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     “You’re Here for the Makeup and for the Tea”: An Analysis of Jackie Aina’s Racialized, Feminized, and Cultural Labor 

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Figure 1: Jackie Aina welcomes viewers to her channel (

Mel Monier

Welcome back to my channel, it’s your girl Jackie Aina!” Nigerian American YouTuber Jackie Aina opens every video with the same line, followed by a theme song she sings herself. Aina’s channel provides valuable insight into how race and gender intersect in digital feminized spaces. Since starting her YouTube channel in 2009, she has gained over 3.75 million subscribers, and her videos have over 384 million total views. Aina was the first dark-skinned Black woman in the beauty genre on YouTube to reach one million subscribers (E! News). She has been on the cover of Essence magazine and was the first YouTuber to be recognized at the NAACP Image Awards, receiving the first-ever “YouTuber of the Year” award (Carlos 2019; Simmons 2018). Aina has continued to grow her platform as one of the few dark-skinned beauty and lifestyle content creators who also speaks out against racism in the industry. This hypervisibility has enabled Aina to reach wider audiences but also renders her more vulnerable to online harassment, which is compounded by her racial and gender identities. This article presents Aina’s content as a case study to explore how Black women navigate hypervisibility and digital labor in online spaces. On one hand, hypervisibility allows Black women to connect and find each other and to form new representations amidst problematic media and social stereotypes. On the other, it leaves Black women extremely vulnerable to online harassment and violence. I present this paradox as the “precarity of visibility,” a framework that illuminates the tensions between the benefit of hypervisibility and the harm of online harassment.

This article also considers how algorithmic bias and online harassment are inextricably linked to race and gender by examining Aina’s digital experiences as a Black woman and digital content creator. I discuss how Aina herself describes her experiences online, from receiving racist comments to the physical and emotional labor she expends to monitor and protect her space. Aina performs multiple levels of paid and unpaid labor by building affective communities with her audience, navigating racism and algorithmic bias online, and protecting her digital spaces from racial and gender-based violence. My analysis aims to illuminate the significant gaps in discussions surrounding digital content creators and racialized feminized labor that often render Black women, their labor, and their contributions invisible. 

I begin with a literature review that discusses networked harassment and misogynoir, aspirational and feminized labor, and Black cyberfeminism. Using Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis (CTDA) and textual analysis of Aina’s YouTube videos from 2018 to 2021, I illustrate how Aina incorporates her identity as a Black woman and her personal experiences with online and offline racism into her videos, applying the precarity of visibility framework to explore the roles that Aina’s racial and gender identities play in her experiences online as well as the digital feminized labor she performs. Aina’s content is a valuable case study to explore how beauty and lifestyle content is more than skin deep; Aina’s identities are deeply enmeshed in her approach to makeup and the content she creates, in addition to the invaluable “tea” (Black queer/AAVE for gossip and updates, ultimately valuable information) she prepares and shares with her online community.


Networked Harassment and Misogynoir

Digital technologies operate with an assumed white, heterosexual, cisgender, masculinized audience; thus, the experiences and contributions of marginalized communities in digital spaces are often erased or ignored. The internet is part of the social structure that created it, and the racialization Black folks experience in digital spaces “mimics segregation that users likely encounter or live in offline” (Williams 2017, 281). Safiya Umoja Noble states that “racism and sexism are part of the architecture and language of technology” (2018, 9); Rena Bivens and Oliver L. Haimson describe the infrastructure of digital spaces as having oppressive cultural norms and values “baked” in (2016). The most popular social media sites were not created by Black people, nor do they prioritize Black users. Thus, Black social media users must adopt, appropriate, and modify digital platforms to fit their needs (Williams 2017, 280). Online spaces can be extremely hostile for Black women who experience harassment based on their race and gender. Alice E. Marwick and Robyn Caplan use the term “networked harassment” to describe large-scale online attacks specifically targeting marginalized users like women of color (2018). This violence is rarely questioned because of the dominant cultural assumption that technology is neutral. Algorithmic bias and platform vulnerabilities are oversimplified as “glitches” in the system, but Black women’s disproportionate experiences support Lisa Nakamura’s assertion that racism is not a “glitch” but rather a feature of digital platforms (Noble 2018, 82; Nakamura 2013). 


