One of the first influencers that caught our attention in the early days of Instagram was the devilishly handsome Eric Rutherford, who now has 236K eyeballs following his every move. This past Sunday, he was the charming emcee of the Coterie Awards. Meet Mr. Rutherford!
You started modeling as a child. Details, please!
I started acting when I was 11 years old, performing in local children’s theater along with my little brother. My mother wanted both of us to experience as much as we could, to shape us to be well-rounded individuals with a passion for people and life. To this day, I believe in trying new things, meeting new people, and being open to new experiences. This attitude led to us stepping in front of the camera. When I was 15 years old, a model scout discovered my little brother and me while we were riding our bikes around the neighborhood in Boca Raton, Florida. I was a gawky teenager with bad acne and even worse hair. Not sure what they saw at the time, but they believed in this “diamond in the rough.”
You spent your twenties modeling…
I did everything from catalogs to commercials with a range of brands. I wasn’t a great model or wildly gifted actor, but I worked enough, and enjoyed it. When I got accepted into USC’s BFA theater program at age 17, it was the first time I truly felt talented and that I had something to offer that was special. And maybe I could make a career out of it. I left the industry in my early thirties when I began to doubt that talent and my self-worth. I was raised with a strong work ethic, and when you work hard, treat people with respect and kindness, you find success. In both the acting and modeling industry, this isn’t always true.
What did you do professionally after you stopped modeling?
I had started to work for a friend who ran an event company while I was still acting and modeling. Once I began to doubt it, I dove into the event business even more. I was a production assistant at the beginning, learning about all the different areas of producing a great event—from lighting to sound, design to catering. I loved creating something from nothing. It was incredible to watch an entire event experience emerge from a parking lot or dirt lot when a team of talented people came together.
You also worked with Oprah Winfrey. What was that experience like?
I had the privilege of working with her for about five years. I had built a good reputation in the industry and Colin Cowie, who was producing most of Ms. Winfrey’s events at the time, reached out to me to invite me to be a part of his team. It was one of the most rewarding times of my life. We worked on her Legends Ball and many other projects, but the one that impacted me the most was helping to open her girls’ school in South Africa. To be a part of a moment that was going to change young girls’ lives—as well as their families and village—was monumental, emotional, and inspiring. I’d never believed I had the capability to play such a role. I worked with the South African teams at the different event sites, helping and sharing new skills with them. At one point, the team got a standing ovation from Ms. Winfrey and all the guests. The team was moved to tears and hugged me. They were so proud of themselves and what they’d been able to achieve. I’ll never forget that moment.
We were one of your early followers on Instagram! Why did you join initially?
I joined because my event clients wanted social media to be a part of their projects, whether it was a movie premiere or a brand launch. I participated initially so I’d understand from an audience perspective. Plus, I’ve always been a storyteller, be it through acting, writing, or imagery. I never in a million years thought I’d end up here.
You’re the king of comments. How do you do it?
I love sharing and supporting with a comment. I make the time because I believe we are in a relationship with each other. If I follow you or you follow me, we are in this journey together. I am grateful for every like, comment, and share. I love engaging with people who follow me and whom I follow. I still get tickled when someone new follows or leaves a nice comment. Sam Smith just followed me, and I yelped with glee. I also love it when I “like” someone’s picture or make a sweet comment and they repost it. If I can make someone smile, all the effort is worth it.
How do you avoid social media fatigue?
Who says I don’t? Finding a balance, taking a pause, and stepping away from it even if it’s for an hour. But I also look at social media as a responsibility. If Beyoncé and Oprah can find the time, Mr. Rutherford certainly can.
You’re not only an influencer; you’re a favorite among fashion insiders. What’s your relationship like with the industry? Why do you think we’ve adopted you?
I love this industry. At its heart, it’s a wide swath of talented, wildly creative people who are deeply passionate about telling diverse stories through content. I’m grateful to have found great support and kindness when I returned to this world, from supporters like Edward [Enninful], Ivan [Bart], Sarah Candee, Rachel Johnson, The Daily Front Row, and many more. It’s meant the world to me. PR teams are some of the hardest-working people in the business. I have a deep appreciation for what they do, and a personal understanding of what it takes to do their job.
Do you have any tips for those of us in pursuit of more followers?
Gosh, this is the million-dollar question. Everyone has an opinion. I believe: Be yourself, not someone else. Find others like you who share your interests. Attend events and support people. Be consistent in your viewpoint, and also be willing to grow. It’s an ever-changing medium. And never forget that it’s not about the “likes,” but about loving yourself and what you do.
What does your family think of your second-act success?
More like third or fourth! They’re surprised by it and supportive of it. I don’t think my parents fully understand it, but they enjoy it. My mother still calls it “The Instagram.” To tell you the truth, I’m still surprised by it.
What’s still on your bucket list?
It’s a long list. One of my items is to finish a project I just started shooting and to get it on TV. It’s a passion project about overcoming the doors that get slammed in our face because of how we look, whom we love, and how labels don’t define us.