We’re already aware that Donald Trump’s presidency could chill the global film industry, but what about domestic entertainment affairs? What’s the future looking like for minority writers, actors, directors and show runners in an already divisive industry?This past summer, Variety released a series of articles concluding that of the last TV season, “Show runners are still mostly white and male.” This was alarming for me to read, considering the large amount of “Black” narratives that debuted in the TV landscape over the past few years. But then it struck me — diversity is what’s “trending” right now. After Empire's ratings on network, Atlanta’s debut rating on cable, and Survivor’s Remorse on a subscription service (just to name a few), it only makes sense that black narratives are landing in development pipelines at agencies and studios across America. Ratings for this “genre” of programming are high, and money talks. Simple. However, with Trump in office, entertainment’s diversity agenda might be in danger. After all, the foundation on which it sits isn’t as strong as you might think. Here are some numbers:"Of the 50 showrunners for the new season, two are women of color, and three are men of color. Studies by the Writers Guild of America show that non-white writers have constituted no more than 13% of writers-room employment for several years."Are they saying that a show with a majority black cast and a so-called black storyline could still have white writers, producers and directors leading it? Wouldn’t that be an exploitation of black art, ideas, and talent? This really does seem problematic when you think about it — unfortunately it occurs far too often. A prime example of this is the Netflix Original series, The Get Down.Although I enjoy watching talented millennials and established actors that I’ve respected for years, I can't overlook the questionable dialogue and character portrayals. Is this a good show? Absolutely. But great? Nah. I understand that I hold a very unpopular opinion and I’ll admit it may be slightly biased since I am not a die-hard fan of musicals. However, the fact that the executive producer, the director, and the majority of the writers are white doesn’t sit well with me. For a show’s premise to be on "the birth of hip-hop," I expect the creators and core contributors (writers) to be a part of the African diaspora. While Nelson George and Kurtis Blow do have producer credits, I’m unable to convince myself that the show is stellar in its entirety. In fact, I believe the only reason it’s as good as it is, is solely because of the team of “cultural trustees” who were brought in as consultants to school the actors (and I’m sure the writers too) about what took place during this era. Historical accuracy for a show of this magnitude is necessary, however, these producers' roles are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. I would even go so far as saying their knowledge of the subject matter is being exploited for the benefit of a highly rated “Netflix Original” and a well-known white show runner. Now this isn’t to say that I don’t like Netflix. They have a number of originals with black show runners (The Get Down just happens to be a highly successful one that is marketed for us but is not necessarily by us). I wholeheartedly appreciate the networks, studios, services that have pushed and supported shows like Power, Black-Ish, and Chewing Gum (all of which have black show runners). I am thankful for the growth that we have seen over this past decade and I celebrate the minorities who have been able to break down racial barriers and pave the way for people like my peers and myself. However, let’s keep in mind what Ava DuVernay once said, "Forward-thinking people and allies of this cause within the industry have the common sense to know that this is systemic...There needs to be more done than applauding one or two people who make it through your door."The keyword here is systemic. How does this relate to Trump and his ideals? Well, let’s think about the basis of Trump’s campaign — white supremacy. He effectively used this sole philosophy — one that has been prevalent in almost every sector of American life — to not only rally up his supporters but to also secure his position as the next president of the United States. Not unlike Trump, Hollywood has perpetuated a cycle of the “old boys club” since its inception. It’s not only exclusive but racist and sexist in its hiring practices. We’ve recently begun to see the promise of change with the appointment of leaders such as Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, but with Trump and his network in the government attempting to “Make America Great Again," I think now is a time to be more alert than ever. It’s our responsibility to ensure the advancement of inclusion in entertainment rather than allow powerful figures to influence its reversal to traditional (systemic) norms. This is not the time to get comfortable. To put it simply, we must push the envelope. Hollywood’s standard isn’t our standard. A few shows with black writers and show runners isn’t going to cut it anymore — especially when the industry has a reputation of exploiting black narratives for their own gains. Especially when our nation’s next leader has the full support of KKK leaders, neo-nazi rebels and the "silent majority." It's imperative that we continue promoting and supporting black representation in front of and behind the camera. It is crucial that we heavily surveil who is profiting from our stories and our talent. Our country has a history of suppressing the black community, giving us an inch under the false notion of equality, and then harvesting the bounty for themselves. We can’t accept the inch. From now on we must demand the mile in all areas of life, but in particular,...
Halloween is one of those holidays where there are bound to be unfortunate tales of people wearing blackface with their costumes. No matter how much public lashing the images get, the next year comes around and people do it again. Now imagine finding out the same thing is reportedly still happening in Hollywood in your favorite action movies and TV shows — and not just over the holidays.
According to a Telegraph report, black stunt doubles are allegedly being slighted for white stunt doubles, using darker makeup (essentially blackface but called “painted down”) to look more like the original actors. Instead of finding women with similar hair types, builds or even the same gender, white actors were reportedly just sent to the makeup chairs to try to get as close as possible to the original actors’ semblance. And this has been happening for decades.
And apparently the makeup jobs aren’t always the best. Twenty-plus year stuntwoman Kelsee King-Devoreaux saw one makeup job that looked so bad she had to ask the casting director if the person was “a burn victim.”
