Amber Howard is the Head of Talent at TalentX Gaming (TXG), a talent management company specifically built for gaming and esports athletes and streamers, and has now made it her mission to shake the rooms of status quo, diversity and inclusion within the gaming industry. While only 45% of all U.S. gamers are women, Amber has already demonstrated her commitment to highlighting diversity in the esports and gaming industry by including a diverse A-list roster of esports athletes, gaming influencers, creators and streamers such as Latina gamer and activist Natalie "ZombiUnicorn" Casanova. Not to mention, the boss babe herself is responsible for executing a brand deal between Converse and PAX West, Univision's multi-cultural creators' network by creating all aspects of the business development and talent procurement model, and brand deals with Apple, Epic Games, and Paramount.
In a recent chat, xoNecole caught up with TalentX Gaming's newly appointed Head of Talent about being a boss Black woman in the esports and gaming industry, bringing diversity to the misogynistic industry, and her vision for the future of esports.
xoNecole: What initially sparked your interest in esports?
Amber Howard: While working at IMG, they announced the hiring of an esports agent. A short time later, Riot Games was hosting a League of Legends championship at the Staples Center. I was completely blown away that they sold out the Staples Center in less than an hour. Thinking back, it had to actually be anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. As a Lakers fan, I understood the significance, given how big the Staples Center is, it usually doesn't sell out unless it's a Championship or playoff game. My interest was sparked from that moment on, and I started looking into gaming and esports more. Shortly after, I took a job at the biggest gaming multi-channel network (MCN) in the world at the time, Machinima, and it was a great opportunity for me to dive into gaming.
What are you currently doing in your role as the new Head of Talent at TXG to ensure and actively bring diversity into this industry?
Diversity is something that is important to me and it's something I actively strive for in all aspects of life. Growing up, I took an interest in watching Pam Oliver on TV who would interview my favorite athletes. Watching her intrigued me, I knew that there were great opportunities if I could break through. As I've continued in my career, it's been important for me to make sure that representation is always at the forefront…seeing people who look like you doing things you and the world both think are exciting matters. As Head of Talent at TXG, my primary focus has been making sure we're recruiting great talent and making sure that we are bringing diversity to the roster.
I've made it my mission to do so, by signing A-list talent, streamers and creators who are diverse, and using my resources to give them the recognition and spotlight they genuinely deserve. It's very easy to go after the top ten percent of talent within the industry, but in order for us to actually bring in diverse talent, we have to actively search and seek them out. We also need to ensure diverse talent have the tools necessary to be successful, so they can grow and be seen as higher tier talent in the industry. Essentially, it's about finding the talent and giving them opportunities to grow. To be sure we're abiding by this in our recruiting efforts, I'm constantly reiterating to my team that we are a creator-first company and need to include all races, genders and people from diverse backgrounds. To ensure we achieve this, I make it my priority to provide my team with the tools needed to achieve this goal.
Courtesy of Amber Howard
"As I've continued in my career, it's been important for me to make sure that representation is always at the forefront…seeing people who look like you doing things you and the world both think are exciting matters. As Head of Talent at TXG, my primary focus has been making sure we're recruiting great talent and making sure that we are bringing diversity to the roster."
Did you have any reservations when going into this role knowing that there was a lack of diversity and representation?
No, because there is unfortunately a lack of diversity across every industry. The lack of diversity exists in traditional sports and entertainment, so I knew gaming would be no different. It's unfortunate and, for me, sadly pretty common but I'm strong enough and willing to undertake all that comes with the circumstances in order to press on. I know TalentX Gaming and ReTKGlobal have the resources in order to elevate and highlight diverse talent. I had no reservations taking this role, because I'm confident in the resources I have available as well as my skill set to get the job done.
With your career, how have you seen Black women be mistreated, talked down to or sexually harassed in the workplace?
