Campus Life

Navigating the patriarchy with YouTuber Jouelzy

by Alena Blanes

“If you speak to a niche audience, then that will be just as valuable as someone who has a large audience.” — Jouelzy

What motivates an online influencer? Is it the thought of new followers? Travel opportunities? Perhaps, the promise of wealth? Well for Jouelzy, it was none of those reasons. It was for free hair.

Often dubbed as an advocate for her #SmartBrownGirl movement, Jouelzy was our incredible host for this year’s International Women’s Day event with Phoebe Robinson. While the two mainly focused on Phoebe’s comedy career trajectory, we sat down for an exclusive chat with Jouelzy before the event.

Here’s what she had to say:

On her YouTube channel, Jouelzy is fierce about her stance on what it means to be a woman online these days. She also creates videos that strengthen discussions around the African diaspora, Black identity in America, mental health, and relationships. She’s also a badass who just goes by her YouTube handle to keep her real name private.

For Jouelzy, International Women’s Day is just that.

“It’s a celebration of half of the population,” she said. While the breadth of North American-bred social justice activism and flashy campaigns are incredible, it’s important to focus outside our bubble as well. Especially where women are much farther back with their rights and accessibility.

Most recently, the Oscar-winning Netflix documentary, Period. End of Sentence. (2018), highlights the taboo of menstruation in India and how a group of women are taking charge of their careers through entrepreneurship and education. “There are always other groups to think about and other communities we should be supportive of,” Jouelzy said.

After dropping out of college and moving to New York, she quickly got her foot into as many opportunities as she could.

What began as regret and pity for not having enough money to intern, quickly shifted into motivation. “I feel like you grow up the most in your 20’s. Being in a place where I realized I could be whoever I wanted to be and could present myself however I wanted to was very formative,” she said.

And so the job bouncing began.

From advertising to music, tech, and even government, there were some outlying themes she quickly picked up on. “You have to have the confidence of a mediocre white man,” she said. Reflecting on her last corporate job, she felt as if it wasn’t her skillset that landed her the position. “I go in for the job and they give me a test on the spot. I didn’t know nothing on the test, but they still hired me. Because the guy who managed the department liked the fact that I was honest and didn’t try to be cocky.”

Once Jouelzy left the corporate world, she could truly focus on her YouTube career. She saw an opportunity to place herself in a community concerned about, “finding the best deals at the beauty supply store.”

But she never imagined where it would take her.

“I thought cool opportunities would be like free things but here I am interviewing Michelle Obama,” she said.

Unlike many online creators trapped in the rat race of “doing it for the views”, Jouelzy feels she has an obligation to keep doors open for underrepresented women. Making sure her audience is not only listening but disseminating productive conversations has always been the goal.

“Not in a nepotistic approach,” she said. “If you speak to a niche audience, then that will be just as valuable as someone who has a large audience.”

 

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A post shared by ✨ Jouelzy✨ (@jouelzy) on

In terms of patriarchy and issues of violence among males, her stance is transparent. “As a whole, I don’t think men have any incentives to do better,” she said. “And this crosses over into sexuality.” Falling into binary ideas about masculinity is common. Hegemony has played its course over history.

But is it just men apart of the problem? According to Jouelzy, absolutely not. “The participants of patriarchy are not gender-specific. We all do things that uphold the standard of telling men that they don’t have to do better,” she argued.

“I think men don’t tend to realize how valuable intimate relationships are past thinking that intimacy is just sex. They don’t realize that emotional relationships across the platonic playing field are valuable to how they pursue life.”

In this political climate, it’s debilitating to hear what far too many minorities go through at the expense of hegemony. Amidst the turmoil, she does offer a sliver of hope.

“Making sure I am apart of something bigger is far more important than how many views I have. As long as I’m keeping doors open, then I know I’ve done my best for my audience.”

As for her biggest lesson she’s picked up along the way: “The power of perspective. Everyone sees things differently.”

While she continues navigating the online sphere, one thing’s for sure – she isn’t slowing down yet. Make sure to keep up with all things Jouelzy by joining her YouTube community of over 188k subscribers and following her on Instagram.

Stay woke, sister!


For more from badass females, check out our interview with Phoebe Robinson.

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