TikTok has quickly become the go-to platform for all things beauty. With trends like the “clean girl makeup look” and “slugging” filling our “For You” pages, beauty lovers are inspired to level up their routines. As a result, #BeautyTikTok is evolving rapidly with new beauty hacks and influencers rising every day, making groundbreaking impacts on their community. TikTok seems to be the “perfect platform” for beauty influencers to grow, yet there’s still a wide gap for creatives of color, and Black creatives, in particular, to be seen.
Black creatives have been vocal about the recent inequalities on the platform. There has been a clear gap between exposure and opportunity from the algorithm for brand deals. There have also been unfortunate cases of content being stolen from Black creatives without any credit or recognition. As a creative myself, there have been times when I’ve felt like I had to put in more effort than my counterparts just to be noticed and when I've had to advocate for myself in order to be paid my worth. However, I love my community, so I continue to push forward and create, an adage many creatives of color live by.
In an effort to shed light on the Black content creators in the TikTok space, xoNecole chatted with five Black beauty TikTokers about their journey and experiences in the social media landscape.
Finding Your Voice and Pushing Forward
Victoria Azubuike, Beauty and Lifestyle Content Creator
Courtesy of Victoria Azubuike
“My growth as a content creator has been prolonged, and then it dramatically increased recently. I’ve recently understood my voice on TikTok and Instagram and what I want to convey to my audience. I dabbled in a few niches when I first started - mainly fashion and motivational content. Now, I’ve finally learned how to show up for myself and the community I serve. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. This journey is years of trying and sometimes feeling like giving up, there was a point I wanted to quit Instagram, as I just wasn't seeing the results... Then things finally changed. Thankfully, I found my voice.
There’s no such thing as an overnight success. This journey is years of trying and sometimes feeling like giving up, there was a point I wanted to quit Instagram, as I just wasn't seeing the results... Then things finally changed.
"I'm learning to show up as my authentic self daily, and share elements of my journey with my community. I'm learning loads, it's a process and reminding myself not to overthink certain things and think about what I would want/need to hear from somebody else. It’s not easy. However, I’m learning it’s important to still show up as my authentic self. I used to use many filters, and this year, I decided to show up as I am - even with a pimple on my face. Through time I’ve realized people respect that more. My community wants to hear from me, the content creator, and that doesn’t always mean showing up with makeup or being perfect. I’m very grateful for my community. They inspire me to push through and show up no matter my challenges."
Representation and Unity
Damilola Adejonwo, Beauty Content Creator
Courtesy of Damilola Adejonwo
"My journey as a content creator has been incredible, but at the same time, it has come with a lot of responsibility. Due to the racial climate, I always take it upon myself to show people how to respect me as a gay and Black man. Content and representation are important because they show who we are and where we come from. I want to show people that there are people who are gay, Black, and wear makeup. It’s so important to see that. I’m happy that I can show that side of myself. Although it has been a good journey for me, I think we have a lot more to do to feel fully included.
"Whenever you’re honest about your path, it’s always hard. I’ve been through so much in my life, but creating has been so therapeutic for me. Talking to the camera and sharing my story has helped many other people and me. The process allowed me to heal and have the career I have today.
Whenever you’re honest about your path, it’s always hard. I’ve been through so much in my life, but creating has been so therapeutic for me. Talking to the camera and sharing my story has helped many other people and me. The process allowed me to heal and have the career I have today.
"Believing in myself is what helped me overcome my challenges and build community. However, what I learned through that is to take time for myself. Mental health and taking a break are so important. Especially if I want to be the change, I also have to be the action. Remember to take breaks, be inspired, and know what needs to change in our community. In my community, I feel like we’re not always included, so now I make it my responsibility to include everyone for us to be unified. If I don’t take that action, other people won’t either."
