Illustration by Shruthi Maganti via Diaspora Drama Zine
PostedAug 24, 2015
Instagram channel The Shade Room is crushing it. In just under a year, its founder Angie and her team have made celeb gossip websites obsolete, providing news to its users where they live: on social media. TSR has also scooped mainstays like TMZ and MediaTakeOut on huge stories, thanks to tips from their loyal followers (who are sweetly referred to as "roommates"). And as if those feats weren't enough, Angie and her team can count active celebrity engagements on the platform, unlike many others; Chris Brown, Ciara, Karrueche and Bow Wow have all posted on TSR's feed, responding directly to allegations against their names.
But The Shade Room's also got a mission to do good, sort of. They've committed to telling stories of the black community beyond the spotlight, covering #BlackLivesMatter moments, and telling stories of those POC who seldom get media ink. With 2.1 million people on Facebook, 380k on Twitter and over 1.1 million on the publisher's Instagram feeds, reach for those important stories is impressive.
As any platform grows, it will stumble. And, in my opinion, TSR just about broke the sista code with its recent plug for Whitenicious, a controversial "luxurious" skin care line that promises to erase dark spots and hyper-pigmentation.
At its core, however, Whitenicious, created by Nigerian-Cameroonian pop singer Dencia, is a skin-bleaching creme that women the world over have used to, well, be whitenicious. Just look at its founder who fronts its ads -- she wiped away more than her dark spots...she wiped away her brown skin too.
As a dark skinned woman, I understand Whitenicious as a resort for black women with a deep entrenched sense of self-hate. An easy way for black women to show outwardly that white is right. So why then would a black-owned publishing company with what seems like a social conscience shill products that perpetuate the erasure of black identity? Like, C'MON, SIS!
In a New York Times profile on the second coming of TMZ, Jenna Wortham noted that "advertisers pay several hundred dollars" to run ads on the The Shade Room's Instagram. The publisher's ad-buys usually come from small-time hair, clothing, and beauty brands - major corporations try to distance themselves from celeb drivel - making it harder for TSR to build capital fast. But if there's one thing I know from building a site, it's beware of the devil in a green dress.
It seems contradictory to applaud Amandla Steinberg for calling out the appropriation black women face in one post on TSR, report on a #BlackLivesMatter cause in another, and then follow that up with an ad for a product that reinforces color hierarchies among black women. That's not a post that raises up the black community and certainly not one that's worth its cost to The Shade Room's brand. One of the many critical comments beneath the video read, "Please do diligence before you agree to do promo for these businesses. I know you have to pay bills but don't make a mockery of your publication to do so."
The question I pose to one of the fastest growing celeb pubs out there is: What are you building, and at the cost of whom?
PostedAug 24, 2015