LGBTQIA+ Blacks reach millions with humor, beauty and sexuality through social media

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Social networks are questioned for becoming vehicles for the dissemination of hate speech and fake news, but they are also where the black LGBTQIA+ population today finds space to talk about diversity.

Black influencers who have actively contributed to the debate over sexuality and diversity are now on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

Raphael Vicente, 21, is one of them. Black, gay and resident of Complexo da Maré, in Rio de Janeiro, a favela with around 140,000 inhabitants, he bombs at TikTok. It has 2.3 million followers.

Vicente has been making productions for social networks since he was 14 years old, but he gained fame on TikTok, in 2020, with humor videos on everyday themes that he himself writes and edits. The characters are members of their own family. The grandmother, the godmother, the pet dog.

One of the best-known posts defends the Covid-19 vaccination campaign. In it, Vicente and his family explain measures to combat the pandemic and how immunization against the disease works. With clear, direct and humorous language, the video ends with a funky choreography. The post had nearly 70,000 shares on Twitter.

He says that he already thought about becoming a dancer, but his work on the social network has become his main source of income — and also a space for activism. “Many influencers don’t take a stand, but I don’t want to be just one more,” he says.

Vicente argues that it is important to show the reality he knows. “What I am today is because of the cultural load I had here, in Maré”, he says. “And even though I’m not talking clearly about the agendas that are most important to me, I want them to be embedded in what I’m doing.”

He believes that the visibility of his work in a network like TikTok can inspire other young people who have the same dilemmas and origins. “By creating content with my reality, I can encourage other people who live like me to create something, show that they can do that too, no matter where they live.”

‘I dropped everything I ever wanted’

Doug Oliver, 22, shares that sentiment. He says that he always wanted to work with the internet, but he had no references from creators that represented him. Also, I was very shy, and whenever I posted a video on YouTube, I ended up erasing it out of shame.

Even so, the young man never stopped trying, and found the ideal tool: Instagram stories, launched in 2016, which have the advantage of disappearing after 24 hours. “Back then people were posting fancy stuff, and I didn’t have that, I just decided to show my life.”

Today, the boy who erased his videos is a content producer. Share looks, makeup and humor videos daily. It has over 500,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok.

But its success was not built alone. For him, one of the biggest reasons for his rise was having joined friends to create the channel Mansão das Poc (a term used to refer to members of the LGBTQIA+ community). The group lives in the same house and shares their domestic routine with nearly 500,000 YouTube subscribers.

“When I was a spectator, there weren’t many content creators like me: effeminate, black, who doesn’t have a problem with cropping [mini blusa que deixa barriga à mostra] and go out on the street. Today, many black people come to me and say that I am an inspiration. I’m always really happy when that happens,” he says.

By performing femininity openly, Doug has not escaped homophobia. He says that he has been the victim of several attacks and has been threatened with death on the street because of the way he dresses.

“When we’re LGBT and black people, we’re already prepared for that. I come away with the idea that I’ll have to, somehow, defend myself from an attack,” he says.

It has also been the target of offenses on the internet. One of the most memorable moments occurred when a post from Mansão das Poc was taken out of context.

On the occasion, Doug and his friends recorded a commemoration for the departure of Felipe Prior from BBB20. A controversial figure in the house, Prior was criticized by the public for his statements considered sexist and homophobic.

This recording became a meme on other websites. In one of them, the error came: the group would be celebrating that President Jair Bolsonaro had been diagnosed with Covid, which provoked offensive comments in the influencer’s networks.

Today, he claims to be living exactly the way he would like. “I let go of everything I ever wanted to be.”

‘I got into content production to heal a pain’

For Tássio Santos, 28, the internet was also a place of discovery. The influencer grew up with a passion for art, drawing and painting from a very young age in the city of Santo Estevão (BA), where he was born. On the sly, I also had another hobby: watching makeup tutorials.