Last year, Zendaya’s stunt doubles on “K.C. Undercover” were white and Hispanic, according to Deadline. Disney Channel spokesperson Patti McTeague did confirm that the producers of the show are “in compliance with the SAG-AFTRA agreement.” This means that the stunt double matched the same height, weight and skin tone. In the next season, Disney opted for a veteran stuntwoman from New Zealand. It should be noted that African-American stunt double Khalid Ghajji has played the role of Kadeem Hardison in fight scenes of the same show.
On the other hand, in 2014 on Gotham, a white stuntwoman was “painted down” to resemble a black, female actress. While Jada Pinkett Smith is not named as the actress who was connected to the stuntwoman, there were only a few actresses who would’ve been possibilities, including Jessica Lucas and Tonya Pinkins (or potentially Zabryna Guevara). Warner Bros. TV did issue an apology for using a “painted down” stunt person, via statement: “A mistake was made this week in casting a stunt woman for a guest star in a particular scene on the show. The situation has been rectified, and we regret the error.”
But it does bring up a bigger issue. Why not just reach out to The Black Stuntmen’s Association for potential candidates or iStunt.com, both of which have a long list of African-American female and male stunt doubles of various weights, heights and ages? (The BSA is featured at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, which just opened in September of this year.)
“Some women of color actually experienced two types of discrimination, number 1, as Willie [Harris] spoke about paint-down, which is coloring a person’s skin to appear to be another ethnicity,” Jadie David, one of the founders of the Black Stuntmen’s Association, said to NBC News about the careers of minority stunt doubles. “Women also had to go through the experience of men putting on dresses and putting on wigs. And so they would double women. So we kind of had like a double-edged sword in the industry.”
In all fairness, there have been a few well-known actors with minority stunt doubles, including The Rock’s Hawaiian stunt double Tanoai Reed; Valisa Tate as a stunt double for Meagan Good; Dartenea Bryant as a stunt double for Regina King; Crystal Michelle as a stunt double for Vanessa Bell Calloway, Sanaa Lathan and Rutina Wesley; Angela Meryl as a stunt double for Tracee Ellis Ross, and a few other examples.
So with these proven examples above, is it really slim pickings for employing more minority stunt doubles or is it a matter of not looking for them to begin with? The easy way out would be to say that African-American women and men aren’t in as many action shows and movies as other groups. But is that by choice or by exclusion? And if they were to require having African-American stunt doubles, would that decrease their chances of getting the roles? While the selection of movies is finally increasing across usually closed-off movie and TV award organizations, there is something to be said of increasing diversity for actors who play the background, too.
Shamontiel Latrice Vaughn is the author of two novels ("Round Trip" and"Change for a Twenty"), and a freelance journalist for various print and online publications. Her work can be found in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Defender, CBS Chicago and more. Outside of the writing grind, the Chicago native is a dog lover and a strong supporter of a vegan lifestyle.
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Yes, you read that right. Even if you can't tune in to live-tweet the episodes as they air or you don't have HBO to catch the repeats, you no longer have an excuse to miss out on Issa Rae's Insecure.
You should be watching the standout series already, but if you aren't, get ready to binge them back-to-back in time to catch up for the rest of the season. All of the episodes that have aired already are available for free via HBO Now. And the remaining four episodes, including the season one finale, will go up on the site for free after they air on Sundays at 10:30 p.m. EST.
Insecure is awesome. It's a game-changer and a beautiful example of representation, diverse, nuanced casts and hilarious writers and actors creating something great.
So click here, catch up on the instant classic, and let's all be grateful that Issa Rae is looking out for all of us when it comes to sharing her art.
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In school and in the newsroom, journalists are always taught to eliminate bias from stories. We're told we can’t have an opinion, or that our opinion should not be apparent in our writing. That is good advice for a few reasons: one, readers are a journalist’s currency/validation. If we run our readers away because of our strong opinions, we've lost our credibility as journalists (or at least that’s what they say). Two: it's our job to report the news and let the readers form an opinion.
Many journalists say they abide by those rules and claim they aren’t biased. But I think keeping your opinion out of your own stories wouldn’t be human. To pretend you don’t have an opinion would be lying to readers, and lying to yourself.
As a black journalist, I find these rules even more problematic. When black men get shot by white police, I can’t have an opinion. When black women are abused by white police, I can’t retweet on Twitter or share my feelings on Facebook. No, I don’t expect to be able to rant and rave on social media platforms—because that is neither helpful to the issue nor professional—but I do believe I should be able to express my opinion in an honest, tactful way.
Though black journalists can't express their opinions with the public, they're expected to report on the issue. This is especially true if they're one of the few black journalists in the newsroom (which is often, but that’s another story for another day). Black journalists are expected to go into interviews with sources as if they're neutral, as if the violence against black bodies doesn’t bother them.
This turns into a conflict of personal identity. When working as a journalist, one is expected to first look at themselves as such. One's race, gender, sexual orientation and other ways they might identify come second—and most of the time the rest of their identities might not matter at all. As journalists, they're expected to put their job title first and push every other identifier to the side.
The problem with this expectation is: I am a black journalist. I can't separate my blackness from my work, as I'm usually expected to. I can't separate my blackness from any part of me because, if we’re being honest, I am black first and everything else follows. When I'm in the field, I'm not looked at as just a reporter, I'm looked at as the black reporter. When I'm searching for a job, I'm not just a job candidate, I'm the black job candidate.
