Sydnee McRae first started posting on social media in 2017, via makeup tutorials on YouTube. But after joining TikTok in Jan. 2020, she quickly ascended to 1.1 million followers as of April 2021. Her viral dances like the “Captain Hook,” which corresponds with Megan Thee Stallion’s song of the same name, helped elevate her profile. Since March 2020, she has landed brand endorsements from Oliveda skin care and Fresh, and has also become an outspoken advocate for pay parity between creators of color, who often create original work, like choreographed dances, that is repeated by white creators in videos.
TikTok has previously been accused of unintentionally downgrading content by people of color and users the platform deems as undesirable. McRae said she has experienced shadow-banning on TikTok, which is a practice employed by a platform to limit or block a user’s content from the rest of an online community. Shadow-banning is hard to prove, though McRae said she began to notice a decline in her posts’ viewership and engagement in late 2020, and that some of her videos have been taken down for violating community guidelines — some have since been restored.
“The more we press the issue, the more that people will understand that this is a problem,” McRae said. “I’m happy to be able to be in this conversation and use my voice as a Black woman to be able to say, ‘This is unfair.’”
In a written response, a TikTok spokesperson said that the platform is “committed to seeing that our policies and practices are fair and equitable,” but declined to comment on shadowbanning and McRae’s account of events.
Being more vocal about her experiences as a Black creator has not impacted her brand relationships, said McRae. In fact, since March, she has received a modest increase in pitched partnerships from beauty brands. Given that beauty is her original passion, McRae said she is considering further leaning into it as she evolves her social media presence. She already has another TikTok account, @BeautyofSkai, which she created in April 2020. It exclusively features beauty content and has approximately 40,000 followers. She describes her beauty and fashion aesthetic as “girly, pink and extra.”
“I’m trying to figure out if I should make my backup TikTok my main [account] or incorporate something different. There is definitely going to be a transition, but I’m excited,” she said.
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