Is Jackie Aina the Token Black Girl?
By: Rechelle Dennis
Before y’all jump to conclusions about us coining Jackie Aina the “token” black girl, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with her but everything to do with companies (specifically white) who think understanding our community is simply using A single black influencer and/or slapping A black body in a campaign. It’s as if companies think it is okay to use one or two black girls in order to make themselves look/feel good, parading the term “inclusive” around like a trophy, all in efforts to capture our coins. The answer is no, you are far from it.
My point being Jackie Aina is THE black influencer, garnishing over 1 million followers on Instagram and 2.7 million subscribers on YouTube, brands flock to her for her engagement in efforts to capture the “multi-cultural” audience. She is undeniably beautiful, charismatic and hella good at makeup. Oh yeah, lets not forget she has a great fashion sense, an advocate and on a mission to support other women & femmes of color inside and outside the industry. To these brands she is the total package, hitting every single mark so they don’t have to, a simple solution to their problems of not understanding our community. What about the hundreds of other black influencers that don’t stand a chance in comparison to their white counterparts? It is no secret the playing field is unequal. While Jackie is one of the few black influencers to reach a level of prestige in the influencer community, it is still overwhelmingly dominated by hundreds of white influencers.
No, Jackie cannot fix all of your problems and she certainly cannot fix all of ours. It is important to acknowledge that the biggest influencer of the black community has also been subject to racial incidents within the beauty industry. If these companies really want our coins learn about our community, we are not a trend nor a quota that needs to be met. Black and brown people come in all shades, shapes and sizes, its time for us to see that in campaigns. Help other small black influencers reach the same status and recognition as Jackie, make room for them in an industry dominated by white influencers. Do the work necessary to really capture who could be your top consumer (we have $1.2 trillion in spending power) in the beauty industry.
The sad reality is that many black influencers are not given the same opportunities even in complimentary industries such as fashion, which also relies heavily on influencer marketing. Last year Valerie Eguavoen founder of On A Curve, called out popular e-commerce clothing brand Revolve for its lack of diversity and exploitation of black culture. Revolve known for their extensive, influencer marketing business model, fails to use dark skin and plus-sized women, instead relying on white passing influencers and models to take on lavish vacations around the world to promote the brands clothing. In a post titled "#YOUBELONGNOW - Responding to Revolve and the Fashion Industry, on its Consistent Exclusion of Black Women," Valerie writes, "despite the overwhelming support I have received on Instagram, I have to say that I am not a pioneer. Hundreds of black women and other women of color express their frustrations on this topic every single day – through the comment sections, on their platforms, and through emails and DM’s to the brands themselves. Our voices are out there, but they are not being heard." As a year has now gone and passed since Eguavoen stirred buzz by calling Revolve out on their ish, they have slowly but surely introduced more black faces, integrating them onto their url and social feeds, a select few on trips (Yes, Jackie was even invited on a trip). Although these attempts are being made it is not enough, but it is a start. It is up to us to hold these brands accountable for their lackluster performance of promoting diversity, even if that means keeping our coins in our pockets and giving them to people who deserve it.