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The New York Times Presents: 'Who Gets to Be an Influencer?'

Going viral has become big business, and a group of ambitious Black creators in Atlanta is challenging the mostly white social media stars of L.A. for influence. Watch full episode of The New York Times Presents, free for Times subscribers in the U.S.

[all singing] - Stop the beat. <i>KAELYN: Nothing is more valuable</i> <i>than people’s attention.</i> [all cheering] KHAMYRA: Who next? <i>KAELYN: Attention is time—</i> [all shouting excitedly] - All right, ready? <i>KAELYN: And time is money...</i> TRAY: One, two, three, four, five, six! <i>KAELYN: And money is power.</i> - ♪ And my vid got a million views ♪ ♪ Phones out when I walk in the room ♪ ♪ All these dollars meant I just want the blues ♪ all: ♪ Million times, they’re born anew ♪ <i>KAELYN: If you’re gonna make it on the Internet,</i> <i>you need to strike fast.</i> <i>♪ You got me sprung up in the springtime ♪</i> <i>♪ or you’re free time ♪</i> <i>One of the best ways</i> <i>is to join with other people</i> <i>who wanna do the same thing, to collaborate.</i> - Come on, Khamyra, let’s go. - All right, all right. [rapping indistinctly] NOAH: Let’s go! Let’s go! Okay! <i>KAELYN: But the challenge is making it in an industry</i> <i>that’s not made for us.</i> [all speaking at once] <i>[pensive music]</i> <i>♪ ♪</i> - I cannot believe there’s 100 million supporters following me right now. <i>REPORTER: Addison Rae, Josh Richards.</i> <i>REPORTER: Charli D’Amelio.</i> - It’s weird that people know my name. <i>REPORTER: The big business of being an influencer.</i> - The influencer industry is exploding, and it is worth billions of dollars. - You guys mean the world to me. Um, I can never say it enough, ‘cause you guys literally changed my life. <i>KEITH: If you get a massive number of followers,</i> <i>companies will see this,</i> <i>and they’ll see your reach and wanna market themselves,</i> <i>their product, through your platform.</i> - Hey guys, it’s Charli. - You literally are a walking advertisement. - This is pretty good. It’s my everyday drink. I love it. - Hey y’all, it’s Addison. <i>REPORTER: This is the future of the economy.</i> <i>This is where businesses are going.</i> <i>- A lot of the influencers are starting to charge</i> <i>a lot of money,</i> <i>like, 2,000, 3,000 $4,000,</i> <i>to do a post.</i> - Yummy. - We started noticing these creative houses popping up all over in LA. - Welcome to the Clubhouse. - To the Triller House. <i>REPORTER: If you’re part of the Hype House,</i> <i>everyone has to make</i> <i>three TikTok videos a day.</i> <i>KEITH: And I noticed that their numbers</i> <i>were going crazy.</i> FILMER: Go. Yeah! - Yeah - But the thing is, there was almost no diversity in any of these houses, and really all of them was basically mainly all white. - Hype house, sway house, alpha house, the triller house. <i>KINSEY: And I’m so excited</i> because I officially just joined the Clubhouse. <i>KEITH: So I decided to bring together</i> <i>eight talented Black creators here in Atlanta</i> to start our own content house. <i>[upbeat music]</i> <i>KAYCHELLE: This was not the plan.</i> <i>Before the pandemic, I was working at two jobs,</i> <i>and I was going to school full-time.</i> Get up, do it again every single day. SINGER: ♪ I know you don’t like me ♪ ♪ You wanna fight me ♪ <i>KAYCHELLE: TikTok changed my life.</i> <i>SINGER:</i> ♪ Okay, I’m bored in the house ♪ ♪ And I’m in the house bored ♪ <i>KAYCHELLE: When I realized I could get paid from TikTok,</i> my life went from here to, like, here. Like... So I wanna set up my future. <i>KAELYN: This is more than just kids</i> <i>making videos on the Internet.</i> <i>This is the new American dream.</i> <i>It’s one of the best ways to make it big right now,</i> and this is my best shot at getting there. <i>ROB: All the biggest social media stars was in LA,</i> and it was just like, “Damn, okay, I’m finna go to LA.” <i>But it was hard. I’m fat.</i> <i>I’m Black.</i> <i>[“Lacrimosa” from Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor”]</i> They thought I was a drug dealer. They thought I was this, that, and the third. I’m like, “No.” A rapper? I’m like, “No, I’m a social media influencer just like y’all.” <i>KHAMYRA: I wanna achieve financial independence,</i> and I feel like TikTok can help me with that. <i>TRAY: I don’t wanna be just an influencer.</i> <i>I wanna create a business that</i> <i>can thrive and be successful.</i> That’s really my main goal. <i>THEO: My main problem is getting shadow banned,</i> <i>where, when I post videos,</i> <i>it doesn’t get as many views as it should get.