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Friday, April 12, 2024

Niké Ojekunle Doesn’t Sugarcoat It: She Acquired Scammed


Niké Ojekunle calls herself one of many “OG influencers,” and since becoming a member of TikTok, the Nigeria-born, Los Angeles-based blogger’s “prepare with me” movies and skincare suggestions have helped her amass over half 1,000,000 followers. As her follower rely grew, she additionally negotiated increasingly sponsorship offers for herself, utilizing her enterprise savvy and entrepreneurial mindset to ink offers with style and sweetness manufacturers. 

“I’ve all the time been self-managed,” Ojekunle says. “I’m good at it myself. It simply doesn’t make sense for me to have a supervisor.”

However when a bunch referred to as the Carter Company reached out, the supply was one. They understood that Ojekunle most popular to work alone, and so they have been advantageous with that. As an alternative, they needed to assist her land occasional one-off campaigns with big-name purchasers. Ojekunle’s mother had simply been identified with stage 4 breast most cancers, and Ojekunle was flying backwards and forwards from Tampa to Los Angeles to be together with her mother and father. She needed another person to take the wheel for a bit, and the expertise company’s web site listed Netflix, Amazon and the NFL as “strategic companions.” She stated “sure.”

In November 2022, Ojekunle was one of many first influencers to talk out about her expertise with the Carter Company, which by that time owed her hundreds of {dollars} for varied branding offers. She wouldn’t be the final—dozens of influencers, lots of them ladies of shade, finally got here ahead. A number of of them shared their expertise in an article in The New York Occasions titled, “New Fame, Age-Outdated Exploitation.”

Turning a unfavorable expertise into a chance to assist others

The expertise left Ojekunle considerably shaken, however she needed to channel it into one thing that felt productive. “The worst factor you possibly can ever name me is a sufferer,” she says. “I simply don’t ever need to be seen like that in my life. And so when all that stuff occurred, I stated to myself, ‘I’ll use this to vary the business, to ensure that everybody who comes after me—all of the Black women who come after me, won’t ever get scammed once more.’”

She determined she’d begin mentoring different younger influencers who approached her with questions on model offers or the advantageous print of their contracts. It’s not an accident that the Carter Company and different organizations prefer it primarily scammed ladies of shade. Ojekunle explains that they’d search out creators who may not have the expertise or business perception that extra privileged creators did. Influencer advertising has one of many worst racial pay gaps of any business. She thought she might assist shut that hole.

Jim Rohn WOK CTA R1@2x

Ultimately, although, even that work, rewarding because it was, began to really feel draining. “That complete [Carter Agency] factor—I’m nonetheless slightly traumatized from it,” she says. “And the final 12 months, I’ve sort of stepped away from influencing utterly as a result of… it retains taking place, you recognize?” The scams haven’t stopped, and it’s been exhausting to observe different younger creators fall for a similar methods, to just accept low charges, to say sure to any crumb of promoting cash that got here their means as a result of they felt like they couldn’t say no.”

That’s when the gears began turning. Possibly she couldn’t cease scammers from being scammy. With the launch of TikTok Store, possibly the issue would deal with itself, as manufacturers more and more strategy creators instantly, reasonably than going by businesses. 

Niké Ojekunle: The journey from homelessness to monetary literacy

However Ojekunle realized she had began from the underside, too, with no following to talk of and no fancy offers with expertise businesses. She was homeless as soon as, and he or she purchased a home in Los Angeles final 12 months. What units her aside—what obtained her to the place she is right now, and what helped her understand that the Carter Company was making the most of her and different creators—is that she has monetary literacy

“I noticed a whole lot of influencers don’t,” she says. She references a current podcast episode by which well-liked content material creator Emma Chamberlain stated she by no means checks her checking account. Followers thought the confession was irresponsible and out of contact. Ojekunle says we’d all be shocked at how frequent Chamberlain’s state of affairs is, no matter how a lot cash an influencer has coming in from model offers. 

“A whole lot of influencers don’t go to varsity,” she explains. “So think about, you may have all that fame, plus you didn’t go to highschool, you haven’t any formal training, you haven’t any monetary literacy in any respect. You simply don’t perceive cash… That’s after I was like, ‘Oh, I might add this to my mentorship. I might train influencers how to save cash and make investments and never spend frivolously while you  have that small window the place you make good cash.’”

Utilizing one piece of the puzzle to create the large image

Serving to influencers keep away from getting scammed—that was one piece of the puzzle. What Ojekunle is doing now together with her Specs and Blazers model is the complete puzzle: monetary literacy, saving cash and making that cash give you the results you want, all whereas creating an consciousness of what to look out for from shady firms that may not have your greatest pursuits in thoughts.

Ojekunle provides that there’s an actual keeping-up-with-the-Joneses sort of factor taking place amongst influencers who need to seem like they’ve all of it—the latest merchandise, the first-class flights—however in actuality live on maxed-out bank cards and overdrafted accounts. She remembers a current dialog with one influencer, somebody with a a lot larger following than she has, who requested how she might have probably afforded to purchase a home in Los Angeles. 

Her response was easy: She saves her cash. She’s frugal. In her expertise, many influencers aren’t. It’s not that she judges them although. There’s a sure picture influencers need to painting in the event that they need to proceed being influencers, and the impulse to spend is one she understands effectively. 

“Parasocial relationships are robust; you need to seem like your favourite influencer, and your favourite influencer needs to seem like her favourite influencer, and he or she needs to seem like her favourite movie star,” Ojekunle quips. And never everybody has been so enamored with the frugality mindset she’s pushing now. “A whole lot of them are receptive, however there are some who push again and are like… I simply wanna purchase that new bag,” she laughs. “I understand, it’s a microcosm of American tradition. It’s a whole lot of strain on them. After which there’s an added layer to it: being Gen Z, being an influencer, being Black.”

Ojekunle conjures up her followers to save lots of as a substitute of spend

Nonetheless, she feels hopeful that this may very well be the beginning of one thing new. The overwhelming majority of her followers have been excited to listen to her speaking candidly about cash—about saving and investing it, that’s, not simply spending it. 

“After the very first video that I did the place I stated, ‘I’m pivoting my platform towards monetary literacy,’ my DMs have been full of ladies saying, ‘We’ve been ready for any influencer, and I imply any influencer, to cease pushing merchandise on our web page and inform us to save lots of our cash as a substitute,’” Ojekunle says. “Monetary literacy for influencers is what I’m so enthusiastic about. I really feel like if I can simply convert 15, 20 influencers to be the most important influencer in their very own life, to advocate for themselves, then I’ve achieved my half within the business.”

Photograph by Christina Mumper.

Cassel is a Minneapolis-based author and editor, a co-owner of Racket MN, and a VHS collector.



Eddie Elish
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