I personally can't speak to that, because I'm typically the only one or one of two! As a woman working with other women, I've witnessed the unequal treatment of other women and for a long time we had to sit back and take it. I'm happy to be in a time where women have a voice and are being heard.
Have you, yourself, ever experienced or been a victim of such?
I've spent the majority of my career in male-dominated workplaces, which did not go without challenges as a female to be heard, recognized and respected. It's unfortunate, but as women, that's something we experience and often told to just accept that's how it is. It's necessary to be strategic about showcasing your value, ensuring that your voice is heard and it has just as much validity as any male or white male counterpart. Being a Black woman certainly does not make it any easier, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Being a Black woman in gaming is an added perk, and I've learned to position myself in such a way that who I am is seen.
Courtesy of Amber Howard
"It's necessary to be strategic about showcasing your value, ensuring that your voice is heard and it has just as much validity as any male or white male counterpart. Being a Black woman certainly does not make it any easier, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
What do you believe work environments can do better to protect Black women?
I think work environments can honestly do a better job at protecting every woman, especially Black and minority women. I've seen how Black and minority women, all generally experience a lot of the same pitfalls in comparison to our white counterparts. As Black women, we're sometimes even at a level, that is a step lower than some of our white female counterparts, only because we're Black. So, I believe that more can be done. I believe companies should ensure that there is diversity training throughout their company, from HR to the executive board.
Also, ensuring there are engaging activities and inclusion programs that are organic and a part of the company culture. We see a lot of companies doing so now, because of what's happening in society, but diversity councils were not commonplace until recently. It's also important to not only ensure that more Black women are hired, but they are placed in positions where they are seen and truly valued for their contributions. We need more Black women in leadership roles who are being recognized for their contributions with articles such as this.
What do you hope for the future of Black female executives in esports and gaming?
I think the tide is starting to change and we're seeing a little bit of it. We're starting to see more Black and women of color in gaming and esports. I've worked with amazing women throughout my career. Someone who immediately comes to mind however, is Johanna Faries who is the Commissioner of Call of Duty Esports at Activision Blizzard. We're here, but I'm not sure there has been a lot of publicity, excitement or promotion that we are entering and have held these positions until now.
What advice do you have for young Black girls who are looking to dive into careers in esports and gaming?
My biggest advice that I'd give to young Black girls looking to venture in the esports and gaming industry is that you have to have a passion for what you do. I grew up playing video games, I was that kid on the weekends in my room, playing video games for hours. I had an interest and a genuine passion for it. After that, it's important to understand what role you'd like to play since the gaming and esports industry is so vast. Would you like to be on the representation side, in graphic design, programming, work for a game publisher, or help create a culture to ensure there is diversity? There are a ton of different options. Whatever you decide, it just has to be authentic and true to you.
What is something you wish you knew sooner about the esports and gaming industry before entering? What is something they don't tell you?
Something I wish I knew sooner, was to get into it sooner. I've been interested in gaming for a while, but did not enter the industry immediately. Gaming and esports have been around for over a decade. While I was forging a path at NFL Network in 2010, the gaming and esports industry was just beginning to take shape. If I would've known it was happening, I would have jumped right in. It's like going into any career; there are lots of things that you'll just have to learn on the job and be there to truly understand.
What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned about yourself - professionally and personally - as a Black woman in the esports and gaming industry throughout the years?
The biggest lesson I've learned about myself is my ability to persevere. As gaming and esports have begun taking shape, there were positions that I've had that didn't last; companies that I worked for that were sold. My route was not easy, but I knew it was something that I wanted to continue to pursue. I've come to know that the gaming and esports industry does not come without its challenges and having the ability to push through is a must. I was thankful to find a position as Head of Talent at TalentX Gaming (TXG), which is a joint venture between global esports powerhouse ReKTGlobal and "creator-first" talent agency TalentX created specifically to serve gamers. The role encompasses all of the things that I was really looking to do when I set out into gaming and esports five years ago and they are in support of my mission to highlight the diversity that actually already exists within the gaming community.
