Monday, January 30, 2012

Urban Marketing: The Distinction Between "Good Black Folks" vs. The Other Kind

by today’s Urban Chameleon contributor

A few weeks into my gig at a famous vodka company that shall remain nameless, I was finally beginning to learn the language. I had learned that it was good to use the words "luxury," "authenticity," and "aspirational," especially when describing your own work. It was bad to use the words "Jello shot," "cheap," and "drunk." You weren’t drunk from doing too many cheap Jello shots, you were savoring the value-priced edible cocktails.

Whenever the topic of “urban” marketing came up, everyone seemed suddenly uncomfortable. Voices shifted upwards in pitch and speech became more deliberate. I had no idea why everyone was so nervous about selling vodka in cities.

One day, in a Power Point presentation, it all became clear. With our “urban marketing approach,” we were still supposed to “align ourselves with luxury brands” to make our famous vodka seem more expensive and exclusive. Therefore putting the bottle next to a $5,000 strand of Mikimoto earrings would create that illusion despite the fact that our vodka was available at any liquor store for $35.

The next slide showed a Blair Underwood lookalike in an expensive suit, drinking a martini in his loft apartment. Again I could hear in my boss’s voice that same tentative, apologetic quality that came up whenever we discussed “the urban market.” The kind of voice people use to talk about something unpleasant that you’d rather not bring up, like gay bashing or slavery.

“Let’s make this very clear,” he said. “We market to the elite urban consumer, not just any urban consumer.”

Everyone nodded in approval. The next slide showed several light-skinned Black women in a restaurant, drinking cosmos over brunch.

Holy shit! Urban meant Black! Or people of color anyway; one of the women on the brunch slide looked kind of Dominican. I was in a room of all white people, and my boss was saying that we didn’t want just any Black people to drink our vodka. It had to be the right kind of Black people. The kind that seemed not to be a threat.

The next slide showed P Diddy in front of a Ciroc step and repeat.

“Just look at Puff Daddy and Ciroc,” said my boss. “That is so unluxury.”

A murmur of derision went around the room as my colleagues expressed their disdain towards Diddy.

As a white woman, I was more than uncomfortable with this setting. It was a world I tried my hardest to be a chameleon but eventually became exhausted by the limited exposure these people had the nerve to be marketing to in addition to my mandatory weekly hair and makeup appointments trying to get me to fit in. I finally quit after a consultation with their stylist who said to me, “I see you wear big earrings, they bring attention up here.” She waved her hand around my face, insinuating there was something wrong with it. Continuing she said, “But what I’d like you to do is start wearing larger necklaces to bring the focus to your best feature.” She then gestured to my bosom.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

#Redtails and the Big Guilt Trip Scam

by today's Urban Chameleon contributor

I am so sick and tired of going to see a Black film out of charity. Every time a Black film is released the word “support” is not far behind, and George Lucas’s latest project featuring an all Black cast, Red Tails is no exception. Black people everywhere were dumb founded that Mr. Star Wars himself could not get Hollywood on board to make his $(93) ninety-three million dollar film; a story about the Tuskegee Airmen. Thus the campaign tagline for Red Tails was solidified, “Support This Black Film!”

The media roll out plan was perfect; as the exposed plight of Lucas’ fired people up to get their “activism” on by posting articles, Facebook Status Updates and Tweets reiterating the importance of “supporting” this Black film. The results lead to a successful $(20) twenty-million dollar opening weekend. It almost felt like there was more patriotism displayed for Lucas than there was for Troy Davis. Regardless, we did it! We showed Hollywood, and therefore can expect more films about the Black experience coming soon to a theater near you. Right? Wrong!

Do you know how many Black films have done “surprisingly” well over the last twenty years at less than a fraction of the cost of Red Tails? Are we not still having the same damn conversations about Hollywood not making Black films? Let alone ones that are diverse? (See article: All We Do is Eat, Fight, F*ck, Dance and Pray.) Is Hollywood all of a sudden going to start churning out $(100) one-hundred million dollar Black pictures?

