Grant Sikes tells me she has ambitions of going into law, double-majoring in criminal justice and political science. “It was because I watched How To Get Away With Murder,” she laughs. “I wanted Annalise Keating to be my professor.” Sikes, the University of Alabama student the internet crowned as one of Bama Rush’s main characters this year, is passionate about bettering the world. “You can move people with law and change things, and so that's one of the main reasons [I’m going into law],” says Sikes.
She’s already well on her way to changing things. During Sikes’ first year at the University of Alabama, she befriended sorority girls who encouraged her to rush the following fall. Having no idea of the media’s obsession with Bama Rush on TikTok the previous year, she went in full throttle with her signature optimism and confidence. “I liked that whole type of sisterhood bond and I was like, I want that. And so that's what led me to take part in rush,” says Sikes. She went viral for the OOTDs she posted during rush, and for being one of the only nonbinary participants documenting their sorority experience online. “I had no intention of even posting about it,” says Sikes. “I was like, nobody cares about little Grant in Alabama.” Evidently, she was wrong. Now, the 19-year-old has over 100,000 followers on TikTok.
Even though Sikes didn’t end up getting a bid from any Bama chapters, she did become a new voice of Gen Z, putting out an Instagram statement where she said she was “hopeful of a future where everyone is welcomed for just being themselves.”
Sikes is just like any other college student, though. She uses emojis excessively, watches Gossip Girl, and listens to Taylor Swift. The newfound fame and media frenzy haven’t seemed to affect her attitude in the slightest — she’s still worried about class assignments and enjoys splurging on Chik-Fil-A.
Alabama born and bred, Sikes knew she was capable of things larger than herself and where she grew up. She decided to attend the University of Alabama to stay close to her unconditionally supportive family, but Sikes isn’t your typical Bama student. For one, she goes to one of the biggest football schools in the U.S. and yet couldn’t care less about the sport. But also, Sikes isn’t a cookie-cutter southern belle. She isn’t bright blonde or Lily Pulitzer-obsessed. Instead, she has a bold and one-of-a-kind style, an unapologetic attitude, and James Charles-level makeup skills.
Sikes speaks of Rush fondly. She got to meet a bunch of girls she now views as friends, and her virality presented her with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become an influencer. “It was the best experience of my life and the worst. It was just so many emotions,” says Sikes.
The extensive media coverage took Sikes by surprise, too. “Like the Daily Mail, The New York Times, The Washington Post. People were reaching out and showing up to our house and wanting interviews,” Sikes recalls. “And we were just like, oh my gosh, what is going on? I'm just trying to rush here.”
While most of the response has been positive, with people online calling Sikes a trailblazer and praising her bravery, there has been some negativity. Many conservatives have criticized Sikes. Many news outlets have misgendered Sikes as transgender rather than nonbinary. When Sikes tried to combat the rumors, she was accused of lying about being transgender. “I had no idea this was gonna even be a thing at all,” Sikes explains. “I had never really talked about my gender identity. I don't feel like it's anyone's business, to be honest.”
The biggest lesson Sikes has learned is to put herself first. “Make it your journey and not everyone else's,” she says. “It's really easy to incorporate everyone else into your journey and their opinions. And it's just like, it's me. I'm gonna put me first and be there for me.”
But even with her focus on herself, Grant is still thinking about countless others who have watched her journey online. “I've gotten messages from nonbinary individuals who are like, ‘Grant, I'm coming to Bama and I'm rushing a sorority.’” Sikes says. “So it makes me happy. Hopefully, they don't use GPA or every excuse in the book [to not give a bid to] all of those people. I think it's just a positive change and a move in the right direction.”
“I've gotten thousands and thousands of messages from queer kids who don't feel accepted, even high schoolers who are freaking out about college,” says Sikes. “I was really scared about coming to a university versus high school because I wasn't really accepted in high school. So why would it be different in college? And I want people to know there are so many people in college. You'll find your people.”
Sikes doesn’t want to be your average influencer — she wants to be a friend instead. “I feel like sometimes influencers are out of touch,” says Sikes. “I don't ever want to give the impression of like, ‘Oh, I'm, I'm an influencer now. Look at me.’ No, I'm Grant. You can always text me, please.”
Due to her new online status, Sikes has been given exclusive opportunities, including any fashionista’s dream come true: attending New York Fashion Week. “Stacy Bendet [of Alice + Olivia] reached out and was like, ‘We would like for you to come and really be a part of the show.’ It was just honestly a dream come true,” Sikes says with the biggest smile. She even got to attend the coveted Revolve Party at NYFW, one of the biggest parties for influencers, with everyone from Sabrina Carpenter to James Charles — a personal fave of Sikes’.
Like many college students, Sikes dreams of moving to NYC after graduating. However, Sikes’ education and expected law degree remain her top priority, especially since she hopes to help change LGBTQIA+ legislation. “There are a lot of anti-LGBTQ laws in Alabama, and so I'm excited just to take a look at those and try to get something done. A lot of people have messaged me about not feeling comfortable talking to their family or talking to their local representatives,” says Sikes. “And I don't care, I will. Get 'em on the phone.”
As a law student coming of age during a time when many conservative politicians are advocating for laws that silence and control the LGBTQIA+ community, Sikes is making it her mission to help advocate for her peers. With Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill leading other states to create similar legislation, Sikes believes it’s more important than ever to advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community.
“[My mom] was like, ‘Grant, you could do what Kim [Kardashian] is doing with law, and you could help people,’” Sikes says, referring to how Kardashian uses her platform to advocate for wrongly accused prisoners on death row. “And I was like, ‘Girl, that is what we're doing.’”