Alicia Tenise shared some findings in a Twitter thread.
Alicia Chew
  • Blogger and influencer Alicia Tenise shared a Twitter thread that showed the lack of diversity in the influencer space.
  • Blogger and author Stephanie Yeboah shared similar thoughts in a column for Metro.
  • This lack of diversity is common in opportunities given to journalists too, in my experience.
  • People offered up several in their replies to Tenise including inclusion riders and even speaking with brands directly about how they'll combat this issue.
  • For more stories go to www.businessinsider.co.za.

If you've spent time on social media in the past few years, you've probably noticed a rise in influencer marketing and promotion. The industry's ad spend is expected to reach between $5 billion (R71 billion) and $10 billion (R143 billion)  by 2022. That means more sponsored posts from idyllic landscapes in glamorous locations and robe selfies inside of the world's most Instagrammable hotel suites. But as one black influencer recently pointed out on Twitter, not all bloggers are being given the same opportunities to travel and share their experiences.

In a viral tweet last week, D.C-based fashion and travel blogger Alicia Tenise shared a troubling trend that she has been observing: when it comes to influencer trips (often lavish group excursions organised to generate buzz and engagement for brands and companies), there seem to be rarely any black influencers on the guest lists.

Alicia Tenise (whose full name is Alicia Tenise Chew) has 22.4k followers on Instagram and has been blogging and working as a social media manager for lifestyle brands for nearly a decade. Her tweet sparked a discussion online about representation and inclusivity that is unfortunately not new.

"Over the last eight years, I've met so many talented black influencers - there certainly is no shortage of us," she told INSIDER. "I'm frustrated for them, and I think we should also have a seat at the table." Earlier this month, a similar take was shared by blogger and author Stephanie Yeboah. "As I scroll through my Instagram timeline, I can't help but notice the many slim, white faces smiling up at me," Yeboah wrote in an opinion piece for Metro. When she reached out to one of the brands to ask if they "ever use non-white influencers" in their campaigns and to offer to add some diversity to their page, she was quickly blocked.

"The influencer community has long had an issue with racial inclusivity," the veteran style blogger with 35.5k Twitter followers wrote, "yet it still seems to be a topic largely avoided by marketers, brands, and by white influencers themselves (likely for fear of falling out of favour with the brands and PR companies who pay their bills)."

Tenise explained in a follow-up tweet that her intention was not to attack the white bloggers that accepted the free trips, but that it was instead a message to the companies. She told INSIDER that she wanted to speak up because representation is important and excluding black influencers from this space can be harmful.

"I wanted to speak up because as a little girl, I definitely noticed that there was a lack of black voices in mainstream media, and the lack of diversity made me feel inferior as a black woman," she said. "I don't want another little girl out there feeling the way I did as I was growing up - all types of folks should be represented on these influencer trips.

Reactions on Twitter have sided largely with Alicia, with some calling for more diversity across the board and others suggesting that using diversity as a blanket term (instead of calling for more black people specifically to be invited on the trips) is not good enough. "We have to stop saying diversity and start saying black. Why? The minute they have someone who is Asian or from the LGBTQ community they feel like it's diverse and they have a reason to leave us out," tweeted Marcus Troy.

Tenise said that the positive responses from some people who aren't people of colour has been shocking to her

One of the women pictured in her screenshots responded to the tweet and asked for suggestions on what she could do to effect change. "Thank you for speaking up & sharing your thoughts with brands," said North Carolina-based blogger Emily Wilkinson. "I feel like our industry as a whole needs to be much better when it comes to diversity and inclusion." Taking a suggestion from another commenter, Wilkinson vowed to inquire with brands about the diversity of influencer trips before accepting future invitations.

INSIDER reached out to all the brands and influencers whose photos were featured in the tweet but did not immediately receive a response.

This issue is one that is not unique to travel and fashion blogging

As a non-influencer member of the press for the past seven years, I have noticed that the kinds of invites that hit my inbox are different from those sent to younger, less experienced, white writers who contribute to the same online publications.

I have been lucky enough to be handed down a few big-ticket, out-of-town trips from more seasoned editors who were too busy to attend, but the pool of other actually-invited journalists often looked like Alicia Tenise's screenshots.

As Tenise noted, a recent Fortune article put African-American spending power in the US at $1.2 trillion (R17 trillion) and the influence that black people have over what is considered "cool" is only increasing.

"Our research shows that black consumer choices have a 'cool factor' that has created a halo effect, influencing not just consumers of colour but the mainstream as well," said Cheryl Grace, senior vice president of US Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement, Nielsen, told Fortune. "These figures show that investment by multinational conglomerates in R&D [research and development] to develop products and marketing that appeal to diverse consumers is, indeed, paying off handsomely."

In other words? If you're leaving black consumers and influencers out, you're not only being noninclusive, you're also leaving money on the table.

o what's the solution? People offered up several in their replies to Tenise including inclusion riders, a tactic often utilised in Hollywood that ensures that a cast and/or crew of a project must be diverse before someone takes part in it, and even speaking with brands directly.

There is also an argument for black brands and black influencers coming together to build their own instead of seeking admittance to the party, and while Tenise says she "somewhat" agrees with that idea, she also says that it's not the same. "Brands have funding, capital, and resources, and those types of trips offer exposure and the opportunity to create elevated content. As someone who's both been an attendee on influencer trips, and as someone who has planned their own trips in the past - I can tell you that it's not the same. Black influencers shouldn't have to work twice as hard to get half as far as their counterparts," Tenise said.

"If a black-owned business wanted to host their own experiences, I think that would be amazing. Unfortunately in my experience, these opportunities are few and far between, however, hopefully, this conversation will inspire black-owned brands to create new opportunities within the influencer space."

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