This year’s GU Summit was filled with surprises and treats, including a content creation masterclass from a top-tier content creator herself. You may know her as Donye Taylor, and we at Girls United recognize her as the ultimate content queen. In a world where a person’s likeness can be equated to likes, followers, and shares, Taylor took to this year’s Atlanta-based summit to remind attendees that it’s all about remaining yourself while your true tribe will follow behind you.
“I had followed Girls United about a year and a half ago from my friend Rechelle [Dennis], and I just thought it was just so fire because when I was growing up and when I was trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to do, I didn’t really have anywhere to go,” Taylor told Girls United about the power of events such as the annual Girls United Summit. “I just had the internet, but I had to kind of find the people that inspired me in different pockets of the internet. I just love how Girls United is just one hub for a bunch of different women of color that are doing a bunch of different amazing things in different verticals. That’s what made me want to hop on because I want to be able to be that person that I didn’t have when I was growing up.”
At this year’s GU Summit, Taylor hosted a workshop titled ‘The Reel You: Embracing Authentic Content Creation,’ where she showcased a presentation on the tips, tricks, and strategies to leverage your brand. From Tik Tok to IG Reels, Taylor answered the burning questions of summit-goers about where the best place to see your brand grow lies and provided insight into the power of growth on social platforms. “I really want to emphasize authenticity with my workshop. I feel like in the era of social media, you see a lot of things that you don’t know if it’s real or fake and I’m really adamant [about] making sure that the content that I put out and the way people perceive me is reflective of who I am as a person,” she noted ahead of the summit.
Taylor continued, “People can expect to leave this workshop using their brain in a different way as it relates to content.” Indeed, they did. While she prioritized straying away from a cool-looking image or the perfectly filtered video, Taylor wanted to stress the importance of valuable content by making it motivational and inspirational to their audiences. “They can really grow with their audience and develop an emotional connection with their audience,” she added.
Ahead of this year’s Girls United Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, Taylor caught up with Girls United exclusively about the keys to leveraging your brand, how Generation Z is using authenticity to create and promote their lives as influencers, and the importance of content creators like Jayda Cheaves receiving their flowers.
**This interview was conducted prior to Girls United Summit 2022 on November 5, 2022**
Girls United: How does it feel seeing that Gen Zer’s get to make a career out of creating content and being on the internet through vulnerability and authenticity?
Donye Taylor: “It’s amazing seeing that. Maybe six, seven years ago, this wasn’t even a thing. It was unheard of. I’ve always been a person that just loved creating content, so thankfully I kind of landed in this role. I really think it’s amazing that Gen Zer’s get to grow up, and instead of saying, ‘I want to be a doctor, or I want to be this.’ They can say, ‘I want to be a content creator,’ and I think that’s so amazing because creativity is so deeply correlated to happiness. I think that being able to make a career out of what it is that you love doing, things that you love experiencing, it’s amazing. I’m excited to see how this generation flourishes from having that as an avenue.”
GU: A lot of people think you can wake up and have hundreds of thousands of followers overnight, but that’s not how that works. What are some of the biggest misconceptions and myths that you’ve ever heard about content creation?
Taylor: “Number one, that it’s easy. Content creation is extremely hard, especially if you’re doing it as a career. If you’re just creating content just because you like creating content, then that’s another story. When you’re doing it as a career, it’s extremely hard because you’re always factoring in your audience; you’re always factoring in the other side. There are times where I may want to post something, but I’m like, ‘I don’t think this is really going to resonate. This is just cool to me,’ so I think that’s what makes content creation a little bit tricky.
“I think a common misconception about content creators, too, is that we are shallow and we are vain. You may see somebody taking a photo or a video walking down the street and like, ‘oh my God, they’re just so into themselves,’ but you don’t know what’s behind that photo. You don’t know what’s behind that video. That photo can turn into a piece of content that can inspire somebody to change their career path, or it can inspire somebody to want to apply for a job, [which] may have inspired somebody to do a bunch of different things. You never know what’s behind the content that content creators are creating.”
