Black Content Creators Left Out Of Viral TikTok Fame

Black Content Creators Left Out Of Viral TikTok Fame

Many social media trends get started by Black creators, be it a viral dance or challenge. But they aren’t getting the credit — or money — they’re due.

Think about it. Many of the social media trends get started by Black creators, be it a viral dance or challenge. And the same holds true for the latest tech darling TikTok. But on TikTok, Black creators aren’t getting the credit they’re due — much less the same money that their white peers on the app are making as influencers.

And there is money to be made. “On YouTube, you get money from the views you get, but on TikTok you don’t get money from views right now,” Javi Luna, a TikTok creator with 4 million followers, told the BBC.

“For the most part, TikTok doesn’t offer creators a way to make money on its platform. Creators can secure sponsorships and brand deals for individual posts, but those deals have to be secured without TikTok’s help. A select group of creators hand-picked by TikTok can also earn money through tipping in live streams, but that doesn’t cover the most popular part of the app.

This lack of monetizing options could make it harder for TikTok to get its top talent to stick around, and it’s already led popular creators, like Brendan Robert, a creator with close to 3 million followers, to direct fans to their YouTube accounts. After all, that’s where they can earn money far more easily,” The Verge reported.

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The problem is the work of Black creators on Dubsmash is being co-opted by white TikTokers, such as TikTok superstars Charli D’Amelio and Addison “Rae” Easterling

“Together, they have nearly 50 million followers on TikTok alone, have become synonymous with viral dances like the Renegade, Holy Moly and Gimme Sum, have performed in public arenas — the most recent being the NBA All-Star game — and have even been signed to United Talent Agency (UTA) and William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME), respectively, to work on launching digital content,” Yahoo reported.

Contrast Essence Marie and Anayah Rice to D’Amelio and Easterling. Even though Maria and Rice are two of the biggest names in their community of dancers on Dubsmash, they have only amassed nearly 2 million followers on Instagram. And their accounts on TikTok are nowhere near that of Charli and others. 

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Why? It could all come down to race.

“That’s because, when it comes to viral dance videos, there seems to be a parallel universe, based largely on race, in which white kids dominate on TikTok while everyone else seems partial to a 2014 app that actually predates TikTok: Dubsmash, a short-form video sharing platform where burgeoning content creators can showcase their talents, mainly in dance and comedy,” Yahoo reported.

A New York Times feature about 14-year-old Georgia native, Jalaiah Harmon, and her creation of the “original Renegade,” speaks of the dance’s viral movement. Harmon performed her dance at the NBA All-Star game and received recognition from the likes of Kim Kardashian and Michelle Obama. She appeared on “The Ellen Degeneres Show”.

D’Amelio and Easterling promoted their versions of the dance, which were viewed hundreds of times. Now, the two have posted a video featuring Harmon, in which the three did the original choreography together. 

According to LaJuné McMillian, a new-media artist and creative technologist behind the Black Movement Project, race is the reason for the discrepancy.

“The appropriation of Black movement — the exploitation, the erasure of Black movement — isn’t a new thing,” McMillian told Yahoo. “America was built off of Black movement … and then to see, just, historically, how we even brought the movements from our ancestors here and transform them and use them to reconnect with one another to build new histories, new stories for us and our futures.”

“What this problem is really pointing at is this really foundational issue. And that is serious,” she added. “Ownership — and even defining what ownership means — is really important for us and for our younger folks, to be able to have the space and the time to reconfigure what that means for them. And not to just, you know, have that taken away as soon as they move.”