</i> <i>The algorithm doesn’t push it as much as it usually does.</i> And I think that’s the problem that a lot of Black creators usually go through. <i>ONEIL: I’m a dance creator.</i> <i>I make dance challenges.</i> <i>[hip-hop music]</i> <i>Being a content creator and a dancer,</i> I’ve seen situations where Black creators don’t really get credit for their talent and what they can actually do. <i>NOAH: It’s so many people</i> <i>who could have the potential to go viral,</i> <i>and they weren’t getting that opportunity.</i> The reason that this house is so significant is because on social media, Black people haven’t got what they deserved yet. <i>[light chime music]</i> <i>♪ ♪</i> <i>[indistinct voices]</i> KEITH: Okay, so everybody here? - Yes. KEITH: Okay, so at the end of 90 days, everyone should be definitely well over a million followers on each platform. YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. <i>So the first 90 days is super important</i> <i>because social media is very volatile.</i> <i>One minute, they’re excited about you,</i> <i>and the next minute, they’ve moved on to the next thing.</i> <i>So if you don’t make it in 90 days,</i> <i>you’re probably not gonna make it in this industry.</i> Also, my goal is to secure, like, that mainstream brand deal, like, a Coke. So I wanna know where you guys wanna go. - Rob? ROB: Um... Make 10K to 30K residuals a month from YouTube and Instagram, 1 million followers on IG, write a movie, network, shoot every day, pray to God, and don’t take shit from nobody. ONEIL: I wanna hit a mil on everything ‘cause I already feel like I’m behind, so I feel like I gotta work a little bit harder. TRAY: I really just wanna create generational wealth for my family ‘cause I don’t wanna see my mom working no more and really just wanna be that person that, like, my family look up to, and just, like, yeah, “He—he really changed all our lives.” You know what I’m saying? KEITH: Anybody else? KAYCHELLE: I’m excited, but I’m nervous. Where I come from, I didn’t get things handed to me. I had to work for everything that I got. So this is all I got. So it should never be a point where we’re too comfortable, because all of this can be taken away like this. [all speaking at once] - My goal— you wanna know what my goal is? My goal is to buy this house. What y’all gonna do? Hey, neighbor. What’s up? I’m in the homeowners’ association. We’re meeting. <i>[peppy repetitive music]</i> <i>ONEIL: We still thinking about where we gon’ put everything.</i> - I never lived in a house this big. - A king-size can go here. - I need blinds for these, lowkey, though. - The east wing and west wing. I’m gonna get this room pimped out. <i>♪ ♪</i> - Hey, here... [both laugh] [distant echoing laughter] - I don’t have a drawer, so I was just folding my jeans and putting them here. <i>I’m from Baltimore, and I drove</i> <i>all the way down here nonstop</i> because Atlanta is, like, the new Black Hollywood. <i>I love social media, but I wanna end up on TV and movies.</i> <i>So I was planning on just doing auditions,</i> but then when I realized that I can use social media, I was like, “Oh, snap. This is easier.” Yeah, I’m about to just run a couple of errands, and then we’ll be right over there. Let me drive. Hell no. <i>I do these little skits.</i> One of the skits is the three best friends. Come on. Switch. Come on, let’s go. <i>Basically, I’m in the car with myself.</i> Got me in the back seat in my own vehicle. Okay. Aah! They’re all me and how I feel. Bro, stop-stop— Girl in the back seat is the one who says stuff that people would not usually say out their mouth. Hey, yo, shorty with the— Stop. Shut up. <i>It feels so free to be that character</i> <i>and not have anybody judging me.</i> But if I’m ugly, y’all ugly, too, ‘cause we look alike. <i>[inaudible]</i> <i>Welcome back to my channel.</i> <i>If you do, make sure you like, comment, subscribe—</i> <i>This right here</i> <i>can literally be the stepping stones</i> <i>to a better life,</i> but I’m afraid to fail. I’m afraid to be a one-hit-wonder. I’m afraid to come— like, I came out here on—on—on faith, and I’m afraid to have to go home and tell them I didn’t make it. - Guess what? I have a secret to tell. I’m finna sing for you. ♪ Some people want it all ♪ ♪ But I don’t want nothing at all ♪ ♪ If it ain’t you, babe ♪ <i>♪ ♪</i> - Khamyra. Good morning. <i>Being a part of a Black creative crib...</i> You’re missing the show. <i>There’s a lot riding on us.