Gen-Z and milennial Black women often find it difficult to be in spaces with likeminded individuals. It can be hard to be free and unapologetically themselves. Whether you are into media, gaming, entertainment and more, it is challenging to feel comfortable with every aspect of who you are in day to day settings. Rechelle Dennis noticed this and wanted to do something about it. That’s when Essence Girls United Summit was created.
Essence GU Summit is a multimedia platform that provides access, resources, and opportunities to a global audience of Gen-Z and Millennial women. It empowers them to pursue and achieve their wildest dreams. The sumit made its way back to Atlanta this year to host hundreds of women. Some top influencers joined to share wisdom like Jayda Cheaves, Paige Audrey-Marie Hurd, Jessie Woo and even gaming influencer Queen Khamyra. 21Ninety had the opportunity to sit down with Dennis and Khamyra to discuss the event and the impact had on young Black women.
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Zayna Allen: Rechelle, let’s first talk about why you wanted to create this summit.
Rechelle Dennis: The reason that Girl’s United really came to life is because of seeing the opportunity that nobody was really speaking to this audience and providing them with the access, resources and opportunities. And also meeting them where they’re at, especially in this digital age.
So Girl’s United Summit is our Super Bowl where everything really comes together and we’re able to give them what we do on the site in real life. Giving them those tools and resources and ability to connect a network with their peers on the ground and providing that space for them to do that. Our corporate partners also make sure that they’re showing up for this audience in a way that’s authentic to them.
ZA: I think that we as Black women are very underrepresented in this in this space. Rechelle you wanted to create this event to give Black women and those who identify as such, the opportunity to be around people who are like them. Queen Khamyra, you are from the gaming industry directly, so I’m sure you’ve had your own experiences as well. What does this mean to both of you to create these opportunities or be a part of this type of community?
RD: It was very important also to give them the ability to be in these rooms with people. People across all these different verticals and not just anybody, but people that are at the height of their game on. Being able to give them access to top people even if it’s just for a 5-minute conversation is something that has the ability to change somebody’s complete career trajectory. That was what was really important for me; just making sure that that was at top of mind. How I could really make sure that everybody is walking away with something that is tangible and that they can apply to their life.
Queen Khamyra: I just wanted to say that I really love that the summit embraced girl gamers and had a whole gaming station. It was an area with a DJ and everything. A lot of girls came over and talked to me. It was just really great that somebody is really having a space for girl gamers since gaming is a male dominated, I guess you would say, sport. So it was really good for us to have that space specifically for black girls. It was really important and I really love that.
ZA: Going back to you Rechelle. We had so many different speakers and hosts that joined the summit. I think it’s important for a Gen-Z to see that there are these people who they always see on their timeline are supporting them, they want to be a part of something that they’re a part. How did you go about selecting the right type of people to speak and host for this Summit.
RD: I think even building off of what Queen Khamyra said; what was really important for me was to make sure that Black women were represented in all the different ways. As well as all the different ways that we come in, all of our different interest. For so long, Black women have been placed in this one box and more than ever, especially with this generation, we don’t believe in boxes, you can be so many different things. You can be a corporate baddie but still go out on the weekend, you can be interested in fashion and also have an interest in gaming.
For me it was really about bridging all of those different things. When it comes to talent, we also know that talent is sometimes more than what media outlets can make them out to be. My favorite example of that is Jayda Cheaves. We see her on The Shade Room and Impact Atlanta but the side that people don’t really focus on is the fact that she is an entrepreneur. She’s super-smart. After the summit, she actually met Chelsea Miller, who was in the freedom March, who won one of our awards for activism. She and Jada went on live and were talking about how important it is to vote and making sure that your voice is heard.
So, it was about making sure that not just one type of Black woman was represented in that room and that really starts with talent. That’s why it was so important to choose this talent from a bunch of different backgrounds and ethnicities. As Black women, we’re all not the same. We all have different interest, we all have different Avenues and it doesn’t mean that you have to stick with one thing, it means you can also explore. You can be so much more than what you currently.
ZA: People typically turn to their hobbies to find outlets. A way to find peace or to relax. Gaming can be an outlet for those who want to let loose in a place where they don’t feel like they have to be someone else. Queen Khamyra, is that what gaming is for you?
QK: Yes, most definitely. It has really has helped with my mental health and to clear my mind. Gaming makes me happy. A lot of people don’t know that. They just see me as an influencer.
I share my gaming content to the world because so many girls aren’t really open about gaming because it’s a male-dominated sport. Guys would sometimes laugh at you in a game when they hear a woman’s voice while they’re playing. But it actually kind of helped me grow my personality because I was a shy person at first and it helped me like become more like a social butterfly, just talking and interacting with people on the game. Ever since I started gaming I’ve been at peace. Like my mental health has been the number one important thing.
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ZA: Being someone who’s in this community, how does it feel to see that there are other younger black women who are also following the same path as you; who are seeing that this is an outlet for them? Especially seeing how comfortable they were at the summit.
QK: To be honest, I really thought it was beautiful and it was a successful turn out of so many Black women. I even played the game with them and everything. We were all talking about linking up and getting on Twitch, starting a Discord based off of the event. We wanted to form a whole little sister gaming circle just because we met at this event and we have something in common and something that we love. It was so beautiful seeing so many girl gamers because when you’re a girl gamer and a Black woman you feel so alone since it’s a boys club.
ZA: Rechelle, how do you plan to continue to have an impact on black women and culture? I know this isn’t going to be the end. So what does that look like?
RD: It’s definitely not the end. I always look for ways that I can improve the brand and improve that experience for our audience. Even at the event I was physically at Girls United Summit, but my head was already on what’s happening next year. How can we show up better? How can we do better? How can we be better? How can we also make sure that our audience also can provide that feedback. So for me it was also going up to a lot of the attendees and having these 5-10 minute conversations on their feedback so that I know how we can show up.
As we talk about 2023 and have already started the discussions I really want to make sure that we’re showing up consistently throughout the year also. How do we now make sure that we’re continuing to engage with this audience and meeting them again, where they’re at? So it shouldn’t just be one GU Summit. But what does a little GU Summit look like? What does other events in different markets look like? How do we show up in those markets? Because how we show up in Atlanta, might be different than how we show up in New York and might be different how we show up in LA. So for me it’s all about, you know, having that feedback and incorporating it into our planning for next year.
So you’ll definitely see more of us. At the end of the day, this bigger than me, it’s bigger than my team, it’s really about our audience and where they want to go and where we can take them.