Caitlin E. Lawson studied online spaces during the promotion of the Ghostbusters (2016) reboot featuring an all-woman cast (2018). While the white leads received sexist comments and harassment online, Leslie Jones, the film’s only Black lead, received both racist and sexist comments. In an act of networked harassment fueled primarily by white conservative men, Jones was doxxed. Her personal website was hacked, and images of her were replaced with images of gorillas. Her private accounts were also hacked, and personal information from her passport and driver’s license were shared online (Lawson 2018, 819). The magnitude of violence Jones experienced in comparison to her white castmates was due to her intersecting identities as a Black woman. Even worse, online spaces do not have systems in place to protect Black women and other vulnerable communities from harassment, and thus render the violence invisible. This is one example of many that proves that platforms themselves cannot keep Black women safe. The solutions (telling Black women to simply log off, delete comments, or block perpetrators) are only band-aids on a larger social illness that often do not stick. To assume that digital spaces are neutral and egalitarian only allows misogyny and racism to continue to run rampant.


Aspirational Labor

Coined by Brooke Erin Duffy, aspirational labor is affective, gendered, and based on the principle that being able to “do what you love” is not actually work (2016, 2017). The promise of flexibility and being your own (girl) boss seduces many into trading hours of uncompensated labor for the promise of creative and personal freedom (Pham 2015, 172). Aspirational labor is often underpaid or uncompensated and minimized by rhetorics of passion; it is work feminized digital laborers engage in because they believe it will pay off in the long run. In addition, the “cultural feminization of economic life” turns emotional connections into commodities (Baym 2015, 15). Content creators must engage in emotional and relational labor, engaging with their audiences and maintaining online and offline relationships. This practice is a part of a long lineage of “women’s work” being defined through affective labor, or the “production and management of emotions” (Pham 2015, 187). Being a successful fashion, beauty, or lifestyle content creator means concealing the labor that goes into the production of content and the maintenance of relationships online while making it all look effortless. The supposed neoliberal meritocracy of digital spaces encourages aspirational labor: online success is something anyone can achieve if they are passionate and work hard enough, while simultaneously making all the work involved invisible. 

Visibility is a requirement for online creators; the more active and visible you are online, the easier it becomes to gain followers and subscribers and ultimately build a successful and financially viable platform. The incitement of digital culture industries to “put yourself out there” as a means to success poses additional risks for Black women. The culture of the digital gig economy that encourages visibility also “justifies” the abuse and harassment these creators receive online because it is considered part of the job. As the Leslie Jones example proves, hate is also a commodity that often goes unregulated by platforms because it creates engagement and, ultimately, profit (Sutherland 2017). The compounding of sexism and racism directed at Black women in digital and visual culture has been defined by Moya Bailey as “misogynoir” (2021). Thus, Black women’s bodies are subject to even more policing and surveillance online. Because their careers heavily center on the body and rely on conventional standards of attractiveness (read: whiteness and thinness), content creators’ appearances are frequently publicly scrutinized. Duffy explains that many (white) content creators recognize that dealing with hate and trolls is part of the job (2017, 26). But for white creators, these comments are often not direct, violent attacks on their racial identities. Black women creators must navigate both sexism, which objectifies and sexualizes feminized bodies, and racism, which renders Black bodies as deviant in opposition to whiteness (Noble 2018, 92). 


Black Cyberfeminism 

Black women’s digital content creation continues the legacy of Black women as storytellers and culture keepers. Analyzing material from oral histories to web 2.0 bloggers to social media activists, influencers, vloggers, and content creators, Kishonna Gray explains that Black women “have always utilized mediated platforms” as sites for discussing experiences and as venues for resistance (2020, 71). Despite vulnerabilities and online harassment, Black women continue to gather online to openly discuss, contest, and affirm facets of Black identity in spaces outside of dominant hegemonic media culture. Online spaces facilitate discourse between creators and audiences and allow Black women to engage in positive self-talk and engage in the Black feminist practice of “talking back” to harmful stereotypes and representations while validating their own experiences and identities (Steele 2016). 

