Skip to content
Sydnee McRae, 1.1 million TikTok followers: “I was telling one of the big managers that I was doing $500 as a minimum. She was like, no, you should be at like $5,000 per video.”

Sydnee McRae, 1.1 million TikTok followers: “I was telling one of the big managers that I was doing $500 as a minimum. She was like, no, you should be at like $5,000 per video.”

Photographer: Kelsey McClellan for Bloomberg Businessweek
Equality
Capital

Marketers Are Underpaying Black Influencers While Pushing Black Lives Matter

Anyone can get famous on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram, but it’s a lot easier to make a living if you’re White.

Updated on

Since high school, Sydnee McRae had liked the idea of getting paid to make videos online. After graduating, she started making beauty tutorials on YouTube, but she managed to attract only 500 followers—not nearly enough to get brands to pay her for promoting their products or even to get the occasional freebie. Then, a year ago, McRae, now 22, had a breakthrough on TikTok, the short video platform.

It was just as Covid-19 lockdowns were beginning. McRae created and performed a dance to Captain Hook, Megan Thee Stallion’s sex-positive club banger. She encouraged others to try out the dance themselves with a hashtag, #captainhookchallenge, and a tutorial video that explained her dance step-by-step. The videos were popular, attracting more than 400,000 likes. Within weeks, many of the platform’s top stars—influencers with millions of followers—performed their versions of her choreography, helping the song soar in popularity, too. In April, Megan Thee Stallion herself joined in, posting a 15-second video from her kitchen.