</i> We don’t get a second chance at this. How’s everybody’s analytics doing like? - My view on TikTok going down, but they’re not as bad as they used to be, like, between 80, 100k. - My TikTok fluctuates. One video I did 2,000 views, but one video I did 2.9 million videos. - Damn. Can we get something on Instagram? I need help. - Yeah, yeah, I got you. <i>♪ ♪</i> - [sighs] This is gonna sound crazy, you guys, but I originally started the half and half because I am a darker individual. Like, my skin tone is darker, I’m a Black woman, on TikTok, and the algorithm likes bright things. So in order to brighten myself up to do battle on the algorithm, that’s why I did the half and half. In most of my TikToks, my hair is always flipped, but when I shoot like this... I don’t know. The algorithm doesn’t really like me. So I noticed that brighter colors do better on social media, but yo... The hair—I wanna dye it back black, kind of, but I know—I don’t know how my numbers are gonna react to it. KAYCHELLE: C’mon. Can we do this real quick? - One second. This is my intro, guys. Excuse me. So today the boys are doing our makeup. I’m gonna look like Rihanna. - I’ma look like Beyoncé. - And Rob’s judging. <i>When you’re busy worrying</i> <i>about things like the algorithm,</i> <i>it makes you wonder if you’re being paid less</i> <i>because of your appearance, and it also makes you wonder</i> <i>if you’re just not being chosen at all.</i> - This is not lipstick. It’s eye shadow. - That’s for glitter [inaudible]. You’re not doing it right. <i>NOAH: Everybody in the house is constantly thinking</i> <i>about how they can be successful on social media</i> <i>as a Black creator,</i> but I’ve never been one that’s oh, white versus Black because personally I’m biracial. <i>My mom is white, from Germany,</i> <i>and my dad is straight Black from Alabama.</i> So in my mind, it could only go bad if I let it. All right. Three, two, one. BOTH: Good, y’all? - It’s your boy, Noah Made SMK, back with another bang, and man, look, chill. I’m being way too loud once again because today, today your boy is about to be running up <i>the first prank on the Collab Crib girls, man.</i> - Look at this. NOAH: We about to prank the girls. It’s about to go crazy So right here, we got a Gucci bag. GIRLS: [cheering excitedly] - Go ahead and open y’all your new Gucci up. - Ready? ALL: Two, three. - I don’t like— - Oh, okay. BOYS: Ah! - I knew it. I knew it. - They mad. They mad. They mad. Y’all really thought y’all was getting some Gucci, huh? <i>Moving into this Collab Crib,</i> <i>social media went from a hobby to a full-time career.</i> BOYS: Team boys! Team boys! Team boys! - At the moment, based on how fast I’m growing right now, on a good month, TikTok might pay anywhere between 4 and $5,000 if I’m getting the right amount of views. <i>Half of it comes from TikTok just paying me to make videos</i> <i>and get views on the app,</i> <i>and the other half comes from promo deals.</i> <i>I just wanna get to the point where money is not something</i> <i>that needs to be on my mind anymore,</i> <i>where I don’t have to worry about money</i> <i>and no one in my family does</i> <i>‘cause I feel like</i> money is probably the main reason that people’s lives don’t go the way they want it to. <i>[upbeat mischievous music]</i> <i>♪ ♪</i> - [sighs] Man. <i>As a Black man,</i> <i>generational wealth is important to me</i> <i>because not a lot of us have it, you know,</i> <i>and—and I see other cultures</i> <i>and how they provide for their families.</i> Yo, yo, yo. What’s going on? I was gonna bring some of my clothes. You know, we still ain’t got no washer or dryer right now. MOTHER: Oh, you just kinda, like— - I’m kinda thugging it with the clothes right now. - Okay. <i>TRAY: Before I got into social media,</i> <i>I was studying to be a nurse.</i> - Him changing career choices on me. - She was very worried at first. - He definitely gave me a shocker. - But once I finally started actually making money from it and she saw it... - To see the amount of money I’m like, <i>“Is this legal? Is this—”</i> You know, what—-what is this? Where this coming from? - I was just like, “Look, Mom. Go get your nails done, go get your hair done.” Look, I told you I got this. - I just don’t want him to wake up five years, ten years from today and realize, “Where’s my retirement plan? Where’s my plan of longevity?” - I’m definitely gonna prove you wrong. Definitely. It’s built in me. You can’t stop what is built in me. [low whirring] [device beeps] [device beeps] <i>KAYCHELLE: I usually write in a journal my goals</i> <i>and what I wanna accomplish.</i> <i>Or even, sometimes,</i> <i>if I’m going through something,</i> <i>I’ll write down how I feel.