Franchesca Ramsey: A YouTube Sensation Black Girls Can Believe In

Now is the time for Black women creatives to start work on their own projects. If Issa Rae's journey from YouTube star to network television showrunner hasn't inspired you already, there are plenty of other Black women to look for motivation. Take for example, Franchesca Ramsey bka Chescaleigh. After years of working diligently on building a social media following, her "Shit White Girls Black Girls" video earned her multiple television appearances and major media features. Her dedication to doing the work paid off in a major way. We salute her for being truthful to her experience as a Woman of Color. Franchesca graciously answered a few of our questions about her rising career and her future.

FH: What do you call yourself? What's your job description? 

I'm a graphic designer, actress/comedian, blogger

FH: Why did you start making YouTube videos? 

I've kept a diary since elementary school and started blogging in middle school, which I continued through high school and college. I've just always enjoyed writing about my life and what I think about the world. So when I got an iMac with a built in camera for graduation, my inner theater kid took over and jumped at the chance to turn my written blog into videos. 

FH: Did you ever consider giving up making videos?

Certainly! Up until this year I've always had a day job, working as a graphic designer. So at times it was hard to juggle YouTube with my long work hours. Some days I would literally spend all day at work on the computer and then go home and spend all night editing. It was really tiring and especially frustrating because for years my videos weren't getting many views. Combine that with the sometimes nasty emails and comments, at times it was hard to convince myself to post anything because some days I wasn't sure it was worth it. 

FH: When did you know Shit White Girls Say went viral?

It was pretty fast. I uploaded it at 8 am before leaving for work and by lunch time it had 1.5 million views and I had emails from MTV, NBC, NPR and Anderson Cooper among others. It was insane.

FH: How has mainstream media acknowledgement changed the way you perform?

I don't think mainstream media has changed my work at all. I'm the same person I was before "Shit White Girls Black Girls", just with more people watching. I just try to make content that I'm interested in and I think is worth talking about. If people love it, awesome. If not, that's cool too. 

FH: How do you handle negative feedback?

I handle it on a case by case basis. Some messages are completely ridiculous and aren't worth paying attention to, but sometimes there's a small grain of truth in there that's worth acknowledging. I remember years ago someone called me a disgusting pig because my bed wasn't made in a few videos. It hurt my feelings at the time, but then I realized they were right. So I sucked it up and made my bed! Other times I can't help but laugh because the comments are so hilariously bad. I even started a photo album on Facebook devoted to the best of the worst comments. At the end of the day I just try to remember that trolls aren't important enough to have an effect on my offline life. 

FH: You offer cultural commentary in a way we aren't used to seeing. What inspired your unique take? 

To be honest, my videos didn't start out that way. In the beginning, I was like most new YouTubers, dabbling in a little of everything, trying to find my voice. Growing up really I loved "The Magic School Bus" and old episodes of "School House Rock". I just thought it was so cool that they were able to combine educational info in creative and entertaining ways that left you thinking long after the show was over. And now, the Daily Show is one of my favorites for those exact same reasons. So after a few years of trying different types of videos I decided to challenge myself and try writing more topical material because it was something I struggled with as a comedian. Eventually that topical content evolved into the more socially conscious comedy that I'm kinda known for. I like to think of myself as Tracey Ullman meets School House Rock for millennials.

FH: You got into a spat with Perez Hilton over improper usage of your video. How important is it for artists to be business savvy? 

To be fair, it wasn't really a "spat". He attempted to make a profit off of my stolen content, which has pretty much been his business model from day one. A few years ago he was actually sued for using photos without proper rights or credit, but he apparently still hasn't learned his lesson. Unfortunately there are lots of people that don't take creatives seriously and think what we do is "easy" or doesn't have any real value. There are lots of sketchy people out there looking to take advantage of artists that don't know any better.  So I think it's really important for artists to be smart about protecting their work both online and off. Watermark your photos, make sure you have something in writing before you work with someone and don't do work for free! 

FH: What's next in your career? 

Your guess is as good as mine! My goal is just to keep using my creative talents and making people laugh and think. I've been working on two original show pitches, going on auditions, performing, making videos, doing freelance work and kinda sorta trying to plan a wedding. So I'm not sure where my career is headed just yet, but I'm optimistic that the right opportunity will present itself at the right time and I'll move forward from there. 
 To watch more of Francheca's videos, subscribe to her YouTube channel!

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