GU: How do you manage your mental health and stay true to yourself while creating content for your audience?
Taylor: “I manage my mental health by just going with the flow and also speaking up about where I’m at mentally as it relates to my creative career. There’s times [when] I don’t really feel like creating, and I’m okay with saying that to my brand partners that I work with. I’m okay with saying that to my audience. There’s sometimes that I’m feeling really, really inspired and there’s times that I’m not feeling inspired. I like to really hone in on the moments when I am feeling inspired. I like to create a lot of content during that time and stretch it out. That’s how I balance my mental health. It gives me room for the days that I don’t really want to create. Today, it’s raining in [Los Angeles] and I don’t really feel like doing anything, but it’s okay because I made a post two days ago so I’m going to just let that sit. I make my own schedule and I don’t really compare myself to the pace of other creators. I just kind of do my own thing and I’m very vocal about that, and I think that’s what my audience really respects about me the most.”
GU: How have Black women and girls served as the blueprint for content creation?
Taylor: “I feel like Black women, when we recommend something, it just holds so much weight – the tone and how we speak, just everything. We’ve seen that just recently with the girl that’s talking about the chicken salad. That place, I think it’s in Cleveland, Ohio, but you have celebrities and people flying to Cleveland to try this chicken salad just because of how she said it. Mind you, on that deli’s Instagram page and TikTok’s page, there’s multiple people that are saying good things about that chicken salad, but that Black woman saying it the way that she did, it hit different. That speaks to the power that we have when we’re expressing our emotions about things that we love. It speaks to the power of our influence just as a culture, as a demographic, and as a whole so I’m really excited to tap into that and let other Black women know that you have this power and it’s the way to use it.”
GU: Jayda Wayda will be awarded the first-ever Content Creation Award for our Future Makers Awards Dinner. As a content creator yourself, how would you say that she has really molded what content creation is, especially for Generation Z?
Taylor: “I think Jayda is such a good example of everything that I just talked about, about being transparent, about being open, about being authentic, and really using your influence for good. I feel like Jayda has put on for so many different small, Black-owned brands. She’s changed so many people’s lives just through her content. She really busted the door wide open, even just before she got into content creation [and] having her business with her hair. She’s just always been a hustler and used social media to her benefit. She’s just a good example of what a multifaceted content creator and Black woman is, so kudos to y’all for seeing her, amplifying her, and I think it’s a very well-deserved award.”
GU: In addition to Jayda and yourself, who are some Black women who you believe are the blueprint for content creation?
Taylor: “I’ll say Skylar Marshai. I love Skylar. She, to me, is redefining luxury in a way that we’ve never seen before from somebody at a very young age. Skylar’s, I think about a year or a year and a half younger than me, but you don’t think that at 25 or 26 [years old] you can travel the way that she does. I love content creators that redefine what misconceptions we’ve already had. You think of travel as something that you have to be really rich to do or you have to be really old to do, so I love Skylar. My friend Tiffany [Thompson], her Instagram is The Plant Mami. She’s an interior designer and going back to the overall theme of redefining what things are, I never looked at interior design as something that I could connect with. I love how she educates her audience on all things interior design. Not just the design aspect of it, but the psychology behind it [and] why things work. I feel like she’s definitely changed my interior eye just from following her. I love people that are able to educate through passion. She’s so passionate about interior design, she loves it so much, so naturally, she’s educating her audience on interior design in a very unique way.”
About D’Shonda: Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, D’Shonda Brown is the Associate Editor at Girls United. When she’s not interviewing or writing, she enjoys running, dancing, buying sneakers, and binge-watching Lifetime movies.
Featured Photo: ATLANTA, GEORGIA – NOVEMBER 05: Donye Taylor speaks onstage during the ESSENCE Girls United’s (GU) Summit at Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center on November 05, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images) | Images Courtesy of Stephon Williams.