I am a Black influencer. I’ve been a Black influencer for 10 years. In the beginning I was one of very few Black women in this space, constantly watching my White and Asian counterparts enjoy opportunities that were very seldom offered to me. But allow me to start closer to the beginning.
I want to share some of my experiences (my blog until recently was called Stuff She Likes). Because of the way I look I have been on both spectrum’s of racism. Both blatantly happening to me and when people in the room don’t realize I am black, having to hear their true thoughts on Black people surface. Towards the middle of my blogging career I went blonde and that is where a lot of my questionable experiences started to happened..
So here goes. I am the type of person who has always gravitated towards having a very diverse group of friends. I have friends of every race. As anyone who knows me will tell you. Yet there was a point where somehow I found myself in the blogging world with more White blogger “friends” than not and from there past trauma with “subtle” racism began to surface.
The quiet pauses when something strange would occur and I would mention to my white friends that racism was most likely the culprit. The times when my white blogger buds would get 3 to 5 times more money for the same jobs. It’s funny when you have white blogger friends how you start to really understand the disparity in payments. For example, there was a time when a fellow blogger friend was paid 30k for the same campaign I was offered 4k for 6 months earlier. That is a 26 thousand dollar difference for the same job. Think about that! Think about what that does to the mind of Black bloggers black creators and black people in the work place who this happens to all the time. Here’s the thing, myself and this person were with the same blogger agency at the time and my agent wanted me to take that 4k. I left that agency soon after.
Just this year another agency wanted to possibly represent me..one I had been with in the past. We hopped on a call after several emails. The conversation was going fine until she asked me the average rate I get myself for partnerships. Instead of telling her, I asked her what rate she would get me for a partnership? I wanted to know what she thought my work as a creator/blogger was worth? Her answer was 5 timeless less than I get for myself. 5 times!
This is what Black people especially Black women are forced to navigate through daily. There have been countless events, brand lunches and dinners where I’m the only Black person in the room. Black people learn to work our way through this because it’s so often our reality.
I once had a friend, someone who actually at the beginning of her blogger career came to me for blogging advice. She took me to lunch because she wanted to pick my brain just a few years earlier. One night we were at an event that was playing all hip hop and rap music and me being a hip hip lover, I was dancing and rapping every word to every song that came on. Purely for a moment enjoying myself. My joy was quickly stolen when she turned to me and whispered in my ear, ”you love your RAPPP music”. Now on its face that does not seem like anything bad, but it was the way in which it was said and what felt like the intention behind it that stopped me in my tracks. Black people know when someone is being racist even when the person does not even know themselves. Honestly not sure that is ever the case though. We know. It’s a physical feeling that I can’t quite describe.
This is the last story I will tell here because from here I just want to focus on the positive.
This one cut the most..
A couple years ago I was a guest at a beautiful dinner for a huge established designer whom I had admired for years. This designer has been in the business for 30 or so years and my mom wore her clothes when I was a kid. So it was a special moment to me. I was seated next to this designer along with a famous white actress at a small table with both influencers and fashion writers. I am pretty sure I was the only black person at the table but I guest this designer didn’t realize that I was Black. This was maybe a month after the 2018 MET ball. It was a historic MET ball because more Black actors and artists were invited than any past Met Ball. We were all sitting after dinner having a very lovely conversation. Then the MET ball came up. Out of nowhere this designer said, “well this year it was the Black Ball! Everyone on the red carpet was BLACK!” It was said with such venom.
I remember heat coming over my body and I actually began to sweat. I thought to myself “did she just say that?” I don’t remember what I said or if I said anything at all, although I am sure I did in some don’t make her uncomfortable way. Something Black people are forced to do often. I was in shock. You see that year my beautiful cousin Issa Rae attended the MET ball and I remember watching her on the red carpet and being so proud and filled with joy. Seeing Issa and so many Black actors and producers there was a really great feeling.
Yet over the next 30 minutes that feeling was trampled on as this designer preceded to say some version of her “Black Ball MET GALA” comment at 5 more times. I assume waiting for someone to validate her racism, and yes I was counting because it was the only thing I could focus on from that point on at that dinner and yet still for the rest of the evening I had to suck it up, smile and pretend that I was okay. I most certainly was not okay.
These few experiences are just a fraction of the Racism I have encountered as a Black influencer. I tell these stories now in hopes that White people are reading this and understanding what Black people go through. Like I said in my video yesterday, Black people have life long racial trauma and racism is itself is never just a blanket act. It shows its ugly face in many forms both big and small, blatant and under the radar.