Watch Ant speak your thoughts in the most eloquent and perfect way possible…
With Restricted Mode blocking all content containing “mature topics”, as well as a platform-wide shift towards slicker, more practised, professional content, it’s growing increasingly difficult to find the videos that many of us enjoyed and sought out when we first started watching YouTube.
Creators like Antoinette Belle know full well the difficulties this shift has created. “YouTube’s move into mainstream popular culture has made it an emblem of fast, easy success instead of community and equal access, and creators are definitely feeling the pressure,” she says. But Ant combats this pressure wonderfully. On her channel you will be treated to a wealth of beautifully honest and honestly beautiful content.
“YouTube creators documenting their real-life experiences seizes the unique opportunity to strip back a filter and talk about topics that so often get swept under the rug because they’re seen as unpalatable or awkward,” Ant reflects. “If we use our platforms for good, to talk about sexuality, mental health, racism, body image, political oppression, we can ultimately make more progressive moves in our society.”
As she sums it up: “By giving insight to these portions of our lives, it can give others the strength they need to get through their own demons. That’s part of the beauty of being online.”
Ant talks very openly on her channel about the difficulties of being creative and living with mental health problems, in videos such as The Depression Advert and nobody’s perfect, which has gained her the unshakeable love of her subscribers.
“You can be successful and taken seriously by staying true to yourself,” affirms Ant. “Authenticity is hard to manage online; you can end up perpetuating online personas in the name of exposure and validation. Breaking the fourth wall and engaging with your audience is so valuable, as opposed to existing as a sort of symbol. It’s important to use social media to remind people that you’re a person, that you’re not something for people to sit there and consume.”
This is something that we should all be reminded of, with YouTubers such as Felix Kjellberg talking about forced positivity in a video which kickstarted a discussion on how much of ourselves, including our struggles and down days, we owe to our audience to show. As Ant puts it: “We want everything to look attractive, filtered, put-together, and beautiful, but that can leave crucial conversations completely ignored. You can be a person and live with conditions that make your life difficult.”
As well as mental health issues, Ant also talks about race and the difficulties she, and other people of colour (POC), have faced on YouTube and in wider society. “There is no one uniform POC experience of YouTube,” she emphasises. “There are POC with diverse and varying experiences of the platform and the community; it’s more to do with how POC and POC’s content is treated.
“I’d love to believe that while I do my videos without the pretext of popular viewing, they have just as much chance of being seen as something accessible to everyone. However, the fact is they’re not as likely to be appreciated or elevated in the grand scheme of things. If someone’s a POC/queer creator, it’s probably going to get seen even less because it’s not what people are told to like.
“We need to acknowledge that inequality,” says Ant, “and act in opposition to it by continually exposing ourselves to new things and remembering to elevate the content of creators that might not get seen as much. Share others’ work, give them the exposure they deserve. YouTube is about supporting creators’ growth and success.”
As well as speaking up about often undiscussed issues, Ant also shares a stunningly creative array of spoken word poems, music covers, and vlogs on her channel. The style is often lively and upbeat, with her favourite video so far being Travel Snippets..
“I’m still looking for a prickly ‘good’ feeling of satisfaction whenever I watch a video,” she shares. “I see a certain style and I immediately jump upon it and replicate it. That’s something I really need to work on; developing my own style. They say make what you want to watch, and I just want to watch creators do well and give me sneak peaks of their lives!”
The creators Ant likes to watch have a similar creative authenticity: “I’m hugely inspired by people like Tessa Violet, Melanie Murphy, and Lucy Moon, for their unapologetic honesty, continually brilliant content, and persistent breaking of boundaries for what it means to be a successful, serious person on YouTube.” Other content creators such as Ella Harvey, Rowan Ellis, Jesse Springer, Scola Dondo, Leena Normington, and Erika Felton also feature among Ant’s favourites.
Outside of YouTube, Ant has many great role models including Farrah Jarral, Bodyposipanda, Ericka Hart, and Adwoa Aboah. “Female creatives pushing for success in a male-dominated industry continually impress me. I’m aware this is a list of women; however, given that most models of success feed out of typically masculinised traits, I feel it’s important to highlight them as models of success. Strong women are metal AF.”
So what’s next for Ant? “I just want to make something creatively stimulating, but that also fuses real world self-love and acceptance for anyone who needs it,” she says.
Whether it’s videos about mental health, travel, feminism, or life in general, here at TenEighty we’re certainly looking forward to it!
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