Today I'm chatting with YouTuber and influencer Naakie Nartey.
This interview is so timely because there's an ongoing conversation about a need for black YouTubers who aren't a part of the "luxury black girl" movement. I'm noticing we're starting to seek out those relatable black YouTubers again – like the cute, stylish, regular black girls.
To me, Naakie is and always has been just that. With over 100,000 YouTube subscribers and over 7 million views, Naakie makes videos for the everyday black girl. Not to mention, she makes this content on top of her 9-5.
While Naakie is the queen of aesthetic content, she is also an example of how slow and steady can win the race. Naakie's YouTube success is the result of a 5-year grind. It wasn't instant, and it wasn't easy. Today, Naakie and I will be chatting about what it really takes to be a successful YouTuber.
Not much of a reader? Be sure to check out The Colors of Her Success Podcast for the full conversation!
If you had to describe your channel in your own words, what would you say?
N: My content has changed a lot over the past 5 years since I've had my channel. But, something that I have tried to keep consistent is embracing your God-given beauty. When I first started my channel, it was because there were not a lot of creators on YouTube that had 4c hair. There were a lot of natural hair YouTubers, but there weren't a lot of people with my hair texture. I wanted to fulfill that need and be a resource to women trying to embrace their hair when it's not as popular as other natural hair textures.
Over time, I got fatigued with natural hair content because natural hair content takes so much time to create. I had to think about: Who am I beyond my natural hair? What do I want to stand for? What do I want people to take away from my content? Ultimately it's being authentically me and embracing imperfections. I wanted my channel to be a place where other women could come to my channel and be like, "Oh girl, you got the same thing I got, but you're beautiful, so I'm beautiful too!"
So, in the past 5 years, I've seen a rise in the amount of people who want to start a YouTube channel. I think they're enamored by having a fanbase, money you can make, and influencer culture, But then after 10 videos, they're kind of over it. So, I wanted to ask you:
What does it actually take to and maintain a successful YouTube?
N: A lot of hard work and dedication. One time, I was watching Roberto Blake, and he said you have to make a hundred videos that no one will watch before anyone watches one. That's a very real thing when it comes to being a YouTube creator. There is just so much that goes into planning for and filming a YouTube video.
So for you to post a video, and then only 100 people watch it, you start to wonder if it's really worth all the effort. Over time, people can be rewarded for all the hard work. It just takes a lot of repetition, continuing to post videos –even when no one is watching it –and experimenting on different topics to see what works. But, it is all about consistency. To anyone starting a YouTube channel, don't be discouraged by the lack of views in the beginning because you will get there eventually.
One of the things I admire about you is that you've developed a healthy balance between consistency and mental health. I'm wondering how you've managed that balance throughout the years.
N: Well, there was a point where I was just cranking out videos. I have a full-time job, so I can't use the whole day to edit or film. I found that my weekends were my only days to film and then I was using my eveninge to edit. I just got to a point where I felt like I wasn't living. You know? I got burnt out.
As much as I enjoy YouTube and as much as I want to be successful on the platform, I'm not willing to give up my happiness and my social life. I decided that it's ok if my videos don't get as many views because I'm not posting as often. If that's the price I have to pay – it's worth it. I also think there's seasons to work really hard and then there are seasons to chill. So, having that balance and knowing that if I get into a lull and don't feel like filming, that's fine because I'll get back into that mental space of wanting to go hard in the paint.
How did you become comfortable with putting yourself and your life out there to the public?
N: I definitely had imposter syndrome when I was first starting out. I didn't really have much of a following. The main people who followed me were friends and family, so I felt as if they would think, "Who does she think she is?" I just kind of had to get over it, and at the end of the day, no one's really worried about you.
I had to remind myself, "Ain't nobody thinking about me!" Any imposter syndrome that I had was self-imposed. Even if someone did think negatively of me, they're not going to say it to me, and in 10 years, when I'm where I wanted to be, what are you going to say to me then? As hard as it is, putting yourself out there is just one step of many steps that you're going to have to take to get to where you want to be.
When you started to create a loyal fanbase, how did you navigate putting your life out there to fans but still maintaining boundaries of what you choose to share?
N: When it comes to giving people the content they want to see – like the juicy content– but still protecting my own peace, it's about having clear boundaries. I think many people don't have clear boundaries in their lives and with what they put on social media. It's very much a personal decision of "What do I want to share, what don't I want to share, and how do I want to be perceived?" I try to be as authentic as possible, but my boundaries come first.
When it comes to making sure that I'm pleasing my community, I try to understand what they want to see from me. Sometimes I'll do content polls to ensure that whatever they expect from me, I'm delivering.
I think many people's goals when they start YouTube are to get monetized and get sponsorships. But is it all it's cracked up to be and what are some of the things that people may not know about navigating that space?
N: Is it all it's cracked up to be? Not in the beginning, but I'm not going to lie, once you get to a place where you can demand a certain rate, it's pretty nice. But, I made a lot of mistakes with brand deals and negotiating in the beginning. It took a lot of trial and error. I bought a book called Influencer by Brittany Hennessy, who was one of the pioneers in influencer marketing. It's literally, in my opinion, a bible for the influencer marketing industry.
What also helped was having candid conversations with other influencers about what they're charging. All of that has gotten me to a point where I can demand a certain price and communicate my value. What I've learned is, value isn't always views. Value is also in the quality of your content and engagement. Research, reading, and relationships are key when it comes to an understanding your worth.
You said there are ebbs and flows; there are the peak moments and the slow moments. Where moment are you in right now, and what's next?
N: So, where am I right now? That is a great question. I think right now, I am getting out of a couple of life transitions that have taken my focus away from YouTube, which I think happens to everyone. But I am in an inspired state right now, so I'm trying to capitalize on that.
As far as what's next, right now I'm just trying to get back to being consistent and giving y'all videos every week. I'm just going to put it in the atmosphere; you can expect a video a week from me moving forward.
Follow Naakie on all platforms: @NaakieNartey
Subscribe to her email list: NaakieNartey.com