</i> <i>[somber music]</i> <i>I grew up with my grandmother basically raising me.</i> <i>So it was me and my two little sisters,</i> <i>Lanya and Jaylen.</i> <i>It’s, like, we were very close.</i> <i>After my grandmother passed away,</i> <i>me and my sisters</i> <i>was basically by ourselves all the time.</i> Like, we were, like, mothers to each other as much as we were sisters to each other. <i>One day, my little sister Jaylen passed away</i> <i>at the age of eight to a brain aneurysm.</i> <i>It was like I lost a sister and I lost, like, a child</i> <i>because I helped raise her.</i> The pain that I went through that was the worst pain I ever experienced. Like, even now, like, <i>all this stuff that’s happened, I’m so happy,</i> but I go through times where it’s, like, “Dang, like, I wish I could share this with her, and I wish that she was here to see me succeed.” One of these days, I’ma pull up in a nice car, and I’ma tell you I made it. One of these days, I’ma pull up with the biggest bouquet. You see all these flowers? Jaylen, your flowers gon’ be so damn big, they gon’ have to move everybody over ‘cause that’s just how— how much I’ma have made it. You gon’ be— you gon’ be shitting on the whole graveyard. You know what I mean? One of these days. One of these days. <i>[serene music]</i> <i>♪ ♪</i> - Yo. - What’s up, brother? - What’s going on, Keith? - What’s up, bro? - So I’m doing the 90-day checkups. We’re technically halfway through. How are you feeling about everything? NOAH: So we’re the team in this business, so we gotta move like a team. I feel like I need to just start making better decisions with that mindset. - I still feel behind from everybody. I still feel like I can do ten times better. - Um, I could definitely be working harder, just putting in more work, more time. - What is this? What kind of phone is this? - It’s a 10. KEITH: What? Y’all making money? Upgrade your phone. Other than your life, this is the most valuable asset to you. Like, looking at your numbers, like, 71.3. That should piss you off. I need to be at 250K. What’s stunting your growth is the quality of the content. He’s at 1.1 million. You know why? <i>[spacey hip-hop music playing]</i> So he’ll turn dance videos into content. So he walked up on these girls and just started dancing. <i>♪ ♪</i> You see what I mean? It’s like a wow factor. So people watching that. You’ve been doing this YouTube thing for how long? NOAH: Since I was a freshman, like, four or five years. - Four or five years, and these new people? NOAH: Just come in. - Come in and boom! Oh, that should anger you. You have to sell yourself. You got to sell your—your dreams, your idea. Your family—you have the most supportive, beautiful family ever. Then make them proud. So you have to think about that... every day. - Okay. <i>[pensive music]</i> <i>♪ ♪</i> ONEIL: [beatboxing] As a dance creator, I don’t just dance. I actually make dances. Like, I make dance challenges. <i>When a challenge takes off, your fan base grows a lot.</i> <i>People take it so serious because it’s, like,</i> <i>people blow up from that.</i> <i>Followers go up.</i> <i>Like, it could change your life.</i> <i>About last year sometime, I made a challenge</i> <i>by DaBaby song “Vibez“.</i> If y’all ever saw this challenge, it was like, mm, mm, mm, mm. <i>BABY:</i> ♪ Get another bitch ♪ ♪ Got her riding dick and screaming yeehaw ♪ ♪ Make me proud, girl, you a cowgirl ♪ - ♪ Did a handstand, I’m like, wow girl ♪ ♪ Mm upside down, boom, boom ♪ ♪ Bow, bow ♪ So like, I made that challenge, right? <i>Posted it on Dubsmash. Like, Dubsmash made</i> <i>most of the dances people do today on TikTok.</i> <i>One day, I started getting text messages on my phone</i> like, “Neil, bro, “your challenge is blowing up on TikTok. “Like, little Huddy did your challenge. <i>Addison Rae, Charli.”</i> <i>Like, all of them did the challenge.</i> Like, this was big. Like, dang, all of these folks hit my challenge on TikTok. I’m like, “What?” So I started commenting. <i>I started commenting on, like, some of the people, you know,</i> <i>“Thanks for hitting my challenge,”</i> <i>but ain’t nobody notice me.</i> I didn’t even get one like on my comments <i>And I just seen everybody just doing my challenge,</i> <i>and I’m getting no credit for it.</i> <i>♪ ♪</i> I was like, “Bro, like, really?” <i>Like, they just gon’ steal my challenge,</i> <i>and I get no credit for it? Like, none.</i> <i>[moody guitar music]</i> <i>I definitely feel like I have the talent</i> <i>to—to go really big.</i> <i>You know, I know I could have been further</i> <i>if I got that credit,</i> <i>could’ve had so many opportunities after that.