It’s a great time to be a content creator. In 2017, it’s easier than ever to produce and share your work, with a potential audience of billions of people just a click away.
Yet, the stream of visual and written content online (which ranges from thoughtful and carefully made to sloppy and cheap) is seemingly endless, and it can feel a bit like sending a bottle out to sea when you post something on YouTube or to Medium. Who’s going to find it?
This issue can be particularly vexing for women of color, who traditionally have struggled to have their voices heard and validated in popular culture. For instance, if you’re a young black female filmmaker today, you may feel as though your work has no home—and thus no audience, and perhaps, most concerningly, no value. And if you’re a young black woman looking for TV shows, documentaries, and short films that speak to your experience, you may not know where to turn.
Enter Blossom, a digital television platform that launched last year with the mission of curating and delivering video content to serve women of color. Diamonde Williamson is the company’s founder and President of Special Projects and Programming, and she sees Blossom as a way for women of color to find, and use, their voice.
“I’m hoping we can be liberation for some people,” Williamson said. “Liberate them in terms of using their voice. Because recently for me, I learned that I wasn’t using my voice anymore.”
I sat down with Williamson at Tech Square Labs in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, where she also works as the Diversity Coordinator. She seemed ridiculously at home in the immense white-walled, yet comfortable co-working space: She doled out high-fives to passersby as we spoke.
Williamson spent her formative years in Atlanta, and began working in reality TV as a means to start down the path of hosting her own talk show. As she slid into reality television production, she began feeling a dissonance.
“The deeper I got into reality TV, I realized I was losing my focus,” she said. “If I want to create positive content, I’m really doing the opposite by working in reality, because I’m intentionally pitting women of color against each other for the sake of a paycheck. … And I was mad at myself for it.”
She eventually went to work for the Oprah Winfrey Network, and realized she could make the kind of positive content she valued—but having to wait months in between shows didn’t work for her. That’s how the idea for Blossom came about.
So while the platform first emerged as a way for Williamson produce and feature her own content, she quickly found that she wasn’t alone in wanting not only to create, but in wanting a place to showcase her work.
“I started to meet these women that wanted to create, but understood the process to get on TV or Netflix is very challenging,” Williamson said.
She described the typical life cycle of content created by women she knew: Create content, do the film circuit, then watch as your content becomes irrelevant, and do it all again. Post it on YouTube, and see how few people flock to it just based on its quality alone. Unless you’re a beauty vlogger, Williamson says, it’s going to be hard for people to find what you’re doing.
Now, Blossom is as much about curating content from around the web as it is about creating original programming.
“I spend all of my time making connections with people because I believe people are our currency. When we don’t have anything, we have people; when I didn’t have money, I had people. That’s how I continued to create and got to a point where I could do this full time,” she said.
Blossom, while still developing its catalogue (Williamson says she straight up reaches out to people she stumbles across on YouTube, and the site encourages content creators to get in touch), is already home to a wide variety of content, from video think pieces to vegan roundtables to behind-the-scenes looks at Rihanna’s makeup line. “Melanin Mommas,” a Blossom original centered around two young black mothers, stands out with its mix of humor, honesty, and insight.
Blossom’s content leans heavily on the documentary format—a conscious choice by Williamson, pushing back against the fakeness of reality TV with “telling the truth.”
This injection of diversity into the media landscape is sure to catch the eye of the larger entities—especially in Atlanta, which recently emerged as the world’s number one city for film—but when I asked Williamson what the long-term goal was for Blossom, it wasn’t “get bought by ABC” (though she is open to “the right opportunity”). It was something much different.
“Community. I mean, a physical community,” she said. “Because a lot of the advancing technology is encouraging us to stay home—let’s just be real. Community is what’s important to me and it always has been. Okay, yes, we built this digital platform, we built this massive amount of content that validates women of color—then we take it offline. Then we start to create these creative communities everywhere, that really focus on really celebrating the art, the content, the stories of women of color.”
For Williamson, that’s the bottom line.
“You receive love, exchange love, through this community, and I feel like community is where people belong, community is where you feel like I’m not alone in this, and that’s one of the greatest feelings. Life isn’t easy, right? And so when you know you’re not alone, you can make a lot of impact.”
Blossom is already making an impact for those who previously wandered the web, looking for a home for their content, or a place to see content that resonated with them. Even Williamson herself is ready to utilize it for her creative ends.
“I feel like it’s time for me to use my voice,” she told me. “You’ll never be happy unless you’re doing something you really love, and for me, it’s the talk show. And now I can put it on my own platform, which is amazing.”