What do you do when life gives you an ultimatum between following your dreams and continuing to be employed somewhere that doesn’t make you happy? You take your $5,000 Sundance grant winnings that were supposed to go towards your first movie, take your love for celebrity gossip and turn it into an Instagram page that Tami Roman will repost and bump you up 35,000 followers in your first week. That’s exactly what The Shade Room founder Angie Nwandu did. Even President Obama stepped into The Shade Room last Tuesday proving the page’s growth since inception has been nothing less than exponential.
“The followers could see the dream and they pushed me to create more. I stayed up 24 hours one day that week working on the page, posting, commenting, researching. I knew that first week that this was going to be something big, people would be constantly asking for the next post,” Nwandu shared with me via email. “If I would have waited until I got the capital to start a website I would have missed out on this great opportunity. Its growth has shown me if I have an idea that I must act on it because it may be the next big win.”
HelloBeautiful had the chance to catch up with Angie about how her platform is pushing positive representation of Black women, her advice for budding entrepreneurs using social media to promote their platform, and her hopes for the future of The Shade Room.
How has your experience as a Black woman influenced the content you put out on The Shade Room and being the owner of a Black-owned media company?
It’s a great responsibility that I don’t take lightly. I always struggled with my responsibilities to make sure I never sell out the culture for money or selfish gain. I just want to be unbiased, tell the truth, and give everyone the opportunity to have their opinion. I am always concerned with where TSR stands with the culture, and it wasn’t until recently that I decided that this platform is beneficial to the culture because of the awareness and conversations that stem from our content. When TSR covers situations like Megan Thee Stallion and Tory Lanez or Breonna Taylor, it sparks conversation with the Roommates that affect and impact the Black community. The conversations that are being had publicly are influencing people to do the research and deal with the injustices in their own lives.
Likewise with the promotion of body positivity and body standards, a lot of media outlets and gossip blogs will fat shame or talk about severe weight loss. How does TSR promote body positivity to Black women in a way that doesn’t glorify the stereotypical Instagram model?
The Shade Room likes to post all bodies, all shapes, and sizes. We do recognize that fat-shaming is a problem, and we try and showcase everyone no matter their size, but we are conscious of what we post.
How do you believe The Shade Room is doing when it comes to the positive representation of Black women and uplifting our stories?
I think that The Shade Room is a platform that uplifts Black stories – all Black stories. We report on Black Culture as is, whether it is negative, positive, funny, sad, inspiring, or political. Black Culture is beautiful – we laugh, we cry, we joke, we check and confront each other, we are honest with each other and that is what The Shade Room is. We have been able to elevate Black women artists and activists, allowing them to showcase their projects to a wider audience. We posted a video of Tamika Mallory talking about Breonna Taylor that received over 15,000 comments discussing the injustices around Black women.
How are you using your platform to give back to the community of Black people?
The Shade Room commits 10% of monthly profits to go back into the community. Last month, we gave back to the hurricane victims of Lake Charles. Last August, we partnered with Facebook to help Black Business affected by COVID-19 by giving them advertisements on Facebook, a grant, and a marketing training course. The month prior, we gave out $20,000 to help pay the Roommates’ bills. In June, we did a Black Mother bailout.
One of my goals is to build a school in Nigeria, where I am from, to provide the students with clothes, equipment for sports, and the technology needed to be successful. I want to also get investors and ambassadors to sign on to this mission and go into the Black communities in America and equip them with computers, tablets, sponsor child care, tutors, arts and craft supplies, so they can maximize their creative and intellectual potential.
What prompted you to add politics into the mix, especially news about the upcoming election in less than three months?
In December 2019, at our company dinner, I said that I wanted to influence the election by compelling people to vote. I feel like this election is one of the more consequential elections of modern-day. Florida is the largest swing state with 19 million people, and The Shade Room has 21 million followers, why not use our platform to inform the Roommates on these candidates and get the word out to vote.
What is your hope for the growth of The Shade Room throughout the next couple of years?
My hope for The Shade Room is that we create a platform that empowers Black creators. I could take investment money today, sell The Shade Room, kill the company, and walk away, but my love for Black people and the Black community is what keeps me going and to not take those funds. I want to keep the equity and build this community. I want to be able to empower Black creators and help Black people profit off their virality, their creativity and their culture.