So when it's time to approach a story of black tragedy, which is often, I should be able to express my opinion—whether it be through a column, a commentary, a Facebook post, a Tweet or an Instagram post. I should be able to express my agreement with Colin Kaepernick through my stories. I should be able to let readers know how outraged I am about the courts thinking that Sandra Bland’s $1.9 million settlement is justice. After reading my stories, I want readers to know what side I lean toward and who/what I am standing by.
I am not just a journalist. When other races look at me, they first see my blackness, not my journalistic skills or stories or accomplishments. So, as the world of journalism and media is evolving, the rules should do the same. Let’s allow journalists to be honest, and human, first. Let’s allow black journalists to be just that—black.
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By Asad Ramzanali and Josh Sledge, Center for Financial Services Innovation
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to most of you reading this post, but it is worth stating: Fintech has a diversity problem.
Specific numbers for diversity in fintech are hard to nail down. But we do know that both technology and finance have a significant lack of racial and gender diversity at leadership levels. Of CEOs at venture-backed tech startups, only 3 percent are female, fewer than 1 percent are black, and fewer than 1 percent are Hispanic. Numbers are similarly bad in finance: Just 4 percent of global banks are led by female CEOs, and few executives are racial minorities.
A few months ago, we started asking ourselves what we should be doing about the lack of diversity in fintech in our role as an active participant of the fintech ecosystem. This question is especially poignant for us at CFSI because we support innovation in products designed to improve financial health – particularly for the 57 percent of Americans that are struggling financially. While women and racial minorities don't make up the entirety of the financially struggling, their representation among the segment dwarfs their representation among fintech founders. Innovation can come from many sources, and we are of the belief that a large and diverse group of people are needed to work on solutions to improve financial health for Americans.
At the time, we were beginning to meet companies for our second cohort of companies for Financial Solutions Lab (FinLab), a $30 million, five-year initiative managed by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) with founding partner JPMorgan Chase that supports early stage innovators that can help improve financial health for Americans.
What follows is built off of an internal paper we developed to help establish our point of view on how we can contribute to improving diversity in the industry through FinLab. Although increasing diversity is the right thing to do on its own, we are laying out our thinking on the topic for two primary reasons: First, we want to build on the existing momentum pushing the industry to address its lack of diversity by adding our voices to the conversation. Second, increased diversity in fintech will yield more and better products that can advance our mission of improving consumer financial health in this country.
The big problem can be broken into smaller parts
To help us get our heads around the admittedly intimidating topic, we spent a few months reviewing what others have said on the topic and talking to people in the space. We hosted a brainstorm dinner with startups, moderated a panel discussion during SoFin @ SXSW, and participated in several events and meetings with fintech ecosystem players to discuss the diversity problem. An important component to this problem can be summed up in what a founder recently told us, “The people building financial products just don’t look like the people who need these products.”
The roots of the lack of diversity are not specific to finance or technology. Deeper societal issues – like the gender and race gaps in access to quality STEM education and jobs – are complicated and can seem too difficult for any one organization to make a dent in solving. We see a couple of major root causes that are most relevant to the role we play in fintech – as a funder and supporter of existing products and services – that we can start to address.
Lack of a robust pipeline
Investors often say that there are not enough founders from underrepresented backgrounds “in the pipeline.” Most of these “pipeline” companies come from investors’ networks of other investors, accelerators, universities and ecosystem players.
This is an issue because of the relationship and network-centric nature of venture capital. Nearly every VC will tell you that the best way to get on their radar and begin a conversation about funding opportunities is through an intro from a founder they have funded. Women and minorities are not as common in the network. There is something of a negative feedback loop issue here. Finding ways to change that will be critical to solving fintech’s diversity problem.
A lack of representation from women and specific racial groups among VC partners opens the door for selection bias. Venture capital firms with no female partners invest in companies with women CEOs three times less frequently than VC firms with female partners. This is especially problematic because women make up fewer than 10 percent of partners at VC firms, a ratio that is troubling and unfortunately declining. One analysis of the VC world shows that 2 percent or fewer of VC partners are black or Hispanic.
This bias plays out most at the earliest stages, when VCs have less business data to analyze, and are making a judgement call based on the founders. Earlier this year, an article about investor Troy Carter and a Tweetstorm by entrepreneur Matt Joseph brought these issues to life.
Many call this an issue of “pattern matching” or “unconscious bias.” But it is hard to maintain that “unconscious bias” is a tenable position when it is now a commonly known and discussed issue. As tech journalist Kara Swisher often points out, simply acknowledging unconscious bias does not absolve people from the responsibility for failing to act to improve the situation. In this day and age, it’s unacceptable to do nothing.
FinLab numbers are improving
One small step toward improving diversity in our space is to share data about how we’re doing as an industry. The following stats reflect how FinLab is doing as a program in its second year. Overall we are doing better than industry benchmarks, and saw improvements between our first and second cohort. However, we believe that we can – and should – do better.
We use the term “founder” to refer to anyone with the title of Founder, Co-Founder, CEO, or Executive Director. We use the term underrepresented racial minority to describe individuals who identify as black, Hispanic or Native American.
