Op-EdOpinion

RAY: 3 Moments of #BlackGirlMagic in 2017

Black women are magical. Since I was raised by a Black woman, I got to witness this firsthand. Resilience and perseverance is part of her superpower. With the hashtag #BlackGirlMagic trending worldwide, it comes as no surprise that Black women’s influence is in the spotlight and under the microscope.

The Nielsen Company recently released a fascinating study, “African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic.” The in-depth report examines the essence of her behavior and its effect on marketers, advertisers and entertainment. From the top social media site she likes to use (Facebook) to her preferred beverage of choice (refrigerated fruit juices), Nielsen studied all that and everything in between.

Her influence is undeniable, which is why she has to be careful with her charm. It can be hypnotic and alluring, like Beyonce, or commanding and feisty, like Nene Leakes. Or it’s fearless and outspoken like ESPN’s Jemele Hill, who was suspended from the network following her comments related to the NFL’s national anthem controversy. Hill’s comments prompted President Donald Trump to diss her and ESPN on Twitter.

A Black woman’s magic can effect change. Here’s three moments in 2017 where her influence made an impact:

Shea Moisture and Dove Backlash

The appetite for the Black hair market is big and lucrative — especially the growing interest natural styles. Let’s start with the Shea Moisture ad controversy. Black women dragged the hair care company on social media after they saw its commercial, which featured a blonde, two redheads and a curly-haired woman (who was also fair skinned) discussing their hair challenges. Shea Moisture products were created and marketed originally toward women of color. Black women felt the brand turned its back on them. So they told their girlfriends and other sistahs on social media to boycott. Their voices were heard and Shea Moisture pulled the ad, replaced it and apologized. According to Nielsen, Black women are power houses on social media, spending more than five hours a day or more on their various accounts. Seventy-two percent of Black women use Facebook. Nielsen says social media is one platform Black women use to share and receive advice/reviews about products and services, more than their white and Hispanic counterparts.

Do you think companies and advertisers learned from this mess? Nope. Six months later and here we go with Dove, again. The brand — owned by Unilever — is known for its soap, but is now getting hella attention for claims racism and whitewashing. The ad shows a black woman in a brown shirt and when she takes it off, she transforms into a white woman. WTH? What does this supposed to mean? Because what many folks saw was a message that seemed to say brown skin is dirty and white skin is clean. Whether that was intentional or not, the ad failed. And delivered a subtle message that was offensive to my mother, sister, niece and every Black and brown woman who used Dove soap. I put emphasis on “used” because history Black women will boycott them too.

Tamron Hall vs. Megyn Kelly

Black women watch more television than their white and Hispanic counterparts. More than 50 hours a week according to Nielsen’s study. So when Tamron Hall, the first Black woman to co-host NBC’s “Today” show, announced her abrupt departure, her sistahs took notice. They cried foul on social media. Hall’s top-rated show during the 9 a.m. hour of “Today” was given to former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. This led to a scathing article by Whitney Gaspard in Essence. Industry professionals also considered the shakeup a form of “whitewashing,” according to the National Association of Black Journalists, which is currently led by Sarah Glover, an NBC News employee.

While it’s still too early to tell how Kelly’s ratings will fare over time, all is not lost with Tamron or her fans. Hall announced she will host her own daytime TV show in 2018. Don’t call it a comeback. Hall and all of her magic are here to stay. And we are here for it!

Maxine Waters Becomes Queen of Shade

2017 is Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ year. Black millennials love “Auntie Maxine,” because she reminds many of us of that matriarch in our family who says whatever she wants, how she wants. Her frank thoughts and feelings about the current state of our country is both refreshing and hilarious to some. From her campaign to impeach 45, to her viral takedown of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin during a congressional hearing, Waters “Reclaiming My Time,” moment is an example of what the #BlackGirlMagic message means to so many women of color. An opportunity to show the world that their thoughts, expressions and worth matter.

In short, we need her.

I applaud Nielsen for taking notice of Black women in this study. Her marketability, influence, visibility and appearance are her unique potions. Her magic has always been around. And now it’s here to slay.

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