V Pappas, former CEO of TikTok, went viral when they came out as nonbinary

V Pappas, former CEO of TikTok, went viral when they came out as nonbinary

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V Pappas

Name: V Pappas, 44

Bio: Corporate tech leader V Pappas grew up in Australia, and are half-Greek by birth.

At 20 years old, they moved to London, and then eventually on to New York. They joined a tech company called Next New Networks, which was bought by YouTube in 2011. There, Pappas quickly ascended the ranks, penning a book along the way telling creators how to best monetize their content.

Pappas jumped from YouTube to TikTok in 2018 to become its general manager and head of North America. They became TikTok’s COO in late 2020, after the platform saw a surge in new users and creators during the pandemic.

Coming out: V Pappas may not be a household name but TikTok, which they presided over until this summer, continues to make headlines and gain users. Leading a social media platform that generated its fair share of controversy was enough to ensure Pappas’s name appeared in the press from time to time. In February, they made headlines for other reasons when they came out as nonbinary.

Pappas posted a statement on LinkedIn and Twitter.

“A few of you have noticed that I have updated my personal pronouns both on [business networking tool] lark and across socials so I wanted to share here with you all on why now and why it matters for me,” they began.

“As most of you know I take a lot of lessons from being a parent. Often my kids provide me with an ability for self reflection through their questions and own exploration of ideas. I am pansexual and raising my kids in a same-sex household with my loving spouse and partner of 20 years – as a family we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of recognizing diversity across sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, age, socio-economic status, personal abilities, political backgrounds etc.

“Most recently our conversation has focused on gender identity. In my personal life, I primarily go by V and more recently they/them. Since representation matters, I recognize the importance of language in identifying and affirming gender differences. As a parent I also want to set an example on how it is ok to represent yourself in a way that you most identify with and to have pride and to celebrate such difference.

“In my position I am also aware of how I have an ability to bring greater visibility, discussion and ideally acceptance within my community whether among work, family or friends. This is important to me.

“So while most of you know me as being fairly private as it relates to my personal life I did feel it important to bring my whole self to work and to share my gender identity and preferred pronouns.

“So how to best address me? I use both they/them and she/her as I still very much value my identity as being both a woman and non-binary. I don’t worry if you don’t use V or they/them all the time, but I do appreciate the effort to recognize my preferences. Thank you.”

V and C.C. Pappas
V Pappas (right) with their wife, C.C.

Pappas took over the running of TikTok in North America in 2018. At the time, the platform was facing criticism from then-President Donald Trump, because it’s owned by the China-based company ByteDance. Many lawmakers continue to have fears over the amount of data TikTok holds over its users, and what it does with that data.

Last year, Pappas appeared before Congress to defend the app.

TikTok has also faced criticism for restricting LGBTQ+ content in certain countries. In September 2022, TikTok apologized for removing queer content. Going forward, the company promised it would only take such action under the orders of law enforcement.

Pappas announced in June they were stepping down as chief of TikTok. In a statement posted to Twitter, they celebrated how the brand had grown in five years. They called it “the last sunny spot on the internet.”

“Given all the success reached at TikTok, I finally feel the time is right to move on and refocus on my entrepreneurial passions. Few had imagined what the last five years would look like and with all the incredible innovation happening now with generative AI, robotics, renewable energy, genomics, blockchain and the IoT [the Internet of Things], clearly the future will again look much different.”

Whatever Pappas does next, expect it to be at the cutting edge of communication technology and video. It will inevitably encourage and support diverse creators and users.


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