Grace Victory is one of the most successful women of colour vloggers in Britain, but the journey wasn’t always easy. To coincide with her new book No Filter, she shares in her own words how she carved her own space in an industry lacking diversity.
Back in 2011, I stumbled across a platform called YouTube and my life was never the same again. For inspiration, I began watching “how to” videos, and soon after I developed a love for anything beauty and fashion related. I felt inspired by these amazing women talking so passionately about the things they loved on such a public platform, that I guess you could say that I wanted to give it a try.
I had spent my entire life performing and training to be a professional dancer, but when my college teacher told me that I needed to lose weight in order to be successful, I knew it wasn’t the path I wanted to continue on. The pressure mounting on me to fit into a box that I was never going to fit into caused me to enter a place of confusion and frustration. Shortly after I found YouTube, and realised this was the perfect outlet for me! I decided to film and upload my first video on my 21st birthday. It was a MAC haul and the quality of the video was terrible, but for me – it was just about me experimenting with something new. Looking back, I remember thinking “I love watching videos but why does nobody look or talk like me”. There was a massive lack of representation so I took on the challenge to fill it. I definitely think my fast paced growth in the beginning was because I was different. Even though there were lots of other people creating fashion and beauty content, my appearance meant I still stood out. I was the only one that was big and bold, who spoke a bit street and had curly hair. Although it was disappointing that there was clearly a huge diversity problem within the blogging and vlogging industry, I turned that negativity into my mission to succeed.
After a year of creating content on my channel and having the most incredible fun doing so, I started to notice a trend in the comments sections of my videos; “you’re such an inspiration” and “you’re a great role model”. However I was not a role model. I was filled with feelings of guilt as I was a fraud and a liar. Although I came across as confident and happy, I was in fact suffering with various mental health issues including self-harm and depression. On camera, I could pretend, and I relied heavily on using my platform as a way to switch off from the world. However a part of me needed to be honest and “out” myself to people because I could not keep up the façade anymore. I was done pretending, so I made a video called “the pressure to be perfect” which consisted of me talking about what was really going on behind the scenes. It was an emotional video but still one of my most viewed to date. I spoke about my eating issues, struggling to love my body, and my constant battle with my weight and depression. Being so raw allowed the giant weight on my shoulders to slightly lift, and I began to see a light. A light in the fact that with vulnerability comes strength, and the support I received after that video was heart warming.
I realised that when I spoke about my problems and I used my platform for a purpose that was bigger than myself, other people were able to do the same. That was a life changing moment for me and I realised that what I was doing could become a really positive thing. I loved the interaction and honesty people felt they could have with me whenever I spoke about subjects that really mattered. I soon became aware that I was becoming the person I wished I had when I was younger, and what I was doing just felt right. Over the next few years I continued on that path. I made a conscious decision that no matter what, I would own my truth, even if that truth wasn’t pretty. I feel I’ve opened a safe space where people can share their thoughts and feelings about taboo subjects with support and love. A space where no judgments will be made whatsoever, and that makes me feel like I have the best job in the entire world.
Over the last 5 years my channel has grown. I created graciefrancesca.com and I have achieved some incredible things because self belief will get you places that nothing else can. Although I don’t have millions of followers, I have a hunger that knows no bounds, and I won’t take no for an answer. From huge beauty campaigns to making a BBC3 documentary that received 1.5million views, I am proof that girls like me CAN WIN.
The lack of representation within the industry cannot be ignored, especially in 2017. There is no excuse for the blogosphere to not have men or women from different races, backgrounds or cultures because there are spaces and opportunities for everyone. I believe influencers should give voices to people that everyone can relate to.
As I finish off this article, I am surrounded by my best friends as we prepare to get ready for my book launch party. This feeling of profound elation and pride is a feeling I don’t want to forget. I am living proof that if you don’t give up, you will absolutely get to where you need to be. I trusted my journey and I am now in a place where I am so thankful that I experienced so much pain, because now I know what true happiness is. You can be anything and do anything if you work hard and persist. Resilience is my best friend and I hope anyone reading this has the courage to chase their dreams.