Issa Rae’s media conglomerate launches new initiative for emerging Black talent
Recently, HOORAE, the multi-faceted entertainment media company created by Issa Rae, and Walmart partnered to launch the “Black & Unlimited Digital Development Program.” Nine content creators were flown to Los Angeles for an immersive week of professional production shoots, workshops as well as a Creators Summit where they gleaned a wealth of industry knowledge and contacts to elevate their content and monetize their brand.
When asked how the partnership between HOORAE and Walmart came to fruition, Tiana Harris, vice president of Content Strategy at HOORAE told the L.A. Sentinel, “We pitched this Digital Development program because it felt aligned with the work that we’re doing at HOORAE. Going back to our roots in digital, what if Issa had access to these resources when she was doing her first season of ‘Awkward Black Girl?’ What would that content have looked like? And if you look at the evolution of what the content became, it was really [because of] resources and exposure. The brilliant, creative genius was always there.”
Harris added, “The level of resources Issa has access to has increased so now she can be a vessel to the current generation of creatives and streamline their access to resources and for us that looks like having unequivocal access to money.”
Program participants received a $10,000 stipend in addition to a “creator kit” that included a Canon camera, lens, microphones, and lighting equipment.
“We’re aware of what a platform like HOORAE means to the culture and what creators being aligned with us can do for their careers so we’re really excited about that,” said Harris.
In the midst of curating this coveted opportunity for the nine creators, HOORAE also produced a series entitled “Creator Courses” with leading industry talent including Freddie Ransome, LaRon Hines, Brittney Butler and Erin White of “ErinOnDemand” serving as course instructors. This series of videos were not only created to further empower the program participants, it’s also publicly available on the HOORAE YouTube channel.
Echoing similar sentiments about the inception of the program, D.J. Vaughn, director of multicultural marketing partnerships at Walmart shared, “We’ve been trying to find the right initiative and the right approach to work with HOORAE for over a year. A friend from college knew someone at HOORAE so we connected about four months ago and now we have this great program.”
He added, “Issa Rae exemplifies Black excellence, we’re honored to partner with someone who’s committed to the cause and committed to the culture. What we’re trying to do is, ‘put Walmart in culture and culture in Walmart’. This is one of those programs that’s going to lead to a longer strategic partnership.”
While some may not understand how a retail giant like Walmart is in alignment as a partner with a media company like HOORAE to amplify digital content creators, Vaughn shared, “What we have to realize is that Walmart is more than a retailer. Approximately 95% of people live within ten miles of a Walmart, so it’s a connector. We have to think of ourselves as a facilitator of community and not just a retailer.
“Our ‘Black & Unlimited’ platform isn’t just about celebrating Black excellence during Black History Month, it’s inclusive storytelling, 24/7, all year long. We work with thousands of influencers a year so we have a responsibility in terms of amplifying their voices, shaking up the industry, and challenging the status quo.”
He added, “I read an alarming stat in regards to Black influencers, that they’re often paid 30% less than their white counterparts. So we wanted to challenge that. We’ll always work with influencers, creative agencies, and media companies, so how can we use our scale and scope to challenge the industry?”
Destiny Aaiyana, one of the creators a part of the inaugural cohort shared how she’s grown from this experience and how it’s changed her perception of Walmart. “I’ve learned that investment and resources play a major role in how far someone can go no matter how much raw and pure talent you have, I’m grateful that the world is shifting in regards to recognizing the value of Black creators. I didn’t know Walmart was involved in our community so this makes me feel like ‘Wow, I want to spend my money there because I’ve seen the humanity behind the brand.’”
The Digital Development program chose a diverse group of participants whose niches range from the culinary arts to music curation as well as fashion and beauty. The inaugural cohort of creators selected for the Black & Unlimited Digital Development program are Amanda S. Wicks, Archie Jay, Brelynn Hunt, Cam Sullivan-Brown, Destiny Aaiyana, Mariah Jae, Chef Shaiheem, and Tyris Winter.
Maryland native Brelynn Hunt expressed her appreciation for being a part of the groundbreaking experience. “This program means a lot to me because I’ve been vlogging since 2014, and it really opened me up to the world and I realized how much I love to create and relate to people. I’ve wanted to grow but I’ve been stuck in a box now that I’m a graduate student, working as a medical assistant. I’m going to be a doctor but how can I be bigger than that because I know that my platform can definitely serve a lot of people. It’s just about having the right eyes on it, and this program is giving me that opportunity.”
Beyond using their creator kits to enhance their production values, the Sentinel asked Harris what are HOORAE’s expectations of their inaugural cohort of creators. She shared, “We hope to see the creators continuing to operate in their Black brilliance. In some of our early outreach calls, we spoke to creators who felt discouraged in regards to their content creation journey and they were planning to give up at the top of the year. So for this to be the opportunity that connected for them and now they’re feeling more inspired than ever before to keep creating content, then mission accomplished, we’ve already won.”
She continued, “A lot of the creators have been sitting on ideas so now that they’ve received these resources, they can focus on bringing these ideas to life, that’s the real win for us. We also hope that the followers and fans of our creators are inspired to take that leap of faith in whatever it is they want to do in their day to day. We hope this program has an inspirational trickle-down effect.”
To learn more about the Black & Unlimited Digital Development Program visit: @hooraemedia on Instagram and watch the #BlackAndUnlimited Creator Courses exclusively on the HOORAE YouTube channel.