Black Woman Creator: Jamie Broadnax
Jamie Broadnax is a blogger and founder of Black Girl Nerds. She has written for Madame Noire and The Mary Sue. In 2014, Jamie was accredited by MSNBC The Grio.com’s Top 100 list for being an online community builder in the tech space and innovator for Black women to feel comfortable with embracing their nerdiness. In the September 2014 issue of Marie Claire magazine, Jamie was recognized by TV powerhouse Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow on Twitter and AT&T’s The Bridge as one of Four Black Techies To Follow On Twitter. Most recently, Jamie completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to create Universal Fan Con, a multi-fandom Con dedicated to inclusion highlighting women, LGBTQ, PoC & the Disabled and is a managing partner with the company The Black Geeks. On Feb. 1, 2017, she launched the podcast Misty Knight’s Uninformed Afro Podcast, the first podcast dedicated to giving Black superheroines their due. She also hosts Rewire Radio’s series “Get It Right” that fuses reproductive justice issues with social justice topics. In her spare time, she likes to write, read books, and live-tweet TV shows. Jamie spends a significant amount of time on Twitter connecting with the BGN online community, and when she’s not tweeting, she enjoys reading comic books and traveling to conventions to meet and greet fans. We spoke to Jamie about her work as a creator.
Black Girls Create: What do you create?
I create content for a website called Black Girl Nerds. I’m the Editor-in-Chief and in that role I write editorials, film critiques and TV recaps, and sometimes personal essays. But I also edit and assist with making sure our articles look good when they’re on the site, and that they’re SEO friendly. I also create podcasts. Every week we air a weekly podcast where we interview celebrities and special guests and talk about nerdy and geeky things. And then I am the executive producer and cohost of the podcast Misty Knight’s Uninformed Afro, where we talk about black superheroines in comic books. I’m also currently creating a book that’s going to be coming out next year, which is pretty awesome.
BGC: So you’re doing everything, basically. But all of this, for the most part, is under Black Girl Nerds. What made you start this platform?
I had always been interested in different websites that spoke to geek and nerd subculture, but when I looked on the internet I only saw white people, and never really saw any images of women that looked like me. So five years ago I just went on Google and typed in “black girl nerds” to see what would come up, and nothing came up, and I just thought that was crazy. I already had a blogger account at that time so I went ahead and launched a blog with that name just so I could see it pop up on Google. And then from there I slowly built it into this online community, where first it was just about me and my personal rants and raves about all things geek. Then other folks latched onto the site and saw what I was doing and wanted to be a part of it and it became what it is today.
BGC: How has that transition, that evolution of Black Girl Nerds gone?
I think the evolution and the transition was fairly easy because, though I didn’t know this at the time, I was definitely filling a need. So the minute someone saw that there was a website about Black women in geek culture, women everywhere who are a part of this subculture wanted to express themselves whether that was through writing, doing vlog posts, or doing podcasts, they just wanted to contribute to the space because it’s a space that was so rare at the time. Now it’s great, everybody else is doing content that’s about the subculture, which is good because mainstream is paying attention to that now. But back in 2012 there weren’t really any spaces doing what I was doing, so folks were easily wanting to get involved somehow, and that’s how it’s built up to where it is because I was able to get a lot of writers to contribute articles, I was able to get a lot of folks help create podcast episodes with and really have a staff of people behind the scenes to help keep this machine going. So the transition, believe it or not, was a fairly easy one over time.
BGC: Within that transition you’ve built up different relationships and networks. How have those connections helped to push Black Girl Nerds into the platform that it has now?
Social media has been a great conduit to connect with other brands and other content creators that are doing what I’m doing, like The Fan Bros, Black Nerd Problems, Geeks of Color, Graveyard Shift Sisters, and The Black Geeks (who I’m co-founding a convention with). I think it’s important to try to foster and connect with folks because you can build really great things out of those relationships. And I’m very grateful to Twitter. Twitter is where I’ve met everybody in this digital space. I live in Virginia Beach and a lot of the folks I connect with when I go to the cons are from really big cities, so most of them I haven’t met until I do go to New York Comic Con or San Diego Comic Con. So it’s great to be able to use the internet for good when many times when we hear about the internet we always hear about the negative things, but the internet can actually be very helpful in building a brand.
BGC: What have been your favorite moments in working on BGN?
Definitely meeting the people that I have followed and who follow me on Twitter has been fantastic. I know it sounds trite and cliche but I really love the fans. I really love meeting with people at cons and special events and seminars and talks. Going across the country and just meeting people face to face outside of the four corners of the internet is really great. And then you get to meet the occasional celebrity or two that is a fan of your work and that’s awesome. So to get praise from people like Shonda Rhimes in the past and having celebrities be familiar with your work and say that they read your work, that’s humbling and it’s pretty cool because starting out I didn’t know if anybody was going to read this or if anybody cared. I created it for selfish reasons, I wasn’t trying to appeal to a certain kind of person per say, or I wasn’t trying to get on someone’s radar, I just wanted to see myself. So I’m glad that it has a universal message that speaks to a lot of people.
BGC: And you’ve also launched Universal Fan Con. How did that come about?
