The influencer market has become one of the most fruitful ways to make money. I’ve always had a love for putting clothes together, so when I decided to take a stab at being a fashion influencer I assumed it would be effortless. Tools like Youtube and Instagram have made it easy to create a very lucrative income. Brands send you products, you promote them on your social media platforms, they send you a check, then repeat. Part of joining the now over-saturated influencer market is attending events and going on trips. The sole purpose of the trips, other than partaking in fun workshops, excursions and dinners, is to post your whereabouts to social media. The more your followers witnessed you having a good time on the brand’s dime, the more likely people would engage them.
Often times, companies look for influencers that embody their brand. When it comes to evaluating who they’re going to spend their money on, there is an obvious lack of diversity. I’ve noticed it. I’ve experienced it. The influencer table that we all want a seat at is extremely small and selective when it comes to Black women. Blogger Alicia Tenise took notice of this issue and decided to voice it via Twitter. In a tweet she wrote, “Black influencers are rarely ever invited on influencer trips. I’ve started screenshotting every press trip I’ve seen over the last month and the lack of diversity is so upsetting (but not surprising).”
There is absolutely no secret how powerful the Black dollar is. Alicia backed up her observation with screenshots of recent Influencer trips and the statistics on Black buying power. Another follower co-signed in another tweet, highlighting the specific markets we spend the most in. Although she was met with tons of criticism on Twitter, Alicia had a very valid point. Much like most of the entertainment industry, women of color are often overlooked for the same opportunities that non women of color are booked for.
I reached out to a few Black beauty and fashion bloggers to test Alicia’s theory. Beyond influencer trips, are the opportunities the same for Black women? Celeste Reed, hairstylist and influencer from Chicago said, “I feel the influencer market is not inclusive to women of color. I find it hard to get campaigns, especially being of darker skin tone. I often seen non WOC receiving bigger brand deals. Also, non WOC receive more/bigger paid opportunities in the influencer market, simply because of ethnicity.”
Sabrina Servance, plus size fashion influencer and star of Lifetime Network’s Big Women, Big Love, said, “I feel like the influencer market isn’t as inclusive as it could be. Are brands trying ? Sure. At the same time, a lot of companies are using people who are racially ambiguous and not showing women with dark skin. Which can often feel like, ‘Look here’s a person of color. Stop saying we aren’t diverse!!’ So many brands also make the mistake of adapting aspects of our culture and not actually utilizing us or consulting us to execute it properly. Sometimes it feels like they’re pandering to us. It can be disingenuous.”
Influencer Samjah Iman from New Orleans realized through the lack of inclusion that this isn’t a market she feels she belongs in. “I believe it’s (influencer market) not balanced at all. When it comes to opportunities, most brands lean more towards majority influencers. Truthfully, I don’t desire to work with those brands that don’t see my value. They can have that.”
Blogger Louise Messinga from NYC agreed and added, “Right now in the beauty market women of color are finally starting to be recognized, thanks to Fenty! I’ve gone to so many events for influencers and normally you can count the amount of women of color in the room on one hand. The only time we’re recognized is when it’s an event made for us by us.”
Women of color spend a lot of time proving that we belong. We have to work ten times as hard as our caucasian counterparts to get the same recognition. To Louise’s point, we have Black owned brands and companies that are committed to working with women of color. Still, there is a long list of companies that are financially supported by Black people yet they’re not reflected in their pool of influencers. This continues the conversation of redirecting the Black dollar. If brands felt the sting of our absence, would they recognize us as good enough to be in partnership with them? What do you think? Is the influencer market inclusive to women of color?