</i> There’s a lot of influencers and a lot of Black creators out here that made dance challenges that haven’t gotten the recognition they need to. <i>I was making challenges back to back after that.</i> <i>I just started dropping challenges</i> <i>and kept dropping challenges,</i> and I’ma keep dropping challenges. So yeah. <i>♪ ♪</i> [people talking indistinctly] <i>BARRIE: Hi. How’s it going?</i> - Everything’s great. <i>BARRIE: All right. So I owe you guys merch.</i> <i>KEITH: Barrie Segal</i> <i>is an executive at Dubsmash,</i> <i>one of our sponsors.</i> <i>BARRIE: The money should be in flight right now.</i> <i>KEITH: It’s been a huge challenge</i> <i>to get financial backing and ad deals.</i> <i>- How are the creators doing?</i> - I just kind of let—let them handle their own stuff. <i>We spoke to one company about furnishing our house,</i> <i>and we were declined, and they said that,</i> “Hey, you guys don’t match our demographic at the moment.” And I was like, “What does that even mean?” <i>I’m, like, shocked every time ‘cause their numbers are hot</i> and they actually produce really dope content, you know? What are they doing wrong? <i>[pensive music]</i> <i>♪ ♪</i> <i>KINSEY: What’s up, guys? Kinsey here.</i> <i>I do the craziest stunts and pranks online,</i> <i>and I’m so excited</i> <i>because I officially just joined the Clubhouse.</i> <i>INFLUENCER: Hey, what’s up, you guys?</i> <i>I’m Melissa, and today, we’re giving you a house tour.</i> <i>So let’s go. And welcome to my room.</i> - Oh, nice. <i>- Pretty basic.</i> <i>My closet’s over there if you wanna go check out—</i> <i>NOAH: All they rooms are really well furnished.</i> - That’s our pool. - Oh, it’s fat. I even ain’t gon’ lie. <i>MELISSA: We’re gonna go on to the third floor.</i> This is where we film all of our TikToks. <i>NOAH: They got a great light.</i> <i>KAYCHELLE: Damn, the lighting is the best.</i> <i>- Get the hell outta my house.</i> - You know how much you could do with this? NOAH: And now we got the Sway House. Let’s check it out. - Damn boy, these houses is crazy. NOAH: Yeah, light houses hit different. I ain’t gonna lie. [influencers yelling] - Come on in to the Triller House! - Damn. <i>INFLUENCER: This is my Tesla.</i> - Yo, Bryce, hey. [all speaking at once] - Look at those bathrooms. - What? <i>- This is my room.</i> <i>If you look to the left here,</i> <i>that’s my living room within my room.</i> - I ain’t seen a Black person yet. KAYCHELLE: That’s my thing. I haven’t seen no Black people at all. - There were some Asian people in the first one. - Where are the colored people? - Asian is Caucasian? KAELYN: Asian is not Caucasian, but— - And them twins were— the twins! KAELYN: They’re mixed. I’m sorry. I know you are mixed as well, but you can’t throw no one in there like me. They’re gonna be like, “Damn what the hell?” She does not fit in. She is too dark.” Next. NOAH: All right now, this is the Clubhouse. They doing the most, though. Like, this super cinematic. <i>But what shot he at?</i> <i>[laughter]</i> Abbie Rao? Hello. KAYCHELLE: What? KAELYN: How? KAYCHELLE: What did they do to get here? <i>KAELYN: How is they getting these budgets?</i> <i>NOAH: Probably get the sponsors</i> <i>from big companies.</i> - I hate to say it, but we’re, what, how many months in, and where the furniture at? KAELYN: Yeah, there is no furniture. What is it about us that isn’t good enough or good? Like, you know, why can’t we equate or elevate or like, you know, even be as equal? NOAH: But who says we aren’t, though? Like, just ‘cause they got a nicer house than us or some more furniture, like, we still doing the same stuff. - Exactly, but you’re— NOAH: And if anything, we want it more than them ‘cause we not getting all these little handouts— - Yeah, we want it more, but still, we’re not equals still, so— KAYCHELLE: This is the thing. If I do something and somebody who is Caucasian who was a creative with the same amount of followers did the same thing, their views are gonna be higher than mine. Why? NOAH: I don’t make the app. I don’t know. KAYCHELLE: Me and somebody who is Caucasian go for the same job position and we have the same résumé, they will have a better chance to get hired. Why? They would get paid more money. Why? - You expect me to know that? - No, I’m asking you, you ever thought about stuff like this? KAELYN: You don’t feel disadvantaged at all? NOAH: Why would I feel disadvantaged? - You don’t feel as if you’ve ever been discriminated against because of your Color of your skin. KAYCHELLE: Color of your skin or your race? - I mean, obviously there’s been people in my life who just did something