From Facebook groups for creatives, to one-on-ones and networking events, I’ve heard again and again, “I really want to break into ‘that‘ market.” Or my personal favorite, “Well how do I find ‘them’?”
Y’ALL. Honey. Baby. Sweet Lord.
I promise I will try not to be condescending, but it’s a little obtuse, don’t you think? If you’re a photographer that wants to do more black weddings, do a shoot with black people in it. I promise y’all it’s that easy. Do you know why? People just want to see themselves represented. People want to see themselves.
I don’t even know if I have 500 words to write because it is such a simple solution, and yet it’s treated as such a difficult venture. It’s not like I’m asking you to throw a ring in Mordor. There are no treks to make, no dragons to slay, just work to do. If you’re finding it difficult to “break into” something, what you really need is to break whatever biases that are preventing you from simply approaching people different than you. That's the real issue. I know you’re in some kind of Facebook group that puts out calls to models. Make a post online about looking for Desi or queer or black couples and models. Find local publications geared toward those communities. Advertise with them. Sponsor an event. Create an event for them. Do a shoot for free. Offer services to their subscribers. Like, y’all, this isn’t hard. You know it isn’t. The thing tripping you up is the fact that you have to approach an audience professionally that you don’t personally.
You wouldn’t have to break into a market if that market was your neighbors, co-workers, or your friends. When I hear things like that, I know what’s really being said. “How do I approach ______ people?” Like you approach your mom. Like you approach your friends. Like you approach your loved ones. Don’t be a butthead. Don’t tokenize. Be willing to listen to their concerns and needs more than you talk. Be respectful, and most importantly be earnest.
People can tell when you’re faking the funk. In an effort to be relevant, we can get swept up in trying to make pop culture fit our voice. I get it. But when you’re making hashtags like #TurningBabyDaddiesIntoHusbands, and your audience makes whole milk look colorful, you’ve got to reassess your priorities (and address your not-so-subtle racism, cultural appropriation, and the lies you tell yourself before taking a seat).
There’s a way to be inclusive, and there’s a way to be exclusive. What you show is always more important than what you tell. What did I say earlier? People just want to see themselves in the narrative. When they don’t, they move on. You can have diversity in theory and comfort yourself in the illusion of being something you’re not, or you can have diversity in practice and recognize the power and beauty of the work you’re doing. The choice is yours.
Jordan A. Maney is a San Antonio-based wedding planner and owner of All The Days Event Co. She she started her company as a planning haven for all the couples the industry chooses to ignore. Instead of just making a brand, she's building a community. Find more of her sass, humor, and Southern hospitality at allthedaysweddings.com.