Web Series Creator Fights To Bring LGBTQ Equality With Online SVTV Subscription Network

Written by Williesha Morris

Sheri Johnson, the creator of the hit web series, “StudvilleTV”, just wrapped up the show’s fourth and final season.

For an encore, she has started an online subscription-based network with a Netflix structure and model in an effort to bring equality to the LGBTQ community.

During its spectacular three-year run on YouTube, “StudvilleTV” amassed 100,000 subscribers in 39 countries and got 5 million views.

Fans raved that the series — based on the lives of Johnson and her three best friends — was relatable, fun, serious, and true. The series explored their lives as lesbians — dating, juggling careers and maneuvering through life together.

Johnson made this happen while working full time as a seventh-grade teacher.

Now she’s expanding her success into the Strong Voices Television or SVTV Network, a subscription-based network that she feels will represent LGBTQ women of color better than other media.

With SVTV, Johnson quickly found out that she was fighting for much more than LGBTQ equality. As an African American female lesbian, she’s competing in a male-dominated tech and entertainment industry.

Johnson is introducing live streaming directly from the SVTV platform, offering live streaming shows, sports and events, and making the platform a tech company.

“I am not the first African American woman to run a tech and television (company,)” she told Moguldom. “We have Oprah for that. However, I am the first online network to run live streaming shows, sports, and news, and I just so happen to be an African American woman.”

So far, she has funded the network on a teacher’s salary.

Johnson, a native of Columbus, Ga., came up with the idea for the show five years ago.

“We should have a show with all the foolishness that we go through,” she told her friends, and they agreed.

Chances are, after a particularly funny or unusual event, you’ve said this jokingly to a friend or family member.

Johnson followed through with the “Studville TV” YouTube series, which just finished its final season.

Sheri Johnson, creator of the web series, “StudvilleTV” and CEO of SVTV Network. Photo provided

“I could not fathom that telling my life story and my friends’ life stories about dating would have such an impact on the LGBT community,” she told Moguldom.

“In the show, we’ve always been congratulated for how we portray the dominant figures in the show. With the real crew, we all have careers. We all have degrees. We all have master’s degrees. Some are in sororities. We have lives.”

Johnson became the CEO of this network while teaching seventh-grade social studies and coaching volleyball and basketball. Despite technical and financial setbacks, she’s been able to use the revenue from YouTube advertising to fund the new endeavor.

The network began live streaming events and plans to eventually accept bitcoin for subscriptions.

“With innovation and technology, we try and move forward to become more visible in order to improve our mission — that is to bring equality to mainstream media,” Johnson said.

Moguldom talked to Johnson about SVTV and the fight to bring equality to mainstream media.

Moguldom: Tell us about Strong Voices Television (SVTV)?

Johnson: In the LGBT community, lesbians were not portrayed (as educated professionals). That was something new in the making. As (“StudvilleTV”) was coming to a close, I realized there was a big gap in representation in mainstream (media). (On SVTV) we’re about to highlight LGBTQ sports. There are some sports leagues just for the LGBT community.

There are a lot of great things going on. I’m very excited about the future of the network,.

Moguldom:  How did you work on this along with your full-time work?

Johnson: I ask myself that on a daily basis. I get up early. I have to be at work by 7:30 a.m. to teach and educate children. Volleyball season starts in August. I started the network in the summertime. I go home, and then I grind for the network. I have graphic designers on deck. I’m pretty much PR. I’m the CEO. These are things you have to do if you want it that bad.

No one is going to work harder for your business than you. I’ve come to find that, in this industry, no matter what obstacles are thrown my way, I know I have to grind for the success of this.

I believe this is my mission. It’s also my passion.

Moguldom: Do you feel like you had more pushback because of your race or your gender and a third identity in the LGBTQ community? Talk about some of the biggest struggles that you’ve had.

Johnson: Presently, I am seeing that the entertainment industry is a white male-dominated industry. If we’re having a technical issue, as the CEO and business owner, I need to know what’s going on in my company. I can tell when the white men get on the phone. I think “I’m just going to sit here. This is being a woman CEO.”

I really haven’t had any issues with being a lesbian that have blatantly been in my face.

Moguldom: What kind of advice would you share for women, people of color and LGBTQ community? How would you suggest others go about following their dream?

Johnson: Simply put, don’t quit. Keep going. I’m also a firm believer of staying in your own lane. Don’t compare yourself to other networks. Don’t compare yourself to other people in your industry. I didn’t compare myself to other web series out there. Our numbers are astronomical with the web series. Had I listened to those people or been intimidated by other shows that are out there, I would have quit. I wouldn’t be where I am right now.

You have to have a strong backbone in this industry and know that people are going to talk. There are always going to be haters. There will always be naysayers. God gave you the vision.

This is an updated version of an earlier story. It includes corrections. SVTV is not on mainstream TV nor trying to be on mainstream media. SVTV is an online subscription-based network
with a Netflix structure and model. Founder Sheri Johnson claims to have the first online network run by an African American woman with live streaming shows, sports, and news.