Despite the growing body of scholarship on digital and aspirational feminized labor, much of this scholarship centers young, white, cisgender, heterosexual, upper-class women. An intersectional approach illuminates the affective and aspirational labor that Black women like Aina engage in online. Black feminist thought emerged from Black women’s subordination at the intersections of race, gender, and class and has always been concerned with Black women’s labor and conditions under white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (hooks 2015, 4). Black feminists like Patricia Hill Collins have argued that Black women have always been working (2000), and the Combahee River Collective openly critiqued Marxist theory for failing to account for Black women’s domestic labor (1977). Black cyberfeminism applies the contributions of Black feminists to the digital realm and approaches Black digital culture, labor, and resistance from an intersectional feminist and cyberfeminist framework. According to Cottom and Gregory, Black cyberfeminism interrogates “how social relations of dominance are translated through digitally mediated relationships with technology, the interests that produce it, and the processes that resist them” (2017, 217). Black cyberfeminism provides the foundation to explore relationships between gender, race, and technology—specifically, how marginalized communities use digital technologies (Gray 2017, 359). 

Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis (CTDA) and Textual Analysis

Widening the scope of Black cyberfeminist critique illuminates how race and gender impact Black women’s digital feminized and aspirational labor. André Brock explains that CTDA enables technologies to be viewed as “an assemblage of artifacts, practices, and cultural beliefs” and asserts that technology and culture mutually inform each other (2016, 3). CTDA incorporates critical theoretical interventions—namely, critical race theory, feminist theory, and queer theory—to understand how folks with multiple marginalized identities use technology and engage with the digital. CTDA is primarily helpful for studying discourse: how technology culturally and discursively shapes identities in digital interactions as well as how non-white cis-het users engage in discourse online and discuss their experiences navigating digital spaces. In digital race and gender studies, scholarship, Black cyberfeminism, and CTDA are not just methodologies, they are also a means of understanding the nuances of identities and lived experiences in digital spaces. Together, Black cyberfeminism and CTDA center Black women’s lived experiences as invaluable knowledge, taking into account the many ways Black women navigate digital spaces. These frameworks can provide guiding principles for analysis and offer an entry point into discourses of digital labor and community from Black women creators themselves and ways that technology and culture are intertwined. 


Using CTDA and textual analysis, I analyzed eighty of Aina’s YouTube videos uploaded to her channel from 2018 to 2021. Each video was between ten and forty minutes in length. I analyzed each video’s audio transcripts as well as the visual content. I also incorporated viewer comments from each video into my analysis, noting pinned comments (comments that a creator has placed at the top of the comment section as a form of comment moderation and/or as a means of engaging with comments they like the most), as well as comments with the most likes. Analyzing top comments illuminates how platform norms and affordances shape discourse on YouTube. The comment section is also the place where direct communication and discourse occur, which allowed me to see how audiences were reacting to and engaging with Aina’s content and how Aina was responding. To further consider how Aina talks about the labor she performs, I supplemented my analysis with popular press interviews in which Aina discusses her identities and her work, which have often been framed as aspirational. These methods center Aina’s experiences in her own words and then situate them within a larger sociotechnical context of platform visibility, vulnerabilities, and harassment to explore the labor of Black digital content creators and address how Black women’s online and offline experiences are mutually shaped by racism and sexism (Brock et al. 2010, 1046). In addition to the kinds of labor associated with digital content creation, I have identified four additional forms of racialized and aspirational/feminized labor that Aina engages in: (1) navigating online harassment, (2) forming and protecting her digital community, (3) creating content while combatting stereotypes, and (4) centering her personal experiences and speaking out about misogynoir. 


Navigating Online Harassment  

In an interview with InStyle magazine, Aina breaks down the many roles she performs, from accountant, lawyer, producer, social media manager, and even “lighting tech” (Farr 2021). As a digital content creator, Aina engages in multiple forms of labor, generally consisting of scripting, creating, editing, and publishing content, negotiating brand deals and partnerships, managing her social media presence, building online and offline relationships, and maintaining her branded image (for both her personal brand and her businesses). In addition, Aina’s tenure on the platform has given her a wide breadth of working knowledge about YouTube’s platform and algorithmic functions. 


There is a tension between being hypervisible and being rendered invisible by online platforms. Aina has openly critiqued algorithmic suppression on her channel, even creating a video dedicated to “Fix[ing] Your Social Media Algorithm” (2020b). She laments that despite a large online following, “I still have to promote and give ways on how to find my content. You know, it’s real out here in these streets” (2020c). Aina recognizes the impact of algorithmic bias, admitting that even her high subscriber count does not make her immune to shadowbanning (having her content hidden or restricted without notification). After being adopted by Google in 2006, YouTube’s algorithm was bolstered by Google’s search engine technology. Search engines reinforce racist biases, privilege certain search terms, and work to promote advertisements and sponsored content to users—and YouTube is no exception (van Dijck 2013; Noble 2018). YouTube’s videos are now ranked by popularity and engagement, which inform the algorithm’s presentation of content that the assumed audience wants to see (Bivens and Haimson 2016; Noble 2018; van Dijck 2013, 125). The videos that appear on the homepage and are recommended to users can be attributed to the platform’s algorithms pushing specific content to the top of users’ feeds. 
For Black women, the stakes are much higher in the fight against algorithmic suppression. While “like, comment, subscribe!” has become a mantra recited by creators to increase engagement and algorithmic visibility, more recently there has been a push to encourage users to also enable notifications because YouTube’s algorithm has been known to hide new uploads from users’ feeds. At the end of every video, Aina directly addresses her audience with an open invitation to “join the Jackie Aina Family.”

Figure 2: Aina encouraging her viewers to "join the Jackie Aina Family" by subscribing to her channel

Membership in the Jackie Aina Family is granted by simply subscribing to Aina’s channel. She also encourages viewers to enable notifications. The subscribers that enable notifications are given the privileged title of the “notification squad,” which further signifies in-group solidarity. Subscribing and enabling notifications promises access to Aina’s familial online affective community in which Aina assumes the role of the “Auntie,” a supportive matriarch and mentor. 

Continuing to post regularly keeps Aina relevant and visible in users’ feeds. Yet this visibility invites more harassment. The labor of navigating harassment online is compounded by the expectation that digital content creators are always “on” and visible, constantly working, creating content, and engaging affectively with their audiences. This ultimately equates to additional hours of uncompensated physical and emotional labor. The technical knowledge and skill required to create and publish content, along with an understanding of how algorithms work, is also uncompensated. Furthermore, Aina’s awareness of her social identities and the platform’s embedded biases means that Aina must work twice as hard to make sure her content is being seen by subscribers and new viewers. In a direct address and call to action at the end of her videos, Aina points to the camera and speaks directly to the unsubscribed viewers: “you keep coming back for every upload. That’s what analytics are for, I see you!” (2018c). By breaking the fourth wall, acknowledging YouTube’s algorithmic functions, and demonstrating her knowledge of them, Aina shows that she recognizes the importance of engagement and is acutely aware of the algorithm’s role in her uphill battle for visibility. 

Another form of labor that Aina engages in is managing online harassment itself, particularly reading, filtering, and moderating hate speech across her platforms. According to Jean Burgess and Joshua Green, many YouTubers are hesitant to moderate, ban, or delete comments because it counters the ethos of participatory culture that YouTube supposedly facilitates (2018, 119). Creating filters for comments, deleting comments, and blocking users still elicits exposure to abusive language and hate speech (Lawson 2018). Furthermore, the emotional toll that it takes to endure this violence, while also managing harassment online (often without solutions from the platforms), is uncompensated, emotionally taxing labor that Black women must engage in. There are also economic risks for content moderation. Turning off comments for videos limits overall engagement and affects the video’s visibility and performance. Aina has also deleted and reactivated her social media accounts multiple times because of the networked harassment she has experienced, a protective measure that has a negative emotional and financial impact. Decreased views and engagement decreases revenue earned from videos (through ads, direct product sales, and sales through affiliate links embedded in the content), leading to less algorithmic visibility and ultimately fewer opportunities. Recognizing how platform algorithms create barriers between her content and a wider audience, Aina relies on help from the Jackie Aina Family to combat algorithmic bias and maintain visibility. Yet forming and protecting an affective digital community that functions like a family is another form of labor Aina performs.


“We want to see you join the Jackie Aina Family permanently”: Forming and Protecting Online Communities

As the head of the Jackie Aina Family, Aina must engage in additional feminized and racialized labor to protect her community from harm. On her channel, Aina fosters affective relationships and bonds resembling kinship. According to Apryl A. Williams, kinship—which historically garnered its significant meaning through the slave trade and African diaspora—leads to a “collective sociohistorical consciousness” and broader ideas about the meaning of familial relationships (2017, 275). In constructing an affective community, Aina, affectionately referred to as Auntie Jackie, assumes a Black maternal role, building a community online that resembles a familial relationship. Aunties are revered figures in the Black community, offering mentorship and guidance to younger Black people. Aina’s role as an Auntie also strategically aligns with her branded persona. Aina was described by one follower as a “chill rich [auntie] that give[s] u the best advice” (2019b). Because Aina must continue to appear aspirational, the labor, whether compensated and not, is ultimately obscured. Thus, she engages in additional relational labor that is both affective and economic to maintain and protect her online community.

Black bodies are coded by algorithms that want to quantify and contain Black life (McGlotten 2016). Aina directly responds to this coding by using African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and Black slang on her channel and in the products she creates. According to Catherine Knight Steele, Black women’s online discourse, particularly gossip, serves both social and subversive functions (2016). Aina integrates gifs and video clips from Black popular media throughout her videos and incorporates AAVE terms popularized by queer people of color like “slayed,” “snatched,” and “spilling tea.” Aina adopts AAVE in her videos and serves hot tea to her audience who await with empty cups for her product reviews, humor, and personality. This use of AAVE and culturally relevant language and imagery honors Black culture and ensures a level of protection in her space. Engaging in code-switching online is a resistant and laborious act that Aina engages in to center her Blackness and her audience in an effort to protect her space and her family from violence. On every post and video, Aina interacts with her audience, often responding to the most popular comments. In a comment with over a thousand likes, a user expressed that, despite having “zero interest in makeup,” they continue to watch Aina’s videos solely for her personality (2018c). Aina liked and pinned the comment for all viewers to see, recognizing the user and illustrating Aina’s appeal to a wider audience. Another user replied to the comment, “ok go head…! welcome to the family” (2018c); the use of AAVE here (“ok go head”) is celebratory and inviting. It signifies the user as a member of the Black community and the Jackie Aina Family, a beloved community that is guarded by Aina and its members. As the matriarch, Aina must monitor her spaces, welcome newcomers, and maintain affective bonds with her audience-family. 

While Aina might technically get paid from every view by the members of her family, part of aspirational labor is to present an authentic persona that is motivated not by fame or money, but simply by the love of creating content. Florencia García-Rapp states that two key components of authenticity for vloggers are trustworthiness and being “rightfully motivated,” creating content to help and inspire people and use one’s platform for good, not profit (2017, 130–31). Aina is not just promoting the products she includes in her content, she is also promoting herself. Recognizing that creating a marketable and authentic persona is the true key to success, she explains that success comes from “packaging it all in a way that people will enjoy” (Farr 2021). By presenting herself as always passionate about her work and creating an authentic, trustworthy, and ultimately profitable persona, she shares a perfectly packaged aspirational self with her audience. But as the Auntie of her online community, Aina is also tasked with creating an environment where users, particularly Black women, feel seen and safe. These considerations show how Aina engages in uncompensated labor and navigates platform harassment and biased algorithms while also maintaining malleable visibility. Moreover, Aina expends emotional labor to cultivate the Jackie Aina Family and uphold her branded persona. As a Black woman and content creator, Aina is also expected to speak out about misogynoir and integrate her lived experiences into her content.


A Digital Tug-of-War: Creating Content and Combatting Stereotypes

Aina’s career is inextricably linked to her visibility as a Black woman because she is the “face” of her channel and personal brands, and visibility is imperative for her continued success. Aina addresses the double standards Black influencers face that can be attributed to both racial and gender identity, stating, “there are two layers: there’s being Black, and there’s being a Black woman” (Diaz 2019). Here, Aina highlights interlocking oppression and marginalization, identifying her gender as an additional layer of oppression that Black men and non-Black women will never experience. Aina receives criticism from both Black and non-Black audiences about her racial and gender identity, a process that she describes as a constant “tug-of-war” (2020a). Her Blackness is constantly policed as being “too Black” or “not Black enough,” and her appearance, especially her skin and hair, is constantly critiqued. Aina’s gender and racial identities intersect and compound, affecting her work online differently and adding an amount and type of pressure that white content creators do not experience. The harassment Aina experiences is rooted in anti-Black stereotypes and unmoderated by platforms, leaving Aina to address this violence herself, subjecting her to more harm in the process.

There seem to be additional expectations for Black women to “put themselves out there” and show more online—personally, physically, and emotionally—without any acknowledgement of the additional harm it may incur. Aina’s work as a beauty and lifestyle content creator invites constant comments about her body and physical appearance under the assumption that, as a public figure, her audience is entitled assess all aspects of her life. After posting a video to Instagram wearing a bikini, the video’s comments were flooded with comments about Aina’s weight, skin color, and skin texture (Aina 2020a). In addition to body-shaming comments, users suggested ways for Aina to lighten darker parts of her skin, like her armpits and thighs. The harassment Aina experiences is more than skin deep; the comments were personal attacks on her appearance, directly related to her Black identity and expressions of Black womanhood. This harm, viewed as being “part of the job,” is compounded by Aina’s Blackness because of the “strong Black woman” trope that assumes Black women are immune to violence. 

