Déia Freitas, Fatou Ndiaye and Gabi de Pretas: see the story of black influencers who are successful in the networks


As the month of November approaches, there is a stir on social media around Black Consciousness Day. Companies look to specialists and activists who speak about racial issues to fund lectures, events and lots of publicity that show the public how anti-racist they are.

Anyone who deals with this debate 365 days a year questions the strategy.

Gabi Oliveira, 29, or Gabi de Pretas, as it became popular, explains that she never created special content for the commemorative date. She addresses these issues year-round — with enviable audiences.

She’s on two YouTube channels that add up to more than 25.5 million views since they were created, one in 2015 and the other in 2021. On Instagram, she has more than 500,000 followers. Gabi also maintains the weekly podcast Afetos, along with communicator Karina Vieira.

A digital influencer since 2015 and a businesswoman in the content creation business since 2017, she says that during the month of November, invitations to deal with racial issues are intensified and always arrive at the last minute, despite being something that could be planned, she says Is it over there. “After all, black consciousness exists in every year,” he comments.

Unlike what happens with many young people, being an influencer was never a dream for her. Upon completing his degree in Public Relations at UERJ (State University of Rio de Janeiro) in 2015, he was unable to find a job. He then decided to study for a public examination. In his spare time, he started to share his opinions on racial issues on social media.

At the time, the resident of Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, was going through the so-called capillary transition, a process that consists of abandoning chemical procedures performed on the hair and taking on the natural strands. For this reason, he had researched the role of digital media in valuing black women’s aesthetics and noticed Afro movements that were mobilizing on the internet.

She says that the initial idea was to expand conversations in digital media, not create content. “It would just be a ‘very committed’ hobby,” she says. But, over time, it gained prominence and created a true support network.

“My relationship with my followers is very good, I made a real community. People send me reports and we exchange. I feel privileged to be surrounded by such a nice group of people.”

A year and a half later, at the end of 2016, Gabi received her first advertising proposal. She was hired to promote the premiere of the series Raízes, on the History Channel. The production narrates the trajectory of young black Kunta Kintê, from Africa, who was enslaved in the United States. At the time, it had about 40,000 subscribers to the YouTube channel. Today, it has more than 661 thousand.

“That was when I realized I was an influencer,” she says. In the initial period of ascension, however, she suffered attacks from racists and even from “haters”, saying that she represented left-wing parties.

Today, she feels comfortable with the programs and even safer to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother. The influencer started the process of adopting two children — a 4-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. She is currently in the coexistence stage, which lasts for 120 days.

Always questioned by the decision, she says she never tried to get pregnant. The desire to adopt as a single person came from the desire to enter the world of motherhood, no matter what path. She filed for adoption in 2019.

On Wednesday (17), Gabi received the iBest Academy award —offered annually to the most relevant professionals and companies in the country’s digital market. It was elected the Best in Brazil in Diversity and Inclusion.

In her podcast Afetos, she addresses the topic of mental health, dealing with issues such as the relationship with death, love relationships, loneliness and spirituality. In the “Affects Help You” box, people submit their stories, usually about love issues, and receive comments and advice.

Because of her spontaneous way and the remarkable laugh when telling the cases, Gabi was accused by a follower of not treating the reports seriously.

“Karina and I have several dense episodes, like the one dealing with grief, where she talks about how she dealt with her mother’s death. That’s why we try to treat everything lightly, even our own problems. We deal with this criticism by explaining this to the audience and asking those who are uncomfortable not to send stories. There’s no way to change that.”

The episodes of “Afetos Te Ajuda” are made in partnership with psychologist and screenwriter Déia Freitas, 46, creator of another successful podcast: Não Invibilize, which tells real stories with the aim of entertaining the listener.

‘Hi guys, I’m home’

Deia’s catchphrase is unmistakable for fans of the show: “Hi, guys, I’m home”. Não Inviabilize is Spotify’s audience leader among Brazilian fiction podcasts. It is also the second most listened to in Brazil on the audio platform. Second only to Mano a Mano, by singer Mano Brown.

The stories are received by e-mail and are carefully curated by Déia, who does not outsource the service so that no information is leaked. On Thursdays, she selects from 30 to 40 stories, gives her WhatsApp number, talks to the sender and then begins the preparation process involving script, review, recording, editing and release of the episode.

