This OZY Genius Is Looking to Level the Playing Field for All Content Creators
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because Black, Indigenous and people of color creatives in the digital space deserve advocacy.
By Toyloy Brown III
What’s in a name? Well, if you ask Brandy Star Merriweather, a heckuva lot.
“I love my middle name. It’s my grandmother’s, the first part of her name, [which] is Starlet, so it’s a legacy name.”
A legacy that Brandy has more than lived up to, most recently being named a 2021 OZY Genius Award winner for her Creator Equality project. Launched with the help of YouTubers Kahlen Barry and Seth Francois, Creator Equality is a union for digital creatives who are Black, Indigenous and people of color that is designed to amplify their stories, set standards and practices and provide legal, financial and publicity support free of charge.
“Almost every industry has some type of union to support the people who work within it, except for digital creators,” Merriweather says. Take, for instance, the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America, which both support the film and television industry. But digital creators — a term that encompasses people who create content for digital properties, such as YouTube or Instagram — have gone without an organized body to advocate for and protect their interests. “Digital creators kind of just get thrown out there,” she says. “And so I saw it was a need.”
That need was something Merriweather identified while running her public relations company, BStarPR. One of her clients, Keara Wilson — the creator of the viral TikTok dance set to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” — initially received no credit for her choreography. As she worked with Wilson and learned from content creator friends that they too were being exploited and mistreated behind the scenes, Merriweather realized the degree to which nonwhite creatives do not get proper recognition for their talents.
“We need a solution,” the 22-year-old says. “I was tired of seeing even the digital creators that I worked with feel like they are operating at a deficit.”
Born in Indiana, Merriweather moved several times throughout her childhood and knows what it is like to be the “token Black friend” or not properly respected. In 2017, she started BStarPR, after one of her mentors told her: “You need to get started in what you’re doing now to help your generation with PR.” Looking back, she says it was an experience that left a few scars.
“I like to say I had the Disney kid trauma,” she says. “When you start working in this industry kind of young, and I mean, I started in high school . . . I permitted a lot of things behind the scenes that I’m not necessarily proud of,” she says. “It definitely made me reflect on how I grew up as the only Black girl in situations and how I navigated through this industry.” She adds, “It inspires me to create solutions . . . so they don’t have to experience some of the things I experienced.”
Starting a business as a teenager takes grit and motivation — qualities Merriweather traces to her mother, Pamela, who is the director of environmental services at Wellstar Health System and has worked in health care for more than 30 years. For the younger Merriweather, doing PR for multiple clients, being a senior at Clark Atlanta University and running marketing and communications at Creator Equality is only possible because she inherited her mom’s “workaholism.”
“I’ve got to see my mom literally be a boss my entire life,” Merriweather says. “She operated our household like we were an organization. My brother and I make the joke that she treated her employees better than she treated us sometimes.”
There have also been other mentors Merriweather has relied on for advice and guidance, including Karen Civil, a digital media marketing strategist, and Angela Bundrant Turner, head of marketing and public relations at Revolt.
David George, another of Merriweather’s mentors who works in multicultural marketing with Allied Global Marketing, believes that her energy, resolve and character are what set her apart.
“I think she truly just has a passion for people and connecting people to brands,” says George. “But, I think second to that, I think she’s just truly passionate about seeing this media landscape change.”
She may still be a college student, but Merriweather is already an inspiration to her peers, including Dazayah Walker, who she worked with in public relations in 2017 at One/35 Agency before Merriweather started BStarPR.
“Brandy has an amazing personality, and I believe that’s one of the things that have carried her so far,” Walker says. What does she think of Merriweather winning an OZY Genius Award? “I think you guys made an amazing choice selecting Brandy because she’s definitely a rock star.”
Merriweather has always loved her middle name; now it’s safe to say she’s living up to it.
- Toyloy Brown III, OZY Author Contact Toyloy Brown III