As a result of the precarity of visibility that requires Aina to moderate her own content, she must also engage in educational labor to publicly address the harassment she experiences. Following a popular YouTube trend in which creators respond to rumors and assumptions that circulate about them online, Aina has responded to harassment and offered her audience a glimpse at the kinds of comments she receives. While rumors videos are usually fun and lighthearted, in Aina’s video, almost all the rumors reify stereotypes about Black women. The comments accuse her of being “stuck up,” getting a nose job, bleaching her skin, lying about her Nigerian heritage, and “do[ing] nothing for Black people” (Aina 2018c). To assume that Aina bleaches her skin or has gotten a nose job implies that Aina is unhappy with her physical features that act as markers of Blackness and has sought to change them to conform to hegemonic beauty standards. Aina explains that the rumors about her personality evoke the Sapphire or “angry Black woman” stereotype. Aina has been accused of being “stuck up” for refusing to engage with fans while out in public. These instances have led to critiques of her demeanor and reflect the assumption that content creators with large online presences are “fake” or inauthentic—asserting that high-profile content creators do not care about their fans and are only interested in profit. Yet the expectation that Aina should always be working and eager to engage with her fans with a friendly and welcoming attitude is directly linked to the expectations of digital feminized laborers. The criticisms that Aina receives for her attitude reflect the often-overlooked racialized component to this labor.

Aina’s online presence and digital labor are complicated by her racial and gender identities, as exemplified by rumors that are rooted in anti-Blackness. The accusations that Aina is anti-Black come from those within the Black community who assume that Aina’s wealth and social status have caused her to be ashamed of her Blackness. This problematic portrayal of Aina also reveals the expectation that Black women must put everyone else before themselves. For years, Black feminists have explained that the labor and responsibility of uplifting the entire Black community is shouldered by Black women (Collins 2000; Combahee River Collective 1997; Lorde 2007; hooks 1988). Other comments from non-Black users claim that Aina talks about race “too much” by prioritizing her Blackness in her content and, in the view of these users, making her videos unenjoyable or even offensive to white audiences. Because Aina openly and frequently talks about race, she explains that white viewers often view her content as “too radical” (Diaz 2019). Citing racism, sexism, and colorism, Aina explains that dark-skinned creators often do not appeal to “light, whiter audiences” (Lawrence 2018). Noting her viewership demographics, she assumes that white users do not click on her videos because they do not want to see a Black woman on their screen, attributing her lack of white viewership to her racial and gender identities and the ways the platform obscures her content. Aina also presumes that because she is a Black woman, white viewers do not engage with her content because they feel it is not relevant to them (E! News 2020). 

These examples illuminate the social construction of Black women as invincible people expected to endure, and even laugh off, harassment regarding their physical appearance and their identities. Aina explains that some users assume she is “immune to abuse” because she has a lot of followers (Diaz 2019). Aina is often referred to as “superhuman” and “brave,” which she says makes her extremely uncomfortable (Carlos 2019; Nesvig 2020). This language perpetuates the harmful “strong Black woman” trope that presents Black women, especially Black women who are public figures, as invincible, which Aina gravely calls “a dangerous lie” (2018b). As outlined in the examples above, society expects Black women like Aina to perform emotional labor and withstand harassment while maintaining a strong, impenetrable exterior. 

Figure 3: Aina unpacks the “strong Black woman” trope on her “Reacting TO HATE COMMENTS ASMR” video (

The “strong Black woman” trope, while appearing to applaud Black women for their resilience, insidiously justifies violence against Black women because it assumes they do not feel pain or cannot be harmed. That view supports the notion that the comments Aina receives are justified because Black women are supposedly invincible, able to handle any critique, harassment, or even violence.


