Black Girl Fat Girl, the magazine, was first started in 2016 by Siphumelele Chagwe as an opportunity to give young black woman a space to share their voices and stories. Having grown up around images that did not reflect her or her friends and family, Black Girl Fat Girl became an opportunity to put those images out into an ever-changing world.
Black Girl Fat Girl began with a meeting held over a plate of vegetarian pasta dishes and virgin mimosa’s and plans were made as to how we could mobilize the black female community and find like-minded young voices looking for a safe space to both listen and be heard. This is when we began to build our spaghetti tower.
What is a spaghetti tower, you ask? On our first day at the JAMLAB accelerator, we were paired up with Cliff Machingaifa and Andile Masuku of African Tech Round-Up and together we took on the spaghetti tower challenge: Each team had to attempt to build the tallest tower and then place a marshmallow at the highest point, with a bag of spaghetti, some sticky tape in 20 minutes. My team and I lost, by a minor technicality you could say. We were in the lead, but we decided to add one more layer to the tower because we were greedy and wanted to annihilate the other team. We eventually settled down and accepted our loss and came to realise the purpose of the exercise. Innovation is not only a moment of brilliance, but also a journey of exploration and creativity, trial and error. Had we understood that, hopefully, we could have built a tall tower with a pink marshmallow on top to seal a win.
Being part of the JAMLAB accelerator program has given us a great opportunity to look in detail at the inner workings of our team and really evaluate what we want to achieve with our work. Being the youngest team in the program initially made us very insecure, because of the knowledge gap between our peers, but with their support we know we will do great work.
It is easy to create content for content’s sake but in two short weeks we have been tasked with looking closely at what kind of content we are putting out there and more specifically for who. Our team is a collective of actors, writers, designers and photographers and as artists it’s been so easy for us to create something beautiful without having to think about whether it was useful and to whom it was useful.
In the year that we have been around, we have met so many inspiring women of colour whose stories are so unique. This has allowed us to grow our community base and mature our voice as a magazine and although at first it seemed easier to try and please everyone we’ve since realised that there’s one narrative we want to tell to one kind of reader and we want to tell that narrative well. The JAMLAB accelerator experience is geared at the various teams needs when it comes to moving forward. Often times, as young creative’s we grow as much from listening and learning as we do from diving into tasks head first and even though this could slow down our progress and force us to waste or miss crucial opportunities, we know that solid foundation is crucial if you want your spaghetti tower to last.
By being a part of this accelerator programme, early loopholes within our teams are found and worked out, while also pushing specificity in defining and refining the services we can offer. Black Girl Fat Girl has been tasked with distilling our content to a very specific target market, that way we are focusing on very specific content that can be measured for success and efficacy. This means we’ve had to look at our brand critically so as to put out content that is aligned with our values as well as our reader community’s values.
We are a young company looking at providing a strong and exciting platform for young women of colour, and through the JAMLAB accelerator we will definitely be able to do so. Our motto to this point has been “fake it till you make it”, because of the minimal business experience and skills we have but, we balance it out with our creativity.
The teaching we’ve received so far has been sound and the connections and networks we are building with everyone in the program will ensure that we are well prepared and are growing and evolving as a company and as innovators. Black Girl Fat Girl from the need for representation and inclusiveness in media was evident and to use the next couple of months to think deeply about what we are doing and what our future plans are is crucial. This programme could not have come at a better time. We set targets during the first two weeks that we are already working towards and even though we would have loved for our spaghetti tower to stand tall we understand now that it may take a few attempts to get it right.
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