Roughly 30 percent of applicants for our first two classes have at least one female founder. FinLab accepts both for-profit and nonprofit organizations as applicants. Of our for-profit applicants, just 25 percent have at least one female founder. This compares favorably with the ~18 percent of all funded startups in 2014, which is an admittedly imperfect benchmark. We are unable to ascertain data about applicants’ race or ethnicity.
It is worth noting, though it is not surprising, that nonprofit applicants have much better gender diversity: Over half of applicants last year and over 60 percent of applicants this year have at least one female founder, CEO or executive director.
Our selection process involves a team of reviewers who help narrow down the hundreds of applicants to ~15 finalists. A selection committee then selects the best nine companies from those finalists.
Our initial selection process included 24 people last year and 32 this year, both from within CFSI and from partner organizations. Both years, more than 40 percent of these reviewers have been women. We had two people in 2015 and four people in 2016 from underrepresented racial minorities reviewing applications.
Last year’s seven-person selection committee included three women and one person from an underrepresented racial minority. This year’s six-person committee included two women and two people from underrepresented racial minorities.
Overall, we acknowledge the need to include more reviewers from underrepresented racial groups in our selection process, especially at the earliest stages.
Our first and second cohorts each have nine organizations. The first cohort includes three organizations with one or more female founders, and one with a founder from an underrepresented racial minority. The second cohort includes five organizations with one or more female founders, and three companies with founders who identify with an underrepresented race. In both cohorts, the nonprofit organization in the cohort is led by a female CEO. We are encouraged about the increased diversity in our current cohort relative to our previous group of companies.
FinLab Companies with 1+ Founders from Underrepresented Groups
This improvement is meaningful and something we’re proud of. The biggest change in our process from 2015 to 2016 is that we started putting greater focus on founder diversity and seeing ourselves as part of the solution. We spent more time thinking about groups we could leverage to help notify a more diverse group of potential applicants about our program. We spent more time thinking about people who were part of our selection process. Importantly, our criteria for selection into the Lab did not change. We continue to pick organizations based on team, product and consumer impact.
We also started asking our companies for metrics about their teams. Of the total 80 people — founders and employees – working at the companies of 2016 class of FinLab, 41 percent are female and 20 percent are from underrepresented ethnicities. We are excited to see and share these results. But we recognize a need to be more thoughtful in our approach and we are actively thinking about how to encourage our companies to improve these numbers.
FinLab 2016 Companies’ Founders by Race
Even, a company in our first cohort, has introduced a number of measures to reduce hiring biases for their entry-level roles, like requiring a demographic-blind survey and an anonymized job simulation, rather than accepting resumes and conducting interviews, which inherently open the door for human-bias. This is a great step.
While our second cohort of companies includes more founders from underrepresented backgrounds, we need to continue improving the diversity of people involved in our selection process. At this point, we are all mindful of the biases that exist, but there’s still no getting around the perspective that is added when we have a more diverse group of people selecting companies. We’ll also continue to explore ideas and solutions for removing bias for processes beyond just selection for our program – like hiring within our companies.
We are also conscious about not only meeting founders through our existing networks. So if you are a founder with a startup helping Americans improve their financial health, reach out. We want to meet you. We are at email@example.com and @TheFinLab. We promise to respond.
Asad Ramzanali is a Senior Manager at CFSI where he leads entrepreneur outreach and support for the Financial Solutions Lab. Follow Asad on Twitter @asad09.
Josh Sledge is a Director at CFSI where he manages and advises on initiatives designed to support innovators working on solutions to improve financial health. Follow Josh on Twitter @jisledge.
Follow CFSI on Twitter @CFSInnovation.
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Disney's Queen of Katwe is unlike any other story they've done. It's unlike any story that most studios in Hollywood have done. It's an inspiring, based-on-true-life tale of a young girl from the slums of Uganda whose determination to win flips her entire life upside down.
That young girl is Phiona Mutesi, a child prodigy who won the National Junior Chess Championship in Uganda when she was 11 years old. She had all of the odds against her. She never knew where her next meal would come from. Her mother couldn't afford to send her, or her siblings, to school. And, some days, her family didn't know if they'd have a roof over their head to sleep under.
When I first sat down to watch the film, I didn't know anything about Queen of Katwe. I didn't know who Phiona Mutesi was or the significance of the title. I only knew two things: that Lupita Nyong'o was a part of the cast and that I had to support it because seeing this movie was an investment in the black community. But I left the theatre feeling more inspired than ever.
Phiona is all of us. She's every single one of us who has to fight against adversity to 'win.' She's every last one of us whose determination demolishes roadblocks and slides under obstacles. She's an inspiration to do better and be better despite what the world throws at us. But we already know this. So the question remains, why does her story matter?
Box office dollars matter when it comes to our stories. White Hollywood is always quick to pull out numbers when defending the lack of diversity in the industry and on the big screen. In the same way that ratings matter, showing up in theaters matters just as much (if not more).
And, as we have always known, representation matters. When we have movies like Queen of Katwe, especially from Disney, the world sees us differently. Images of people of color as villains and embodiments of detrimental stereotypes fall to the ground with films like this. We know that we are magic, but the rest of the world doesn't always see it.
