Priscilla Anyabu is not naïve to the challenges of being a black woman in the entertainment and influencer industries. From tokenism and colourism, to the harsh realities of the racial pay gap, the Love Island alumni has experienced it all. However, while it might be easier to avoid working in a field where such blatant discrimination is often dismissed as ‘just the way it is’, Priscilla faces the challenges of her career head-on, utilising her desire to occupy space – and to help other black women do the same – as a catalyst for change. That’s not to say her journey hasn’t taken an emotional toll (she tells us about how negative online comments have ‘shifted’ her mood), but it has led to opportunities for growth and self-discovery.
Here, she tells us why she brings her black makeup artist and hairstylists to jobs; explains the work that brands really need to do in order to achieve equality and talks about why nail shop environments cause us to spill the tea on our personal lives.
According to recent research, the pay gap between white and black influencers is 22%. So how does that make you feel?
I think it is always going to be a tough pill to swallow, especially because I personally know how much creativity I, and other black influencers, have to offer. There really shouldn’t be any difference in pay because the quality of content is pretty much the same. However, this is the society that we live in, and all we can do is strive to push and campaign to change that.
What do you think needs to be done by brands who work with influencers for there to be equality in pay?
I think it always comes down to education. A lot of the time I feel like brands may not necessarily see that the influencer is right for the market. Or they might not think that their consumers relate to their influence, when in fact, the influencer does drive a lot of sales. So it’s about being aware of the current market, on who their consumer is and about the culture in general. Because there is a lot of black culture around us. For example, Kardashian hairstyles – a lot of these have come from old school hairstyles that I myself or people before me have worn. It’s about educating yourself on where the trends are actually coming from, and then you will see we are pretty much one and the same.
Do you have hope for the future that influencers will get an equal seat at the table and not just as a token?
Oh, I absolutely do have hope. It will take some time, but as you can see from previous years, we have come a long way, but we’re nowhere near where we want to be. More black influencers are getting recognised, like Nella Rose and Victor Kundas. It’s going in a positive trajectory, maybe slower than we’d like, but it’s definitely becoming a bit more positive.
You’ve talked in the past about fears of being the token black girl when you were scouted for Love Island. Do you feel like dating shows have made an attempt to remove that stigma since your time on the show?
I didn’t so much call it a fear. I knew I was going to be the token black girl. With that being said, I think myself and other black girls know that sometimes we do have to be the token black girl in order to be the change that we want to see. I think even since being on dating shows, I have now seen a lot of black females progress further in the show, or more than one black female in the house at the same time which, as I said, is good to see. But more can always be done.
Did you feel the pressure of the responsibility of being an inspiration for other black women?
When it comes to being the representation for black women, I never feel pressure, because that’s what I am – I’m a black woman personified. How I carry myself, what I do on a day-to-day basis; I live it. It’s not like I think, oh my gosh, I’m representing black girls. This is how I have to act. This is how I have to move. I just live it. So I don’t ever think there is any pressure. I think the only thing I would tell myself is that I want to continue to be in these spaces so that more people can be in these spaces with me.
Have you ever turned down a job because of diversity concerns?
I don’t necessarily look at things as a diversity concern, because I want to be that change. So if there is a lack of diversity, I would rather be there to create representation in order to show people that we can occupy these spaces and occupy them very well. I wouldn’t say I have turned down jobs, but what I would do is make sure that the treatment is as equal and fair as what my counterparts receive.
So do you try to suggest other black creators to brands?
When it comes to branding, you could have the right look, but what does the rest of your team look like? If I’m being booked for a presenting gig, I would like to bring my black make-up artist and my black hairstylist. If we are going to make a change, we can’t just make the change at the front at surface level. It has to be integrated throughout the entire company.
Do you ever read what people write about you online or on social media?
If I see anything that upsets me, I don’t want to overthink it. If I upload pictures to Instagram, I’ll wait and then maybe come back later. I like peace. I don’t like problems. So I often tend to avoid it.
Let’s talk hair… you’re not afraid to try any look. Where does that level of confidence come from?
When it comes to me I wasn’t much of a make-up babe but hair was my thing. I remember not only doing my hair growing up but all my friends in the school playground, even some of their parents. The thing with hair is that I love the way it allowed me to express myself. each style brought out a different energy. There’s something about that ‘new hair feeling’ that can’t be matched.
What are your thoughts on the narrative that women who wear hair extensions do not love themselves?
It’s completely incorrect. I do it for protection and convenience. Anything to make my life a litte easier I will do. Putting my hair away for two or three weeks increases my hair health than rocking it out 24/7, all year round.
I think it might be ‘The Pressure Is Getting Worser’. This was a discussion about the transition of adulting, from your early 20s to your mid 20s. At this time, I have friends who are ready to settle down. They have two kids already, they’re ready for marriage. But on the other hand, I have friends who don’t even know what they’re doing with their lives. When we were 11 years old, we all thought we’d have it all figured out by now. We thought we’d have our cars, houses, kids and marriage. Obviously the pressure is getting worse, but we need to be reminded to turn this pressure down because these are our learning years. When I turn 30, it’s going to be one of my best years ever. I’m excited for it. I’ve let go of that pressure of needing to be perfect before I’m 30. Right now, just figuring out who you are is super essential.
We love that ‘nailing it’ takes place in a nail salon! What do you think it is about the environment of a salon that gets everyone talking?
The nail shop is the equivalent of the barber shop. You go in, you have a chat, might have a glass of wine, and you’re just free to talk. It’s a woman’s safe space. Yeah, your nail tech probably knows everything about you, but whatever you say in the nail shop stays in the nail shop. It’s a judgement free zone. And you’re getting pampered at the same time. With ‘Nailing It’, this allows us to recreate organic conversations because we know it’s a safe space. We call it our ‘safety triangle’, because there are three of us hosts.
Tell us about your new project soundz of the diaspora?
Soundz Of The Diaspora is my new baby that I’m very excited about. I’ve curated a playlist inspired by afrobeats music with 100 tracks that I update each & every friday. The aim is to shine a light on the fast growing genre and also collaborate with musicians around the world. I always say music shoud be a love language, so this is me sharing love with my people.
What is your next career move and what’s your advice to someone who is scared to do something they’ve always wanted to do?
Presenting – it’s something that I’ve done over the years on and off. Everyone knows me as the model or the influencer, but my real passion is talking to people and being in front of the camera. When it comes to career advice, I’d say you miss 100 per cent of the shots that you don’t take. I would hate to live with regret, so one thing I would definitely say is that everything is worth trying once. If it doesn’t go well, try something else. But living with that regret will eat you up, so just go for it.
We know that hot girl summer is on the way – but what does hot girl spring look like for you?
Hot Girl Spring is exactly what summer looks like. Enjoyment 24/7. We call it ‘soft life, but extra fluffy’, (turn to page 28 for more). Life is for living; we’ve been through the pandemic, so Hot Girl Spring is just about enjoying your life as much as you can, whenever you can. That might mean treating yourself when you want, having that extra bit of chocolate, booking that holiday, getting your nails done, going for that walk, or going out to eat. Just do it.
Photography by Kosher of Femelle Studios. Hair by Pashcanel Mitchell for As I Am.
Wig construction by Aisha Ibrahim. Make-up by Pauline Briscoe. Styling by Nicola Ranger.
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Watch: Spell Meets Priscilla Anyabu
Watch our interview with Priscilla Anyabu below.