Featured image courtesy of Amber Howard
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.
Many have wondered if one time is ever enough to see Queen Bey. Some argue yes. However, many of us on the opposite end of the spectrum, including myself, would disagree. Beyoncé's "Renaissance World Tour" is a universal yet varying experience for everyone who attends. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, the concert is "transcendent." For millennials, we have over two decades of her catalog that has served as the soundtrack for many of our lives and painted a personal portrait of our most coveted thoughts. Her music provides mental clarity and self-expression by serving as a universal language that has united fans from all walks of life through community, fashion, self-acceptance, and healing.
With a multi-layered approach to her artistry, just as she did on that winter day in December 2013 with the infamous digital drop of her self-titled album, she changed the game again on February 1, 2023, when she announced her world tour in support of Renaissance, her seventh studio album. Her cultural impact set the internet ablaze, with everyone trying to gather their coins, barter for presale codes, and figure out which cities to attend. The group chats were lit, and the Beyhive was stressed trying to get their hands on tickets.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
Unfortunately, I was in that number. As the concert dates passed by and the one in my city drawing near all roads led to disappointment. With time ticking on the day of the Miami show and less than two hours to spare, my wallet bit the bullet, and I purchased three last-minute tickets, costing roughly $700.00 a piece (including fees) for me, my 9-year-old and 16-year-old nieces in Section 121 at the Hard Rock Stadium. With 10 minutes before showtime, we eagerly awaited the Queen to take the stage. A sea of metallic fringes, cowboy hats, disco fans, and western boots were in full effect and filled the entire stadium.
As the lights dimmed, a flood of emotions instantly overtook my body. It continued with each note she belted, along with nearly 50,000 roaring fans. The reverberating sound of the music through the stadium transported me from one era of my life to the next. As a teen girl in her bedroom daydreaming about her first love to blossoming into an unapologetic Black woman who is still on a road of self-discovery while learning to lean into the power anthem of "You won't break my soul." For over two hours, and with each set, I felt joy, love, peace, and a commanderie with fellow concertgoers. It was therapeutic as I danced like no one was watching and sang as if I were alone in my bathroom mirror.
There were no bars held, and I realized at that moment, "Nobody can judge me but me." The "Renaissance World Tour" proved to be so vast, and my Black girl joy was re-invigorated. It was magnetic and liberating, and I had to attend again, but this time, I needed to be up close and personal; I needed to be on the floor. In the days that passed, I watched more social media clips in different cities and asked myself if I would really splurge again to attend another Renaissance show.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
After all, this would be my thirteenth time (maybe more because I lost count) seeing Beyoncé live, whether she was on tour with Destiny's Child, as a solo artist, or doing a live appearance. I contemplated for a while, but it worked itself out on its own. I was gifted two tickets and the next thing I knew, I was off to LA to attend another Renaissance show with floor seats at SoFi Stadium during Beyonce's 42nd birthday weekend! This time, things were different: no kids were allowed. It was adults only this go round.
Although the energy at the Miami and Los Angeles shows was empowering, infectious, and a celebration of life, happiness, and identity, they each provided their own unique experience. However, both concerts were what I needed for my well-being, leaving me with sore feet from dancing the night away, on vocal rest for the next few days from screaming at the top of my lungs, and on an indefinite high on life.
My introduction and love for Beyoncé began in 1996, while my older sister lived in Houston, TX, right before Bey hit the scene in 1998 with "No, No, No" as a budding R&B member. Her evolution twenty-seven years later as an international superstar and into womanhood has been an incredible journey to witness. As Mrs. Carter reminds each of us in the audience every night before the curtain closes, "I want you to remember this moment, where you're standing, who you came with, and take it with you. I hope you feel inspired."
I truly felt inspired, so thank you, Queen Bey. You awakened my inner child, and I will definitely remember these moments and take them with me.
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Feature image by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood