*Photo credit: Randijah Simmons
When you hear the term “nerd”, very rarely do we picture a Black queer woman.
However, for the last few years, there has been a creative and self proclaimed “professional geek” who is working hard to change the perception of geek culture.
I sat down with Cheyenne to talk about being a Black queer woman content creator in nerd spaces and how she is using her platform to uplift other Black nerds who often feel overlooked.
I noticed that you create a lot of content that speaks to the intersections of you being a Black queer woman in nerd spaces. When you set out to be a creator, why was that important?
I feel like for me, not even just in the anime space, but like in the nerd space in general, I just didn’t see myself when I first started [making content] in college. It was basically a YouTube channel where we just wanted to feature ourselves. It was in 2014 and Black nerd culture was literally just Black men and there were such a handful of them. So we were just like, “Well, we will literally live and breathe this lifestyle.” So I think from there, it was about trying to create that representation and then it eventually just became about having fun, realizing that me just existing in these spaces the way I do is also creating that representation too. So yeah, it’s always been about creating representation for Black queer nerds in this space.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced? Anything that you’ve learned from that you’d want readers to know? Anything for folks who don’t share your identity that you want them to know?
I feel like I hold a unique spot within the nerd space because I am an online creator. But I have also done professional things, like Anime Club for Prime Video on their YouTube channel. The issue is [that] a lot of people in nerd spaces look at a girl like me and say that my work is not authentic. They’ll assume that I am faking – and I still get that even to this day. But I’ve been professional. I’ve been talking about nerd stuff professionally since 2018. Like, Google me. Then there’s also the fact that, being a Black queer woman in this space, people don’t think that you deserve to be where you are. I feel like the common pattern that I’ve had every single time was somebody saying that I was a diversity hire. No matter what I do, someone always has an opinion because this is such a front facing job.
All isn’t bad for us. What has brought you joy in your work?
As far as hosting goes, I got to work with one of my dream companies, which was Funimation, before they merged with CrunchyRoll. That was really, really cool – working with my dream company. I literally had emails from when I was 13-years old, emailing them and being like, “Hey. I watch anime. Do you guys need anybody? Can I, like, have a job with you guys?” You know, like, really cringy emails that I would send to some random email. So getting to work with them in 2018 [through] 2020 was a dream come true. I think a lot of my entertainment firsts, as far as hosting and stuff goes, were with them. So, I’m super thankful for my time there. I always say I’m super thankful for them. But more recently, it was shooting and producing my proof of concept for my pilot. The coolest part about that was working with all Black nerds. It was pretty much all Black folks working with us and everybody was super nerdy and passionate about the project on set. Definitely one of my proudest moments. I made sure, when I set out to film, [that] this [project would] live and breathe authenticity when you watch it. It made me want to produce more stuff for the future.
What does it mean for you to create “from the margins” and why must we continue to make space for us in the industry?
Well, if we don’t make space for us, nobody will, right? I feel like projects, like the stories I’ve been writing, these are stories that I’ve wanted to see for years. I feel like we’re still lacking. So, it just became one of those things like, “Okay. Well, you know, if they’re not going to do it, then I definitely want to be the one to tell a story.” It’s important to me because this is my life 24/7. So who better than me to tell a story like this now? Also, I think it’s very important for me – for us – to tell our own stories versus letting “them” tell our stories because we are the only ones who tell them authentically. I mean, think about when Issa Rae came out with Awkward Black Girl. I was like, “Holy crap. This is me. An awkward Black girl”. It shifted something in weird girls like me. I feel like we’re going to definitely look back, generations from now, hopefully seeing generations thrive from the stuff we are putting out now. I don’t want us to have to keep digging to find us in the stuff being created. We deserve to be seen too.
Any advice for those seeking to do what you’re doing?
I think the best advice I can give folks who kind of want to do what I’m doing is be authentically you. I know that sounds super cliché, but it’s so important. There were times when I was trying to navigate this industry where I felt like I had to be something else. And it wasn’t until I tapped into who I was unapologetically that I was receiving the blessings of the types of jobs and gigs that I really truly enjoyed having. So, be authentically you. Don’t be afraid to take up space. If you see something and you’re super passionate about it, but you don’t see somebody that looks like you, don’t be afraid to become that person that we all need to see. One thing that I always tell people is that, “If I don’t see myself there, I’m going to plant myself there.” Whether it’s being in the anime space or just the nerd space, there are plenty of other people who are looking at these spaces and wishing that they can see somebody similar to them in these spaces. You might be that person that they’re looking for that’s going to be inspiring them, eventually. So yeah, don’t be afraid to take up space because you’re not taking that space, you belong there.
“Some jokes I will only do in LGBTQ+ rooms though, and if you wanna know what those are, come out to a show and present your membership card at the door.”