When I think of an influencer, I think of hard-working individuals who produces fresh content tailor-made for their following. Everyone is an influencer in their own right so there are different types of influencers — Mega, Macro, Micro, and Nano. Within these varying categories, there is a myriad of opportunities for influencers to partner with brands of all kinds. But, let's be honest, the influencer space is predominantly white. This means that influencers of color have to work twice as hard for the same opportunities as white influencers. Imagine being an influencer of color and learning that your work is valued less than that of your white counterparts. Story of a black creative's life, right?
The 2020 revolution is forcing the world to stop and listen to black folks. Thanks to a pandemic within a pandemic, society is finally hearing the cries of black people. Granted, we have been saying "per my last email" to injustice for decades but we will take what we can get at this point. Unfortunately, injustices happen to us in all spaces. For that reason, heavyweight influencers like Aicha Balde and Marche Robinson created the #OpenFohr campaign.
In case you don't know about Fohr, let me learn you something. Fohr is a global influencer marketing platform for ambassadors and brands. The goal of the platform is to provide influencers with tools that help them create a cutting edge marketing strategy, leading them to partnerships and campaigns. Fohr proudly states, "We support influencers. We are nothing without our influencer community, and we act accordingly." And like many other companies, Fohr jumped on the trend to pause advertisements and post anti-racism resources amidst the civil unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd. The gag is, they don't walk it like they talk it. For years, Black and Brown influencers have made it their business to share their grievances with being underpaid and there has not been any change.
That's where Aicha and Marche come in. We had the chance to dig deeper into this movement and what it means to these amazing women.
xoNecole: Tell us about yourself and how you became an influencer.
Aicha Balde: My name is Aissatou Balde but only my dad calls me Aissatou, everyone else knows me as Aicha. I am a West African-born full-time working mom and a Black content creator (@talesandturbans). My journey as a content creator started as an outlet to empower African [and] Muslim girls like me to do things that seemed impossible, such as juggling school, family, and work. Today, I pride myself in creating a space for open and difficult conversations about motherhood, identity, and life, along with the fun stuff like fashion, skincare, and food.
Marche Robinson: I'm Marche Robinson and I am an attorney and blogger (@marcherobinson) living in Raleigh, NC. I've been blogging since 2012. I graduated law school in 2010 and the market was very bad. There were not a lot of legal jobs. I took a contract role in Charlotte and at the time I had an inconsistent working schedule and needed something creative to fill the time. I started reading blogs and my friends and family told me I should start one. So, in August of 2012, I launched my blog and initially just shared fashion, beauty and décor images I found online.
Why did you start the OpenFohr movement?
Aicha & Marche: A group of eight Black content creators - Aissata Diallo, Denisse Myrick, Valerie Eguavoen, Yvette Corinne, Marche' Robinson, Nasteha Yusuf, and Nuni Yusuf, and I started #OpenFohr as a next step in a series of interventions against racism at Fohr. Over the past two years, we have complained, explained, consulted, and recommended solutions to Fohr, but our voices have been silenced with polished campaigns that convince the mainstream media that Fohr is a changemaker in the content creation space.
Agencies like Fohr have capitalized on the growing call for "diversity and inclusion" in the influencer industry without really making any changes to their exploitative and discriminatory practices. We created the OpenFohr campaign because we cannot allow people to keep exploiting the anti-racist narrative for profits. Over the past two weeks, as the Black Lives Matter movement took center stage in the public discourse, Fohr paused its advertising, posted protest resources, and even provided anti-racism resources on Instagram. Yet, many of the Black content creators who have worked with them are discriminated against and underpaid.
We also want people to know that this is about both racism and economic exploitation. Fohr boasts over 100,000 (majority-white) influencers on their online platform, yet only 4% (just over 4,000) content creators have ever had a contract with Fohr. They have created a platform that does not value influencers as people but sees them as a commodity to be sold to brands. It is impossible to address the issues we see at Fohr without addressing the culture of consumerism and exploitation perpetrated by the industry.
Left to Right: Aicha Balde, Marche Robinson
Photos Courtesy of Aicha Balde & Marche Robinson
"We want people to know that this is about both racism and economic exploitation. Fohr boasts over 100,000 (majority-white) influencers on their online platform, yet only 4% (just over 4,000) content creators have ever had a contract with Fohr. They have created a platform that does not value influencers as people but sees them as a commodity to be sold to brands. It is impossible to address the issues we see at Fohr without addressing the culture of consumerism and exploitation perpetrated by the industry."
