In 2007; before the advent of Instagram, the takeoff of the style blog, during moment in time when the word influencer didn’t exist as a job title; there was a group of men and women who watched fashion intently from the outside. Long seen as an industry meant for editors, socialites, designers, and models, the rest of us used to wait with baited breath for magazine issues to drop giving us insight on what was en vogue for the season. Then, without warning came a new type of journalism – fashion bloggers.
Blazing onto the scene turning the world on its head as lay-people offered commentary on runway shows, took photos of looks inspired by said shows, and suddenly there was someone else to listen to. But like the industry it derives from fashion blogging is just another entity that continues to fail black people, especially women, time and time again. Now ten years later when anyone can become an authority on style through the use of their iPhone and amass a following via an app, it is painfully clear that the access given to white and other select WOC bloggers is not meant for Black women.
Recently there was an uproar on Instagram after a photo appeared on the Revolve brand account showcasing a group of influencers on a press trip in Thailand. Looking at the photo you are instantly met with the faces of the same girls that happen to be invited on most of these trips. All sample sized and mostly white, with a few token ethnic girls thrown in, the image is nothing new. As someone who has closely monitored and been an active participant in this space for the better part of a decade – I expect it. I am not shocked by the lack of diversity or the overt way that brands refuse to engage with Black bloggers in the same way they do white ones. What is bothersome is once again a brand is met with questions about their common practice and per usual the silence is deafening.
Before micro-blogging became a thing, bloggers were working their way into the hearts of readers through their writing, their mood boards, and photography. The notion that, you too could be a part of the game, was more real. Now the landscape has changed in that no matter how much work you put in on your blog – it’s the social following that seems to matter most. While Instagram itself is confusing to navigate, the idea that all you need is great photography to be noticed, is a farce. What these bloggers fail to realize is that even with the wardrobe, styling savvy, and photography to get you invited to the dance, it is the access to the industry that matters most. And that ticket is most always – tan, bland, and brunette.
In a message regarding the aforementioned photo, prominent digital influencer Aimee Song stated, “sometimes I wonder if it’s just that there aren’t many “known” influencers that are POC or if it’s merely that the POC don’t get the same opportunities as white people?” While I personally have followed Aimee, have read her book, and paid close attention to her career; the tone deafness of this statement rings loudly. The naivety in thinking there are no Black women influencers with the same amount of influence as white bloggers is outlandish and offensive. The truth of the matter is there a multitudes of Black women bloggers who are vying for their chance to be noticed but never get the opportunity because they are denied access to the places and spaces white women are allowed in. Further, even if there are some women of color who are granted access to events, press trips, front row seats during fashion week they are usually “digitally passing”, a term coined by a digital strategist Maya Francis. Meaning their ethnicity is acceptable because they can blend in with the white women surrounding them. Bloggers like Aimee, Jules of Sincerely Jules, Olivia of Corporate Catwalk, and more are allowed to rub elbows with the other women because they are the people of color that are more palpable to white audiences.
The naivety in thinking there are no Black women influencers with the same amount of influence as white bloggers is outlandish and offensive.
Take for example the highly regarded, Like To Know It app, used largely by many bloggers as a way to gain notoriety and earn money from their blog posts. LTKI does not actively repost or support Black women en masse on their platform. Several larger bloggers in the space have attributed a spike in their following and growth to being reposted by brand accounts or feeds like Like to Know it, but what if that chance is never given? Then certainly it will be easy to assume that we simply do not exist because we aren’t on the radar. Which then would allow non Black bloggers to insinuate that there cannot possibly any Black women motivating purchases, introducing products to legions of women, or simply inspiring people with their sense of style. Which we ALL know is untrue.
Diversity is quite the buzzword these days. Yet the issue with a word like diversity being thrown around loosely, is that people forget it is the byproduct of an action. That action is inclusion. If you fail to include those who are missing, you certainly cannot expect them to be represented. Blogging has grown vastly and quickly in the last ten years. Not only as a new form of journalism but also as a method of e-commerce, how ironic is it that Black users make up 51% of Instagram’s users, as told by Nielsen’s African American diverse report, but are left out of the conversation when it comes to driving purchasing power? How then are companies able to keep making moves without the presence of Black women? How is fashion blogging in particular an industry that operates like a high school clique, only allowing a chosen few sit at the center table?
