Shanna (AKA Shanna) is a Richmond, VA based blogger, TV style expert and freelance PR coordinator for Sarah Olivia Marketing. Follow her on Instagram @meeandminnie where she sometimes post outfits but mostly post IG stories of her cat.
Brands not inviting a SINGLE woman of color influencer on press trips: a tale that’s as old as the times we were told to not wear white after Labor Day, that black and blue don’t match, mixing patterns is a no-no, and never be caught dead in a denim-on-denim ensemble. If these old and antiquated ideas about fashion have been put to rest, why not the idea of brands excluding influencers of color from their press trips or campaigns?
The issue surrounding a lack of diversity in the fashion influencer space is not a new one. It’s been spoken about at length, with major publications from BOF to Forbes penning essays about the need for equal representation. Over the past few years, major brands have been called to the carpet for lacking diversity in their campaigns. Brands from Athelta to BooHoo, to Revolve and the whole #revolvesowhite issue—something they have yet to address—have been the subject of diversity consumer researched articles, personal op-eds, and the wrath of social media about their blatant disregard of the need for diversity.
Obviously, this is a problem. I could go the “POC want to be able to see themselves” route with my “why diversity matters” argument; according to a recent Google survey, 75% percent of black millennials want to see more diversity in ads. But I’m going to do you one better, because that argument seems to be falling on deaf ears. No matter the color of the person who spends it, money is green, and I was under the assumption that brands wanted money, so why the hell would you not want to include my skin color in your marketing material? According to a 2019 University of Georgia study, minority markets spend a combined $3.9 trillion dollars on everything from beauty to fashion to health and wellness. Of that, Hispanic Americans take the lead with $1.5 trillion in spending, African Americans with $1.3 trillion, Asian Americans with $1 trillion, and Native Americans with $115 billion. Dat’s a whole lotta green brands are missing out on if the aforementioned minorities decide to collectively not shop with brands who don’t showcase diversity. Whew chile!
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How long you think it’s gonna take for the tree to realize I’m not a flower? | ? @sandyswaggerjones
And I don’t want to downplay or make light of the feelings minority groups have when we’re not included in campaigns. It’s a painful reminder of the spaces we were once not welcome in, and in some cases, still aren’t. It keeps a nagging question in the back of our minds: “are we good enough?” The answer is hell yes, but the question lingers anyway. As a blogger, I find myself sometimes modeling after my white counterparts because maybe it will make me more marketable and help me land campaigns. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t! But when we express our disappointment at being excluded, we’re told we are overreacting, we need to get over it, and (what’s funny as sh*t to me) we are being racist! So I thought a lesson in consumer diversity was better illustrated on a financial level, since a human one seems to be going over some folks’ heads.
Last week, Alicia Tenise, a D.C. based fashion and travel blogger, gave a mini Ted Talk about the lack of diversity on press trips. She stated she’d been invited on just two trip so far this year (need I remind you, 2019 is more than halfway over), despite having over 22,000 followers. Alicia then screenshotted pictures of press trips she’d seen with zero influencers of color, shared those pictures via her Twitter account, and it racked up 13,000 likes.
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). pic.twitter.com/Zftn8ZBIhD
— Alicia (@AliciaTenise) June 20, 2019
Since then, Alicia’s tweet has been the latest centerpiece of a number of articles discussing brand diversity over the past week. I’d sort of forgotten about Alicia’s tweet until another blogger I follow shared a shout-out from a blogger who happened to be on one of the press trips Alicia called out, which no WOC had attended. I decided to head to the brand’s account, @amaryllis_apparel, and leave a comment asking why no influencers of color were in attendance. No more than 10 minutes later did I find they deleted my comment…..the damn nerve, but not a surprising one.
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Surely this was a slip of a finger, so I posted my comment again and sent them a DM with the same question. I then went on a mini IG Ted Talk of my own about the issue, again calling the brand out, and a few of my followers left comments of their own inquiring “Where the black gals at”????
Update: As of this article, @amaryllis_apparel has yet to respond to my comment or DM but had not deleted anything, so I guess that’s progress.
So you agree? You think this is really f*cked up?
HOW CAN YOU BE AN ALLY, YOU ASK? Yes, white women, I’m speaking to you! I was asked this question, and my answer is simple: ask where the influencers of color are. Oh, you thought I was going to suggest marching out into the streets and protesting, burning the clothes on social media, or threatening to boycott? I mean, you can do all that if you want, but a simple ask would do the trick. When brands start to see the women they market to (white women) take issue with the lack of color, they will listen. For influencers who are being invited on these trips, speak up! Let them know you’re not comfortable working with a brand that doesn’t work to showcase diversity. Ask them what they are doing to be more inclusive. If you know an influencer of color who would be great for a campaign or press trip, tell that to the brand.
But, ultimately, it’s up to the brands to decide that they want to listen to what their customers are telling them. Dear brands: diversity is not varying shades of tan on identical-looking white girls. Here are some ways to actually add diversity to your next press trip or campaign!
It’s hard to showcase diversity in front of the camera if there is none behind it, so hire more minorities. I happen to be the PR coordinator for a digital marketing agency, so if you need help, hit me up. Shameless plug, yes, but the help is far from it!
Instagram has these things called hashtags that I’m told I need to widen my visibility so people can find me. The ones I use, #ootdblackgirl, #wocblogger, #youbelongnow, and #browngirlbloggers, have been helpful to me for finding other WOC influencers to follow, and I’m sure you can use them to find WOC influencers for your next campaign or press trip.
Did you know there are influencer marketing agencies that have been created just for WOC??? Brown Girl Bloggers, Black Girl Digital and SHADE are a few that come to mind, but I’m sure a quick Google search will yield more results.
But if you have no desire to use any of my tips, do me a favor? When you knowingly make the decision to exclude influencers of color from press trips, campaigns, your Instagram feed, and website, KEEP THAT SAME ENERGY when you’re called out for it! When the comments section of an IG post is lit, your DM’s are bursting at the seams with questions, and you’re the latest subject of articles discussing a lack of diversity, don’t get silent, don’t ignore, don’t give us that tired-ass “We hear you, we value you and all our customers and will do better” bullsh*t. And for the love of God, don’t delete comments (third jab’s a charm @amaryllis_apparel)! The same energy you had choosing the influencers to invite on your trip is the same energy I want you to have doing damage control by sticking to that ignorance. It’s okay to say out loud that you don’t value me, because I already see it.
I have no idea how long this latest round of conversations calling for “more diversity” will be a hot topic, but just know, it should always be a hot topic until it’s become reality.
And to @amaryllis_apparel, thank you for showing me what your true colors are—or in this case, lack thereof—by deleting my comment, not responding to my concerns, or giving me the standard “We hear you, we value you and all our customers and will do better” mess. I appreciate knowing where you stand and I will happily take my money elsewhere. I mean, Target has cuter swimsuits anyway!
Images: AliciaTenise / Twitter