The influencer marketing industry has found itself uniquely in need of anti-racism action. This summer, consumer demand for meaningful commitment to racial justice from brands and agencies grew in number and volume.
The industry has been defined by rapid growth, unpredictable change and lack of regulations. In turn, diversity and inclusion has fallen by the wayside, leading to a gap in opportunities and compensation for influencers of color.
“Brands reach out to you and claim they don’t have a budget, but then go and pay someone else,” said content creator Ehlie Luna, who has developed a fanbase through makeup artistry. “Brands know they don’t typically include a diverse range of people, and then once they do include you, they try to exploit you. They think, ‘Okay, let’s check off the diversity box and then try to save some money.’”
Since the pandemic began, brands have become increasingly conscious of responsible outreach and how influencer partnerships shape their brand identity. What makes influencer marketing so desirable is that it is fresh and entrepreneur-driven. But this uncharted territory comes with consequences—especially in a market where people often represent themselves.
Explaining the pay gap
The conversation began to open up when creators and activists banded together on social media to demand change. The instagram page @influencerpaygap, created in early June, has become a hub for sharing experiences and setting standards for the best self-advocacy practices in the influencer community. The page primarily consists of reposts from creators, who anonymously share what they feel were inadequate compensation offers from brands for their work.
In the past, a lack of transparency about fees and rates made it even more difficult for influencers of color to know if they’re getting a fair shake. Chizi Duru, who runs a fashion and beauty YouTube channel with 450 thousand subscribers, recognizes that pay discrepancies result from a lack of education and communication among influencers about rates. The solution, she said, is starting a conversation that is often seen as taboo.
“A lot of newer influencers come in and they don’t know anything about rates because there aren’t a lot of platforms that will share this knowledge with you,” she said.
Biased algorithms and a stereotype against minorities not driving as much success has led to both a lack of opportunities and a pay gap for Black influencers.
Earlier this year, Danielle Prescod, along with fellow fashion editor turned influencer Chrissy Rutherford, founded 2BG Consulting, an agency focused on providing brands with effective diversity and inclusion solutions.
“The pay gap issue has to be looked at through a racialized lens,” said Prescod. “A lot of brands will say that Black creators don’t have as big of a following or they don’t have as much engagement, but that will be true because of racism. You need to create a system or a scale that allows for that difference to exist while fairly compensating Black people for their value and their work.”
Prescod is working towards a more inclusive market by incentivizing her audience to consider the implications of racism in the fashion and beauty industry. In her own posts, she doesn’t tag brands unless they’re able to share an anti-racist action they’ve taken that day.
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