Youtube Beauty Vlogger, Jackie Aina, is not the first Black beauty vlogger to hit a million subscribers, however, she is arguably the most unapologetically and unambiguously black vlogger to do so. And just to give you some perspective, I’ve been creating youtube videos for 5 years and have 24k subscribers (don’t laugh, lol!) My point? 1.3 million subscribers is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you are a dark skin black woman with 4C hair.
Hair texture and skin color shouldn’t matter, of course, as no doubt the quality of Jackie’s videos is a testament to her talent and dedication to her craft, but lets be real. There are white and asian vloggers who hit a million subbies YEARs ago, and continue to land major endorsements, commercials, and ambassadorships while black vloggers, no matter how talented, are often left in the dust.
So we members of the black beauty community collectively wept tears of joy when Jackie hit a million a few months ago (read about it HERE). To see someone who is black and proud make it in a space that favors anything but overt pride in blackness says a lot.
While hitting such a huge milestone is beyond impressive, things ain’t all gravy. Indeed some of us have questioned why, despite Jackie’s talent and popularity, we aren’t seeing her land the opportunities some of her less impressive counterparts seem to be raking in left and right.
When Forbes debuted their list of top beauty influencers of 2017, the list excluded black vloggers, while including Jeffree Star, a controversial vlogger who last year threatened to assault a black female beauty influencer (read about it HERE) and back in his MySpace days released videos wherein he used racial slurs. Star has since apologized for his use of racial slurs (Read the apology HERE), but for some of us, the damage has been done.
Seeing this line up begs the question, why would a reputable magazine like Forbes seek to elevate such a personality to the exclusion of vloggers like Jackie? Of course the criteria for this list probably comes down to dollars and cents, however, it clearly shows that the income disparity between races in other industries is also present even in creative spaces like Youtube.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to chat (virtually) with Jackie about the beauty industry for black women, and she held nothing back. Read below:
Interview With Jackie Aina
How long have you been creating content on Youtube?
This year it will be 8 long but incredible years
You hit a million subscribers not too long ago. How did that feel?
Like unreal. I felt like it was something I truly would never achieve and when I did I was still in shock!
Has hitting a million subscribers resulted in more brand collaborations and opportunities?
In a lot of ways absolutely. Brands seem to just look at a number, not just your engagement or relationship with viewers. Which I believe in a lot of ways hurts creators who may not have the biggest numbers but are still influential and really killing it.
Do you think the industry is different for black girls? And if so, do you think colorism comes into play?
I think the industry is different for anyone of dark skin. Including Asian and Latinx women. Colorism plays a bigger role in how people grow because there are a lot of racially ambiguous content creators who appeal to many different cultures which honestly I do think is quite cool. I get a lot of comments like “I’m white, but I love your videos!” LOL I know in THEIR head it’s a compliment, but I’m like what do you mean but? Do black women leave comments like this on Wayne Goss’ channel? I doubt it. On and off youtube I think people just have a hard time associating themselves with someone who looks different than them. Just because we don’t wear the same foundation shade it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy their content. It’s just every single beauty tip may not apply to yo
You issued two tweets the other day that have been causing MAJOR debate in the online beauty community, particularly in popular makeup groups for black women. Folks don’t quite know what to make of them. On one hand, folks feel like “you’ve got a million subbies, what are you complaining about?” on the other hand, folks feel that your content is far better than some of the more melanin-deficient vloggers, and that you should have 10 million subscribers. How would you respond to these assertions?
Of course tweets are always going to be interpreted multiple different ways and that’s ok, but if you know me then you know what I advocate for. I think what people don’t realize is those tweets were not just about me. I repeat: the things I tweet do NOT always apply to just me. I don’t just speak for myself when I say it’s STILL difficult for a lot of vloggers of color to break through, and this is still absolutely true. I hate going to brand trips and often being the only black girl there. I hate that I sometimes get opportunities where I feel like they’re just meeting a quota, instead of wanting to actually work with me for what I offer as a vlogger. I hate that content that in my eyes may seem basic (and I get that there’s something for everyone) but I have to create a video that’s like 10 times more witty and creative to get a third of the viewership they would. We can’t act like in most industries black women [don’t] have to work three times harder. The same applies to youtube. And sometimes it’s exhausting as hell to do 3 times more of the work to get a fraction of the reward. Remember I got my milli, but it took 7 years; some of my counterparts did that in half the time. People also don’t realize that getting to a million subscribers is not the end be all, and it does not stop there. Most also don’t realize how hard it took to get there. Why shouldn’t I aspire to do more than that!? How often do we see women who look like me get brand collaborations and bigger ambassadorship opportunities, aside from just cool brand deals? It’s almost as if people are saying “you got your million now, so be happy”, when it’s not even wired in my DNA to just stop there. Getting to that milestone, while amazing, was supposed to help propel many more opportunities and collaborations on top of that. I’m not really sure why aspiring to do more is sometimes seen as a negative or ungratefulness in our community when there are white vloggers who get opportunities literally handed to them sometimes with not even a fraction of the amount of work as their counterparts. We can’t advocate for more black visibility in the beauty community and then when they get there turn around and be like oh well you can’t complain now cause you made it. I still have work to do, and so do my peers.
