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Trend Lightly: Fashion Influencing While Black

Amanda Johnson
August 11, 2020

Being a Black blogger in the world of influencers is a unique experience. You never know whether or not your personal brand just doesn’t fit that company, or if it’s something more. It’s being told you don’t fit the “demographic” of who the company’s target audience is. It’s wondering why brands who seem to have an endless influencer marketing budget seem to never have enough to pay you in particular. These are just some of the things  that cross the minds of Black influencers (and influencers of color in general) on a day to day basis. 

The beginning of June brought about a massive amount of change for a lot of Black influencers. The Black Lives Matter movement exploded and suddenly became a “trend” people wanted to be a part of. This also brought about an explosion of sorts for many Black bloggers and influencers. I personally gained around 10,000 followers in a few weeks, and I know so many other Black influencers who gained roughly this amount or even more! 

When discussing this increase with other Black influencers, we almost felt guilty at first. The fact that it almost seemed like we were profiting off of the movement felt disingenuous. But then, we started to pivot our thinking a bit. We have all been creating amazing content for years, but haven’t received the recognition or brand partnerships that we deserved. Always feeling as if we will never fully measure up to the stereotypical standard of what an “influencer” is. But after discussions with my colleagues on places like my weekly IGTV chats, we started to pivot our thinking.

We wanted to show that we could still share fashion and lifestyle tips, but that it wouldn’t detract from who we are at our core. That we can be educated, powerful, makers of change, and still love to shop at our favorite retailers. The juxtaposition of the two is what truly makes Black creators stand out in my opinion. We offer more than just “buy this top because I like it.” We offer substance, depth, and creativity too. This is why having more diversity in influencer campaigns is so important!

I think the first thing that is needed from marketers is the acknowledgement that the lack of diversity in their programs is the symptom of a deeper issue. I have been on many corporate teams, and the lack of diversity is very apparent! It may not be an intentional lack of diversity; however, if there is one, it is important to be up front about this and to then share your plans to implement change. 

The most important part is to make sure there is follow through. Black Out Tuesday showed how performative some influencers and brands could be. They shared a black square, featured Black influencers for a week, and then moved on as if nothing had happened. Be an ally, and then follow through on your promises! If you wish to diversify your staff, make sure to have a diverse panel of employees interviewing candidates. If you’re wanting to diversify your feed, try to do so by sharing a variety of races and also sizes/shapes of women. The standard is not just a size 2!

This brings me to another important aspect of the movement. Now, more than ever, it’s important for marketers to diversify their influencer rosters. There are a few simple, and authentic ways to do so without looking performative. 

  • Actively seek out a variety of Black content creators! Try to find influencers in a multitude of niches (i.e. home decor, fashion, lifestyle, beauty, etc.). I promise you that they are there if you look for them. This will allow you to have an impact in more areas than one!
  • Find Black influencers and authentically engage with them. The worst part of pitches is when a brand says they “love my feed,” but can’t actually tell me what they love about it. I get more excited to create content for brands who show an interest in what I’m all about! This is just an important tip in general, but with Black influencers it’s a great way to add diversity, while doing so in a genuine way. 
  • Put your money where your mouth is. There were many brands that started to do a huge, performative, diversity push about a month ago, but suddenly their budgets for creators dried up. If you want to give Black influencers the opportunities they deserve, please make sure to pay them what their non-POC counterparts are being paid. 

Performative allyship is not allyship. Black content creators have finally started to get the recognition they deserve for the hard work they have been putting in over the past decade or so! They add value as much as any other influencer, and bring perspectives you might not have seen before. Making sure to authentically integrate their content into your influencer campaigns is the easiest way to show that you value them. By adding diversity to your roster, you are showing that Black influencers also belong in this space, and that we add value too. 

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