The best thing about Queen of Katwe's presence in mainstream is that there are so many inspiring stories from the African diaspora that could use the big screen as a stage. Imagine if Disney tapped into the story of the girls in South Africa who protested the racist hair policies of their school. Imagine if any major studio in Hollywood did that. These stories of black excellence and joy could change the face of Hollywood and Queen of Katwe is only the beginning.
What stories do you want to see on the big screen next? Let us know in the comments below!
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If you're looking for an expert opinion on how to work at a startup and gain success as an entrepreneur in general, look no further than Everette Taylor. Taylor's an entrepreneur, a public speaker and a marketing expert. He's currently serving as the CMO of Skurt, an on-demand car mobility service. But he has a ton of experience starting his own companies and helping to bring success to everything he touches.
Check out our convo below to see his opinions on the marketing landscape, what sets millennials apart and what pushed him to start his first company.
Get to know Everette further before he presents at AfroTech this November, and read our interview with him below:
Blavity: When did you decide that entrepreneurship was for you? Was that always the kind of career you were interested in? Or did you realize it slowly?
Everette Taylor: It was definitely a journey for me, but I started fairly young. When I was in the 3rd grade, I started going to the corner store to buy gum and then resell each piece to my classmates at a premium. As I got older, I found any way to hustle and make money on my own whether it was cutting lawns or selling CDs.
Fast forward to my sophomore year of college, I had to drop out to help my family. As I was searching for jobs via LinkedIn, I noticed that I barely was getting any responses or interviews despite having 5 years of working experience at the time. I had this hunch, so I decided to do an A/B test.
I created a fake LinkedIn with an identical resume except I changed my name and put a photo of a slightly older white male. I reapplied to 10 job openings in which I did not receive a response and was contacted by 7 of them. The anger and frustration from that pushed me into just starting my first company and fully embracing entrepreneurism.
B: What qualities do you think one needs to thrive as an entrepreneur in a startup environment?
ET: A strong relentless mindset — startups aren’t as glamorous as people make it seem. A lot of ups and downs and constantly going through a range of emotions. It takes someone who will keep pushing through and can deal with adversity. A lot of long days and nights, a lot of sacrifices have to be made.
Emotional intelligence and the ability to delegate tasks is crucial. EQ helps you manage people well and bring out the best in them, but also helps when understanding consumer psychology. As an entrepreneur, you have to recognize that you can’t do everything and you’re not the best at everything. Smart delegation can help you survive the rigors and workload of startups.
Lastly, have to be able to take a scientific approach to things and be data-driven. Money is a tight and you have to be lean as a startup entrepreneur. You have to be smart about how you spend your time and money, the clock is constantly ticking. Taking an experimental and data-driven approach helps you accomplish this.
B: What do you know now that you wish you would have in the beginning of your career?
ET: The importance of learning how to code, I’m still kicking myself to this day — I didn’t take it seriously. It empowers you to be much more independent as a startup founder or someone who works in startups. If you’re reading this right now, go learn how to code now. Trust me.
B: How did you get involved with Skurt? What excites you most about this endeavor in particular?
ET: I had been watching Skurt for sometime, I met the founders last year and they struck me as eager and passionate about what they were doing. When we reconnected this year, I saw so much growth not only in the young founders, but the company itself.
What really sold me on the company was the mission to one day provide affordable access to mobility to everyone. Coming from Southside Richmond, I saw plenty of people without the means to be able to get around or people whose whole lives consisted of a few block radius.
Not only is the mission something I’m passionate about, but also the product. It’s absolutely amazing and I do believe at scale will change the world. I already see us changing people’s lives on a day-to-day.
I’ve started a few companies and worked at several startups, none of them had anywhere near the potential that Skurt has.
B: With the current digital landscape, how do you see marketing as a whole evolving? What do brands need to do to stay ahead of the curve?
ET: “Listen to the kids brooooo” - Kanye West
All jokes aside, really listen. Millennials and the younger generation are a completely different type of consumer than the older generation. Being hyper-aware of pop culture and changing trends is essential.
Creativity will always be key when it comes to marketing, but gone are the days when you can just rely on branding and marketing campaigns that aren’t data-driven. Having structure in marketing and growth is necessary now, and making sure that what you’re doing on the marketing is are pushing your KPIs (key performance indicators).
I believe a mix of strong data-driven marketing, putting an emphasis on customer success, staying culturally aware and embracing new platforms will be the keys to success.
B: What sets millennials apart when it comes to marketing to them and for them?
ET: First and foremost, optimizing your marketing and website for the mobile experience and having a strong genuine presence on social media. Millennials spend an insane amount of time on their phones, almost 90 percent of them use the internet on their phones every day and over 50 percent use social media to make spending decisions.
Attention spans for millennials are short and trends change at an instance, being well versed with tools like Google Trends and studying social media, viral content and influencers can help you stay relevant with millennial consumers.
Customer success has to be a strong initiative in marketing and making sure customer support is easily accessible on the web. Millennials, more than ever, are focusing on the sustainability and social aspects of the products they’re using.
Lastly, you just have to keep it real. Stay authentic and consistent with your branding. Millennials want transparency and to feel that they can trust your brand, not just the cheapest price.