What does it mean to be a Black influencer?
Aicha: To be a Black influencer means showing up in spaces where you may not be wanted and still doing it for girls who look like you. I learned the hard way that brands tend to gravitate more towards bloggers that fit the standard of beauty. For a long time, I thought, "Blogging isn't for me because I don't look 'the part'." Even photographers have blatantly told me that they don't know how to edit my skin tone, completely unwilling to learn and unable to even recommend an alternative contact. The biggest challenge of being so diverse in this business is finding people who can understand you and won't crush your confidence. I blog to remind myself and others that we are good enough; our diversity is an asset, not a drawback.
Marche: When I first started out, being a Black influencer meant filling a void. Fashion magazines and sites rarely shared Black women. They still have a very long way to go so I still feel this way. I feel like influencing is a way to share fashion, beauty, etc with women who can relate to me. It's not easy for Black women to open a magazine and see a woman like them sharing their story or their favorite products. If it were not for Black influencers, there would not be as much representation.
When you learned of the influencer pay gap, how did you feel?
Aicha: These issues are not new. Black bloggers have been discussing our unfair treatment in the Influential Marketing world for years, but to no avail. What finally broke the camel's back was the fact that Fohr had the audacity to use the #BlackLivesMatter issue to their advantage despite their repertoire of exploiting us. When I say us, I don't just mean Black content creators. This includes their Black employees who cannot speak out about their treatment for fear of being ostracized.
Marche: Honestly, I was not surprised. Pay gaps are present in every industry unfortunately. I've been in the position where I was drastically underpaid than my legal colleagues in certain jobs even though I had the same or more experience. It's unfortunate because I think that we've become accustomed to being undervalued. I also feel like there is this veil of secrecy that prevents you from discussing your pay, so you can sometimes feel like you have negotiated the best rate when you didn't.
Left to Right: Aicha Balde, Marche Robinson
Photos Courtesy of Aicha Balde & Marche Robinson
"Pay gaps are present in every industry unfortunately. I've been in the position where I was drastically underpaid than my legal colleagues in certain jobs even though I had the same or more experience. It's unfortunate because I think that we've become accustomed to being undervalued. I also feel like there is this veil of secrecy that prevents you from discussing your pay, so you can sometimes feel like you have negotiated the best rate when you didn't."
What are your demands of Fohr?
Aicha & Marche: Fohr must stop treating this movement as a PR nightmare to hide from and instead, face it as the call to accountability of their actions and inactions over the years. You cannot have an entitled and unaware homogenous-white staff leading an organization and expect to get it right. You will always miss the mark because there's no one to say otherwise. Lack of diversity is how you end up taking advantage of Black creators and complain when you get called out. Fohr needs an independent outside party to look at their structure and provide constructive criticism. Most importantly, Fohr needs an HR department. You cannot fairly police yourself. We know that, so let's change that.
Why do you think it's important for Fohr to show their authentic commitment to Black influencers?
Aicha: I personally don't think Fohr is capable of being authentic to their Black influencers. This was never something that was on their agenda. As I said, this conversation has been going on for over two years but nothing has changed. The creation of The Fohr Freshman Class was a result of Fohr getting called out for lack of diversity, and yet they still failed us. It is essential for authentic commitments to happen because Black content creators are as deserving of our space in this sphere as much as anyone else. We are here and we matter.
Marche: Fohr should show authentic commitment because they have consistently held themselves out to be supportive of diversity and leader in the influencer marketing industry. How can you hold yourself out to be so groundbreaking when you lack diversity within your organizing and with the bloggers you hire for campaigns? I think there is this tendency for people to say, "Oh that's just the industry," but that doesn't make it right. People should be paid adequately for the service they provide.
Left to Right: Aicha Balde, Marche Robinson
Photos Courtesy of Aicha Balde & Marche Robinson
"It is essential for authentic commitments to happen because Black content creators are as deserving of our space in this sphere as much as anyone else. We are here and we matter."
What advice do you have for other influencers struggling to create?
Aicha: Do things that come naturally to you and that revolve around your day-to-day life. Reach out to another sister to have a creativity party and get ideas flowing. Most of my Insta family will tell you that my DMs are always open, whether it's for help, a listening ear, or to celebrate each other: I'm here for you, sis.