Do you think there is anything you could do to help some of the undiscovered black creators gain more visibility? Perhaps be the change you want to see?
I think there’s a lot of stuff I do that people just may not notice. I’m constantly helping contribute, post and share new and up and coming talent via twitter and/or snapchat. I support by watching and being a viewer/regular commenter too. I support black owned businesses. I’m also sometimes a silent supporter. I’ll randomly come across someones Go Fund Me if they have one and contribute to their small business, or school, whatever the cause is. I truly do help where and when I can. I can’t do everything, but at least I make the effort. I haven’t officially announced this but I’ve also been in the works of “sponsoring” 4-5 up and coming AMAZING channels that have been on my radar for a while. I won’t get into too much detail into what I’ll be doing with them yet, but the idea came from my annual Black History Month initiative. This year I wanted to do more than just the usual makeup tutorials, and instead do something to get smaller, but super amazing creators involved.
I promise, I’m not counting your money, but we all know (based on your snaps of your gorgeous new apartment) that things have picked up for you a bit financially, so we know you are blessed and we know you know you are blessed, but still, there’s got to be some things that are causing you some frustration about your growth and progress. What are they? Like, just vent a little. What’s bugging you right now about the industry?
It’s the next level opportunities like brand collaborations, ambassadorships, and visibility in ad campaigns. (PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong) But have we seen a natural girl get a product collab yet? If we haven’t why not? And like I mentioned earlier, I don’t like going on trips and sometimes being the only black girl there. Also I think what really irks me is in the beauty community if you’re edgy, controversial, and/or curse like a sailor you’re cool, “outspoken” and likable. But a black person would be unprofessional and ghetto if they portrayed their brand that way. I’m really just over the double standards and rewarding mediocrity in the beauty world. Sorry if that sounds messed up, but it is what it is.
How do you manage to remain authentic when you, no doubt, have brands who will happily pay you to push products you don’t love? Do you say no a lot?
I actually say no more than I do yes to the offers I get. Integrity means everything to me and no amount of money is worth compromising the trust I have with my viewers. It really is everything to me and as a consumer and viewer myself it’s what I would expect from a vlogger too.
I watched a recent video where you talked about products and brands you won’t and don’t love/support. You mentioned a controversial vlogger who also has a popular makeup line. He’s come under fire for racist posts, and is frequently at the center of some makeup drama. Last year he threatened to assault another popular creator!How do you manage to stay out the drama yourself? Especially when you probably run in the same circles, no?
I go to trips and events with some of the same circles and of course you’re not always going to like and/or befriend everyone there. But for the most part I always know how to have a good time regardless. Sometimes I’m literally in my own little world. It’s not everyday a woman who looks like me gets to where I get so I’ll be damned if I let someone else ruin a good time for me. I mind my business and have a good time, I wish more people these days would do the same do the beauty community can go back to being fun instead of this YAS DRAG HA mess it turned into the past few years.
In this same video you mentioned a cosmetics brand that stopped sending you PR packages after you gave an honest review of one of their palettes. It’s pretty petty and sad that they behaved that way, if you ask me, but it was pretty bold of you to say it out loud. Are you worried, ever, that being so honest could backfire on you?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. And going back to what I said earlier – integrity means so much more to me. And also I think there’s a way to go about talking about stuff like that. That incident happened almost a year ago, so clearly I’m not mad, nor was it done in a way to blast them (because trust me, that’s not even real tea…). But I do think consumers should know the truth about stuff like that. It also shows that hey, this is the exception to the norm, and our opinions as vloggers are not always swayed by free products, despite what people may assume. Funny enough they recently reached out to me and kind of apologized about that. I think most brands are used to being tip-toed around.
Do you have any advice for other black creators? At this point, is there a way to STILL be creative and seen when everyone has pretty much done everything and the YouTube algorithm doesn’t quite play fair?
You have to be different and you have to be yourself. People can see right through it when you’re trying to be something you’re not. And don’t create content you don’t genuinely enjoy. Also being consistent will keep viewers glued to you! Even for top creators I watch when they start going on their hiatuses I mentally tune out and start finding other people to regularly watch. So keep the original fun content coming and remember, yes everything on youtube has pretty much already been done but it’s how YOU do it that will attract people and keep them coming back.
Do you still believe there is hope for black female creators to make a mark on youtube at this point?
HELL YES!!! We are magic, always have been and always will be. But unfortunately we just have to be ready to roll up our sleeves and work harder. I truly just want the playing field to be even. It may never be that way, but a girl can dream!!
Feel free to add anything else you think would fit.
Thanks for reaching out, I love you on the gram (HERE) and you’re always adding some fierceness to my timeline!!
There you have it, Jackie is real and Raw as ever! Follow her on Youtube HERE, Instagram HERE, and Twitter HERE.