2019 is definitely the year honouring and celebrating black women in film and television (TV).
3 days ago at the MTV Awards 2019, Jada Pinkett Smith was awarded the Trailblazer Award.
She is the second black woman, following Lena Waithe (Winner of the Trailblazer Award in 2018), to win the MTV Trailblazer Award.
If we look a little further back to February this year, three black women made history at the Oscars 2019, snagging three awards in different categories. This was the first time since the award’s inception to award more than one black woman per ceremony. Two of the winners, Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler, were also the first black women to win an award in their individual categories.
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@therealruthecarter and Hannah Beachler (with Jay Hart) accept their awards in the Costume Design and Production Design categories, respectively, for @blackpanther during the #Oscars on Feb. 24. Carter and Beachler became the first African-Americans to win in their categories. “Thank you for honoring African royalty and the empowered way women can look and lead on screen,” Carter said. “When you think it’s impossible,” Beachler said during her remarks, “remember to say this… ‘I did my best, and my best is good enough.'” Read more about the records that could be broken at the #AcademyAwards at the link in bio. Photographs by Kevin Winter—@gettyimages
In light of these amazing women who are making history and representing black women as icons of power, I want to introduce you to four black women in film and television who are both influential and inspiring.
1) Jada Pinkett Smith [7.7M followers]
First on the list is, of course, our MTV Trailblazer Award Winner – Jada Pinkett Smith.
Known to many as the wife of popular actor Will Smith, Jada has made a career for herself as an actress and talk show host. Her talk show – Red Table Talk, has been extremely popular among viewers due to the show’s honestly and ‘thought-provoking conversations’. Despite only being available on Facebook Watch, the talk show has garnered 1.8M followers on Instagram. The well-loved show is also one of the reasons behind her MTV win. Tiffany Haddish, the award presenter, shared,
She’s not making a talk show. She makes a show with real talk.
Due to her popularity on screen, she has amassed a huge following of 7.7M followers on Instagram, putting her at the top of this list in terms of the number of followers.
Even with such a huge following, Jada shows no signs of slowing down in terms of gaining followers. She has an impressive 4.97% audience growth rate
And her follower numbers have grown by over 2M since the beginning of 2019.
This is a clear sign that her follower numbers are only going to keep growing.
Jada Pinkett Smith is also an incredibly inspiring individual who has used her face and voice to advocate for social issues in America such as human trafficking and slavery. She has created two documentaries to raise awareness for these issues, namely ‘Children for Sale’ and ‘Rape for Profit’.
She also seeks to change the lives of many underserved youths in America through her Careers in Entertainment programme, set up by her foundation the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, by offering them greater access to information on and opportunities to enter the entertainment industry in America.
Change is necessary and you have to move the culture with change.
Fun fact: Her win on MTV was clearly so well-received by her followers that within 3 days of posting, the post managed to climb the ranks to become part of her top 10 posts. The amount of engagement received by the post is also double her average engagement rate of 2.95%.
2) Viola Davis [4.0M followers]
The award-winning actress, best known for her roles in the TV series How To Get Away With Murder and the film Fences, is also an Instagram celebrity that has been growing steadily in influence.
Within half a year, @violadavis has increased her following by almost 560k Instagrammers.
Despite having a mere average engagement rate of 2.19%, her top posts are capable of receiving engagement rates of up to 14.7%.
She has amassed great support from the female community on Instagram with over 60% of her followers identifying as female.
Viola Davis then makes use of her influential power on Instagram to show support for social movements such as Pride Month.
Followers clearly support her stance on the LGBTQ+ community as the image ranked within her top 10 posts with an engagement rate of 4.91%.
Outside of social media, Viola Davis is a supporter of eradicating childhood hunger in America. In 2014, she became the Ambassador of ‘Hunger Is’ in hopes of helping American children in poverty avoid the circumstances she endured in her own childhood. The campaign has since raised over US$20 million.
3) Issa Rae [2.2M followers]
With only 2.2M followers, Issa Rae tops this list as the influencer with the most impressive audience engagement on Instagram.
Looking at statistics from Popular Chips, Issa Rae has an incredible 11.1% engagement rate and 48.56% video view rate, 3 times and 2.76 times higher (respectively) than the average influencer with over 1M followers.
She has also successfully won over the hearts of American viewers through her talent in entertainment (acting, writing and directing) as 75% of her followers hail from the United States.
Like Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae uses her productions to highlight social issues such as sexism and racism. Her TV series ‘Insecure’ portrays the life and thoughts of young black women living in America and also subtly touches on social movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’.
Last year, she found herself among TIME’s Top 100 Most Influential People. She was also dubbed by TIME as the first black woman to create and star in a premium cable series (referring to her series ‘Insecure’). Her success today, in contrast to her humble beginnings on YouTube, has made her an inspiration and role model to many who struggle with obstacles presented by their ethnicity.
4) Ava DuVernay [1.5M followers]
Ava DuVernay is the amazing, inspirational and influential woman behind the heart-wrenching Netflix mini-series When They See Us (you can learn more about the show here).
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On this day thirty years ago, Trump bought $85,000 worth of ads in all major NYC papers calling for the execution of the boys known as The Central Park 5 – before their trial. Today, we replace his hateful ad with another image. They were innocent. And the system failed them. #WhenTheySeeUs
She has achieved many amazing feats in the world of film and television, particularly her works as a Director. Among the long list of award nominations, these are two of her most notable achievements: She was the first black woman to win the Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and was also the first black woman to be nominated for Best Director at the Golden Globe Award.
I’m not going to knock on closed doors. I’m going to make my own door.
Ava DuVernay is also an active advocate for ethnic diversity and gender inclusivity in Hollywood. However, she doesn’t just preach it, she LIVES it.
In an effort to raise awareness for films created by women and individuals of minority ethnicity, she created a film company called Array. Her team at Array consists solely of females and many are of minority ethnicity. She also hired women directors for all episodes of Season 1 for her popular TV series Queen Sugar.
As a woman who fights for a cause while maintaining such a successful career, she has undoubtedly become a role model and inspiration for many females alike.
Her Instagram account, in particular, is a testament to this as she sees her Instagram follower count growing at a rapid rate of 15.46%.
Additionally, 55% of her followers are known to be females.
Her influence also spreads across multiple age groups (18 to over 45 years old), with the majority centred around users aged 18 to 35 years old.
Furthermore, her Instagram account sees a higher-than-average engagement rate of 3.75%, indicating that her content resonates with her followers.
These statistics are further proof that Ava DuVernay is an influential individual both on and outside of social media.
This rounds up my list of black women who are influential both on social media and in reality; who inspire others to make a change.
If you are keen to see more articles like this, you can also check out our other article on Influential and Inspirational Asian-American Women in Hollywood.