ignorant and obviously racially profiled me or just said something that wasn’t the nicest thing to say, but I don’t care about that at all. Like, that was literally due to their ignorance, but when it comes to this— KAELYN: Okay, so it doesn’t upset you that you get paid less? - No, I’m not— - Or even, even—okay, let’s take out this whole social media thing. Let’s talking about the— being a Black man in America, and police brutality and all this stuff. None of that—none of that bothers you? - No, obviously that’s a problem. - Exactly, and that’s what we’re talking about. The color of your skin affects you as an individual. NOAH: I mean, that’s your way of thinking. That’s just how you thinking about it, but I know that for a fact that I can do exactly what they do, and I don’t need any help. - Okay, so you think you don’t work for anybody? Do who—do you work for anybody? NOAH: I work for myself. - No, you don’t. You work for YouTube. You work for Instagram. You work for TikTok because we don’t own the apps. NOAH: I own the content that gets posted. -You don’t. Have you ever read the contract? You don’t own your content. They’re allowed to use the content to their discretion. Secondly, if they wanted to suppress our content... KAELYN AND KAYCHELLE: They can do that. NOAH: No matter what— KAELYN: You’re gonna work, work, work, work. I get that. NOAH: No, no. No, just let me talk. I’m saying— KAELYN: I see you. I understand what you’re saying. - I get what he’s saying, but he’s not getting what we’re saying. - I just said I understand what y’all saying. - Who owns YouTube? KAYCHELLE: White people. The white man. NOAH: Didn’t your account just get deleted? And what did you do? - Who did I have to speak to? The white man. The white man. Do you not understand? I had to ask and beg for my account back from the white man. You’re not getting— KAELYN: For doing nothing. - For doing nothing! - Do you realize that happens to a lot of YouTubers? - I had to beg the white man to get my account back. Do you—is that not a problem? Do you not understand that? - Can we add somebody to this? KAYCHELLE: Theo. NOAH: Where Theo at bro? KAYCHELLE: Theo. NOAH: Bro, please come here, bro. So pretty much, we just got done reacting to, like, three different LA house videos— KAYCHELLE: My thing is, do you feel like you have a disadvantage as a Black creator? - Of course. NOAH: When y’all asked me, “Is there a disadvantage?” I said, “Yes.” Those instances might come up, but I’m gonna adapt, overcome, and move on. THEO: You not gonna let it affect you, but sometimes it’s like stuff that affects you that’s not even in your control whether you let it or not. NOAH: Like what? - Like shadow banning. Being shadow banned on TikTok just ‘cause of your skin color. You cannot—you can’t control that at all, but you can’t let it—you’re not gonna let it affect you mentally, but it’s still stuff that you can’t control that still gonna be a disadvantage regardless. - But I’ve been shadow banned. I just bounced back. Like, if it happens, oh, well. Oh, well. THEO: What they’re saying is, like, just don’t blow past it like it’s not a big deal. You’re just saying, like, “All right, that’s cool, and I’m finna keep doing what I’m doing.” - What—okay. That’s what y’all saying? KAYCHELLE AND KAELYN: Yes. - So after we just watched this video with all these white YouTube—YouTubers and these big-ass houses, what does that make you wanna do now? - It makes me do what I’ve been doing, but— THEO: All right, y’all aren’t being specific on exactly what y’all wanna do about it. - Yes. KAELYN: What do you mean? We’re addressing it. - Bring awareness to it. KAELYN: You have to bring awareness to it. KAYCHELLE: Think about all the other Black kids who are dealing with it. Like, you wanna be a voice for them. Have you ever dealt with, like, racial inequality in real life? KAELYN: Of course he has. [all speaking at once] - I don’t think he ever had to physically deal with it. Like, somebody really, like—well, like— - Like, somebody really just, like, looked at you and, like, called the cops on you just ‘cause, ‘cause of your skin color. - No, that never happened to me. - That’s what I’m saying. - Exactly. - You haven’t experienced it. - So because I haven’t experienced that and y’all have, I’m supposed to conform to y’all’s mentality because— KAELYN: No, it’s not conforming. It’s being—listen, you have a piece of Black in your soul, honey. You need to not conform, but you need to recognize what your people are dealing with. NOAH: And I literally have said for the tenth time now I highly acknowledge everything that’s going on. I see that Black