This post is a follow-up to The Truth About NYFW, an opinion piece penned in February 2015. Sentiments below are my own and do not reflect the sentiments of any brands or entities I’m affiliated with. Just keepin’ it 100.
I often get lauded as a lifestyle blogger of color for having a platform that caters specifically to women of color. I created the LoveBrownSugar brand and its sister brands (BabyBrownSugar and BrownGirlsLove) because of the lack of diversity I saw in the media industry. I wanted to create spaces where women who looked like me and who were proud of their skin tones, their curves, their curly hair and everything in between that made them unique, could come and dish on all things lifestyle. My platform and my brands have always been primarily for women of color, and I’m not the least bit apologetic about that.
What has surprised me though, about having a quote on quote “niche” audience in the lifestyle space, is that it comes with very interesting labels and subsequent treatment. You’d think, considering platforms for women of color, by women of color, are typically created with positive intentions and also to help encourage diversity, that they would help usher in and open up broader conversations about the importance of black dollars. Sometimes they do, and when that happens it’s awesome. We jump up and down. We twirl in a circle. We stand in formation (thanks Bey). We millie rock on every block. But then. Then, there are the days like Monday. When we scroll through Instagram only to find a fellow influencer of color like Jessica Franklin of HeyGorJess post something like this:
I recently received an email from a clothing company, @shoplondonboutique (they keep changing their Instagram name now), asking to collaborate. When I kindly and professionally declined to work with them, they replied with the above comments. Words can’t even express how angry I feel about this but I do want to make sure that my ENTIRE audience knows how they feel. (www.shoplondon-la.com)
Appalled? Shocked? Blown? I’m not. It’s sad and incredibly unfortunate but when I saw Jessica’s Instagram post yesterday I was angry but NOT SURPRISED. I said to myself,
“Wow. Somebody finally owned up to not wanting to market to black people.”
It may surprise you but what I’ve grown to accept in my former 6 years as a digital influencer is that many of the companies that we, as consumers of color, support on a regular basis really could care less about marketing directly to us. This response from ShopLondon-LA boutique is proof. Granted, there are quite a few speculations about the background (and mental sanity?) of the owner behind this company but that’s beside the point. The company reached out to Jessica about a partnership with her blog, then when she declined the opportunity, subsequently deemed it a mistake stating that they “are not looking for a black audience”. Her audience is black. And not what they wanted.
This is real life when blogging while black.
It has become strikingly clear to me that some brands appreciate our money but don’t want to be affiliated with us. And it’s an incredibly sad but true reality that some marketing departments won’t even reach out and offer opportunities to “niche” bloggers because they don’t want to cater their brands to diverse audiences. They don’t want to sit with us. So why should they spend marketing dollars on us?
You become incredibly aware of your blackness when you work in this industry. In my post The Truth About NYFW that I penned exactly one year ago, I expressed my sentiment about this. You start to realize, when there are only one or two fellow black girls in the room at press events, backstage at shows during NYFW, on the runway or on set for photo shoots for national campaigns, how different you really are and how little the fashion industry cares about diversity and representation.
Approaching my 13th consecutive season here in NYC during NYFW, it’s a sad reality but I am attending and supporting less and less runway shows and doing way less backstage coverage than ever before. “I’m over it” is an understatement. Controversial situations like Jessica’s demonstrate a mentality that is not discussed but that is widespread in this industry.
So, I can hear you asking me – well, what do we do? How can I help? How can we change things? You know I would never come to the table with a problem without a solution.
The solution is to be the change we want to see. That has always been my solution and it should be yours as well. I hated the fact that women of color have so much spending power but companies don’t care about us. So, I created the Shop LoveBrownSugar holiday pop-up shop to help support black and female-owned businesses annually during the holiday season.
I hated that after years of working in the fashion and beauty industries, it was still a FIGHT to get invited to shows by designers who could care less about reaching my audience. So, this season I’m bypassing all that and instead I am proud to be a Social Media Hostess for Texture on the Runway – NYFW’s premiere textured hair fashion show that caters specifically to celebrating diverse women with curly hair.
It’s being presented by NaturallyCurly with exclusive retailer sponsor Target and myself and many of my favorite influencers (including HeyGorJess!) will be in the building. The brands represented at the show (like Cantu, Design Essentials, Creme of Nature, Dark & Lovely and Garnier) celebrate diversity and inclusion and I am proud to be part of something during NYFW that makes me feel good and will empower and unite women across the board.
I created LBS because I couldn’t stand reading print magazines and online media that didn’t cater to me. So now, I align only with publications that I feel stress and encourage diversity. That’s why I’m a proud ambassador for magazines like People StyleWatch and their digital property TheOutfit. They’ve placed a great emphasis on making sure women of different sizes, skin tones, and backgrounds are represented in their pages. Something that the rest of the editorial world can take a cue from.
The sad reality is, brands like ShopLondon-LA will ALWAYS be around and the people behind them will continue to be closed-minded and prejudiced. Be mindful of who you give your support to and know that every dollar counts.
Thoughts? What would YOU do to create change?
Photography by Augusta Sagnelli