B: What’s your biggest motivator? You’ve worked on so many incredible projects, and I’m sure your schedule and workload are jam-packed. What keeps you pushing through?
ET: I simply want to be the best at what I do. Earlier in my career, I was super motivated to prove certain people wrong and make enough money to support myself and family. Now what pushes me is the desire to be the best at what I do and use that as a platform to change the world around me.
I have major goals and a lot I want to accomplish in life. I know my time on this earth is so short, I want to make the biggest impact I can and leave a strong legacy.
People ask me how do I work such long hours and not drink coffee? (haha) I’m genuinely passionate about what I do and my future dreams.
B: Along with that, how do you unwind? What do you do to be sure you’re taking care of yourself on a daily or weekly basis?
ET: Meditation first thing in the morning, clearing my head and getting myself ready for the day. Startups are a rigorous grind, mental and emotional health are extremely important.
To unwind is as simple as getting home, putting my work down, throwing the newest Soulection mix on and vibing out. I also love spending time with the people I love, doesn’t matter what we do or where I’m at — as long as I’m with genuine people.
Also, I recently made the commitment to eating healthier, sleeping more and just living a healthier lifestyle, already feel a difference on a day-to-day.
B: What's up next for Everette Taylor and your current endeavors?
ET: Really excited for the future here at Skurt and how the product will evolve as time goes along. Also excited for all the expansion we have planned. We just launched our 4th city, Miami, and very bullish on our plans to expand to new cities and grow. That’s really my main focus at the moment, making Skurt live up to its full potential.
Also want to continue to build a diverse team and build a great culture at Skurt. I see where a lot of startups and other tech companies have failed miserably at this, I don’t want this to be the case at all at Skurt.
B: Anything else we should know?
ET: A lot of black creatives and entrepreneurs I know don’t have a car or access to affordable transportation to run errands or make longer distance trips.
So if you’re in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Miami or reading this in the future when we are in other cities, use code “BLAVITY” to use Skurt and get a free car for the day.
[Of course I had to plug Skurt, I’m a marketer at the end of the day (smiles).]
For more from Everette Taylor and other game-changers, get your tickets to AfroTech! We'll see you there.
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We had the opportunity to talk to Kandyse McClure during DragonCon this year. McClure is best known for her role as Anastasia Dualla on Syfy’s 2004 TV series, Battlestar Galactica. But her IMDB is full of great projects since then, too. Check out our conversation, which covered character stereotypes, black people in sci-fi, and what’s next for her.
Blavity: For you doing the Sci-Fi genre (you did it with Battlestar Galactica) how was that? Because oftentimes we're talking about Sci-Fi it's all about suspending the disbelief. But when you have black bodies, particularly black women bodies and those spaces, they're like "now that doesn't make sense!" They can’t get past that point. So how was it being in that space and acting in that space?
Kandyse McClure: I'd have to say, on the set of Battlestar [Galactica], it was sort of a non-issue. Edward James Olmos made it very clear to the writers and the executive producers that this would always be a diverse show. And that no matter what they did, they had to maintain that diversity. Obviously classism still exists and we saw that in the different colonies. But within each colony, people were very diverse.
I feel like it gravitated toward and had success within the sci-fi and thriller genres because it is this future time where the politics and the issues of current day are suspended. It creates a platform for people to be able to discuss really uncomfortable things because they can say "oh well, in the future..." and they don't sort of have to take responsibility for their opinions about it right now.
And you can criticize certain aspects of it just even as a woman, never mind a woman of color. That if you're powerful you have to be sexualized. Or it’s like if you're dark skinned you have to kick ass and if you're light skinned you have to be dainty. Whatever it is. But I think Battlestar [Galactica] in particular was able to blur a lot of those lines within the female cast. I mean my character, I had some sweet romantic moments later on. But even in those, I mean, I remember my first sexual scene. I'm getting out of bed, you know, with Apollo. And I leave him lying there. I've got to go to work. I get up and I put my clothes on and I'm gone.
I don't think it was like a conscious thing necessarily like "we're going to go against the grain!" But it was just this story is powerful enough. We don't have to add on all these gimmicks to try and catch our audience because we don't believe that they'll watch us.
Blavity: What I like about what you said is trusting the audience because oftentimes it’s an excuse, saying, "Oh, they won’t get it," or, "They won’t understand that," so we have to keep it as the same and we don’t progress forward. I think it’s very much a cop out when you’re talking about progressing the acting and the storyline forward, by doing that.
KM: It's one of my greatest pet peeves in this industry. They try and sell you this line about how the audience isn't "ready for it." I was told once there's not going to be an interracial lead. This character is not going to have a girl of color, because the audience isn't ready for it. Or if you have certain number of ethnicities, doesn't even have to be one kind, but a group then it becomes an ethnic show. And exactly that, it's a cop out. I think it's a cop out. I think the best shows have respect for their audiences and believe them to be intelligent and capable.
Blavity: Are you still filming in Mexico for Persons Unknown?
KM: No, gosh that was ages ago! That was so fun. Too bad about that show. It did not get picked up. You know, oftentimes just because the show is amazing doesn't mean it gets renewed. That character was so far outside the box of anything that I had ever played and I got to try some really fun things with it. Sort of physically and that kind of stuff. And then living in Mexico for months, that didn’t suck at all. Such high hopes for that show, but on to the next.