“It’s always ‘dark girl hour’ on my channel”: Centering Personal Experiences and Speaking Out About Misogynoir


Aina’s profession as a content creator is inextricably linked to her intersecting identities as a Black woman. Because her labor is concealed, it is difficult to discern whether the socially aware content that she creates reflects her own passion for gender and racial justice, or if this content is expected by her community. Either way, Aina uses an intersectional approach to center Black womanhood in her content. Her videos address the complex issues of misogynoir, colorism, and post-race ideology in an accessible way. Her channel is a site of Black cyberfeminist work as she actively centers her identities and lived experiences in her content and uses her personal narratives to spark conversation, with much of her content directly addressing critiques of Aina’s attitude and inauthenticity. The precarity of visibility places Aina in multiple double binds: first, create content and receive harassment, or stop creating content and lose views, subscriptions, followers, and ultimately money; and second, be vulnerable and authentic to maintain community and receive harassment, or be less intimate with audiences and risk being accused of being “fake” or “inauthentic” and lose subscribers and money. These “choices” are further complicated by the problematic tropes of Black women that justify any harm that Aina experiences.

Aina has directly addressed the pressures she faces and the critiques she receives in a makeup tutorial titled “I Don’t See Color” (2018a). She begins the video by noting complaints that she discusses race too much on her channel and that she is known on the internet as the girl who cares only about “‘her people’ [Black people]” (2018a). Yet Aina talks back to post-race rhetoric, deployed to discredit her experiences with misogynoir, that pretends racism has been “solved,” depoliticized, and reduced to an individual characteristic or “personal problem.” She poses a satirical question to those who claim they “don’t see color”: “If you don’t see color, then what do you do at a traffic light?” (2018a). Here, Aina illustrates that refusing to see color and recognize difference are privileged positions that can have material, embodied consequences for marginalized folks who are unable to ignore the ways in which their racial identities impact how they move through the world. 

In the makeup tutorial that follows, Aina offers viewers a “visual representation of what it’s like to ignore color” (2018a). Putting a grayscale filter over the video, both Aina and the audience are unable to see the colors and shades of the products she uses. The video follows a standard makeup tutorial as Aina talks through the application of foundation, concealer, powders, mascara, and lipstick. After applying a full face of makeup, she snaps her fingers and color returns to the video, revealing Aina’s clownish appearance: her foundation is too dark, her lips are gray, her eyebrows are red, and there is bright yellow powder under her eyes. She tells the audience, “when you say stuff like ‘I don’t see color,’ you just end up looking like this: silly as hell” (2018a). 

Figure 4: Aina’s makeup reveal from her “I Don’t See Color” Makeup Tutorial (

Aina uses the rest of the video to unpack the “flawed thinking” behind post-race rhetoric. She explains that being able to ignore race is a privilege that people of color do not have. She connects the privilege to larger systemic issues such as police violence, saying, “why do you get to ignore all of this chocolate? … The cops don’t ignore my skin color” (2018a). Race is inseparable from Aina’s identity as a Black woman and as a creator. But for Aina’s educational efforts to be truly impactful, she must continue to place herself (her face, her body, her experiences) at the center, which is a vulnerable, necessary position that sustains her community and brand.


Aina folds her Nigerian identity into conversations concerning Black womanhood, internalized anti-Blackness, and the ways the beauty industry presents darker skin as something to be corrected, thus associating lighter skin with ideal beauty and revealing the beauty industry’s roots in colonialism. In a video about skin bleaching, Aina responds to a collaboration between celebrity Blac Chyna and “skincare” company Whitenicious (2018d). The collaboration is for a skin-lightening cream marketed exclusively to African consumers, with the brand hosting a launch party in Lagos, Nigeria. While doing her makeup, Aina concludes that skin bleaching is only one part of systemic colorism, which affects how darker-skinned people view themselves and how they are treated by others. Aina uses her role as a beauty and lifestyle content creator to situate herself as an expert, educating the audience on problematic hegemonic beauty standards that center whiteness as the ideal. Aina’s supportive tone and accessible language throughout the video signify her rightful motivations. She presents herself as the “concerned Auntie,” both a content creator and community leader, gathering the Jackie Aina Family around her makeup table to discuss an important issue without being judgmental. Looking right into the camera, Aina speaks directly to those who have used or are considering skin bleaching and asks, “at what expense are you willing to put your health and your body on the line to fit a standard?” (2018d). Aina restates her motivations for becoming a content creator—to help darker-skinned women feel confident and to “[uplift] people of color”—and further supports her authentic image (2018d). 

Figure 5: Aina stressing the importance of dark-skinned representation while applying her eyeshadow in her “We Need to Talk About Skin Bleaching” video (

Through reaffirming her motivations and connecting them to her passions for social change, Aina strengthens her bond with her online community and reestablishes her familial and affective role of Auntie Jackie, who genuinely cares about her audience’s health and safety. 


