Television has a long way to go towards representing the diversity of black women’s experiences, so many turn to YouTube to find black women they resonate with, subscribing to their daily vlogs for an inside look at their lives.
The black woman daily vloggers who have risen to the top have a lot in common; they are young, beautiful, in seemingly happy and stable relationships and have joyful homes. Their viewers see their channels as a respite from the onslaught of media that casts black women as unlovable or not ‘wife material’.
Enter Austin and Brittany Null, known as The Nive Nulls, a married Christian couple who have vlogged their early marriage, the births of their 3 children and their daily family life for the past 5 years.
With 350,000 subscribers and more than 56 million channel views, they are among the most visible daily vlog YouTube families. They’ve parlayed their social media fame into a contract with Ziploc, TV appearances and even music.
A former social media manager, Austin has stated that he started his channel with an eye towards earning a living. After his YouTube revenue began to rival his paycheck, he quit his job and moved his family from Kansas to Los Angeles, California. He has credited his success to his “cute kids”, consistency and authenticity.
Be yourself and find your niche. What is it about your family that is unique in comparison to other families? How do you view family/every day activities/current issues/etc. and how do you communicate that to your audience? Find a way to stick out, AUTHENTICALLY.
Black women are among the channel’s most vocal fans, often praising the Nulls for their home life.
Which is why many viewers were shocked to learn that Austin had an affair in early 2015, and the couple did not take a break when it occurred, but chose to continue vlogging regularly through Brittany’s pregnancy. In a video titled We Need to Talk the couple confirmed the affair after screenshots, pictures and videos surfaced online in late December.
The couple has no plans to split. Brittany states that she has forgiven Austin and they plan to resume their vlogging after taking a break.
Many fans are already calling for their return.
Like The Nulls, many successful vloggers say they value authenticity and want their channels to be relatable. But the reality is that daily vlogs thrive on being aspirational. Viewers tune in to watch people whose lives seem better than theirs. And this is especially true for black women longing to see women like them living the ‘happily ever after’.
But this places incredible pressure on vloggers to shoot and edit material at a furious pace and present images of domestic perfection — relationships that are happy and light-hearted, kids who are spunky and don’t misbehave too much, homes that are beautiful and well-furnished, lives that are full of rich experiences. Vloggers who veer from this formula face backlash. Whitney White, aka Naptural85, caught heat from her fans when she posted a video showing the aftermath of an argument with her husband. It has since been taken down.
Daily vlogging also introduces the pressure of having fans, some more obsessive than others. In his confession video Austin shared that he met the woman he had an affair with online.
Daily and lifestyle vlogging isn’t going anywhere. And more black women are entering the field with increasingly polished channels.
But perhaps in viewing these women we shouldn’t look for perfection, but honesty. Long-time Hollywood showrunner and Girlfriends creator Mara Brock Akil put it best;
“My core audience loves the term, ‘positive image,’ and I actually do not. I don’t believe in positive images just as I don’t believe in negative images. I think they can be just as damaging as negative images, in that it erases our ability to have humanity.”