Compared to other social media platforms such as Youtube or Instagram, Tiktok’s algorithm allows for a user to get almost instant virality. Whether it is through a dance craze, inventive makeup hack, or funny video, virtually anyone can get a taste of brief internet fame. As followers, brand deals, and entertainment industry gigs come flowing in, this fleeting fame can grow into something bigger– a career.
Unfortunately, these opportunities are more likely to be afforded to some over others, with Black creators usually given the short end of the stick. Black creators make sizeable contributions to TikTok’s culture such as dance crazes, popular audios, and even African American Vernacular English (AAVE) that was erroneously dubbed “Gen Z TikTok slang.” However, they only receive a fraction of the exposure given to their white counterparts.
There are many instances of Black creators creating trends that white TikTok users merely participate in and end up receiving the credit for while receiving additional opportunities. An example of this took place in 2020 when TikTok’s biggest creator Charli D’Amelio went viral for her TikTok performing the “Renegade” dance trend. D’Amelio gained millions of followers and went on to perform at the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” Meanwhile, the original Black creator, Jalaiah Harmon, went uncredited and missed out on the followers, opportunity, and money awarded to D’Amelio.
This is a recurring pattern for Black creators. As a Black TikTok user, it is discouraging and exasperating to witness this blatant disparity that TikTok allows to happen. I want to take this as an opportunity to spotlight a few of my favorite Black Tiktok creators who fly under the radar:
1. Jalaiah Harmon (@jalaiahharmon)
Choreographing one of the most viral dance trends on TikTok at 14, Jalaiah Harmon deserves to kick off this list. Although she eventually received her dues for creating the “Renegade challenge,” she still was not afforded a fraction of the opportunities given to D’Amelio. Harmon is still creating and performing dances on her TikTok page, lighting up the screen with her high, infectious energy.
2. Pablo, the Don (@pablothedon)
25-year-old commentator Pablo, the Don is quick to talk about trending topics in pop culture and gives interesting and nuanced critiques on a wide variety of music. They will also make sure to put you onto underground and up-and-coming artists, especially Black and non-cis musicians.
3. Joel Bervell (@joelbervell)
When he is not studying for medical school, Bervell takes to his TikTok to educate others about racial disparities in medicine. His videos are both engaging and concise as he highlights the difference in treatment that Black people and other people of color experience in the healthcare system. He also provides scholarships to underrepresented students in high school and college.