Since the pandemic, many people have been dipping their toes into the content creation waters to explore what it takes to be a full-time content creator. THE Bloomberg news article from 2021 noted that “the creator economy has proven to be pandemic-proof.” Many people are flocking to social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube to propel their influencer careers. Stephanie Comfort is a Youtuber who goes by the name Oh! Stephco and has amassed over 65,000 subscribers in just over a year. After one of her videos went viral, Comfort decided to become a full-time Youtuber. In this interview, Comfort opens up about her journey on YouTube and shares why she feels Black women often pay a higher price for speaking their truth.
Janice Gassam Asare: So, Stephanie, you have a very popular YouTube channel that you created within the last year or so. Could you talk a little bit more about who you are and your background for the Forbes readers that are not familiar with you?
Stephanie Comfort: So, I’m a content creator now, but before that, for about 10 years, I was a middle school teacher. I taught language arts and I taught media. I also did marketing and things for the school that I worked at, as far as video creation and things of that nature. I went to school for radio, television, and film. So, I have been creating videos and content and things for…I don’t know, the last 20 years of my life. When the pandemic happened, I had to make a decision about what I was going to do for my job, because I had been working in Los Angeles, and I was now working remotely from Texas.
I started making YouTube videos, inspired by my students. They had been saying to me for years, my last name is Comfort, they’d be like, ‘Ms. Comfort, you should try.’ They saw the things I was doing with them and what I was doing with the school. When you’re working remotely, you have a different schedule. I had time and I was like, ‘well, I’ll make a couple YouTube videos and just see what happens.’ I started to realize a lot about myself in that process, and eventually, I decided, you know what, I’m going to leave my position and see what else is out there. And then I had a video that went viral, where I was discussing the politics of desirability. Because of that video, I was able to really sign on with YouTube and just make it my full-time thing. So, I went from being a full-time teacher to a full-time content creator.
asare: And could you talk a little bit more about your experiences on YouTube? You shared you had a video about desirability politics that went viral, but what have been your experiences since your video went viral and seeing so much growth in a short period?
comfort: Well, that’s an interesting question. So, initially, it was very hard to understand why so many people wanted to watch that video, or why so many people took interest, or why that video got so much push behind the YouTube algorithm…I still, to this day, don’ t understand exactly what I said that’s so different…I still am not sure of all the places the video has been posted, and all the people that have seen it. I think that’s best that I’m blinders on when it comes to that.
asare: One thing I was really interested in having you explore is in a recent video, you were talking about some of the criticism that you’ve received since you’ve been online, specifically on YouTube, and you discussed vulnerability and your experiences being vulnerable online. I think it’s important to note there have been critics of Brené Brown who say that even though she encourages vulnerability, that vulnerability doesn’t necessarily work the same way for Black women. What are your thoughts around that and your experiences being vulnerable online? Do you see that the world receives you in a different way, or do you think that vulnerability has worked to your advantage?
comfort: I think it’s 50/50. So, I definitely was inspired by Brené Brown when I started getting some feedback, and I’ve watched her specials and I’ve read the books, and it didn’t really click for me that this was something I needed to focus, to use, to justify what I was doing, until I started receiving negativity, which I never expected…I think with Black people, in general, we are encouraged to mask in society. I see people talk about it on other social media platforms all the time, not necessarily on YouTube, but people talk about Black women, with our hair. We can’t just go out looking any kind of way. We have to make sure we’re all put together…I have a 4c hair, which is a kinkier hair texture, and I know there’s just so much history there with how we have to pay a higher tax in society when it comes to how we choose to represent ourselves. And because we know that, we are harder on ourselves and we’re harder on each other…there’s so much stuff that’s thrown at Black women from the hyper-masculinization of us, the hyper-sexualization of us, the criticisms about how we’ re independent…so many rules. And really when it comes down to it, it has nothing to do with us at all. It’s all just about society and it’s negative bias toward us as a group of people. I definitely think that because of that, if I choose to talk about certain things, it’s like, oh, you’re just adding to reasons why people won’t like us…that’s one criticism that I got when it came to the pretty privilege video. It’s just another dark-skinned woman complaining.
I do believe that there’s a higher price to pay for a Black woman speaking our truth. I think a lot of it comes from respectability politics. I’ve hinted on that before in videos that I’ve made, which are basically just like, you have to make sure you represent us well. And that means sometimes ignoring the things that hurt because we have to come off as strong and independent. And to me, I gained the most strength when I finally stopped pretending that certain things didn’t hurt my feelings. If I think about myself now versus who I was a year ago when I was just holding a lot of stuff in, I’m so much happier. I just feel so much better as a human being.
asare: How do you navigate things? I saw a video from Kimberly Foster several months ago. It might have been almost a year ago now, where she was talking about how exhausted Black content creators are. How do you navigate that since you mentioned that this is your full-time role? How do you balance taking care of yourself and your mental health?
comfort: So, I feel like I’m very blessed, and the people that have chosen to follow my journey as a content creator are, it’s a really great audience…it’s a receptive audience. It’s been a faithful audience. And by that, I mean, I am able to, for example, April was just like, go, go, go, go, go. It was very busy. Lots of things. Even if I wasn’t feeling up to…and now, we’re in a new month and I’ve told myself, ‘Okay, here’s what I want you to do for this month…I’ll give myself time off. I’ll let myself restore. I have to realize, because my channel is commentary, I would say commentary, personal stories, that kind of thing, so I have to understand, I can’t comment on everything. Do you have the mental and emotional energy to do this? Because not only are you going to be speaking on camera, but then you’re going to go back and you’re going to edit it. Then you’re going to put it out. Then you need to gauge the response. So, it’s a whole thing. And I just have to be honest with myself about where my energy is in that moment.
For me, it’s just being honest about whether or not I have the energy to create at this time. And then having faith in that it will work out when I decide to put out another video. But also, I really do, I still like it a lot. So, it still feels good for me sometimes to put out a bunch of videos. For me, it’s like going on a run or something. It’s cathartic. It feels good to get that energy out there. So, it’s also somewhat taking care of my mental health to create the videos. It just depends on what I’m needing in that moment, but that’s how I balance it out.
I recently found out that there are some people who react to those story times unfavorably, or leave comments under my videos that are not kind. I took all the comments off. The algorithm still promotes the videos…but you’re not allowed to just slander me because maybe you haven’t had that experience, or you would’ve done something different…I will limit how much I let the outside world’s opinion get to me by doing things like that, like taking comments away, unlisting certain things. If I feel like it’s not being received in the way that I wanted, I’ll do those things to balance it out and protect myself.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.