Editor’s Note: Millennials are far less likely than previous generations to seek out their entertainment on television, preferring instead the vast universe of self-produced and user-uploaded video content available on Youtube and other social media websites. According to a New York Times study conducted last year, more than a third of millennials surveyed said they exclusively watch online content, and never tune in to broadcast television. It’s a trend that is only expected to continue. Below, Deonna Anderson of VoiceWaves, a youth-led community news outlet in Long Beach, Calif., shares her own reasons for preferring the online world of entertainment, and offers her suggestions for the top Black female entertainers to keep an eye out for in 2015.
A few years ago, I fell in love with online content that seemed to be created for me, by people who looked like me. First it was The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, in which comedian and writer Issa Rae shows her character in a variety of awkward situations in the workplace and in her love life. In one scene, she is ignoring a co-worker’s phone call. She presses the deny button on her phone and exclaims out loud, “Ignore!”, at the exact moment the co-worker walks past her as they enter the building. Awkward, indeed!
The list of talented online content creators that I follow continues to grow, and as it does, I will continue to replace my time watching television with my online favorites. In 2014 already, I watched online content twice as much as I did network television.
For some of these content creators, making videos and posting them on YouTube is a stream of revenue. No longer do aspiring writers, directors, actors and comedians have to wait for a Hollywood executive to sign off on their talent and give them a chance at fame. Now, if you own an iPhone and a computer with video editing software, you can take your dreams to the Internet and try to make a living doing what you love. There are YouTube content creators that make upwards of $1 million per year.
In 2014, I discovered more women of color who were creating great content on YouTube and other platforms. They represent New York, Los Angeles, and a number of cities in between. Their styles range from witty to inspirational, hilarious, thought-provoking and real. In addition to producing videos and podcasts, they write for various publications, run their own companies, and pursue their professional dreams in the media industry.
As a journalist and aspiring documentary filmmaker, these Black women show me that there are avenues for me to tell the stories of people who look like us, and ways to get support through online viewership to fund new projects. Most of these women upload a video or podcast once a week, and sometimes more frequently. In addition to following them on YouTube or another video platform, I also follow many of them on Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook. It allows me to feel even more connected to them by getting a peek into their daily lives. I look forward to seeing what these women and other online content creators release in 2015. But for now, here is a list of my favorite Black female content creators, based on what they put online in 2014:
I was first introduced to this Cincinnati, Ohio native when her video Meet Your First Black Girlfriend, in which she is giving advice to her “boyfriend” of another race, went viral. She is brilliant and hilarious. Akilah somehow takes what everyone is thinking and makes it funny. Plus, she does Tipsy Book Reviews, in which she and a friend drink to get buzzed and review a popular book. She has reviewed Harry Potter and the Scorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey. As an aspiring book reviewer, I wish I had thought this up myself.
Below is one of my favorite videos from Akilah. In it, she addresses the cultural appropriation that takes place at least once a year on college campuses across the United States. By throwing a “White Party,” she shows how students who throw themed parties that require attendees to come dressed as an ethnic or racial group, is problematic.
Akilah now lives in Brooklyn, New York and in addition to creating YouTube content, she is a sketch and improv person at Upright Citizens Brigade, produces content for MTV, and writes for HelloGiggles.The Root listed Akilah as one of the 30 Viral Voices Under 30. Akilah uses these various outlets as income streams. With over 85,000 subscribers on YouTube, she makes up to $8,000 per year from that one platform, showing that in the age of the Internet, it is very possible to create a career for yourself outside of the cubicle.
You may know Myleik Teele as the Founder and CEO of curlBOX. And if you don’t, you should know that curlBOX is a box of hair products that you can receive at your doorstep with a monthly subscription. In addition to running curlBOX, the Inglewood native who now lives in Atlanta, also does an almost monthly podcast. I listen to the podcasts whenever she uploads through Podomatic. Her podcast and her Instagram posts are like a virtual mentor to me. The woman is full of knowledge. Plus, she said she does the podcast because she feels like it is a part of her purpose. Her topics range from time management and staying consistent to setting boundaries and saving money. Tune in to one of my favorites, where she discusses how life goals, age and societal expectations affect one another, below. “You are the sum of your experiences,” she says in the episode. This is to say, people have to experience life – both the successes and failures – in order to live a full life and be able to make informed decisions.
While Myleik’s podcast is not directly related to curlBOX and she does not make any money from this platform, I believe her taking the time to create the podcast helps her customers get to know her and develop trust in her. A person who has a business should take notes from Myleik and figure out a creative way to engage with their customers or clients outside of their product line.
Subscribe to her podcast if you feel so inclined. Her podcast is also available on iTunes.
Azie worked as a living history character at the popular historic site, George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Her series Ask a Slave was inspired by the actress’ time working there. The character Lizzie Mae, housemaid to President and Lady Washington, responds as modern-day Americans ask her interesting questions! The questions and interactions are based on real events. Over her career, she has played Black women from Harriet Tubman to Caroline Branham, Martha Washington’s enslaved Lady’s maid. Azie liked to call herself the “time-traveling black girl.” Her time playing a slave from the 18th century and interacting with people of the 21st century made Azie reflect on how aspects of American life have and have not changed over the centuries. The web series channel has nearly 50,000 subscribers. Watch episode one of the first season of Ask a Slave, in which Lizzie Mae is introduced and answers the question, “How long are your work hours?” among other questions, below.
Azie is now a writer for NBC’s upcoming show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which is written and produced by Tina Fey.
(Shameless) Maya Washington
Maya is amazing. Her content creating journey started off as a way to promote herself and her work as a photographer, shamelessly, for an entire year. She did it and has inspired so many others along the way. What started out as a channel about photography, shameless promotion and her curly locks turned into a channel of a person who continued to be shameless after two years on YouTube and started incorporating other types of videos to her portfolio including Techie Tuesdays, Look Books, and Inspiration Sundays. When the Toronto native first started making videos, she lived in New York. She recently relocated to Los Angeles, where she is continuing to be shameless in her pursuit of acting and improv at Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles. Almost 500,000 people subscribe to Maya’s channel, which can bring in close to $30,000 annually. Maya was recently cast in the film Alaska is a Drag. I think she and the film’s team can credit part of the film’s crowd funding campaign success to her and her co-star Martin Washington Jr.’s YouTube and social media followings.
The video below is one of Maya’s Inspiration Sunday videos, in which she talks about how she stays positive. In it, she talks about how she does not watch TV or listen to music that is negative. I think that’s a good tip!
A few years ago, I started following Sanicole on Twitter. I knew she was a filmmaker and I’m a film lover, so I figured why not? She developed an interest in storytelling through film and television in high school. About a year after I started following her, she put out the short film TextTone, which addresses the effect our phones have on our face-to-face communication. It is nothing short of amazing. Check it out below. In 2011, Sanicole’s short entitled The Color Of Acceptance was selected to air on a nationally televised African American short film program in 2011.
Sanicole hails from Chicago and works a full-time job in addition to creating her films and her web series The City Hates Us, which was inspired by the city she grew up in. The channel has just under 2K subscribers. Season one of the series is archived on YouTube and season two is just three episodes in.
You can find me catching up on Myliek’s latest podcast and scouring YouTube and iTunes Podcasts for more awesome content creators as the year comes to an end. Who makes your list of favorite content creators of 2014?