While I won’t be giving up my blog anytime soon and will continue to focus on putting out authentic content for my audience, I urge the girls sitting at the top to start taking a closer look at who is sitting next to them. Pay attention to the fact that you only see the same group of girls invited to shows, press dinners, trips around the world, and ask yourself – is fashion really just one color fits all?
What are your thoughts on this issue? How do you propose we change the game? Let’s talk it out!
Wow this has so much truth to it. I caught wind of the Revolve situation as it was happening and I can’t say that I’m surprised. Besides Jackie Aina, I tend to see little to no Black women recruited for these types of opportunities. I’m grateful that Valerie has chosen to call them out on it as well as raise awareness of black content creators who match the influence of our white counterparts. We must continue to shake the table!
I also want to say that I feel as though we cannot simply expect these brands to just let us in, especially if their board rooms don’t contain Black people/POC in these jobs, making these decisions. There has to be more representation among the brands themselves.
I agree Danielle, it all has to begin at the top. It’s only then that we’ll begin to experience the trickle down at the bottom. Thanks for reading!
I 100% agree with this post. To be honest, it wasn’t until I joined a facebook group that I realized just how many WOC have amazing blogs. Not that I didn’t know we existed, but I was shocked at the sheer number of us, because just searching for blogs you come across mostly one type of female blogger. Glad I read this.
I’m so glad you’ve been able to discover more Black bloggers Sherri! We are definitely here and deserve to be seen. Thanks for reading!
Thanks for the insight on this topic. Yes, diversity is definitely the buzz word, but I think people like to say it more than actually have to do something to make it happen. There needs to be a conscious effort, not just a passive statement or catchy slogan, made by the fashion industry in order for something to change.
I agree! Everyone gives the illusion of being diverse but we see little to no change in these companies. I’m happy more black women are branching out and creating platforms of their own.
So many great points. It’s nerve wracking that people find a way to justify the relentless and unfair misrepresentation of black female content creators. I hope to be one of the ones to help break the mold, and show others like us that it IS possible for anyone. I’m looking forward to positive changes in the industry, but unfortunately I don’t think there will be much of a big leap within the next few years or so. maybe that’s just being pessimistic: I’m open to the possibility of positive change starting soon. But first I think we need to stick together and demand it. If we keep sweeping it under the rug or making excuses, we’ll just continue to be taken advantage of.
Maybe we need to stop depending on people to validate our skills and worth; no matter what color they are or how influential they are. It’s true that sometimes a big break can catapult one into stardom, but sometimes the stars that just seem to have emerged from the darkness, have been there the whole time toiling away and perfecting their craft. The reality is that most success doesn’t happen overnight, and if people value what we bring to the table, word will spread.
I have so so so much to say about this topic. 1.) Aimee sounds ignorant. 2.) We need to call out more brands (have you seen the new Tarte foundations?) 😒. 3.) You are the best for writing this. 4.) We need to tell brands our worth and demand them to pay attention. 💁🏽
You’re so right Amber, we definitely have to be more proactive in challenging the status quo. You can certainly count on me continuing to do just that. Thank you for reading!
[…] article led to several others, including Hautemommie.com’s powerful post, “How the Blogging Industry Continues to Fail Black Women”, which uncovered further discoveries of how black beauty influencers have been excluded from […]
Thank you for the post! I feel even more discouraged to start blogging. I’ve had a descent career that’s kept a roof over my head and food to eat but I’ve been miserable! So I started researching and blogging, sounded like an AMAZING gig!! My dreams to travel the world seemed more doable. After reading your post my worst fear has been confirmed. I had it in the back of my mind wether my dark skin tone would be a hindrance to achieve success:( It sounds like it… please email me Leslie! Thanks again for this post.