Vanessa Kingori on taking over Kourtney Kardashian's Instagram for Black History Month

Black women, including Vogue's Vanessa Kingori who led the campaign and Group M's Karen Blackett, took over the accounts of white women to highlight black female voices.

#ShareTheMicUK: Kingori posted to Kardashian's 102 million followers
#ShareTheMicUK: Kingori posted to Kardashian's 102 million followers

British Vogue's publishing director, Vanessa Kingori, had an audience of 102 million people when she took over reality star Kourtney Kardashian's Instagram account as part of a campaign to highlight black female voices.

Speaking to Campaign, Kingori described the experience as "such a learning curve".

"When you have 102 million followers, it's a different beast," Kingori explained. "So she [Kardashian] gave me tips. Her mind is literally wired into social media. She told me 'Don't post anything without a personal picture of yourself fronting it first, because my followers care about the images, then they go into the content', whereas my followers usually care about what is it that you want to get across.

"I really wanted to focus on some of the challenges for black mothers and beauty products that are targeted at black women, and she said: 'Great, I'm going to help you with that and support you, but before you do any of that, you need a sizzle reel.' And I was, like, Googling 'sizzle reel'."

The pair were part of a 1 October initiative that aimed to magnify the voices of black women, with 36 leading black women temporarily taking over the Instagram accounts of white women with huge followings.

The #ShareTheMicUK campaign, co-ordinated by Kingori and Stephanie Phair, chief customer officer at Farfetch and chair of the British Fashion Council, was inspired by #ShareTheMicNow, a US campaign in June. Phair also took part in the social media swap.

After seeing the black squares on Instagram on Blackout Tuesday in June, Kingori wanted to create something that would replace this with the images and stories of "amazing black women".

Taking place on the first day of Black History Month, the project was designed to be celebratory, Kingori explained: "Being black is not only about living with the problem of racism, it's not a problem that we created.

"We are living full lives. We are contributing, we're doing great things in society. We are loving, teaching, leading. For me the biggest act of anti-racism, dispeling racist myths and inspiring progress is first and foremost to live well. And so it was really important to show women who, despite the challenges, are doing great things and thriving. They may have really strong narratives regarding racism, which we all need to hear, but that's one facet of their lives rather than who they are."

Kingori and Phair found their lockdown project to be a logistical learning curve, a "joy but hard work", as Phair put it. They were trying to connect women across different time zones, and had to find the right ones "in terms of their message and platform" and create the right pairings.

Pairings included BBC diversity boss June Sarpong with fashion designer Victoria Beckham and Group M chief executive Karen Blackett with Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet. Phair partnered Nobuntu Ma-Awu, spokeswoman for non-profit organisation Mothers2mothers.

The key was creating real connections with all of the participants, since, for some, the project meant handing over the password for their social media accounts with more than 100 million followers.

Phair commented: "We had a lot of conversations with people saying 'I want to speak to someone before I sign up to this. I want to really understand that I am doing this right, that I'm doing it for the right thing.' So both Vanessa and I had personal calls with people."

Kingori added: "There are lots of us who've been asked to do work for free to make brands and individuals look more diverse than they are. So people were able to have that conversation with me. You can't do that over an email and you can't do that if you don't have common ground with someone."

She said she uncovered "powerful learnings" as she pulled together the initiative around the effect of the pandemic and speaking openly about race and gender.

"This year it's just really hitting home and these conversations will stay with me forever," Kingori added.

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