Blavity: So what are you working on now? What's next down the pipeline for you?
KM: I did the thing that nobody should ever do but when you come off a great show. I came off Hemlock Grove and then I decided to kind of change tracks in a way. I wanted to explore some of the other aspects of the work. I also just wanted to do some living for myself. I've been an actor for eighteen years, it’s all I did and my whole life was that. And I wanted to just go be a person. Have a relationship, travel to different places, look at other parts of the work.
So I started producing on a really low level. It's a lot of work, and I cannot call myself a producer, I'm not registered or anything, but I've got a couple things on my belt. I started doing more independent film, just things with more of a message. Amazing group of people. All women: Writer, director, camera person, producers on the last film I worked on. It's called Moving Parts by Emilie Upczak. It's talking about trafficking through the Caribbean, so that'll be coming out [at] festival[s] next year. I've gotten in touch with some amazing South African directors, working on an experimental film coming up in the year. And I'm producing an environmental documentary with some friends of mine about litter.
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Carlos Valdes is a great Cisco Ramon on The Flash. But after meeting in person, it's easy to see him as the lead in his own story someday soon. We talked to the actor in very intimate press conference at DragonCon 2016. And it was a delight. Carlos spoke — at length — about a lot, including season 3 of The Flash. Here are some of the things he told us that day.
He knows the concept of the musical episode.
It was rumored and then confirmed that there would be some singing and dancing going on in one episode this season. And the fans are (mostly) excited – especially because Carlos has such a strong musical background. In 2013, he was nominated for a Tony Award. He said, "the wish is to have as much original music as possible" for the episode. So, we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
The Flashpoint version of his character is a billionaire.
If you aren't familiar, season 3 of The Flash will start out in an alternate reality. Carlos told us that his character, Cisco Ramon, is essentially very much the same. He is still a tech-savvy genius, but now, "he's been able to cash in on that prowess...to become the richest man in America – he's a billionaire." So anybody that wanted to see a Bruce Wayne-style playboy Cisco Ramon, get ready. It's coming very soon.
And then the conversation turned to representation.
This was, obviously, my question. Carlos and I were the only two men of color in the room. And although that's not something many of us aren't used to, it's still worth noting. I asked him about how his experience with representation as a child related to the way he approached his character.
And this is what he said:
"As a kid, I always wanted to be an entertainer. And, in turn, emulated a lot of great actors from film and roles from works I was a fan of ... I never once considered that my race would be an obstacle ... But I found then as I got older, that this was actually a limitation. It engendered this gradual realization that I might not be able to get to play some of the parts that I loved thinking about playing so much. But within that I have so much optimism – roles are being written for people of color. And it's a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of. So instead of struggle with the 'what's your dream role' question these days, I find myself looking forward to the role that hasn't been written yet. And Cisco is, fortunately, one of those roles for me."
Sadly, our time ended briefly after this. But I could feel in my gut that Carlos was grateful for that question. And I was equally grateful for that answer. That one fragment of conversation made me believe this guy and I are destined to be friends. And maybe that's how the experience was designed to make me feel. But the next time I see him, I'll find out.
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If you've ever browsed the “Gay and Lesbian” section on Netflix, you've witnessed the whitest assortment of titles to represent the queer community. It’s painful and insulting to look at as a black queer person, however Netflix throws in a few films actually worth looking at sometimes. A section specifically for films about queer people of color does not exist, but here are some recommendations for LGBTQ films about black people which will make you laugh, cry, and maybe even have a new outlook on life.
This indie dramedy directed by Sean S. Baker follows the day of transgender prostitute Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) as she confronts her pimp/ boyfriend Chester (James Ransone) for cheating on her with a cisgender woman, another prostitute, while she served a 28-day prison sentence. Even though Sin-Dee just got out of prison, she can't seem to stay away from drama.
Game Face (2015)
This sports documentary film, directed by Michiel Thomas and produced by Mark Schoen, follows two black athletes, one trans and the other gay, as they consider the consequences of coming out to their respective communities. While wrestling to maintain her career, Fallon “The Queen of Swords” Fox reflects on her transition and experiences as the first professional transgender woman in Mixed Martial Arts. This story parallels the experiences of college basketball player Terrence Clemens as he debates whether to tell his small town community and teammates he is gay.
Naz and Maalik (2015)
Written and directed by Jay Dockendorf, this drama follows two black Muslim teens, Naz (Kerwin Johnson Jr.) and Maalik (Curtiss Cook Jr.) living in Brooklyn struggling to admit their sexuality and romance with one another. The film follows the couple on a regular summer day selling lottery tickets on the street and engaging in youthful antics while being profiled by an FBI operative looking for Islamic extremists. In fear of being outed to their religious households, the two struggle to keep their story straight.
Randy Rousseau (Julian Walker), a church boy from a small baptist town in Mississippi, develops a crush on a boy from school and experiences growing pains in his tight-knit high school friend group. While struggling to accept himself as a gay Christian, he finds his first boyfriend but fails to please his mother Claire Rousseau (Mo’Nique). The drama also stars Isaiah Washington as Lance Rousseau, Randy’s estranged father, and was directed by Patrik-Ian Polk, the creator of LOGO television series Noah’s Arc.
