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How One YouTuber Turned Her Brand Into a Business And Activism Platform

People

First came message boards, then the Blogspots and the Wordpresses of the world, then MySpace and Facebook, and quick to follow was the missing media component: action. Though not a new concept these days, a YouTube celebrity is still a rather innovative concept for many to grasp. How can ‘Vlogging’ translate into a career?


As writer, actor and YouTube phenomenon Franchesca Ramsey will tell you, using your voice and your face to do more than just make people laugh, but inspire them to ignite change, is arguably one of the most powerful tools. It was through her success on YouTube that was she was able to leave her full-time gig and go full-time online, eventually bringing her talents to MTV. Here, she shares her story:

Activists Courtesy of Commons

How did you get started in this industry?

“I started making YouTube videos in 2006 after struggling to find online resources to help me style and maintain my locs. I branched out into vlogs and comedy sketches when I had a hard time booking work as an actress.

"I continued making videos while working as a graphic designer until 2012 when my video ‘Shit White Girls Say...to Black Girls’ went viral and I was able to get an agent. The rest, as they say, is history."

How do you consider yourself an activist?

"In addition to producing content around social issues, I try to use my platform to highlight important conversations and uplift the voices of people who need to be heard. I hope my audience leaves my content wanting to advocate for marginalized folks from all walks of life, in order to create a better world for everyone."

How did you get involved with MTV/Decoded?

“I pitched a tv show to MTV in 2013, which they passed on but I continued to go in for meetings about potential writing and acting opportunities with the network. In 2014 after the success of their web series ‘Braless,’ I got the opportunity to develop a sister series focused on race and pop culture with the same production company, Kornhaber Brown. We spent around 7 months developing the series and in 2015 got the green light to move forward and launched ‘Decoded’ that summer.”

Tell us about your company/brand and its purpose/mission.

"My goal from day one has been to make people laugh and make them think."

5 Youtubers to Watch

1.Hannah Hart

This comedian is about as real as it gets on her Youtube channel. Why? Because when the charcoal mask fad took up - she released this video and we died. Maybe not the best lady to go to for beauty hacks, instead visit her on the days you really need to laugh.

2.TarMar

This Irish Youtuber and blogger is a fashion go-to for all things high-street and some travel tidbits. Her channel, has 91k subscribers and is growing fast.

Look out for some city best-ofs and hauls that will save you a lot of $, and a recent corgi video that will make you squeal.

3. Grace Victory

We love a lady whose chief goal is to empower women, and that's exactly where Grace Victory positions herself amongst the Youtubers of today. She touches on issues such as body confidence, self expression, and dealing with puberty in a non-condescending and self affirming way. We love this girl.

4.Lilly Singh

IISuperwomanII is on pretty much everyone's favorite Youtube channel list, because Canadian native Lilly is seriously cool. Aside from her video editing skills, her video topics are perhaps the funniest we've seen. If you're a Game of Thrones fan, you'll want to catch her recent raps about the show's most illustrious characters.

Lilly Singh Courtesy of CDN

5. Emily Duncan

At the age of 21, Emily Duncan is already an accomplished bikini competitor in the NPC, and a popular Youtuber. With over 50K subscribers, her channel is definitely one worth visiting. Not just for exercise videos; it's also brimming with book recommendations, makeup hacks, the best workout leggings, and Instagram-worthy acai bowl recipes.

Her channel isn't just filled with exercise videos; it's also brimming with book recommendations, makeup hacks, the best workout leggings, and Instagram-worthy acai bowl recipes.

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.