Up until now, I’ve done an incredible job at keeping this blog light, fun, and inspirational. I flood your Instagram feeds with content that I know you’ll love, content that I love to create for you. The Melissa Chanel brand is one of positivity, inspiration, and an inside scoop of my ever-evolving world as a blogger and influencer.
But it’s time to speak up.
My timeline has been full of a conversation that, if we’re honest, a lot of WOC bloggers toss around in obscure group chats and email chains. We’ve long been frustrated with the lack of representation, opportunity, and visibility we’re given while doing the SAME EXACT WORK as other bloggers, bloggers who happen to be white. I’m so thankful for the lovely Kyrzayda and the bravery she showed yesterday when she spoke truth to power. Our girl Oprah called it—the most powerful thing we have is our ability to speak the truth, and Kyrzayda sparked a movement when she got real about how we’re given the short end of the stick when it comes to exposure and opportunity for women of color. There were others who spoke their realness, too, like Jennifer of CommeCoco, Thug Nanny, ColorMeCourtney, Nany, Leslie Antonoff, Charmsie, the list goes on. We’re simply fed up with these brands who are committed to overlooking the very influencers who spend our hard earned coin on their sites and bring business their way.
It’s not about white bloggers having better content. Our content is unparalleled. Sure, they have follower numbers in the millions, but think about the cycle: influencer posts brand, brand features influencer, influencer gains followers, brand continues to post influencer, followers increase. It’s a merry-go-round that many bloggers of color are conveniently left off of, despite our buying power being the largest. We do product reviews on hair for brands that will never feature our coils on their page. We post style guides using items from Revolve and post our Liketoknowit links without ever seeing it reposted. When is enough enough? We’ve invested our time, money, photoshoots, posts, and content to repping brands who are committed to repping anyone but us.
So what do we do?
I’m thinking it’s time we forget about asking for a seat at the table. Let’s build our own damn table.
When I decided to start blogging almost 7 years ago, I never imagined that it’d one day pay my bills. I didn’t even fathom that it’d become my career! It was simply a hobby that eventually drew the attention of brands, and free merchandise soon turned into sponsored content and then appearances. I remember when Essence magazine’s online platform featured me as a Naturalista to Watch. Little ol’ Melissa from Camden, South Carolina, on ESSENCE? If this was my trajectory, I knew I should start investing in cameras, photographers, blogging platforms, logos, etc. I invested in honing my writing abilities, creativity, and building an overall influential brand. The network of fellow bloggers and influencers who have become a part of my tribe are people I could only dream to one day meet. This is my life.
So imagine how it must feel to invest thousands, literally entire paychecks, into this influencer life, only to have the very brands you’re breaking the bank on reserve their Instagram spaces for everyone but women who look like you? Imagine what it must be like at the Revolve table to hand-pick dozens of models who are cookie-cutter—same body type, same style, same type of content—while overlooking everyone who looks “other.”
Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate bloggers and the dedication it takes to become an influencer with millions of followers. I will never for a minute discount the hard work they’ve put in, just like myself, to grow their brand and build a devoted audience. And kudos to them for having what it takes to get noticed by these incredibly large brands and have opportunities fall in their lap at every turn.
I applaud them. My issue is with the brands. I’m talking to the brands.
First, you need diversity at the decision-making level. If you’d welcome diversity, you’d have a women of color on the PR/Marketing teams that can actively seek out other women of color to join marketing efforts. And if you don’t have anyone at the decision-making level, then you must do your own research to see that there are countless women of color who bring a new, fresh perspective and an authentic, unique style to the clothing you’ve been pushing for years. We’ve got lots to offer, and I know I’m not the only one who’s fought through the feeling of getting overlooked for roles and positions we’re overqualified for. We know what it’s like to be present at panels and events and see no one that looks like us in the room.
NEVERTHELESS, WE PERSIST.
I don’t know about you, but that’s the type of influencer I’d want representing my brand. That’s the type of influencer who shows the longevity that you, big brand, hope to have.
Companies like Revolve are doing themselves a disservice when they overlook and downright ignore women of color—and most of all, their CUSTOMERS!—of all shapes and sizes.
So, what do we do? Where do we go from here?
Blogger babes: Let’s stop supporting those who don’t support us. Let’s create own way, and our own seats, at our own damn table.