people are— - But you sound like every white person ever. “Oh, I acknowledge that people are being brutally shot. “I acknowledge this, I acknowledge that, but”—listen, “but it does not affect me. “So I can keep acknowledging it, and I’ma just keep working hard, right?” That’s—that’s it right there. You know what I’m saying? - And they got a point. - Theo—okay, Theo is your best friend. Yes? - I mean, they have— I’m not—I’m not—like, they have a point, but what, like, what are you saying against that? Like... - This whole conversation started out talking about Caucasian YouTubers that get treated better than all of the Black influencers, but when I see this, I can’t—I literally cannot do anything about it right now. The only thing that will make that change is if I work harder, get to the top, and then be that first Black influencer who making more than all the white people. You feel me? Like, you can’t do nothing but work harder, outshine them, and then, once you get to that point, that’s when you start bringing up everybody else. The people who never was getting this recognition because they were Black. That’s when you at the top, you say, “Oh, cool. We about to have an all-Black house now.” That’s what I’m saying. It’s all still gonna happen. It don’t matter how much you talk about it. It’s still gonna happen. If I go—If I go live on Instagram right now and—and I talk about every single injustice that’s ever happened in America and tell everybody that this needs to stop, I guarantee you, some messed-up shit probably gonna happen tomorrow. Ain’t nothing going to change. The only thing I can do is try to make this world better for me, and then, once the world is good for me, I can make it better for everybody else. But laying down and think about how bad it is— that’s literally just gonna make your life worse because it’s letting all those oppressions and stuff get to you. I don’t let it get to me. That is what I’m saying. If—if racism is a big-ass bully, I’m not letting him get to me. I don’t give a damn what he say. He can do whatever he wants, and it’s messed up, and when it’s wrong I’ma gonna speak on it and I’m gonna say this is not good, but I’m not gonna let that define my potential. That is what I’m saying. - How many times a Black creator has been canceled? - Every day. - Every damn day, a Black person is being canceled. NOAH: Who got canceled today? - All right. Okay. I’m done. KAYCHELLE: Are you hungry, friend? - Huh? Yeah, I’m hungry. You wanna get—get something? <i>[peaceful music]</i> <i>♪ ♪</i> <i>INFLUENCER: Why don’t you just bring it down?</i> <i>THEO: So pretty much,</i> there’s a new collab house in California, and they’re saying they’re the first Black TikTok house. - It says content house? [all speaking at once] <i>THEO: Kaelyn sent one of their videos</i> <i>to the group chat.</i> - When was that posted? - Yesterday. <i>She was like, “Yeah, we got to come harder</i> at this other TikTok house coming with the gay content.” They [inaudible]. That’s straight. I know that dude who be doing the skits. I think one of them girls looked familiar too. <i>It just made us realize</i> <i>we’re not the only ones that’s trying to do this.</i> - You can’t let that get to you. You still gotta keep the goal, tunnel vision. Yeah, it’ll keep us on our toes. We’re gonna have to come a little harder then. <i>[staccato string music]</i> <i>♪ ♪</i> <i>When I see other people trying to do what I do,</i> I look at it as, like, all right, this—the universe telling me, “Hey, you need to work harder, because this is somebody who wants it just as bad you.” What’s good, y’all? This is your boy, Noah Made SMK, <i>back again with yet another banger.</i> Off the back, double hand, cock back throw. <i>So look, if y’all enjoy, man,</i> be sure to just hit a fat like on this video. The collab houses and stuff— we kind of take that on as a team. - You know, I love how you writing on your notes. <i>NOAH: We say, how can we make us look better?</i> - Hey y’all. Kaychelle here, and welcome back to my channel. The girls are back at it again with another prank. TRAY: Burning your shoes and shit. NOAH: No! <i>KAYCHELLE: The whole strategy of the house right now:</i> we’re trying to drive traffic to everybody page. [screaming] <i>NOAH: Round one.</i> Neil versus Kaelyn. Hoods up. Fight. <i>KAYCHELLE: Do y’all have</i> <i>a whole YouTube video right here?</i> <i>They got it on their YouTube channels,</i> did a whole video. Make it a whole video. <i>[wind howling]</i> - Bless this food that we’re about to eat. Please let it nourish our bodies and our souls, right? - And recording. - Hey, yo what’s good, ma? <i>NOAH: Let’s step up the quality.