How beauty-obsessed are you?
This will help us personalize your experience.

Aja White’s Success as a Black Beauty Influencer After #BlackoutTuesday Came With More Than Just New Instagram Followers


This year, Black social media influencers from Youtube to Instagram saw a surge of followers, opportunities, exposure, and success after the Uprisings following George Floyd’s death. But that success came at an emotional price for many. We caught up with Aja White, a beauty influencer who spent years steadily building up a dedicated following. Like so many Black influencers, she saw a fast surge in followers and opportunities around the time of #BlackoutTuesday. We got a chance to ask her about what life was like before and after the Uprisings, and how she has handled the surge in her followers—despite the events that led to that growth.

You have been doing beauty tutorials for years. When did you realize you had a passion for makeup?

“This might sound so cheesy, but I knew that I loved makeup back when I saw my mom putting on makeup in the bathroom. She had this brown lipstick that I borrowed, and I wore it everywhere I went. Later in life, I had a friend who would pile foundation on her face, and it didn’t look good. I told her, ‘We have to fix this,’ and we went to the drugstore and got a bunch of makeup. I just wanted to help her, but I ended up practicing on her, too. I guess in a way that’s where it all started.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by THEAJAWHITE (@theajawhite) on

What were some challenges that you faced as an influencer before the Uprisings following the death of George Floyd?

“My goal has always been to go behind the scenes of the beauty industry, but in order to get to where I wanted, I knew I had to be seen first—so that’s why I started. For so long, I knew what it was like not to be seen and to have to scratch and claw for opportunities. Then George Floyd’s death happened, and suddenly there are new opportunities for all of these Black people.”

“You ask yourself: Would these new opportunities have come around had these events not happened? It’s a double-edged sword because finally you are seeing me, but are you just seeing me just because I am Brown? At the same time, there is a level of guilt happening. I have never wanted anything handed to me. Do I take what is being handed to me, or do I say no because I am being given something just because I’m Brown? And how long will this last? These opportunities are here now, but what about next year? There were and still are so many questions.”

How long do you think these opportunities will last?

“The conversation was already brewing in the beauty industry years ago, like with shade matching issues and topics like that. We’ve always had issues with representation and being seen and heard. But that’s where the struggle comes in—any good business is going to do market research, and that research is going to tell businesses where the money is and how to get it. This year the research showed that companies needed to have more representation, but what happens when it’s not our season anymore? What happens when the market research tells businesses to go back to what they were doing before? That I don’t know.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by THEAJAWHITE (@theajawhite) on

What was it like being a beauty influencer in the initial weeks surrounding Blackout Tuesday?

“I really can't even remember the first few days after I saw the video. I felt so many things. It was all a blur—so much sadness and so much anger. I didn't post anything, anywhere. And then when I slowly started to come back, it just didn't feel right. What do you say? How can I possibly sit in front of my camera and put on makeup and smile when I'm not smiling inside? Right? I do this because I love it, and if right now I am not in love with it, I can’t do it. And then the beauty industry began to get involved, and beauty brands were starting to post lighter-skinned Black women. That was it for me. To deal with the colorism on top of it all was just too much.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by THEAJAWHITE (@theajawhite) on

“My older sister is darker than me and when we are around each other, I would never complain about how I'm treated as my shade of Brown. My sister's gorgeous—gorgeous. But what she usually hears is, ‘You're so pretty for a Black girl.’ What I usually hear is, ‘Wow—you have to be mixed with something.’ As if to say you can't be all Black. I would never go around my sister and talk about my struggles, out of respect for what she goes through, because I know she gets it harder than me. But the sad fact is the darker skinned you are, you are deemed less attractive— even within the Black community. To see brands cast lighter-skinned Brown girls to show that they’re being inclusive was a kick to the gut.”

What happened when you started seeing an uptick in followers?

“It just started happening all of the sudden. I would be a fool to think that the growth I'm seeing now is not directly related to the race relations and the racial issues that are going on today. It's like, I was finally getting what I wanted—what I deserve and worked so hard for—but it didn’t happen how I envisioned it.”

At the same time you experienced this follower growth, there were also a lot of realizations surfacing. What did that look like?

“I've always been self-assured and had my own self-confidence. I'm not an insecure person, so the thoughts and actions of other people never harshly affected me. I knew that people were racist, and I had experienced racism and prejudice in my adult life and also when I was in foster care. But something about George Floyd’s death made me have to confront the fact that I had always just accepted what was done to me. Now I don't feel the need to keep silent anymore. I don't feel the need to make somebody else feel comfortable. For so long I have been used to being invisible because that's what I've been taught: When you walk in, you don't make a splash. So if I said hello, I said it quietly. If I laughed, I didn’t laugh too loud. I didn’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable. I wasn’t trying to bring attention to myself. I realized that for so long, my personality has been shaped by the culture that I live in. But that culture is not who I am.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by THEAJAWHITE (@theajawhite) on

What advice would you give to other Black influencers who are struggling with feelings of guilt about their personal success in the past few months?

“I would say you are enough, and your voice is enough. What you have to say is important. I feel like it's really important to let other Brown creators know, whatever field they're in, that you're enough. And you only doubt yourself because that's what this climate has reinforced in you. But you shouldn't have any doubts. Even if our time on this platform is cut short, it’s what we did with the time that we had that matters. If we don't use it for good, then what are we doing?”

Feeling inspired by Aja’s passion for beauty, and want to express yourself, too? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your very own IPSY Glam Bag. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

About the author
Gabrielle Wooden
Gabrielle Wooden is a writer and content marketer with 10+ years of experience in the beauty and fashion landscape, having worked at Flaunt magazine, LA magazine, and WWD. She is the founder of COTTA, a conscious copywriting agency based in Los Angeles.
Share Article
Article Last Updated September 30, 2020 12:00 AM