THE BLOG

Why We Need To Colour In White Spaces

03/10/2017 15:23 BST | Updated 03/10/2017 15:23 BST
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If you looked around the lecture theatre during my time at university, it wouldn't be hard to spot me. Being one of the five black people in my year on my course, standing out was never a problem. In fact, on the entire course it was possible to count how many black people there were in total on my fingers alone.

It didn't feel weird as I was used to being the only black girl growing up at times, but literally having five black people in a year group of approximately 85-100 students was strange. But often at times, it made me think that this was a representation of the media industry and possibly give insight to why we aren't represented enough as black people when it comes to the media.

A few years back, I interned at a women's fitness magazine and remember looking at the wall displaying the covers of the last 12 months seeing a whitewashed wall of young, beautiful, slim blonde and brunette models. With the only diversity being one cover with a very fair Asian model. It felt rather unsettling that the women's fitness industry very much tailored to white women often presenting the poster image of a white blonde woman with a very slim figure which isn't something I identify with, neither do a lot of the population of females that live an active, healthy lifestyle.

I love to read magazines, but in recent years I've felt myself turn more to YouTube to gain beauty and hair tips as the magazines don't really cater to black women. There's clearly a market with the number of views black beauty gurus gain. Especially with Rihanna's newly launched beauty range, Fenty Beauty which had all darker shades of her foundation selling out. Which all of a sudden had brands like Marc Jacobs and Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner taking notice of the darker-skinned demographic by promoting content to appeal to us on social media *rolls eyes*.

A significant issue is the fact that we're ignored altogether by some of the teams behind these brands and media outlets. Earlier this year, Shout magazine published a list of the top UK YouTubers with them being all white, showcasing some with 200,000 subscribers and not featuring successful talent such as Patricia Bright with 1.5 million subscribers or even KSI who has a whopping 17 million subscribers.

The feature left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, which reminded me of the time when I was a teenager in 2013 when I entered a blogging competition a magazine was running and I had gone above and beyond learning their media pack and giving an array of ideas - including the suggestion that they should feature YouTubers in their magazine as I felt it was an up and coming trend at the time. To which they took my idea on board and never sent a thank you.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a sore loser, but considering the editors clearly saw how keen I was, actually took my idea on board and profited off it - a simple recognition considering that is their predominant angle of their whole magazine thanks to my idea would have been at least decent. It made me think I possibly didn't receive recognition because I was black. But hey, I could be wrong, but I won't lie and say I didn't wonder that.

The other day I was at the hairdressers where I met Aunty Lola who gave me a history lesson in race and representation in society. With her passionately explaining the reality to me of how we've played a large part in shaping the economy and culture of this country but we aren't on the same playing field.

Black Britons are a significantly large demographic in this country as a whole - yet we're barely represented in our own media? Our hairstyles are, but we aren't the ones modelling them. The narrative told in the media about us isn't fairly told, with racist undertones alluding through articles (look at how terrorism carried out by white people compared to those of ethnic minorities and Meghan Markle was reported in certain tabloids).

As I sat in the chair getting my hair braided, I realised the importance of how it's up to today's generation to push for representation ourselves and create a movement where we amplify our culture and shout until we're heard. How it's important to be the first black person or creating a monumental change because it opens doors for the rest of us. That also includes encouraging each other to go into different paths than tearing people down. For example, not criticising black girls doing ballet because "that's a white thing" because entering predominantly white spaces and creating change should be celebrated and not oppressed.

As a journalism student who just graduated from university and is starting my career in journalism, it made me think more of what I wanted to achieve out of my career. Of course, I want to live a great life with an amazing career, jetting off to Bali whenever I please. But, I mostly want to create a positive change by increasing the representation of us in the media. Because with being black it's an inevitable route to oppression, however it's also an inevitable route to being influential and the more we recognise that the more we can achieve.

In today's media culture, it's all changing with Edward Enninful taking reign of British Vogue as the new Editor-in-Chief this year promising to include more diversity to his staff as they was all white under Alexandra Shulman's leadership, which had Naomi Campbell criticising the publication. This led to him recruiting black excellence with Pat McGrath as the new Editor-at-Large, Adwoa Aboah as contributing editor and Vanessa Kingori as publisher. And also having Section Boyz and J Hus feature in the October issue of the magazine.

In social media culture, it's also changing with 21 year old Youtuber Emmanuel Andrew from THECLASSICMANNY hosting the first Black British YouTube Brunch in early September which had an array of talented Black British YouTubers attending a brunch event to network, celebrate and inspire one another.

On his motivation behind launching the event, he said: "Even though we had only reached half way through the year, I had seen so many black YouTubers being more consistent than ever and reaching personal milestones. Furthermore, we as a community have been discussing for a long time about how we feel we aren't represented enough in media and YouTube platform itself. So I felt it was only right we took matters into our own hands.

It was very important to me that there was a diverse range of black YouTubers - from male to female YouTubers, those with a large number or small number of subscribers, those that have been on YouTube for years and those that were about to start. I didn't want the room to be filled with people that were already familiar with each other as that would defeat the purpose of networking.

Some of the topics we discussed were balancing YouTube with work/education, support and issues within the black community as well as ways in which we can improve as a community. I wanted us to discuss topics that I know we always think about but don't discuss as a community.

Even though I came up with the idea - the turnout, the response and the way the event went exceeded my expectations. There will definitely be more events like this in the near future. I'm so thankful to everyone that helped make it a reality especially Vapiano and to those that attended."

The thing so unique and incredible about us as black people is that when there's a victory for one of us, it's for all of us. Because it shifts us all further to a level playing field if we unite and support one another. We all have the potential to create so much influence and change the game for ourselves. We just have to make the decision to blaze our own trails in order to do so.