The Edit: In Conversation with L’Oréal Blackett, Journalist and Broadcaster

What does it mean to be influential in today’s digital world? Is success only measured by how you’re perceived online? And if you have influence, how do you use it for good?

In the midst of lockdown and eager to find out the answers to these questions, journalist and broadcaster L’Oréal Blackett, created her own podcast, The Edit, which delves into the world of influencer culture. Unpacking the truth behind the likes, shares and hashtags, L’Oréal is using her voice to find out what it’s really like to have a personal brand, exploring the impact of having a popular presence online and how this has affected the individuals and brands dominating our social media feeds. 

Having worked for the likes of the BBC, Bustle and Body Confidential, in a variety of reporting and broadcasting roles, alongside a number of gigs as an ambassador and presenter for businesses including Bumble, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, L’Oréal is by some people’s definition an “influencer”.  However, like many women in journalism, she sometimes struggles with the idea of curating her own brand. Hence the creation of The Edit, a way to better understand the realities and expectations of influencer culture and the role that we all play in this shifting digital narrative. 

Born and bred in Manchester, L’Oréal knew from a young age that she wanted to work in the media, “I was just set on it, it was either that or be a dancer”, she tells me over zoom, seemingly the most popular medium for conducting interviews, podcasts and webinars under lockdown. Taking a traditional route into the industry, she studied Broadcast Journalism at the University of Leeds before landing a placement aged 21 at MediaCity, the BBC’s Salfordian home, and as they say, the rest is history.

Well not quite, because to gloss over L’Oréal’s various career achievements, which include an editorship at Body Confidential, would diminish the hard work and determination that she, and many other women working in journalism – an industry dominated by white males – have put in over the years.

According to a report written for Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism by Suzanne Franks, a professor of Journalism at City University London, women substantially outnumber men in media training but very few secure senior jobs and the pay gap between female and male journalists remains considerable. In another study by Reuters, released in 2016, it was reported that journalists were 94% white. Whilst publications such as gal-dem, Black Ballad, FEM Zine and Yellowzine have sought to make media and its reporting more diverse, recent events show just how much work still needs to be done in order to create a more representative media landscape. 

For L’Oréal, a regular contributor to online platform Bustle, the roadblocks to success were apparent very early on. “It took me a while to really understand that media is a business before anything else,” she says. “From the SEO, to the clicks and links and everything like that, as much as some media organisations want to show themselves as quite radical, or tell the kind of taboo stories, you know the reality is they’re quite scared – scared of offending their core audience.”

Just a few weeks earlier, L’Oréal had written a piece for Bustle, who she credits as one of a number of platforms giving writers such as herself, a space to write about her own experiences and those of other women of colour, about the lack of mental health provision for black women and why it is imperative that this is put on the agenda. Exploring the narrative that Black women are stronger than others, L’Oréal sought to show that this doesn’t tell the whole story and that provision, access and representation with regards to mental health services is simply not where it needs to be to positively help and support women of colour. 

 L’Oréal explains that she feels now is the time to delve deeper into these subjects, which, in the past, she didn’t feel she could because the conversation wasn’t yet open enough. “Obviously the industry has changed. I would still write about mental health but in a broad way, but as a  journalist it now feels like the right time to talk about something that does resonate with me but also with a lot of people,” she explains. “It’s great when I’m working with Bustle or other womens’ magazines, they’re open to sharing a wealth of stories, so I feel empowered by that. I feel comfortable writing about those things.  I’m pleased to be able to speak about something that can be quite difficult in the black community.”

Part of the reason L’Oréal remains hopeful – in spite of both the racism and sexism she has faced in the industry – is because of her strong relationship with her family, who have always supported her dream to be journalist or fashion editor. “Maybe it’s a weird naivety in me but sometimes I feel I will always succeed, it’s been drummed into my head from my parents,” she says with a smile. “I never thought I couldn’t do something, but I did realize soon enough that it might be slightly more difficult. I wouldn’t say I’m thick skinned but I am so determined.” This dedication to her craft is supported wholeheartedly by her family who she credits for always inspiring and uplifting her, especially during the earlier phases of lockdown – a time that gave her the chance to press pause and consider her next steps.

Despite her year not getting off to the start that she had planned, the arrival of lockdown set off something inside of L’Oréal, who after taking some time out to focus on her health and wellbeing, through running and outdoor workouts, began to consider new ways to channel her media skills, which eventually resulted in the creation of The Edit podcast. 

“Not to diminish what the virus is at all, but lockdown has grounded me and made me think about what I do. I think of ideas all the time and I don’t know where to put it sometimes,” she says taking a sip of her freshly brewed coffee. “You like talking so just do the podcast. I started there and just focused on one project. I centered in on the things I want to do and the podcast has been a natural fit and also a great distraction; what a time to explore another facet of yourself that you’ve never had time to do.”

Applying what she had learnt from her time in broadcasting, L’Oréal began to ask, what does it mean to have an influence in today’s digital world, speaking to guests such as Haçienda legend DJ Paulette, designer of positive vibes Zara Khalique and tech entrepreneur Melissa Snover about their experiences of influence, the sacrifices they have taken to keep up appearances and what it means to have a voice in today’s society. The podcast has also led the esteemed journalist to examine her own online presence and the side effects of time spent online.

“Instagram is a minefield, especially when it’s so image-led. I struggle with that. I love fashion, music, all of it, but I love to write and read, but I don’t always know how to marry it,” explains L’Oréal. “With the podcast, that’s me being me, you have to be yourself. That’s what a personal brand should be.”

