It took the best part of a year, but from the remains of Kyra’s former fashion show PAQ, a new YouTube channel has emerged. Dexter Black – one quarter of the production company’s most successful show prior to it ending in June 2020 – announced his solo channel at the end of April, setting a countdown to his first video on the page.
Back in its heyday, both PAQ and Kyra had the UK’s YouTube streetwear community in a chokehold. PAQ and its female counterpart NAYVA were fronted by four friends, featured regular celebrity guests, raked in millions of views with each weekly upload and were sustained by a steady stream of high profile brand deals. Kyra ended 2019 with a $7.3 million round of investment, which it planned to use to launch ten new shows in 2020.
But then things fell apart. NAYVA came to an end not long after the world first went into lockdown. PAQ followed several months later, with one of its members, Elias Riadi, making a point of clarifying on Twitter that the show wasn’t cancelled, but rather he and his fellow castmates had finally managed to “break out of an extremely complicated contract” and have the “courage to fight and leave a toxic situation”.
This was far from the last slight on Kyra – in the months that followed, the production company which once promised to “recreate TV for the YouTube generation” faced a slew of accusations from its former stars. PAQ’s Shaquille-Aaron Keith spoke of a time he was forced to work in the wake of his stepfather’s death, and was painted as the “angry black boy” when he complained. He later joined forces with Dexter, NAYVA’s Angel Moret and a star of another former Kyra show, Bad Canteen, to host a livestream entitled “Surviving Kyra”, detailing the mistreatment they faced during their time on their respective shows. Multiple cast members also accused Kyra of exploiting Black culture, calling out its hypocrisy for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement when it treated its own cast so poorly.
Members of PAQ have returned to the content creation scene far later than the members of NAYVA, who either picked back up or launched their own independent channels within a month of its cancellation. Perhaps the key difference here is the origins of PAQ and NAYVA. While PAQ was formed from a group of existing friends, NAYVA was the result of open auditions across the USA and UK, with 150,000 applicants whittled down to four – Angel and her co-stars Jasmine Muller, Faith Harper and Esama “Esme” Dixy – all of whom had sizeable platforms beforehand.
Curating a friendship group for NAYVA to mimic the success of PAQ – which thrived off the chemistry of its cast – wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. But another of the many critiques aimed at Kyra by its cast members was the casting process itself. Angel described the company to Vice as “culture vultures”, banking off each member’s culture for content. NAYVA’s presenters have since also commented on how each was played off the other by producers to create a competitive environment and certain members of the group no longer on speaking terms.
Kyra’s practices were unsustainable in the long-run, not to mention unethical. But the irony is that in building these shows, they also built audiences who are fiercely loyal to the creators themselves. When Kyra shared its support for Black Lives Matter on Instagram in June, it was flamed by fans and has since deleted its Instagram profile entirely. Comments on old videos across old Kyra channels show similar discontent, calling out its employees and taking the side of its former talent.
Kyra’s main focus now seems to be TikTok, where it represents creators like Abby Roberts and runs the fashion page “Rag Report”, and – most importantly – there’s less overlap with their old viewers. Unsurprisingly, it seems to have given up on YouTube, where lingering resentment will almost certainly prevent their return any time soon. Audiences are definitively on the side of Kyra survivors and hungry for any kind of content produced by them, even if it differs from their PAQ or NAYVA days. As one fan commented on the countdown to Dexter’s new video: “Can’t wait to get more content from the boys. Whether it’s fashion or not, we love to see it.”