Staying Positive and Being True to Yourself
Brinkley, Natural Hair Content Creator
Courtesy of Brinkley
"In the beginning, being a content creator felt easy and came out of nowhere for me. As I put in more work, I felt like I had seen less engagement. I know it’s because I am a creator of color. These days I see those who aren't part of our community do less and blow up because TikTok is showing their content. However, Black creators are constantly getting shadowbanned or not ending up on the #ForYouPage. I have over 200,000 followers, and I’m only getting 1,000 views - something is not adding up. At some point, It was disheartening, and I thought about quitting because I was putting in so much work. I can’t give up on my online community.
"Being a hair content creator, representation is important. People want to see people who look like them. I’ve realized there aren’t many people who look like me on the platform, which explains the lack of views I’m receiving. If my beauty content gets pushed out to a white audience, it will probably not do well because the relatability isn’t there.
Being a hair content creator, representation is important. People want to see people who look like them. I’ve realized there aren’t many people who look like me on the platform, which explains the lack of views I’m receiving. If my beauty content gets pushed out to a white audience, it will probably not do well because the relatability isn’t there.
"My biggest challenge has been staying positive. There are times when I do get discouraged or receive hate comments that make me feel like giving up. These are the moments when it’s important to remember who you are and not let anyone’s opinions define you. The biggest lesson has been staying true to myself. When you’re true to yourself, you can be proud of what you accomplish."
Focusing on Your Joy and What You Can Control
Alyssa Francois, Beauty + Lifestyle Influencer
Courtesy of Alyssa Francois
"My journey as a content creator has been one of the most rewarding experiences, and I'm not referring to money. Being able to cultivate a community, learn from them and offer them value is one of the best feelings. However, so many challenges come with being a content creator of color. It often feels like I have to be working 1000 times harder to get the credit or pay I deserve from brands that reach out to partner with me. This could be discouraging, but I do my best to focus on what I can control. What is in my control is making sure the content I share about healing is inspiring, educational, enjoyable, attainable, and something one looks forward to doing because healing can be ugly at times.
What is in my control is making sure the content I share about healing is inspiring, educational, enjoyable, attainable, and something one looks forward to doing because healing can be ugly at times.
"After being diagnosed with endometriosis in 2021, I embarked on a holistic healing journey because I've learned that healing goes beyond the food on your plate and medications. Taking my community on my holistic healing journey has also helped me find new ways to become and feel beautiful from the inside first. I felt that I was making a positive impact as a Black content creator when women of all walks of life reached out to me, thanking me for sharing my endometriosis journey.
"I didn't know that simply opening up more about my autoimmune disease would be interesting to my community. Being a content creator and sharing my journey to help others brings me so much joy, and I want to make sure it continuously feels this way for me."
The Power of Pivoting and Being the Change You Want To See
Trennei Adams, Beauty Influencer
Courtesy of Trennei Adams
"As a woman of color who hasn’t been in this industry very long, my experience has been great! I love the community I’ve built and continue to grow. However, I felt a lack when building a true community on TikTok. I decided to pivot over to Instagram, started taking it seriously, and posting consistently. That’s when my community started to build and form. Something about Instagram feels more intimate to me; it has now become my main platform.
"I realized I was making more of an impact on Instagram as the messages would come through. Women were thanking me for inspiring them and being transparent. Those messages mean the world to me. People are drawn to what they relate to.More than anything, I believe the world needs more kind souls. Society has made it to where it’s rare to be both kind and attractive. I am here to show that you can be both.
People are drawn to what they relate to. More than anything, I believe the world needs more kind souls. Society has made it to where it’s rare to be both kind and attractive. I am here to show that you can be both.
"I’m unapologetic about being the change I want to see. I want to see more women cheering other women on. I want vulnerability. I want to see women evolving and stepping into their power, loving themselves fiercely and confidently while also holding space for the woman next to them!
"I want young Black girls to see that whatever they want to achieve in this lifetime is possible. You can be poised, classy, well-spoken, kind, educated, have nice things, go to therapy, etc. I want that to be normal for us Black women and not a shock! My platform exudes the change I would like to see more of."
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Featured image courtesy of Trennei Adams
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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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Featured image by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images