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Candice Brathwaite talks to Lisa Williams about tackling a lack of diversity in parenting campaigns

Candice Brathwaite left a career in publishing to become a full-time vlogger and Instagram star. She has just started #MakeMotherhoodDiverse, a campaign calling for more diversity in advertising campaigns which target parents...

1. How did the campaign come about?

It didn’t start as a campaign. It started as my immediate reaction to that terrible Mumsnet thread. Aside from it being really mean to the Instamums mentioned, what I noticed was that none of them look like me. I did an off-the-cuff Instastory about it with the #MakeMotherhoodDiverse hashtag and it spiralled from there. First to get in touch was Nicola Washington from the blog Too Much Mothering Information; her children are mixed-race, and it struck a chord with her. We want to see a fair representation of the diversity we see in the western world.

2.  What change do you want to see?

The Instamums are killing it at the moment on social media, and I really want them to be making money. I understand that and I support that, but it’s always the same kind of woman who gets offered the opportunities. Brands need to understand that they need to use a variety of faces in their campaigns. It gets really hurtful not to see someone like yourself in that space. My daughter notices it when she’s watching TV. If there are no black kids in a show she’s watching, she’ll say, ‘Mummy, where am I?’ and I feel the same about brand campaigns. It sucks that it’s 2017 and I’m having to whip this up.

3. Is there a shortage of black women making their voices heard on social media?

It’s not just social media. I used to work for a big publishing firm and I was one of only four black women in the building. In the sphere of social media, my voice is almost the loudest in black British motherhood online. There’s one of me and 300 white mums and I don’t know why I’ve been able to maintain this space or garner this audience, but it’s important that other women who look like me are able to stand beside me. There are so many black women doing great work online, but feeling dejected because it never gets shared, they feel like they are working twice as hard for not nearly as much. There are days I don’t want to post anything, but I know those women are watching and I do it partly for them.

4. Is your campaign exclusively about black mothers being invisible online?

No, and I’ve had to reiterate that a lot. It’s about embracing diversity, whether you are co-parenting through a divorce, or have a disabled child. There are still unique stories to tell as part of this campaign.

5. What is the big vision for the campaign?

Nicola and I want to build our Instagram into something like Humans of New York but for mothers. Then it’s about planting the seed to see where it’s going to go, I’m not expecting BBC news to be all over this, but there are brands who watch a lot of mums, and I want to say, ‘Hold on mate, you can’t pretend not to see this anymore’. If brands started looking at the feed for people to use in their campaigns, that would blow my brain off. I see it as an online catalogue for people who don’t have a voice

6. Have you had any negative responses when approaching brands about their lack of diversity?

Zero negative responses.  I email brands all the time, and sometimes they don’t respond but in their next wave of online material I can see they’re trying harder. Very few people are actually racist, it’s more a question of white privilege; often it just doesn’t occur to people that it looks that way, and they are sincerely sorry and want to do something about it.

7. How can people get involved with the campaign?

People are posting a picture of their choice with a caption about what motherhood means to them. If you’re white and middle class you can still get involved: regram our material, give us shout-outs, talk about what you want to see or what you want to change.

Candice Brathwaite’s top 5 diverse Instamums

1. @yvadney - Yvadney is a kids' stylist and runs the site Mums That Slay, and she’s killing it, showing that there’s room for all women to be stylish.

2. @sarahakwisombe - Sarah might slip under the radar as she’s more of a design blogger than a mum blogger. She is white but she is married to a black man and their daughter is biracial. Once you have a mixed race child, you are confronted with a lot of new things to think about. I love what she does.

3. @motherhood_rx - This is especially for women of colour. I love them. I think the work they do is amazing.

4. @toomuchmotheringinformation - Again, Nicola is white but she is trying to understand the black culture that her kids are growing up in. In some respect that’s harder as you have to relearn a lot about your own life -  your own privilege and prejudice, while teaching them.

5. @freddieharrel - Freddie does not need me to give her a shout-out, she is amazing. Seeing a black woman who is so unapologetically so, and who speaks to a massive audience, is inspirational.

:: Follow the #MakeMotherhoodDiverse hashtag on Instagram and follow their account here.