As the TikTok renaissance continues to thrive, one group of content creators is holding their ground in increasingly challenging situations. The star power behind the Atlanta-based Collab Crib is rising above the injustices they’ve experienced while on the social media platform.
Kaelyn Kastle, Kaychelle Dabney and Queen Khamyra open up to ET’s Melicia Johnson about being Black creators on TikTok, cultural appropriation they’ve witnessed, and issues with the app’s algorithm that they feel puts them at a disadvantage.
“I do understand that Black creators are trendsetters for a lot of, you know, the content that is being produced on TikTok,” Kaelyn tells ET. “But at the same time, there’s a way to involve yourself in someone’s culture without it becoming cultural appropriation. So how to necessarily address it, I honestly couldn’t give you an answer… You want people to appreciate us, but at the same time, it’s a fine line. I think it’s more the educational background where they educate themselves before they can, you know, be involved.”
When asked about the popular “Renegade” dance, which originated with Black creator Jalaiah Harmon but reached a viral status with white creator Charli D’Amelio, Kaychelle admits that the discrepancies are “definitely really frustrating.”
“I can’t say it’s not. Sometimes it does mess with your mental [state] because you’re like, ‘Well, dang,’ like because you’re trying so hard and you’re doing exactly the same thing as other people, but for some reason, it seems like you’re being targeted or you’re being, like, hated or something like that,” she says. “You can’t dwell on the situation. You can’t, like, beat yourself up because you won’t get anywhere. So even though it sucks, the most we can do is work harder.”
Kaychelle, who boasts 1.4 million followers, recently found herself to be the victim of what she says are algorithm issues within the app.
“I posted a video and it was at zero views for, like, over an hour. So I posted the same video again,” she shares. “It’s at zero views for an hour and I posted it again, zero views. So then I made a video basically explaining, like, I have 1.4 million followers, why is it? And it didn’t say that they violated community guidelines. I’m like, ‘What is the issue?’ If you’re going to do this, at least explain to me what the problem is so that I will be able to fix it. So I made a video basically explaining how I felt it was unfair that I didn’t have the opportunity to show my content, zero views. So I posted another video, was like, ‘Hey, you guys, just go to my Instagram so you can see the video.’ Zero views. I don’t understand what the issue is, but it’s like, if we’re going to get, like, straight for community guidelines, at least be able to tell us what we’re doing wrong, you know? Don’t just take it down. It’s like scolding the child and not telling them what they did wrong. That’s not right.”
Queen Khamyra, a 14-year-old content creator, ended up having her entire account banned after it was flagged that she needed to be posting in the 13-and-under section of the app — TikTok for Younger Users. When she tried to explain that she was older than 14, she says she received no response from TikTok. She was forced to create a new account, losing the 400,000 followers she had gained over years of hard work.
TikTok has released a statement to ET, saying, “We are inspired by our Black creators, artists, and partners who have touched so many people across the country and around the world. Without them, TikTok would not be the joyful and creative community we aspire to be. We care about the experiences Black creators have on TikTok and continue to work each and every day to create a supportive environment for our Black community.”
The platform is taking steps to highlight Black creators, including its brand new Black Creative incubator program, which will foster and develop the platform and voices of 100 emerging Black creators.
Despite these changes, Black creators remain keenly aware of the challenges they face on the app.
“I would say it’s hard to pinpoint it at Black creatives but to a certain extent, when we experience it, we all understand, because we’ve all been in that spot,” Kaelyn says of the challenges she’s faced.
“I would say it happens to everybody, but the Black community gets it the worst,” Kaychelle agrees.
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