Podcast and Highlights: Liv Little ‘In Conversation With’ Kamal Ahmed

Posted 19 June 2019

Liv Little on the rise of gal-dem and why she’s tired of being asked about the ‘D-word’.

Media Trust hosted the third of our ‘In Conversation With’ events on Thursday 13 June led by BBC News Editorial Director, Kamal Ahmed.

The series sees Kamal interview leading minds in tech, marketing, media and beyond. In the hot seat last week was Liv Little, Founder and editor-in-chief of gal-dem, an online and print magazine written by women of colour and non-binary people of colour.

Haven’t heard of gal-dem? You have now and we’re pretty certain you’ll be hearing from them a lot more. Gal-dem aims to empower and support the creative work of young women of colour whilst addressing inequality and misrepresentation in the media industry.

You can listen to the podcast above and check out some of the event highlights below.

The rise of gal-dem

Kamal started by asking Liv why she created the platform back in 2015, while studying at Bristol University: “I was 21 and feeling isolated. There weren’t many other people like me, and I wanted to connect with others who had a similar shared experience. I didn’t think it was going to shake up the industry. It’s all happened quite organically.”

Everyone wanted me to unpack my experience and be that black voice that can speak on behalf of all black voices

Liv Little

As one of the only people of colour in her class, Liv felt frustrated: “Everyone wanted me to unpack my experience and be that black voice that can speak on behalf of all black voices. If something related to anything non-white came up, everyone looked at me to have an answer on everything. It was exhausting.”

“I’ve always wanted to tell people’s stories. During summers, outside of studying, I worked with homeless people in Dublin, and refugee women. These topics weren’t getting enough air-time,” Liv continued: “I wanted to find ways to make these types of stories accessible to people.”

After Liv graduated, she landed a place on Channel 4’s Production Trainee Scheme: “I was so full of youthful optimism… that I was going to change the world and infiltrate all of these white spaces.” However, when it came to impactful storytelling, television moved at too slow a pace for Liv, who at the same time was working on gal-dem on the side. Gal-dem gave Liv a vehicle to write and reach an audience with immediate effect. “It was instant,” said Liv.

Now, four years on from its launch, the gal-dem platform has grown into a magazine as well as a business with 80,000 Instagram followers. At the age of 25, Liv has brands queuing out the door to work with her and her team.

The back of Kamal's head as he speaks to Liv who is facing him

Liv now works full-time as editor-in-chief of gal-dem.

Representation in mainstream media

When it comes to representation in the media, does Liv think there is more work to be done? Simply put, yes: “Journalism is still 94% white and 55% male. Look at the vile headlines some mainstream news outlets push, and the transphobia that they push, and the number of people who are influenced by what they read. It’s scary.”

“I think there is more visibility [now] and there are more role models that I can look up to then there was before but generally speaking things are moving very, very slowly.”

Companies need to ask themselves what are they actually doing long-term that’s not just a face in a campaign?

Liv Little

Diversity in the media industry: Changing the conversation  

Talk moved to diversity and Kamal asked Liv’s opinion: “I’ve been talking about diversity in the media for longer than you’ve been alive. What are those ways of changing the way that mainstream media understands diversity?”

Liv’s response? Stop talking about it: “I genuinely think people don’t need to talk about it anymore. I think people [in the industry] need to do the things that everyone’s been telling them to do. The reports are there, the research is there. People know they need to make hiring more inclusive. People do these really performative things to be seen to be an ally for diversity on a very surface level, which often doesn’t go beyond the way that someone looks. All because it makes them look good in that moment.”

“Companies need to ask themselves what are they actually doing long-term that’s not just a face in a campaign? Like Pride for example, a lot of brands just put rainbow flags on their social profiles but what are [brands] doing long term?”

She challenged us to look at the ‘activities’ that brands are getting involved in and not just the marketing messages that they are sending out. That, in her view, is what shows a brand is fully embracing diversity.

Kamal and Liv 2

Liv stayed behind to answer audience questions after the event finished.

Brand collaboration

Most of gal-dem’s revenue comes from their work with brands. So how do they decide which brands they work with? Authenticity is key. “We have our own thought process behind how we do work with brands,” said Liv. “Do they align with our mission and our audience and our core values?”

The event closed with Liv taking questions from the audience, many of whom could relate to her experiences, seeking advice on how to navigate the media landscape as young women of colour.

Want to hear more from Liv? You can listen to our ‘In Conversation With’ podcast, coming soon.  

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