Bermudian exposes Black influencers pay discrimination
A Black Bermudian musician in Atlanta made headlines in the US after she publicised the struggles that social media influencers of colour faced.
Kaelyn Kastle, 24, appeared in The New York Times Presents documentary Who Gets to Be an Influencer?
Ms Kastle and members of her all-Black entertainment group Collab Crib talked about the problems of being Black influencers at the mercy of social media apps that favoured White influencers.
She told The Royal Gazette that she and other members of the group wanted to spotlight the difficulties Black creators faced.
She said: “Being a Black creator – or even me being a darker-skinned Black creator – in America has been quite difficult.
“I’ve been submitted for brand deals and sponsorships alongside white creators that I have worked with and collaborated with and sometimes the numbers come back and they’re way different.
“The pay gap is substantial – we’re talking thousands of dollars.”
Ms Kastle added: “The conversation in the documentary was sparked based on things that had happened to us where we were disadvantaged – everything from companies taking our videos down, companies not wanting to work with us or even things like companies asking me about my hair.
“These are things that are happening and when creators try to talk about it on these apps they do get shadow-banned, which is when their videos get suppressed.”
Ms Kastle said: “I even tried to put the clip on TikTok and the clip only got 1,000 views in five hours when I have two million followers on TikTok.
“But I posted another unrelated video before that clip – that video got 100,000 views in an hour.”
Ms Kastle, who has about 2.6 million followers across her social media platforms, became an influencer when she started posting original music on YouTube in 2018 while she was still in Bermuda.
She developed a large following after her music went viral and she eventually moved to Atlanta last December to join the Collab Crib influencer house.
Ms Kastle said that the group was started to give Black creators, who were rarely included in white influencer groups, a stronger voice in the media.
But she added that Collab Crib and other Black influencers were hamstrung by social media algorithms that did not promote them as much as white influencers.
Ms Kastle said that “shadow-bans” affected the amount of people who saw her content and made her less desirable to brands.
She added that she even discovered that she had to change her appearance to be promoted on some platforms.
Ms Kastle said: “I sat down with a public relations representative last year and I told them ’I just can’t fight against these white creators, it’s like somehow they’re numbers will have the same following but their growth would be substantially higher than mine’.
“After studying the numbers the PR and I both came back with our own analyses and said the same thing – `brighter’. I’m too dark to work for this algorithm.”
She added: “I needed to figure out ways to brighten myself.
“I went the extra mile with dyeing half of my head pink just to stand out because what else can you do? You can’t change your skin colour.
“I even came home last summer and started working with someone in Bermuda – a darker-skinned little girl – and I had to sit down with her mother and tell her `if this is something that your daughter wants to do then we need to put her in some brighter colours’.”
Ms Kastle said that social media platforms had reached out to Collab Crib in a bid to tackle the problems after Who Gets to Be an Influencer? aired on the television network FX and the streaming site Hulu on June 4.
She added that Collab Crib was working alongside Black app developers to create a more inclusive social media platform.
Ms Kastle said that other Black creators had also contacted the group with their stories.
She said: “I’ve seen content being posted from other Black creators speaking up on it a little more, especially since the documentary dropped.
“They haven’t been hesitant at all about mentioning our name and saying ‘we just watched this documentary’ and then say what they’ve been through.
“There’s a lot of light being shed on the situation and we’re proud of that.”