different life lesson and a different theme, and I just really wanted to write a book that would help other kids going through what I've been through," said Parker.
Lance Bass with Joey Parker at Sundance
Parker gives his education at ISU high marks. "It was a great experience for me. Everyone was very supportive. I had so many great professors," he said.
While a student, he landed the job as a featured writer for MTV Act. In January, MTV sent him to Park City, Utah, to cover the Sundance Film Festival where he interviewed Oscar winner Anne Hathaway, acclaimed English actor and model Keira Knightley, and pop singer and best-selling author Lance Bass.
Parker is clearly charting a career path on his own terms. His advice to others embarking on a similar journey?
Find your passion, your voice and be persistent. "Push on. Push forward. Brush your failures aside and keep going," he said.