The saying Black people have to work twice as hard as their white peers is no different when it comes to the influencer space.
As Black creators have been more vocal in calling out inequality and mistreatment, attention has been focused on the topic of PR packages.
NBC News reports that Black creators have come forward to share how they are receiving far fewer gifts to create promotional content with companies than their white counterparts.
Antoni Bumba, a Black lifestyle creator with over 900,000 TikTok followers, shared with the outlet about one of her own personal experiences.
Back in 2021, she and her former roommate, who’s also an influencer, wanted to grow their influencer careers by building relationships with PR companies. After reaching out to the same company, Bumba didn’t receive any gifts while her friend, who’s white and had fewer followers, did. Bumba claims, according to NBC News, that the company’s reasoning is that it was at “capacity” for “gifting.”
Fellow Black influencers share similar encounters of being turned down for gifts. Without the PR packages, they have only the choice of paying out of pocket to purchase products to promote, which isn’t the most feasible when looking at statistics. According to a 2021 MSL study, the wage gap between Black and white influencers is 35 percent.
“I think the vast racial divide that exists in the [influencer] space is unequaled compared to any other industry,” said Shreya Mukherjee, the chief strategy officer at MSL U.S., according to NBC News. “This is a serious problem for the marketing comms industry overall.”
The recurring theme leaves Black creators questioning what sets them apart from others that are receiving gifts other than race. Bumba says that Black and queer creators will have similar or more followers than white influencers, yet the latter is who gets the access to make enough money to be full-time creators.
“Sometimes you can see [white influencers] … be more free-flowy and just be, like, messy hair and, like, big college T-shirts and … still get these, like, $60,000 to $100,000 gifting partnerships,” Bumba said. “And then you’ll have, you know, girls like me … who have to always be in a whole fit or always have to be serving some sort of a look or have some sort of a color scheme or have our face done with makeup to some extent. You know, like something to make us look a little bit more higher-end so these brands can fit us in.”
“We have to be perfect before brands will even touch us,” comedian TikToker Nimay Ndolo, who has two million followers — as of this writing — chimed in. “And it sucks, because, like, you know, perfection is so hard to attain, and why are we forced to reach perfection when white influencers can just do whatever?”
Mukherjee believes that change can only come about if both marketing professionals and influencers are effectively educated about the industry, as well as for things to go from “conversation to advocacy to action.”
For Black influencers such as Bumba and Ndolo, they are seeking to be simply seen and heard.
“It’s really disheartening, because, you know, I feel like a lot of people hear Black influencers, Black people, cry about these injustices, and they write it off, like, ‘They’re always just complaining about something,’” Ndolo said. “Like, are we even being heard? And it really doesn’t feel like we’re being heard, because so many Black influencers talk about this.”