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Noemie Tshinanga

Exclusive: These Women Of Color Are Putting The Power Back In The Hands Of Black Creators

Giving credit where credit is due.

Workin' Girl

While TikTok has faced massive backlash from Black creators who claim they aren’t getting credit for their content, are getting deleted for talking about racism and social injustice issues, and not getting paid their worth in comparison to white TikTok-ers, Instagram has swooped in to give them a voice. Last Monday, Instagram announced a new special tag feature that will allow content creators to get the proper credit for their posts and videos.


The new feature was created by Alexis Michelle Adjei, Cameryn Boyd, and Alexandra Zaoui who wanted to do something about the disparities between Black creators who are often creating trends but rarely seeing as much profit, virality, or credit for their contributions in the social media landscape. The trio, who works for Facebook’s rebranded company Meta, spoke with xoNecole exclusively about the groundbreaking work they are doing.

“Alexis, Cameryn, and I came up with the idea and kick-started this project after witnessing how Black creators were overlooked and under-compensated despite originating the trends (dances, songs, etc.) that were being virally distributed across social media,” said data analyst Alexandra Zaoui.

“We wanted to ensure that creators get the credit they deserve, especially in a time when that kind of visibility directly leads to brand deals and other monetary opportunities. Rather than just calling out the problem, we wanted to build a tangible, product-driven solution to encourage a culture of crediting which honors the etiquette that we saw already happening on Instagram with people tags.”

Courtesy of Alexandra Zaoui

Erin White

The enhanced tag is only available for business and creator accounts and Instagram’s website provided instructions on how to add the tag to a post. The website also described enhanced tags as a way to “allow a creator's self-designated profile category on their professional accounts to be displayed in their People Tag so that people can share and view a creator's specific contribution to a photo or video post.”

Alexis, who is also a data analyst, shared with xoNecole how their thoughts turned into reality. “Creators consistently do their job of innovating, uplifting, and driving culture through their various artistry forms,” she said.

“Through social media, this has blossomed into life-changing, economic-advancing opportunities that notably exclude underserved creators, namely Black and brown trendsetters and originators. That’s when it becomes our jobs, those working across social media, to listen intently to the needs in the community and think critically and creatively about how to solve these equality gaps– and that’s exactly what Alexandra, Cameryn, and I aspired to do when we developed enhanced tags.”

Courtesy of Cameron Boyd and Alexis Michelle Adjei

Noemie Tshinanga

“We know that this is only a first step, but we’re passionate about accepting the responsibility on the product side to build tools that ensure a healthy, equitable creator ecosystem for all.”

The new Instagram feature comes on the heels of the more recent criticism TikTok received after Forbes named the top-earners on the social site, which were all non-Black creators. The list included Addison Rae, who was called out last year for performing Black creator Jalaiah Harmon’s viral “Renegade” dance during her appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Addison has since apologized and the late-night talk show host brought Jalaiah on the show along with other Black creators.

But that’s just one example of the attempted erasure of Black creativity.

Software engineer Cameryn hopes that the enhanced tag will be a part of the change that needs to happen in order for Black creators to have as much visibility as their white counterparts. “We hope that all social media platforms will start to take crediting more seriously,” she said.

“As creators are increasingly becoming more of the focus, it’s imperative that these platforms put more of the onus on themselves to ensure that content is properly attributed and fairly compensated. We don’t want underrepresented creators to be left behind. We hope enhanced tags will create this social pressure to hold each other more accountable for giving credit since it’s now integrated within the product and easy to do.”

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Featured image by Noemie Tshinanga

When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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Featured image by Getty Images

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