Marche: So many influencers have had to pivot during quarantine and now with the current movements. I think that you have to share what you are passionate about. When you do what you love it comes naturally. I actually started a TikTok account and it's been fun to create content in a new way and it has resonated a lot with my social media followers. I think this is a great time to step back and think of a new way to create and share what you love.
To keep up with the #OpenFohr movement, follow them on Instagram @openfohr. And follow Marche and Aicha on Instagram @talesandturbans and @marcherobinson.
Feature Image Courtesy of Aicha Balde & Marche Robinson
Joce Blake is a womanist who loves fashion, Beyonce and Hot Cheetos. The sophistiratchet enthusiast is based in Brooklyn, NY but has southern belle roots as she was born and raised in Memphis, TN. Keep up with her on Instagram @joce_blake and on Twitter @SaraJessicaBee.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic plastic surgical procedures, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, and on average, it may run you close to $ 4,000. While many people are still turning to surgery to get the look they want, there are many alternatives that are noninvasive and overall safer that are starting to get some shine. Like a lot of people during the pandemic, I had put on a few extra pounds, and I was looking at all the different methods that can help me look and feel great.
I don’t remember how I ran across it, but I began researching laser lipo, and before I knew it, I had booked my first appointment of many. I entered the medispa and was taken to a room and told to lie down. Then, I had lasers placed on top of my stomach for about 30 minutes, and I was done. While it sounds simple, it can take multiple sessions to get the desired look you want. That was a couple of years ago. However, I decided to try it again. This time with a different practitioner and a few add-ons, including wood therapy, cavitation, skin tightening, and vacuum therapy. Let’s dig deeper.
What Is Laser Lipo?
Laser lipo is a non-invasive procedure that penetrates through the skin and shrinks the fat. Not only is it simpler than regular lipo, but it’s also less expensive. Tammy Bell of Sculpted By Bella Beauty Bar, where she offers these noninvasive services, tells us why more people are turning to laser lipo.
“It’s noninvasive. You don’t have no downtime at all, unlike lipo and the different surgeries you have downtime with that,” she says. “You get results. It’s a little slower than regular lipo, but you get results that you want.” Because everyone’s body is different, the results may vary. However, Tammy says it’s also based on lifestyle habits such as what you’re eating and how active you are.
Laser lipo is just one of the many noninvasive services to choose from. See more below.
Microgen Images/ Science Photo Library/ Getty Images
If you follow Tracee Ellis Ross on Instagram or TikTok, then you probably saw the video of her using wooden tools to sculpt her body. This method is called wood therapy, and let me tell you, it’s not for the faint of heart. In my experience, it’s a weird sensation and a little painful. However, they say beauty is pain.
Tammy breaks down what wood therapy is. “It actually breaks up the fat, and it contours your body. It moves the fat through your lymphatic system,” she explains.
Another treatment is skin tightening. As we get older, our skin loses elasticity, and this service targets sagging skin for a tighter appearance. “The heat actually helps tighten the skin,” Tammy says about the skin-tightening tool that is used during the service. “It helps build collagen for your skin to tighten.”
Cavitation liquifies the fat, and it’s the only service out of this list that can’t be done on your face. “With the cavitation and all that stuff, if you notice, I always come in, and then I go down because you have your lymph nodes for your lymphatic system for it to drain,” she says, explaining the technique she does when using the tools on the body.
“That’s why it’s important for you to drink a lot of water ‘cause you (the fat) have to either come out in your sweat or your urine.”
Vacuum therapy involves suction cups that lift the skin. While I’ve only used it on my stomach, Healthline reports that many people are using it to get a butt lift. “Vacuum therapy moves the fat, and if you want to get a butt lift, you push the fat up,” Tammy says.
Costs vary per service and per practitioner. However, I spent around $400 and got all the aforementioned services done within five appointments.
Body sculpting results
Photo courtesy of London Alexaundria
My target areas were my back, stomach, and arms, and I am satisfied with the results I received in such a short amount of time. You can get these services done separately and get good results, but I decided to try them all together as a part of a package. Just like they will tell you after getting regular lipo, for lasting results, you must make sure to keep a healthy lifestyle.
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Feature image by Delmaine Donson/ Getty Images