</i> <i>Let’s use sound effects.</i> - Okay. - Like. - Comment. - Subscribe. - You cannot ever sleep on your competition ever. [hair dryers humming] - Feel like it’s ready. - [inaudible] - Kaychelle and I got a deal with a wig company. <i>We got to do promotion. Oh.</i> - Stop it. Move. - Oh, Kaychelle! <i>KAELYN: Things are going pretty well in the house.</i> - I think I posted, like, six of my TikToks on YouTube, and they all hitting 250k within the first three days. - Well, I’m getting a lot of new brand deals. <i>You just got this Instagram Reels promotion.</i> I wonder if he looks like this in person. <i>Oh, and I’m on some dating thing with Tray.</i> - Wow, you look just like your pictures. - You legit. We got a dating app deal. <i>Definitely progress.</i> - No cap. Right now, it’s hard being a Black creator. KAELYN: Yeah. ROB: But we stay true to ourselves and still made it as far as we can. KAELYN: Yeah. NOAH: You know what the hero’s journey is? THEO: Uh-uh. What’s that? NOAH: Every single story in the world, whether it’s a movie or a book, kind of follows, like, the same guidelines. So like, the main character— he’s—he’s in an uncomfortable place and then he has to adapt, and then he’s faced with a new task, like a dragon or something, and then once he kills the dragon, there’s a new task. There’s always gonna be a new problem, and you always gotta adapt and overcome, just like you said. So that’s facts. <i>[excited cheering]</i> - Let’s go! It’s starting, man! - Look, I’m about to react to myself on the news along with the whole gang. - Mama, you gotta watch it. ABC News, go to it right now. - Tell Daddy [indistinct]. Wake his ass up. - Welcome to the influencers of Atlanta. [all cheering] <i>REPORTER: ...with billions of views between them,</i> <i>and most importantly, they’re all Black.</i> <i>Meet the ATL’s hottest and newest industry.</i> <i>REPORTER: Collab Crib, a super-group of influencers...</i> <i>Do you feel like it’s your job</i> to put Black influencers on the map? - It is, yeah. Because it’s a struggle. <i>REPORTER: Meet the stars of the Collab Crib.</i> <i>KAYCHELLE: Everything kind of</i> <i>started dropping at the same time.</i> <i>REPORTER: The Collab Crib.</i> <i>KAYCHELLE: It’s back-to-back publicity.</i> - We’re the girls of— ALL: The Collab Crib. - Congratulations on 1 million followers. <i>KAYCHELLE: Rob has hit a million on Instagram,</i> <i>and that was a huge milestone.</i> ROB: I’m not gonna stop. Even [indistinct], I’m not gonna stop. - We’ve worked really hard to get these major brand deals, <i>like, NASCAR, Monster Energy, Nike.</i> [cheering] - We gonna go back to work. KHAMYRA: Yeah, we go back to work. <i>[pensive music]</i> - Kaelyn, I’m about to get in the car. <i>♪ ♪</i> Um, this is my new car. Her name is Journey. <i>For me, it’s more than a car.</i> <i>It’s being able to go back to Baltimore</i> <i>and visit my sister’s grave</i> <i>and show her how far I’ve came.</i> <i>I promised her that I would pull up in the nicest car</i> because I know she’s like, “Oh my God, I’m so proud of you,” you know? <i>KEITH: I just want to congratulate everybody.</i> We’ve finally reached the 90-day mark of being in this house, and I thank everybody. [applause] <i>♪ ♪</i> Data is so important. Numbers are so important. You have to be relevant. Once we reached the 90 days, <i>it doesn’t stop there.</i> <i>If one milestone is hit a million followers,</i> <i>guess what?</i> <i>There’s a 4 million-follower milestone.</i> <i>So we keep going because we’re doing this for the culture.</i> We’re doing this for Black culture. <i>It took us being on national television</i> <i>to get the attention of big companies,</i> <i>but our success was never a guarantee.</i> - Oh my God, Kaelyn. <i>KEITH: And Black creators still have to work</i> <i>so much harder to get what they deserve.</i> There’s still a fight. It’s—it’s technically really never over. <i>[peppy repetitive music]</i> <i>KAELYN: I have my own personal victory.</i> <i>♪ ♪</i> I changed my hair. It’s all black. <i>I feel more like myself than I’ve ever felt,</i> and I was kind of just like, “Screw the algorithm.” [laughs] <i>[pensive music]</i> <i>♪ ♪</i>

Times Documentaries

Watch38:07

The New York Times Presents: 'Who Gets to Be an Influencer?'

January 27, 2022

Going viral has become big business, and a group of ambitious Black creators in Atlanta is challenging the mostly white social media stars of L.A. for influence. Watch full episode of The New York Times Presents, free for Times subscribers in the U.S.

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