The New Normal panel took place on 17 February at Niche’s Creator Day at Twitter HQ in London. It featured Felicity Hayward, Riyadh Khalaf, and Jana Damanhouri, and was moderated by Jo Burford.
The talk began with a discussion of the panellists’ tweets beginning with Felicity Hayward, who had retweeted a message from her friend, Kelly. The tweet contained a quote by Felicity in The Independent: “It’s brilliant that brands are realising using models of all shapes, sizes, skin tones, ages, and disabilities is the key to a positive brand image.”
“It's brilliant that brands are realising using models of all shapes, sizes, skin tones, ages and disabilities is the key to a positive brand image," she told The Independent. "However, this should be a normality." – GO FELICITY 💖 x x https://t.co/7c4Zjh8HDe
— Kelly Knox (@ItsKellyKnox) February 15, 2018
Felicity said she feels it’s important for people in a position of influence to not only help those who look like them, but “the whole gang”, stating: “Some people don’t have voices and if you have the power to speak up for other people, that’s just my main!”
Jo Burford, moderating, went on to discuss Riyadh Khalaf’s tweets regarding Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton. In December, Hamilton posted a now-deleted video on Instagram of his nephew in a princess dress, in which he stated “boys don’t wear princess dresses”.
Yep, many of us have been there. Lewis, it may be funny for you in the moment, but those words sting and damage a young boy on a deeper level into adulthood. Think next time. https://t.co/nC8mpp5xbl
— Riyadh Khalaf (@RiyadhK) December 26, 2017
Riyadh explained: “It didn’t just feel a bit like my life, it was exactly like my life. I used to go out in my mum’s high heels and I grew up on a council estate in Dublin – and my dad’s an Iraqi Muslim. What else could I add to that?” He laughed.
He acknowledged that, while Hamilton may have made and posted the video in jest, he felt he did not think about the bigger ramifications of his actions. He shared how his dad telling him to take those heels off has stuck with him, even though his father is now very pro LGBTQ+ rights.
Jo then moved the discussion Jana Damanhouri’s response to YouTube’s tweet calling for users to subscribe to black creators. “You can’t just jump on the bandwagon and jump on the trend and say, ‘subscribe to black creators’,” said Jana. “You’ve got to do more than that. You’ve got to walk the walk, not just tweet the tweet.”
The panel were then asked if the “new normal” was relatable to just the online community or if it was understood by the real world. Jana shared how she feels the difficulty with social media is the echo chamber. She gave examples of large political events such as Brexit and the elections in America: “All your friends are retweeting the things you agree with and thinking that’s the new normal. But it’s not what everyone’s thinking and we should discuss things with people [who] don’t agree with us.”
Riyadh added that it’s important that your real-life actions reflect what you’re doing online. “Lots of people I know online and in my family would display super lefty, pro-equality views, but you speak to them in private and it’s at odds with what they put online,” he said.
Felicity shared that her 15-year-old sister is very inspired by creators: “It does resonate with her. That kind of generation is listening and young girls are resonating with us.”
Jana also shared her experiences of being a woman from Saudi Arabia, where it’s taboo for women to be a public figure and to have a voice. She initially received a lot of negative comments and has noticed those comments have lessened over the years. “Social media is the main reason that’s happening,” she said. “People are allowed to be themselves, follow people who can encourage them, and not just fit into what their generation is teaching them.”
Felicity stated that there were far less plus-sized models when her career started five years ago. “Curves are the cool thing now, but every single body is beautiful.”
The panel then took questions from the audience. They were asked how brands can authentically include diversity. Felicity said, “Don’t just use one black model and one curvy model and think that that’s acceptable”, while Jana shared how she feels she’s fulfilling a checklist when approached by UK brands or by certain event organisers: “It’s like, ‘She’s brown, she’s female, and from a different background? Well, we’ll invite her.’”
Riyadh said he felt that some brands like to “hijack a cause at a specific moment”. He shared that he and fellow LGBTQ+ people are approached by brands “specifically and only in Pride season, but for the rest of the year they just vanish”. He now responds to brand requests by asking what their plans are for inclusivity for the rest of the year.
The panel took one final question from audience member and fellow YouTuber Hannah Witton to close out the talk. She said it feels like there’s a new scandal each hour, and asked how one decides what to react to and how. Riyadh shared his experience: “I’ve done videos in the heat of the moment and then I look back at [them] and I’ve been like, ‘Shut up, it’s not your issue. Why do you care?’” He now asks himself if he’s adding anything new to the conversation or if he’s just contributing to cause fatigue. Jana agreed, adding, “People assume you’re super-educated on everything, but we’re forced to learn because we’re asked so often.”
Felicity feels it’s important to create your own narrative. She’s found that, in the media, people just wanted to discuss her weight and diet rather than her work, and wants fashion to advance for those who were plus-sized. As a result, she created the #SelfLoveBringsBeauty hashtag on Instagram and created her own brand of clothing, hoping to make the movement more accessible to all.
Photos by Jon D Barker.
Check out more of our coverage from Niche’s Creator Day:
- Nurturing and Growing on Social Media Panel at Niche’s Creator Day 2018
- Twitter Moment: Highlights from Niche’s Creator Day 2018
- How Niche Can Empower Creators