I don’t think so.

Spike Lee can’t even get 40 acres and a mule. Hate to burst the bubble, but Hollywood is predominately ran by white men who don’t understand Black people; even though they swear they do. In pitch meetings, Hollywood executives are quick to state why a Black film won’t do well (welcome to the pity party Lucas) and include statistics about the ones that have failed. Even though these statistics are smaller than a pubic hair compared to the number of white films that fail year after year. The reality is, “Black” cannot possibly represent a universal experience and Hollywood won’t invest. Instead of continuing to knock on the same door that doesn't want to let you in, build a new house. With all the technology at our finger tips why not start investing in new distribution models and tell Hollywood to kiss your Black ass!

So why did I end up seeing Red Tails if it wasn’t to send a message to Hollywood? One word, GUILT.  All the Facebook updates had me feeling like I was a sell out, Anti-Black, if I didn’t see it opening weekend and support an important story about Black History. There was just one problem...Red Tails has no story, at least not the one that their PR team is pimping. I walked away with no real understanding of who the Tuskegee Airmen were and what made them exceptional. It’s not enough to show scenes where a white man either calls or treats the Black man like a nigger to validate storytelling. In fact, there was more of an emphasis on the Tuskegee Airmen blowing up the enemy than there was on a fight for equality.

At the end of the day, I knew from the moment I first saw the trailer that this wasn’t a film I wanted to see. Regardless if you agree or not, shouldn't I have that freedom of choice?

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls" Rocks the Boat!

by Funnel Cake Flowers the Urban Chameleon news reporter

Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls is one of the latest videos to take the Internet by storm, having been viewed by over 4 million in less than a week. The creator, Franchesca Ramsey, a young, dark skin, Black woman with locs throws on a blond wig and goes IN, reenacting remarks made by “white girls”. At first I was bewildered by the sensation of this video.

This isn’t news. Is it? My friends of color and I were used to these same ignorant or shall I say ign’t comments made about our race (including African America, Asian, Latino, Indian, etc)…from another race. But then I realized that our kitchen table conversations are rarely up for discussion on a platform with global reach, so this was news for many. Despite the familiarity of the subject, most of my Black girl friends find the video hysterical... truth that resonates tends to do that. Meanwhile, a lot of non-Black girls aren’t laughing. (Not all, as some have openly admitted that they act like the girl in the video) but one person even went off on a rant after being insulted by the line about Jews. (Now ya know you cannot talk about Jews!)

Oftentimes things go viral but the message gets missed. If you’ve read Franchesca Ramsey’s interview in the Huffington Post it reveals that the video is based on TRUTH! Come on people (who were insulted), ya kinda can't deny someone's truth no matter how insulted you are and quite frankly this is a truth that needs addressing. Unfortunately, if you’re not familiar with how many of us “Black girls” REALLY CAN RELATE to Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls in our own interracial relationships you think the actor, Franchesca Ramsey is the one that started this fight.

If anything, Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls is a testament to the lack of perspective with in the media regarding people of color. Both parties maybe to blame for this. White friends of mine have told me that white people don’t like talking about race and especially NOT slavery. And lawd knows Black people are conscious of what white people think so don't always say what they really want to say. But if we don’t start talking  about it we’re only continuing this cycle of everyone either being misunderstood or insulted. So what now?

Regardless of your race, if someone says some ignorant sh*t, CALL THEM OUT (without getting physical or stank...cause that's just ign't.) As Urban Chameleons we sometimes tend to fear the consequences and chameleon into silence. But part of being an Urban Chameleon is helping someone else to become one…by exposing them to your truth so that the next time they encounter someone like you they won't say some ignorant shit and real conversation can begin.

Have a story you want to me to report? E-mail me at

Creator of Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls on Anderson Cooper