How Black Content Creators Are Trying to Lessen the Influencer Pay Gap

  • According to a 2021 study, Black creators make 35% less than white creators.
  • Black creators are using the power of their online community to share knowledge and provide pay transparency.
  • Creators say that transparency within the Black creator community tells others where to start, but transparency from white creators tells others where to finish.

A video shared to TikTok in October by influencer Victoria Paris about the PR and gifting gap between white and POC influencers erupted a conversation online about brands prioritizing white creators. Paris claimed most PR agents and brand representatives are white and prioritize making deals with and sending gifts to, white influencers like herself. She called the issue a “career handicap” that creates a pay gap between white influencers who can save and invest money versus minority influencers who have to spend more money to replicate the same content.

Paris’ claims are grounded in truth. According to a 2021 study conducted by the PR agency MSL and the Influencer League, the pay gap between Black and white content creators was found to be 35%.

Paris’ video isn’t the only time an influencer has called out the disparity. Jackie Aina, a Black YouTuber with over 3.5 million subscribers, spoke about her experience being underpaid by a brand on an episode of the Pretty Basic Podcast in November. On the podcast, Aina claims a brand told her they had a lower budget than what they offered another non-Black influencer. Aina said she only became aware of the gap when she started working with a manager who had other non-Black clients land deals with the same brand. “It was the difference between car down payment and house down payment,” she said in the interview. Aina did not respond to Insider’s request for an interview.

For those without an agent, the Black creator community becomes an essential advocate

Having a manager, or being signed with an agency, proves to be a game-changer for Black influencers and creators looking for fair pay and opportunity.  “I found a team that I trust and they’re the ones that negotiate for me and do all the crunching numbers,” said Uche Moxam, a 28-year-old, Black content creator based in Los Angeles. “I’ve seen a lot of progress there for me in terms of what I’ve made in the past and what I’m making now.”

That wasn’t always the case. Before her current management team, Moxam was signed with an agency she believes took advantage of her. Moxam claims the agent unevenly allocated the budget from a brand deal to various influencers signed to her. Moxam was made aware of the pay gap by other influencers she had befriended at the agency. “We were doing the same jobs, the same number of posts, and they were receiving a huge amount more than me. I even had more followers than some of them,” she told Insider.

For those who can’t yet afford a manager, haven’t signed with an agency, or in Moxam’s case, find that they can’t trust an agent, the Black creator community is a vessel. It was through a friend that Skylar Marshai, a 25-year-old, Black, content creator in New York City, realized she should be advocating for more compensation.

“A good friend of mine who is an entertainment lawyer was telling me that she was looking at contracts for the requests and pitches from white versus Black creators. And she was like, ‘Girl, you need to raise your rates because you would not believe the amount of money that white creators are asking for,'” Marshai said. A Black Studies minor in college, Marshai said she has been aware of pay gaps between Black and non-Black workers for a while, but finds that it’s harder to figure out what’s fair and what isn’t in the still-new creator industry.

‘Ultimately, it’s up to white creators to be transparent about their pay

Most of Marshai’s knowledge comes from TikTok videos, Instagram graphics, and her community of Black creators. “Black creators, we tend to be scared to even ask for what could be reasonable because we know the way the world works. But in this community, we’ve now been able to kind of turn to each other and ask how much a brand has paid,” she said, noting that white influencer allies have also helped share information.

While there are a few databases focused on creating pay transparency in the influencer and creator space, for example, F*** You Pay Me, Marshai has still found her community to be most helpful.

The onus on creating fair pay in the influencer and creator space should not rest solely on Black creators, however. As Marshal points out, that doesn’t always bring about transparency about what white creators are making.

“Ultimately, it’s up to white creators to be transparent about their pay and the brands they’re working with,” Marshai said. “If I charge $1,500 for a brand deal and my homegirl charges $2,500, I’m like, ‘Oh, cool, so I should charge [$2,500].’ But then we find out that a white influencer is making $4,000, then we’re both underpaid and down bad and just continuing the cycle of staying beneath the margins.”

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