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Influencer interview: Stephanie Yeboah on her career roadmap plus why the industry must change

Posted by Caroline Edwards in News

9 months ago

Multi-hyphenate Stephanie Yeboah has become a prominent voice within the UK creator industry through her topical lifestyle content.

In 2022, she topped the list of CORQ’s most viewed creators, showing people and brands alike are consistently interested in her reactive and engaging content.

Yeboah first launched her blog in late 2008 and since then she has built up a strong audience by sharing creative and fun posts, as well as covering more serious or taboo topics on Instagram and Twitter, where she has a combined following of approximately 285,000.

Rewind to 2020, Yeboah saw her following grow exponentially between May and July. Speaking with CORQ, she said she had 30,000 followers on Instagram in late May, which jumped to 100,000 a week later. This would be a dream for any creator if the circumstances were different – this spike in followers began the day after George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in the US, ushering a new wave of the Black Lives Matter movement across the globe.

Looking back, Yeboah said: “I think a lot of creators at that time saw huge bursts in that content, which is, to be honest, quite bittersweet because we all do want to grow our followings, but to do it in such a tragic way is, when I think about it, probably wasn’t the best way.

“And obviously I had no control over it, but it just seems sad that it took something so tragic happening for people to actually be like: ‘Oh Black people and their work actually does matter’. Very bittersweet.”

At the time, Yeboah created think pieces on how people could be allies and donate. The increased attention and support of Black creators and businesses led to a boom in followers – but months later this actually resulted in dampened engagement. She described the following spree and support as performative, explaining high-profile influencers followed and highlighted her work before unfollowing just a few weeks later.

She said: “It’s one of those things where we just have to learn how to rebuild and stay authentic to our content, regardless of who follows. The right people will follow us eventually.”

It seems she has found the “right people” to follow her. These days, Yeboah covers everything from plant care to fashion with humour and positivity, but equally touches on mental health and isn’t afraid to criticise companies when they misstep. What most resonates with her tuned-in audience is her content around body image, specifically posts about self-love or offering advice.

“If I’m talking about learning how to love yourself while on holiday or learning how to love yourself in a bikini, talking about things like stretch marks or cellulite, these kind of posts tend to do really well,” she said. Likewise, her editorialised travel shoots and photos with her boyfriend receive high engagement – the latter is mainly due to “pure morbid curiosity” as he rarely appears in her content.

@stephyeboah

It is what it is. #fyp #beyonce #renaissance

♬ HEATED – Beyoncé

Yeboah noted content of her wearing a bikini or lingerie has high engagement, as well. She shared statistics of her pinned post from May 2022 with CORQ – consisting of images of her in bikinis on holiday that promoted body positivity – which had a reach of nearly 56,000, more than 9,000 likes and 270 saves.

“If you’re not wearing a lot, especially if you have a body that is considered not attractive by the majority of society with regards to body image, people have that curiosity where they want to look and they want to see and be like: ‘Oh, I can’t believe she’s wearing this and I can’t believe she’s wearing that’,” Yeboah said. “Sometimes photos that have the shock factor tend to do the best for me.”

Yebaoh loves photography, but like most creators, she has seen increased engagement with Instagram Reels. Initially she resented the idea of Reels, but now she’s upping her video content.

“I think if you can get that knack, which a lot of the time it’s less than ten seconds having captions on it and then a trending sound, you can get that engagement,” Yeboah explained. Case in point: in February 2023 she uploaded her TikTok about the struggle of getting Beyoncé tickets, and achieved more than 112,000 views, nearly 9,000 likes and 149 comments.

Understandably, Yeboah’s content has shifted from her early days of blogging. Her blog initially covered “surface-level things” such as technology and films, and later she opened up about her experience with mental health and fatphobia, which she also covers on Instagram.

“It was something that I was really scared of actually, because coming from a West African background, things such as mental health is just very taboo,” Yeboah explained. “We don’t talk about mental health in my community and it’s very frowned upon.” Initially, she was anxious about discussing depression and eating disorders, but her more personal posts had a positive reaction and helped her blog grow, which has turned into a “safe space for women across the world”. While many creators have abandoned blogging, Yeboah is still using her website to create long-form content.