Having seen the good, the bad and the ugly side of social media it seems like L’Oréal is already understanding what it means to have a significant degree of influence and has made sure to use it to challenge stereotypes and ask the difficult questions that need to be answered in these particularly polarized times. Meanwhile, she advises those looking to pursue a career in media to use Instagram and other platforms on their own terms. “There’s so many more opportunities for journalists now thanks to social media. Go get more than you ever could, whether it’s talking on panels, speaking, doing courses – you can supplement your income using it,” she concludes. “So don’t be afraid, don’t be controlled by how everyone else is using it, don’t let it be a negative thing, because it doesn’t have to be.”


You can read more of L’Oréal’s articles here and listen to the latest episode of The Edit here.

Interview: Jenna Campbell

Images: Courtesy of L’Oréal Blackett

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Instagram isn’t all that bad, is it?

Shahed Ezaydi discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Instagram and how curating your own media streams could ensure that in the future we look to use social media platfroms as a tool for good.

Words: Shahed Ezaydi

It’s a funny old thing, Instagram. It is not honestly something I thought I would still be using in my mid-20s, or any form of social media for that matter. I first logged on to Instagram in 2013 and I genuinely thought it might just be another trend, like Bebo, that would be all the rage for a couple of years, and meet the same demise as its failed predecessors. But, here we are. We are approaching a brand-new decade and we are STILL obsessed with Instagram. I mean, I can count on one hand the people I know who are not on Instagram. They are a rarity and I wholeheartedly commend them for resisting the overwhelming tide of snaps and stories. 

Of course, Instagram (and social media in general) has garnered quite the bad reputation in recent years. And rightly so. We spend more and more of our time looking at screens and scrolling through various social media apps. We are being overloaded with content all the time, and this over-consumption has led to us as a society having to face some nasty truths. 

Instagram was highlighted a couple of years ago by the charity, Ditch the Label, as being the social media platform where cyber-bullying was most rife. As Instagram is an image-based platform, it makes sense that cyber-bullying and harassment would be more common on there – it has created a space where people can visually compare themselves with others. It could be centred in appearance or body image or maybe in showcasing the perfect social life.

By Make Room Zine

The endless scroll through Instagram feeds can also have a negative impact on our mental health. I know it certainly has for me in the past. I think we sometimes forget that Instagram is something a person carefully curates and only shows others what they choose for them to see. 

But, it’s not all bad. There are some positives to be gained from the world of Instagram. Although it has made me anxious and I do still sometimes find myself comparing my life to others, it has also had a positive impact on my state of mind. It has pushed me through some low points through just knowing that there are others who are feeling the same things that I’m feeling. The simple act of knowing that you are not alone is sometimes enough.

By Melody Hansen

The huge positive with Instagram is that it is such a necessary and needed tool for education and awareness. There are countless people, organisations, and platforms using Instagram for the good. To share knowledge and resources on topics and issues that I for one was never taught at school. From intersectionality, to the reality of fast fashion, to colonialism and our whitewashed history. Stories and narratives are shared and given a platform – one that the mainstream media might not have given them and consequently, I might not have heard or read these stories. It has educated me a great deal. I once read somewhere that our Instagram feed should be built up as though we are reading a magazine or a newspaper. So that when you are scrolling through, you pick up information about a wide range of topics and interests, and you gain something from your time on there. And this is definitely something I have tried to incorporate into my own digital feed.

They say with knowledge comes power. In this case it is not so much power, but I found that there was a need within myself to want to do something to help in some way. You learn about all the injustices and inequalities in the world, and for me, this education formed into a process of action. I have been able to use Instagram to talk and engage with different people and groups that I might not have had the chance to meet offline. For example, this is how I ended up joining SheFest – by coming across their Instagram account and seeing all the wonderful work they were doing locally in my own backyard.

By Rachel Cook

Like anything, Instagram comes packaged up with both good features and bad. Obviously, it shouldn’t be the one and only place we get our information and knowledge from. But it was such a useful entry point for me. You can uncover art and articles and organisations and campaigns, things you might not have seen or heard of otherwise, that can then lead you elsewhere (probably off Instagram) where you can learn more about the world. And really, isn’t that what all any of us want to do?

And so, here are some of my recommended Instagram accounts to follow that showcase perfectly how women in the North are taking action:

SheFest: A Sheffield based not-for-profit organisation that champions self-defining women’s rights and gender equality, through a whole host of inclusive events. They also run an annual fringe festival, in line with International Women’s Day, providing a female fronted addition to the North’s cultural calendar.

Aurelia Magazine: An online magazine based in Manchester/Liverpool that is dedicated to showcasing the personal feelings, thoughts, and experiences of women and non-binary people. 

Salvaged Project: Lauren, based in Sheffield, has created a community that both promotes second hand fashion (sells some really cool clothes!) and raises vital funds for projects working with those affected by war. 

Every Month: A Manchester based charity that provides free menstrual products to those living in poverty. Their period packs contain tampons, pads and a chocolate bar. Plus, their Instagram provides really useful and educational content around periods and period poverty.

Girl Gang: Spanning across the North, – in Sheffield, Manchester, and Leeds – Girl Gang has built up quite the community and hosts an array of events and workshops. They focus on inclusivity, creativity, and breaking down social barriers.

Love for the Streets: Based in Manchester and co-founded by Lily Fothergill, LFTS is a driving force for social change in young people. They aim “to empower 5.2 million young people to make an impact in their local community.” Their Instagram gives you a chance to see and learn from the work that they, and the young people they help, are doing.