Jackie Aina isn’t known for staying silent. When a beauty brand is preaching inclusivity but only carries 12 foundation shades? She has thoughts. When a company claims to support Black women, but has been acting shady behind the scenes? She’s ready with receipts. And when drama goes down in the influencer community? She isn’t shy about voicing her opinion.
The U.S. Army veteran turned beauty blogger has built a following based on her unapologetic, progressive stance in the industry. But in the last month, following a string of YouTube drama that culminated in her deleting her Twitter, her social media feed has been uncharacteristically quiet.
But, make no mistake: Jackie’s still got plenty to say. In her first major interview since leaving the platform in late August (and returning to it this past week), Aina is as candid as ever — explaining her real reasons for a social media break, the pressures of being a Black content creator, and how the industry needs to move forward. She shares her truth, ahead.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When you deleted your Twitter, you said that you felt like the “verbal punching bag of the beauty community” — when did that feeling start?
A lot of Black creators can probably say they receive an incredible amount of social media bullying. You have the people who don’t look like you, who feel like you’re too radical and all you do is talk about race. And then, sometimes you get criticism from your own community that you’re not racial enough. It’s this constant tug-of-war of trying not to lose yourself in the middle of that.
Have you ever thought about deleting your Twitter account before?
This is the first time that I’ve deleted my Twitter account. It’s one of the platforms I spend the most time on, and I think that I needed to develop healthier habits. Recently it was magnified, but I have been feeling like I’ve been needing a Twitter break for a while. Sometimes, it just doesn’t feel like a platform is more positive than it is negative, and whenever I feel that way, that’s when I have to be like, “Ok, peel back.”
What are the realities of reading hurtful comments?
It’s this lack of accountability about the things that people say online that frustrates me. I don’t like how, because I have a lot of followers, I’m supposed to be immune to abuse. It’s not true. I don’t look for gossip about me. Whatever just shows up on my timeline is the stuff that I organically react to, but even that could be a lot to consume and take in. There’s literally no amount of positivity or money that could make reading mean comments feel better.
How do you remain positive with all the negativity?
It’s usually not the comment by itself that will bother me. It could be the timing of reading the comment; it could be that I had a really bad day. It’s usually seeing a bunch of them all at the same time. Sometimes, I’ll stumble upon other DMs that are really nice and positive. That makes my day, and that’s usually my way of balancing out the hate. Fortunately, I do get more positive than negative, which is really great.
Do you feel that being so honest in this industry has made you a bigger target?
No, I have never thought or felt that. I’ve been pretty consistent with my message. For example, if I talk about a makeup brand that I no longer support, one thing that I always make very clear is, “This is where I stand, and if you choose to align yourself or use that brand in spite of how I feel, that’s your business.” Just because I’m the most vocal influencer doesn’t mean I should be looked at as the only one. It’s a lot of pressure. Why does it need to be the opinion of this one Black woman in the industry when there are tons that we should be supporting, uplifting, and valuing?
You have become an influential voice in the industry. How has that been empowering and how has it put pressure on you?
You don’t have to be a celebrity to make a difference, inspire people, and impact people’s lives. That’s the most exciting part about social media. Sometimes it is a lot of pressure to respond to things you don’t necessarily feel comfortable talking about, and not because you don’t want to. When the Me Too movement was happening, I was getting a lot of pretty aggressive comments from people that were expecting me to speak up and bring awareness and I didn’t want to because I had my own Me Too story that I wasn’t ready to talk about. People need to be more compassionate. Maybe they’re taking their time to figure out how to voice that themselves.
When it comes to YouTube and the beauty community, do you ever feel like you’re the only Black person in the room and expected to speak for everyone?
There have definitely been times where I speak on something and maybe it’s not a popular opinion, and then the response is, “Oh, we’re just going to find someone else to replace Jackie Aina.” This isn’t a one-slot industry. There’s room for everyone. You may not like what I say today; you may not like what someone else is going to say tomorrow. You shouldn’t go looking for other Black influencers to spite me. You should support them because you like their work. Consistently support them because you like them and you want to see them grow.
How can the industry become a more welcoming space for Black influencers?
I would just like to see more opportunities for Black influencers. I don’t want to be the only person that people name drop when they think of us. I want to see everybody else getting opportunities just like I am. This whole idea that there has to be a token and that the token has to be super perfect — I think that it stems from racism and this idea that you have to be a certain kind of cooperative, well-mannered, docile Black person or else, they’ll replace you. It’s really sad.
Do you feel there’s a double standard when it comes to non-Black influencers??
There are two layers: There’s being Black, and there’s being a Black woman — and there’s a double standard that other influencers don’t face. I’m someone who is coming into success in the public eye, and God forbid I show a designer handbag every so often. To some people, that’s perceived as flaunting wealth, whereas a white influencer could be, “Oh, he’s so much fun, and that’s just how he is, he’s so extra and we love it.”
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned during this break from Twitter?
I think that as much I would want people to put themselves in influencers’ shoes, I definitely need to work on doing the same. I want to not be so quick to react and take things personal. I know what it feels like to feel like you don’t have a voice or like nobody really cares. Because of that, I want to be more aware of when I respond to certain things. Everybody is going through their own stuff — from the biggest influencers to the person with 20 followers.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?