At this moment, Déia Freitas has a collection of more than 4,000 stories

The influencer, who lives in Santo André (SP), claims to be the daughter of an interracial couple. The mother is black and the father is white of Portuguese descent. She says that her father’s family never accepted her mother because of her color and that, as she was born white and her skin darkened, she was also not well received. “It was relief to sadness,” he says.

With the death of her father, when Déia was 12 years old, she broke up with her family and felt better, but says she continued to suffer from racism at the public school where she studied.

“I was called grimy and, today, I can’t even use that word anymore. As I was thin, they called me a burnt toothpick too. The situation only resolved when a cousin of mine hit a boy who said these things —but then we went streaked like the black stalls.”

For being so remarkable in her trajectory, the screenwriter gives a lot of importance to racial issues. For the month of Black Consciousness, for example, he only accepted one invitation: a debate at Feira Preta, an event of black culture in Latin America. Unlike Gabi Oliveira, Déia says that brands do not call her at other times of the year. “Call me in December, in January,” he says.

In the Não Inviabilize podcast, Déia has rules when dealing with the racial issue in the stories, which are modified and scripted by her to preserve anonymity. In several episodes, she hides the characters’ race, class, and sexual orientation. It only reveals when it is an important element.

“It’s an editorial choice. Why would I say that a villain in the story is black? Or that he’s gay, lesbian? My podcast doesn’t have debate later, if I talk about these details, I’ll lose control of the narrative. I avoid the military when it is not necessary.”

Não Unviable is divided into six frames: Amor nas Redes (love stories), Lemon Popsicle (daily traps), Light On (suspense and mystery), Mico Meu (funny), Reality Fiction and, the most recent, Patada, which talks about caring for pets and talks about working as an animal protector. A new framework, Alarm, will soon be airing and will address emotional triggers.

He currently works with Déia, a team of eight people, involving professionals in editing, animation, social media, agent and transcription and revision of the stories. To sustain this production chain, it counts on sponsorships and the recent premiere of the picture Não Unvibilize o Papo, on the Papo de Segunda program at GNT.

Another source of funds is a crowdfunding platform, Apoia-se, on which, starting at R$10, listeners can become subscribers and have access to exclusive content. There are more than 12,700 supporters.

Déia says she signed a contract for two books about Não Invibilize. One is due out in the middle of next year. The podcast will also become a series produced by a streaming platform, which is expected to start recording in 2022. For contractual reasons, she cannot reveal more details about the projects.

Despite her success and reach on audio platforms and social networks —there are more than 135,000 followers on Twitter, 70,000 on Instagram and 38,700 members of the Telegram group—, Déia is shy and doesn’t like to appear.

“When the show premiered on Papo de Segunda, I regretted it, I think it’s a lot of exposure and I’m ashamed. About the series, I’m afraid of what it will be like. I’m afraid of being exposed,” she says.

‘Always the youngest in the room’

And if for Déia Freitas, the exhibition frightens, Fatou Ndiaye, 16, feels comfortable talking to more than 111,000 followers on Instagram and 92,000 followers on Twitter. She says she manages to preserve mental health on the networks, as it separates the “official Fatou”, her username, from the Fatou of real life. Parents have access to all their social networks.

The Brazilian and Senegalese teenager had repercussions in the media in May 2020, when she suffered racism at the school where she studied, in Rio de Janeiro, the city where she lives. Since then, she became a digital content producer, speaker at schools and universities. In June of this year, he founded the diversity consultancy Afrika Academy.

Being young and black, Fatou says she faces challenges in exercising her activism and participating in decision-making. “There’s always a ‘what’s this girl doing here?’ look. I’m always the youngest in the class, but I’m proud of that. I’m only 16 and I’m already here.”

About the partnership proposals arising from the month of Black Consciousness, she says jokingly that the brands “anticipated” and started calling her since October. She says that, despite always talking about racism, she is also invited to events and partnerships with themes of education and politics.

Despite her work on social media, Fatou questions her own title of influencer, as she believes that it is a great weight and a lot of responsibility. “My content is not about me, it’s about the knowledge that I can talk.”

Regarding the future, the teenager intends to study production engineering and not focus so much on content creation. However, with the near arrival of the metaverse —a new bet by the tech giants—, she believes that the virtual persona will matter more than the physical persona.

“It’s not going to be about producing content or not, but what kind of content you’re going to produce.”


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