For fear of reprisals, Tássio spent a good part of his life unable to exercise what he wanted. He had to wait until he entered the journalism course at UFRB (Federal University of Recôncavo Baiano), where he had greater freedom to put into practice what he had learned in the tutorials. “The nervous hands that painted canvas needed to paint faces,” he says.

After starting to work as a make-up artist, he began to get annoyed with one detail: there were no blacks in the makeup content that he himself consumed on the networks. Tássio then decided to create a Facebook page to promote his work.

First, he used the platform to sell products, but soon he started posting about black skin and realized that other people were also looking for representation.

“I already got into content production wanting to heal a pain,” he says.

Thus, in 2012, Herdeira da Beleza was born, a blog aimed at valuing black aesthetics. Today, in addition to maintaining the blog, Tássio produces videos for his profiles on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, which together add up to more than 770 thousand subscribers. He also continues his work as a professional makeup artist and offers courses in the area.

For the influencer, makeup can have several roles, including exclusion. But Tássio focuses on her power to rebuild black self-esteem, the target of racism.

In addition to giving tips and tutorials, Tássio calls on his followers to charge makeup products that cover all black skin tones.

The content creator also shares his experiences as a gay man with his audience. He says that when he started doing tutorials, he received homophobic comments, rejection from relatives and even had contracts rejected for using makeup in his videos.

Today, he says he has the courage to touch on these issues and makes a point of bringing the LGBTQIA+ agenda into his work. “I do this so people don’t feel that I have to take on some stereotype. I like to take over the direction of my story.”

‘My job is to say everything I wanted to hear’

The role of makeup inclusion was of great importance for Nick Nagari, 24, creator of content aimed at trans and bisexual people. He says that since he was a child he wanted to make up, but couldn’t find a shade the same color as his skin. Only in 2016 did he get items with his tone, and he claims to have discovered a world of possibilities.

But the discovery also generated conflict, as his first makeup came just at the time he was discovering himself to be a transgender person. Previously socialized as a woman, Nick understood that he didn’t fit that label. “I thought: ‘either I’m a trans person or I wear makeup,'” she says.

He says that, during the initial discovery process, he tried to fit in with the male gender, thinking it would be the only option. But he didn’t feel comfortable either. Today, he understands himself as a non-binary trans person, that is, who does not identify himself as a man or a woman. Even so, he prefers to use masculine pronouns.

Nick started his internet work in 2015, talking about bisexuality. He says he gained more visibility when he started sharing his experiences of the gender transition the following year. Today, he has more than 45,000 followers on Instagram, the platform where he broadcasts most of his content, and 54,000 on TikTok.

After years of producing content, it was in 2020 that he managed to turn working on the internet into a profession. In addition to advertising money, Nick has written a short story, is on a book publishing contract, and lectures on corporate diversity, where most of his income comes from.

To perform in companies, she went back to buying makeup items and rekindled her passion. Today, he sees makeup as an art form and has rethought his relationship with the products.

“When people understand transgenderism as refusing a stereotype, they forget that there are people who have never had access to it. I could never be a tidy, conceited person. So, today I want to be able to experiment,” he says. “Our identity can never be a ‘can’t’, but always a ‘do what you want’.”

With this perspective, Nick seeks to launch reflections on what it means to be a trans person, also bringing racial aspects. Its content is geared towards helping people within the community.

Like other influencers, his discovery was marked by difficulties. He had no references from non-binary people, his mother had difficulty accepting the transition, and the influencer had to hide his identity from part of the family. Furthermore, he was a Christian, and considered being LGBTQIA+ a sin. Said he would hide it forever.

“That’s why talking about bisexuality on the internet is proving to this 16-year-old Nick that we can exist,” he says.

Today, his mother supports him, interacts with his content, suggests guidelines and seeks to understand the child’s gender identity. “It was a turning point that I didn’t even expect to happen,” says Nick. After officially changing his name at the registry office in 2019, the influencer told about the transition for the whole family. Most of her also supports him.

“My job is to say everything I wanted to have heard. I want teenagers not to experience a discovery like mine, which was very difficult. I want 15-year-olds today not to suffer what I suffered ten years ago. “

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