The Skinny (2012)
Also written and directed by Patrik-Ian Polk, this romantic comedy and drama follows Magnus (Jussie Smollett), a medical student, and his successful group of friends from Brown University for a weekend long reunion for New York Pride. The four gay men and a lesbian reminisce and relive their college glory days.
Stud Life (2012)
Directed by Campbell Ex, the British Drama and Romance follows JJ (T'Nia Miller), a lesbian working as a wedding photographer with her gay best friend Seb as she embarks on a new relationship with a femme. This new relationship creates a divide in their friendship and places JJ in a uncomfortable situation.
The film follows teenager Alike (Adepero Oduye), who lives with her religious parents in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood. Concealing her identity as a butch lesbian from her family, she goes out to nightclubs with her best friend Laura (Pernell Walker). Looking to embrace her sexuality, she struggles finding romantic love and acceptance from her family at the same time. Pariah premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was awarded the Excellence in Cinematography Award. Written and directed by Dee Rees, Pariah also won Best Independent Film from the African-American Film Critics Association and Black Film Critics Circle.
Have you seen any of these movies? Let me know your favorites in the comments below!
Curating Culture through Media. Queer Black Multimedia Journalist, Artist. News. Socio-Political. Lifestyles. Entertainment. Twitter: @lmalikanderson | Website: lmalikanderson.com
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Although you might not realize it, Portlandia has failed you.
The hit IFC-comedy scores laughs about everything from biking and hipsters to extreme localism and weird bookstores. Although calling Portland white is akin to saying it rains there (duh), failing to address the elephant in the room is anything but funny. We ain’t mad at Fred and Carrie because some of these events and groups are fairly new, but here are six of the blackest things the show didn’t spoof:
Partners In Diversity organizes the quarterly Say Hey! event series, which attracts a multicultural crowd — something visually unlike anything you’ve seen on Portlandia. They literally welcome new black people to Portland and shower you with gifts, drinks, food, drinks, praise (maybe an exaggeration... and did I mention drinks?) in hopes that you’ll stay a while.
Black Investment Consortium for Economic Progress
BICEP is a group of community leaders interested in augmenting Portland’s black community through commercial real estate investment, opportunities and revitalization. BICEP has developed the Soul District (yessss!), a neighborhood reclamation project that will feature black-owned businesses. Take that, gentrification!
Da Lab is dedicated to changing the narrative of black love in Portland by gathering black singles and couples for healing, connection, love and kinship through events, group outings + dinners, workshops and more. You WILL leave with a new friend or a (potential) boothang.
Hands Up is a powerful series of seven monologues commissioned by The New Black Fest in response to the Mike Brown and John Crawford shootings, among others. The August Wilson Red Door Project, whose mission is to change the racial ecology of Portland through the arts, puts on the monologues and facilitates a talkback after each show. Gripping perspectives, informational and all-the-feels inducing; did I mention that all the playwrights and actors are black?
Young, Gifted, and Black/Brown
In their own words, “Y.G.B is more than just a party it's a community. We come together to get down, celebrate each other and honor all things YOUNG, GIFTED and BLACK.” This year-old collective has created a safe and welcoming space for black and brown people centered around music and social events. They’re taking it to the next level with a showcase at PICA’s (Portland Institute for Contemporary Art) Time-Based Art Festival.
Like Shark Tank? If so, you’ll love Pitch Black even more. This pitch event features black entrepreneurs, and the crowd decides the winners. Black folks, investors, founders and politicians all in the same room + deals on deals and ca$h shmoney!
What other awesome things are happening in Portland that shows like Portlandia overlook? Let us know in the comments below!
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Stephanie is a recovering lawyer turned life coach, business consultant and matchmaker from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She co-founded Da Lab, a safe space dedicated to changing the narrative of black love in Portland. Enthusiastically inconsistent; continually progressing. Follow Stephanie on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and at her...
Marley Dias is incredible. She's brought us #1000BlackGirlBooks, inspired an overwhelming number of people around the globe, and has remained true to her passion for books and stories the entire time. So we couldn't be any more excited after the announcement of Marley Mag, a digital mini-mag for ELLE.com.
Introducing #MarleyMag, a digital mini-mag on https://t.co/JbtHbxOI6t from the incredible @iammarleydias: https://t.co/igiG6fCVsU
— ELLE Magazine (US) (@ELLEmagazine) September 20, 2016
In her editor's letter announcing the zine, Dias explains that during a conversation with ELLE.com, she expressed interest in editing a magazine some day. But after just a few months, her longterm goal became a reality.
"I want to use what I've learned to elevate the voices of all those who have been ignored and left out," Dias writes.
We're all about uplifting voices, especially those of black women and girls who, for so long, were not given wide-reaching platforms on which to share their experiences. To think of all the young women of color who can look to Marley not only as a role model because of her book drive, but also someone who is making waves editorially on a major platform is incredibly inspiring.
The first issue of Marley Mag highlights women who have changed the world. The star-studded list of features includes Ava DuVernay and Misty Copeland — could it get any more lit?!
Dias demonstrates what hard work, determination and #BlackGirlMagic can get you. We're looking forward to what else the young game-changer has to say. Keep up the great work, Marley!
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