On-camera media personality, SHEEN Correspondent, and founder of Media Girls LA, Alex Jackson is a pioneer of strategic marketing and a champion of equal representation in the influencer world. Fusing her talent for and experiences in event curation, influencer branding and marketing, and publicity, she founded her own agency, Media Girls LA, in 2018 to help connect influencers with established brands across the country. As her monthly flow of brand deals became increasingly prolific, she learned that her white counterparts were paid significantly higher. The stark pay gap between Black and white content creators with the same following was jarring, and she committed to focusing her work on promoting and advising influencers of color. When the pandemic hit, both brands and content creators experienced insurmountable barriers, which created few opportunities for promotions and sponsorships. Rather than giving up, however, Jackson broadened her approach to strategic brand deals to include a more diverse array of influencers and tactics. With a rapidly expanding network, ultimately, in 2020, she closed the highest number of brand deals since the launch of her company, securing $100 thousand in brand deals for Black content creators. Working with influencers such as Mehgan James, Romeo Miller, Master P, and Miracle Watts, Jackson hopes to continue expanding her network and advocating for equal pay and representation for Black influencers. In this interview, Jackson shares more about the genesis of and mission behind her company, her aspirations moving forward, and the lasting impact of her work on racial equality in the media.
Please tell us about your career path, leading up to the launch of your company, Media Girls LA. What inspired you to found this company?
Most people don’t know the planning of MGL initially started with 4 ladies working within the media industry. The initial idea of the organization spawned from a thought on the Soul Train Awards’ red carpet, where we decided to host our first event as a women’s media brunch. What can I say, the strong survive. But seriously, although the event was a success, it was clear the collaboration was not going to work, so after the first event I continued MGL in 2018 as a solo endeavor.
How did the pandemic affect your work and change the trajectory of your career?
At the beginning of the pandemic, it was very rocky being that all my speaking engagements were canceled, along with my MGL scheduled events. In addition, I was in the midst of launching my t-shirt business, and my media junkets out of town were all placed on pause, as well as all the branding collaborations engagements I had solidified for the upcoming months. Literally, everything I do to make money was at a complete halt, but what’s crazy, I still wasn’t worried. I knew God was going to see me through it; I didn’t know how, but I knew it would be okay. That’s when I went in complete hustle mode. I started to make and sell E-books, webinar replays, and virtual events and come up with different strategic plans to broaden my reach when it came to influencers and brands.
What is your central goal as a content creator, and how do you work to make space for more influencers of color in the media?
Once finding out that Caucasians influencers were making more money in the industry, my mission has been solely to make sure they get the money they deserve. My primary goal started with me recruiting influencers that look like me and that I knew had great content to help them run up a bag! I’m very picky as to who I take on my roster now compared to the past. I teach them how they should stand their ground on their pay request and help them with understanding how much they should be charging for their services as well.
What was the biggest challenge you encountered in obtaining sponsorships and brand partnerships?
I would say for brand partnerships, it has been finding the contacts, and sponsorships would probably be about the same. Either way, I don’t give up easily and quitting is not an option. As I have learned to do more, I’ve become creative in my approach to discovering different ways to find contacts.
In addition to racial equity and representation, what are some of the central issues you see in influencer culture? In your experience, how has the influencer business impacted body image and mental health among millennials?
It’s definitely a wage gap between races without a doubt, and everyone knows it. It’s really unfair especially being that in a lot of instances those black influencers have more engagement and followers. I have had to give a few pep talks to my content creators when some of them have felt like giving up on YouTube because they feel like they play favorites. It discourages them and leads them to think their content isn’t good enough. A lot of influencers I’m friends with feel like they need to have surgery to keep up their looks, or women who want to be influencers feel like they need surgery to be noticed as an influencer, but none of that is true at all.
What are some ways media consumers can contribute to a more equitable and healthy space in the media industry?
Just like any other industry, we have to let it be known that this behavior exists. For many people, all this is still new, although it has been around for over a decade. The more consumers understand the dynamics behind what we do and the work involved, they will be able to contribute on a great scale toward equitable measures. In the mean, influencers and content creators need to shed light on this issue to make consumers aware.
What do you think will be the lasting impact of your work, even in the post-covid era? What’s next for you?
I think the lasting impact of my work will be the footprints that I have left for those who are interested in getting into the industry. The foundational vision of MGL derived from being a beacon to help others starting out in the business, and it has continued to be our foundation to this day.
I plan on doing in-person events post-COVD to teach influencers how to make a bag from social media. I’m also releasing two E-books, “How To Make A Bag From The Gram,” and one about how to obtain sponsorships for events, as well as building my tee shirt business “Statement Tees” @statementtees_ . Media Girls LA is already on track to supersede our number of brand deals from last year and to increase our network.