On the first day of Black History Month this year, I was on a press trip with several other influencers and content creators. One of the influencers on the trip looked at the table, and she said she “didn’t think that Beyonce was anything special.” However, she claimed that she had respect for Taylor Swift, even though she wasn’t a fan of her music.
And that statement truly broke my heart.
Listen: this post is not intended to be a Bey vs Tay bit. However, you do not have to be a fan to acknowledge that Beyonce is one of the most talented and popular artists of our time. She is the first woman to have 20 top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 as a solo artist. She has broken the record for most Grammy wins and is the most nominated woman in Grammy history, with 79 nominations. She has sold out arenas, fostered cultural movements, and has been a fierce advocate of the Black and LGBTQ+ communities.
But she’s nothing special. Those words stung.
Black people, along with other people of color in this country, often have to go above and beyond to get a seat at the table. Heck, I was the only person of color in attendance on said press trip. This is not the first time I’ve been the only POC at an influencer event/press trip, nor will it likely be the last. This is a sad reality of my career and something I’ve spoken up about multiple times in the past — see Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C, to name a few.
When I work with brands, I can’t have a bad day. I can’t shoot with just an iPhone — I must lug around tens of thousands of dollars of camera equipment. Yes, I owe a brand deliverables when collaborating, but I often try to underpromise and overdeliver to prove my worth as a partner. I cannot let my guard down. If I hope to be invited back to collaborate in the future, I must send a handwritten thank you note and gift to the PR person. I have to speak as clearly and as eloquently as possible, and God forbid I use any slang words because I might be perceived as “ghetto” or “unprofessional.”
Often, my white colleagues in this industry wonder why I take these extra steps, and it’s very simple — it is rare that I even get a seat at the table as a Black influencer. I must go above and beyond to keep that seat and to open the doors for other BIPOC folks in the industry. There is no room for Black mediocrity, only for Black excellence.
But this is not a problem that’s limited to the influencer industry.
As we’ve seen time and time again in the United States, Black lives are often policed and come to tragic ends just for simply existing. Breonna Taylor. Emmett Till. George Floyd. To name a few. I was raised to be extra polite. Work extra hard. Go above and beyond because at the end of the day — you are going to be stereotyped simply for the color of your skin. And I’ve felt that my entire life, I must go the extra mile to disprove a stereotype just to be treated like a normal human being.
Black women are often viewed as being “strong” for navigating this hostile world, but Black women should not have to be strong. Black women should be safe. Black women should have support. Black women should be shown empathy. Every time someone calls me “strong,” I want to break down because I don’t want to have to be strong. I want to simply exist, carefree.
This February of 2024, I am truly exhausted. The influencer industry has burned me out, and I’m slowly pivoting to other pursuits — where I know I have to be exceptional. Don’t get me wrong — I adore creating travel content and am passionate about it. But I don’t think I have it in me to jump through the additional obstacles as a BIPOC person in the industry anymore.
And for the love of God, stop disrespecting Beyonce.