I mentioned briefly The Black Geeks. We’d been following each other online, pretty much since I started the Twitter account. I had always wanted to do a con and even before connecting with The Black Geeks people within the BGN community were like “you should do a Black Girl Nerds Con,” because there’s such a large following, and we do all these live tweets, and there’s this level of engagement that happens on the Twitter account where a lot of the people I tweet with want to meet with the fellow followers. So that was something that was in the ether and then I finally connected with Robert Butler and Rob Gill and we decided to get together and put together a con and bring all of our brands and all of our audiences together and make it focus on diversity, inclusion, these things that we talk about all the time on our podcasts, on Twitter, that we write essays and articles about. Let’s actually do the damn thing and make it into a con, and that’s how Universal Fan Con happened.
BGC: Who or what continues to inspire you?
My mom inspires me often because being a single mom she’s never had anybody else to help her. So her independence and her strength is definitely what inspires me, and I always look to that to get me through the day. And Shonda Rhimes. I am huge fan and I’m excited about what she’s doing and her brand more and more each day, and so many Black women like her.
BGC: Who do you hope gets the most out of the work that you do?
Definitely Black women first and foremost because this is for them. But I mean I hope everybody really gets something out of it and I get feedback every now and then from people that reinforces that I’m kind of steering in the right direction. Even today this white guy was complimenting me about the work that I’m doing and that’s cool because probably 95% or more of the content that’s on BGN doesn’t necessarily speak to his demographic but he’s been reading it for over 2 years and he loves it. So that says a lot about the kind of work that we’re doing, that we do appeal to the masses, we are universal in our message but we do focus on telling stories through the lens of Black women, which is important. So yeah, I definitely hope to reach everybody, but this is for us.
BGC: Why is it important as a black person to create?
I think a lot more of us are in digital media than traditional forms of media because digital gives us more access. But I think that at the end of the day, the reason why I create the work that I do is because I want to see myself reflected. I want to see women like me talk about things that are in this geek subculture that several years ago people would be like “oh, you’re into that? You’re not a nerd.” Just because you didn’t see a Black girl LARPing you would assume that she’s not into it. So that’s why it’s important for all of us to be in these spaces where we’re talking about Harry Potter, where we’re talking about our favorite sci-fi fantasy genre fiction shows, where we’re talking about cosplay, because if we don’t see ourselves then people think that we’re not a part of that fandom and that’s just factually incorrect.
BGC: How do you balance creating with the rest of your life?
That’s a big question because that’s a hard thing that I am juggling with right now. A lot of people don’t know this but I work a daytime job and do BGN at the same time. So I don’t get a chance to devote all of the hours of my day to BGN like I would like to. Luckily, I do have a large team of people that are able to help assist with running certain parts of BGN during the day when I’m not available and then I’m able to do what I need to do at night. Sooner than later I would like to be in a position where I don’t have to worry about that day job and BGN could be that, but it’s definitely a challenge each day, more than a year ago because as it grows there’s a larger and higher demand for content.
BGC: How do you deal with burnout when doing something you love?
It’s weird I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m burned out yet, believe it or not. I really love what I do, I think that’s what adds fuel to the fire here. If I didn’t like this, or I felt mediocre about what I’m doing, then getting burnt out would be easy and it would’ve happened long before now. But for some reason the passion behind this just keeps me going even when I’m on two hours sleep. Whether I’m writing or editing, I just love being a part of this community. Or whether I’m suffering from jetlag after flying from one city to the next doing either speaking engagements or press at a con, the work that I’m doing is enough to keep me going.
BGC: Do you have a support system around your work?
Yeah, I have a team of writers, copy editors, and podcasters. We also have a Patreon so a lot of the fans in the community have been generous by supporting us financially which allows us to pay for travel, pay writers here and there -- not all of us get paid but some of the writers and copy editors get paid. It’s important that people get compensated for their work and I try to do the best I can with what I have. But that support system is there and I’m definitely grateful for that.
BGC: Any advice for young creators or ones just starting?
The advice that I always give people, young and old, that I think anybody can really receive is to just do your own thing and don’t focus on what everybody else is doing. Do something completely different. Sometimes we get caught up in the success of other people. We think oh well I can do that same thing exactly the way they’re doing it. And you replicate someone else’s success and it doesn’t always pan out the same way. So try to be unique and do something different, and try to fill a void. I didn’t realize I was doing that. I was trying to do something different and it definitely paid off. So yeah, fill a void, try to reach out and do something -- if there’s something you’re upset isn’t represented or it’s something you rarely see in media, go out there and create it.
BGC: Do you have any future projects that you’re working on?
I have a book that I’m currently working on that’s due to release next year, so that’s exciting. And I’m still working with the team at Universal Fan Con, which is happening April 27-29th in Baltimore, so definitely check us out there. And I just got an awesome opportunity with the SyFy network, I’m an advisor on their board, so I’m very excited for thing they have in store. They are celebrating their 25th anniversary and are really trying to be cognizant of the fans and focus on diversity and inclusion in their content so I’m honored that they would ask me to be a part of that celebration. And, of course, just managing BGN.