Despite comments that Aina “does nothing for Black people” or that her fame has led her to disregard her community, she explains that every time she turns on her camera, she’s “doing the work” (2018a). Here, the work Aina is referring to is not behind-the-scenes labor, but rather the work to publicly address the harm Black women experience online and offline every day. Her comment reflects the discourse of passion that supports a creator’s authentic persona, justifies their rightful motivations, and minimizes the labor that their content creation and social visibility entails. Aina’s personal brand is built on appearing rightfully motivated. Being on YouTube for over a decade, Aina shares that she understands what it feels like to not be “seen” and that Black and dark-skinned creators must work harder to be taken seriously and become successful. Aina’s strategic display of rightful motivations in her videos addressing misogynoir offers strategic visibility, a way for Aina to talk back to harmful narratives and hate comments, and ultimately to regain control of her narrative (Coleman 2009). While this labor is uncompensated, it is not taken for granted by Aina’s audiences. In a comment on the “Rumors” video, one user expressed adoration for Aina and gratitude for the content she produces: “I love you aunt Jackie! You exude confidence. Please continue to make me and other dark skin girls more confident about our skin and make up every day <3 <3 <3 [sic]” (2018c). This comment was liked by Aina and pinned to the top of the video’s comment section, serving as a positive review of the content and Aina’s ethos of uplifting Black women. 




This article illustrates how online spaces can function as “both/and,” serving as spaces where Black women experience violence and harassment, while also being spaces of beloved community that allow for renegotiations of identity for Black women. Through providing advice alongside product reviews, celebrating Blackness, and offering her audience an intimate glimpse into her everyday life, Aina has facilitated a community through the Jackie Aina Family and established familial bonds between herself and her audience. Yet being visible and authentic poses special risks for Aina, who must navigate harassment-motivated misogynoir and harmful tropes like the “angry Black woman” or the “strong Black woman.” 


Aina actively uses her channel to subvert dominant images of Blackness. These include an ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) video in which she eats fried chicken and reacts to hateful comments, a video that unpacks representations of Black women in rap music videos, and another in which she discusses how internalized colorism and racism manifest in dating preferences (2018b; 2018d; 2019a). While the majority of Aina’s videos feature beauty and lifestyle content, many of them also discuss social issues such as racism, colorism, and post-race ideology. Navigating racism online is a key form of uncompensated labor that Aina must undertake because online platforms cater to white masculinized audiences and leave marginalized users like Black women especially vulnerable to harassment. Dealing with hateful comments and unsolicited remarks about her skin and body, Aina negotiates the precariousness that accompanies her hypervisibility, a position that allows her to build an affective community but also requires her to engage in labor that is unique to her experiences as a Black woman. 


Aina’s success could be attributed to her grand portfolio of brand relationships, her technical skills and creativity, and her decade of experience online. At first glance, her skillset is impressive; she is a one-woman show and well-versed in the tools of the trade. Yet all the roles Aina must simultaneously perform to maintain her online presence are undoubtedly exhausting. While Aina is paid through the ad revenue on her videos, brand partnerships and sponsorships, and product sales, the work that goes on behind the scenes to make her labor seem effortless is never fully compensated. Even after the content is posted, Aina must engage in additional labor to ensure it is seen as she battles against algorithms to reach her audiences. However, as Aina has explained, her audiences are not here to see what goes on behind the scenes—they’re here for the makeup (the content) and the tea (the affective role that Aina plays, which is facilitated by her racial and gender identities). To be successful online, Aina must not only maintain rightful motivations and a perfectly curated personal brand, but she must also obscure the racialized and gendered labor she performs. 
Aina’s gender and racial identities inform her invisible labor, which includes navigating hostile platforms and biased algorithms, forming affective communities that foster familial relationships with her followers, creating anti-racist content, and establishing herself as rightfully motivated. Using the precarity of visibility as a framework, my analysis illustrates the risks of hypervisibility online, as platforms render Black women vulnerable to harassment. Its intersectional approach illuminates the experiences of Black women digital creators and laborers like Aina, particularly the additional labor they must perform to maintain a financially viable and authentic online presence and community. Focusing on Black women in digital spaces in relation to both the risks and benefits of hypervisibility allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the uncompensated and unrecognized labor that Black women engage in when navigating racism and harassment online in addition to the feminized aspirational labor that they must make invisible to be successful.


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