“It’s always ‘dark-girl hour’ on my channel:” An Analysis of  YouTuber  Jackie  Aina  and  the Redefinition of  Black Beauty Standards in Digital Spaces 

Curator's Note

Jackie Aina is an award-winning beauty influencer and YouTuber, boasting over 2.8 million subscribers,  one of the only black beauty gurus with a following of that magnitude. The full video, which focuses on skin bleaching in the black community is a “chit-chat,” set up as a casual conversation that implies closeness between Aina and viewers. Aina presents herself as a big sister, an auntie, a mentor; we’re invited to sit with her and “hang out” while she gets ready.  

Women in digital spaces must construct online personas that are dependent on the performance of socially acceptable femininity, especially in the beauty community. But as a dark-skinned black woman in the industry, Aina uses her channel to engage audiences in discussions on larger social issues most prevalent to the black community. Aina melds her racial identity into her online persona and it becomes a cornerstone of her content. There is a deliberate and delicate balance between  Aina’s construction of a marketable, approachable online persona congruent with other beauty vloggers, and her  ownership and celebration of her blackness that makes her unique.  

Aina  is aware of her intersectional identities and carefully layers them to create an online  persona. In doing so, she uses her platform to raise awareness of issues happening in the black community in a way that resonates with people of color but is also informative to those that may not be as connected to issues of racism or colorism. By celebrating black standards of beauty, and defining cultural beauty ideals from within, Aina is a part of a revolution, challenging white normative beauty standards by embracing blackness. Her channel is a space of refuge for minorities to feel celebrated and to practice the same unapologetic self-love. Aina has a unique position to forge her own identity and control her own space where she can construct her own narratives without being stereotyped and fetishized, as so often happens with black women in the media. She has created a space that celebrates blackness and subverts the hegemonic white gaze and standards of beauty. 

Suggested readings: 

Berryman, Rachel and Misha Kavka. “‘I Guess A Lot of People See Me as a Big Sister or a Friend’: the Role of Intimacy in the Celebrification of Beauty Vloggers.” Journal of Gender Studies, Volume 26, no. 3 (2017): 307-20.  

Duffy, Brooke Erin. “The Romance of Work: Gender and Aspirational Labour in the Digital Culture Industries.” International Journal of Cultural Studies, Volume 19, no. 4 (July 2016): 441–57. 

Duffy, Brooke Erin and Urszula Pruchniewska. “Gender and Self-Enterprise in the Social Media Age: a Digital Double Bind.” Information Communication and Society, Volume 20, no. 6 (2017): 843-59.  

García-Rapp, Florencia. “‘Come Join and Let’s BOND’: Authenticity and Legitimacy Building on YouTube’s Beauty Community.” Journal of Media Practice, Volume 18, nos. 2-3 (2017): 120-37.  

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