The creator economy evolves regularly with new trends, platforms and opportunities – as seen with the popularity of Reels and TikTok – so what would Yeboah like to see change within the industry? The addition of standard rules and regulations; creators are still being taken advantage of by brands when it comes to payment and Yeboah noted budgets and rates remain a secret.

“I think because there has been a lack of transparency and a lack of people talking about what they make or what rate they’re on, it’s allowing for a lot of unfairness to happen.” Creators are only lifting the lid on pay discrepancies when speaking privately with other creator friends.

Yeboah said that during the peak of the Black Lives Matter discourse, Black creators spoke about the unfairness of how little they were paid compared to white creators – white creators with lower engagement and fewer followers were still getting paid thousands of pounds more. Fast forward to the current day and, little has changed. SevenSix Agency’s 2022 influencer pricing report found a 21.5% pay gap when comparing white and Black creators.

Outside of payment and regulations, Yeboah wants brands to place higher importance on engagement rather than follower count, as she said there’s not always a correlation between follower count and a return on investment.

“As a follower, you sometimes have the frame of mind of being like: ‘OK, so I follow this person that has 500,000 followers, I don’t need to click on that link because somebody else is going to do it’,” she said. “If you have 500,000 followers who think exactly that same thing, then the engagement is bound to be low.” Investing in smaller creators is the smart move, she said, as smaller creators have strong communities and the best relationship with their followers and, therefore, engagement. Lastly, in terms of what creators can do, people need to think carefully about their words and actions so that “we don’t all get tarnished by the same brush”.

On the topic of brands, for Yeboah, it’s crucial to only team up with brands that offer products she genuinely enjoys to foster an authentic relationship. In a partnership, she  looks for a company that is open to collaboration and allows her to creatively express what she wants to do within the realm of the brief.

“There’s nothing worse than signing a contract with a brand and then they send you the brief and it’s very much: ‘You have to do this, you have to do this. You can’t have this, you can’t have that’ – it’s just so restrictive to the point where it’s like: ‘Why am I doing this? This is not authentic to me’.”

Yeboah counts Sky, Dermalogica and Ben & Jerry’s as some of her favourite brand collaborators , and enjoys her work with Dove as an ambassador. She said Sky is “really fun when it comes to executing campaigns”. Sky is a perfect partner for Yeboah since her followers count on her for organic follow-along Instagram Stories where she comments on a show while watching a series.

“If I’m talking about something like Succession or The Last of Us, or another TV show that [Sky has], I’ll probably do like 15 Instagram Stories and they are always the highest rated [in terms of views and replies] of that week,” Yeboah said.

Although Yeboah works with brands to create content, she also has different avenues of income through her work as a freelance journalist, author and public speaker. From a financial standpoint, it’s important to have different streams of income because content creation is still a relatively new industry that is unregulated in the UK. Having a backup plan is key, as Yeboah noted: “We don’t know how long this bubble will go on when it comes to Instagram and TikTok.”

Yeboah has what most creators want: a loyal following, a book deal and a podcast. Her career highlight so far was publishing her book Fattily Ever After: A Black Fat Girl’s Guide to Living Life Unapologetically in 2020, which was on the Amazon bestseller list for approximately two weeks. A particular achievement was seeing it above a popular weight loss book. “I was like: ‘Oh my gosh, people are actually buying a book on being plus size and happy as opposed to trying to lose weight’,” she said.

Her focus for 2023 is travel. This includes writing and more trips, and she hopes to embark on a solo adventure to Japan for more than three weeks. She will also release the second season of her podcast and hopes to do more podcast and TV appearances.

Yeboah is only just getting started – there’s plenty more she wants to do. Fashion has always been her first love and she has wanted to have her own fashion line since she was 11-years-old.

“That could be a collaboration with a fashion brand, where I have my own capsule collection, but I have always wanted to have a plus-size fashion collection,” she said.

While public speaking has been a fear, Yeboah has become more used to it through panels, and now wants to “take it to the next step” and host events or television. “I think that will probably have to be a stepping stone to maybe doing on YouTube first or another social media channel, and then hopefully, graduating towards TV stuff.”

By Caroline Edwards, news and features writer for CORQ. Picture: Stephanie Yeboah. Credit: Kaye Ford via Instagram.