- Australians working in the influencer industry say that Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) are paid less than their white counterparts.
- This follows an Instagram post about racism experienced by their international counterparts went viral in February.
- BIPOC influencers are also less likely to be chosen for work and are less likely to be signed by an agency, according to some working in the industry.
- Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.
In late February, a graphic about racism in the influencer industry went viral on Instagram.
The Instagram account for ‘f*** you pay me’, an US-based app that allows influencers to anonymously post how much they’re paid for work, shared its latest data on the rates being paid to self-identified ‘White’ and ‘Black’ influencers to the platform.
The difference was stark. White influencers were reportedly paid US$4,352 for a post on average whereas Black influencers received just US$478.
A white influencer with more than a million followers received US$250,000 for one job. The top for a Black influencer? US$1,500 for access to their more than 500,000 followers.
These were rates submitted by creators in the US. But when Ashlene Nand saw the post, the Melbourne-based influencer marketing specialist knew that diverse Australian influencers were treated similarly here.
She reposted the image to her own Instagram account @AussieWOC, captioning it “Ok so this is a topic I’m extremely passionate about and so glad this post is going viral.”
Racism in the influencer industry running rife
During her 8 years working in in Australia and New York for both agencies and brands, Nand has seen Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) creators subjected to racist treatment in the industry.
“The disparity between how much Black and POC creators are paid vs white influencers is only the tip of the iceberg,” she told Business Insider Australia in an email.
Media and advertising industries are dominated by white men and women who shape their campaigns to reflect them, Nand said, and the white influencers that they predominantly follow.
“For example, we’ll have a brand come to us and say “Oh I love Sarah XYZ. Can you find more people like her?”. Immediately, the casting will shift to white women,” she said.
“Our top influencers are mostly white and many are extremely problematic, some even outright racist. But yet they continue to get deals.”
Even when BIPOC creators are chosen, Nand said they’ll only make up a small part of a campaign or an agency’s clients — almost like meeting a ‘quota’.
Nand remembers what happened one time when she convinced the agency she was working for to hire a BIPOC creator in their campaign.
“The black creator was the cheapest so when the brand chose her, we were grateful because it meant more money for the agency. At the time, I thought it was a good deal. Now I look back and I wonder why we didn’t give her more. And she had the highest engagement of all the candidates. It made us money but was it the right thing to do? Absolutely not,” she said.
What it’s like being a BIPOC influencer in Australia
Despite the headwinds, there are an increasing number of BIPOC creators in Australia. Nand believes that these are mostly micro-influencers and mid-tier influencers, although there are some “big breakout” diverse creators.
Once such creator is Guyala Bayles, a Birri Gubba and Wonnarua woman, model and actor, who works as an influencer on Instagram. She told Business Insider Australia that she has definitely observed racism in the industry.
“I definitely notice that a lot of BIPOC including myself get paid less or sometimes not at all, just paid with free product compared to non people of colour who sometimes are paid a lot more,” she said via message.
“It makes me feel like they don’t see my worth and only want me to promote their brand so they make more sales to make them look inclusive and diverse.”
Bayles said that informal networks of creators have popped up to compare influencer rates. She was particularly upset to see examples of worse treatment around the time of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US.
“For some of us influencers this is how we pay the bills, this is our main source of income and if brands were really inclusive then they would pay us what we’re worth and give us the respect and equality that we deserve,” she said.
How to fix racism in the Australian influencer industry
While it has been primarily BIPOC who’ve spoken out about this issue, solving it can’t be left to them.
Nand, who works with BIPOC influencers in most of her campaigns, believes that there needs to be systemic change to change the culture in industry — and that starts higher up than influencers.
“Australia needs brands to not just pull up for diversity (and have accurate representation) but also hire POC on their teams, especially if they want to compete on a global scale. And the agencies here can no longer have all white teams,” she wrote.
“All white spaces should not exist in Australia in 2021.”
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