The Portfolio: Creator Zoey Black produces queer- and trans-focused content

Meet Zoey Black, a YouTuber, all-round content creator, filmmaker and media specialist at the LGBTI-human rights organisation, Iranti. She gives us a glimpse into what it takes to create content for the internet, South African Pride and why it is important not to take yourself too seriously.

Hey Zoey! So nice to be able to chat to you. It’s been a while …

Yes, it has been a while. I am honoured to be chatting with you again.

Wish this could be in person, but the pandemic won’t let us live. For those who are meeting you for the first time: tell us more about Zoey.

I’m a filmmaker, with a particular interest in queer- and trans-focused content. I run a YouTube channel called Zoey Black, which has been my space to produce content and document my experience as a trans woman of colour in South Africa.

Talking about your Youtube channel … Congratulations on reaching 1 000 subscribers.

Thanks! It’s been a year and half of daily grinding to get my channel to that 1 000 subscriber mark. Major shoutout to everyone who has been supporting me.

Inspiring work. As an all-round queer baddie, tell us more about what draws you to content creation.

I think there is something special about YouTube that allows you to craft your own narrative and represent yourself in a way that is affirming and inclusive. Representation for trans people in the media is almost non-existent, especially in South Africa. The ability to contribute to that representation is so exciting.

Your channel covers a range of topics, from using a camera to more personal themes like your journey as a trans woman. How has the online space assisted you in your storytelling?

When I was first coming out, that was so difficult. I wished so much that there were visible South African trans people’s content that I could watch, read about and consume. But there wasn’t, so that part of life was extremely lonely, because there was little to no representation that was accessible to people like me.

Would you mind taking us through the process of making a video for your four-digit subscribers?

The YouTube game is so hectic. You’re effectively the entire pre- and post-production crew in one … The learning curve is incredibly steep. You have to learn to get good at a lot of things at an incredibly fast pace, otherwise you sink.

Your videos are so inviting: you laugh at your own jokes, and when you smile your personality lights up the frame.

[laughs] You can’t take yourself too seriously. I think that’s the quickest way to turn the thing that gives you joy into work.

Let’s chat about October being South African Pride.

I used to hate Pride. I think this was due to the celebratory aspect of it. I used to watch my friends get dressed up in these extraordinary costumes, and the only feeling I got from that was anxiety. I had been playing “dress-up” my entire life and the thought of having to go to a space and “perform” a particular way, just wasn’t for me. 

In recent years I’ve gotten over myself and now I enjoy attending the Pride events, celebrating being a member of this beautiful community. That said, there are still aspects to Pride that need  attention. Prides are still quite “cis-gay-white-man centric”. There’s still some work to be done in terms of having more inclusive Prides. 

You recently started a top-surgery Back-a-Buddy fund: What is it all about and where can we support?

Yes! After years of consideration, I’m finally ready to have top surgery. In South Africa, medical aids don’t cover gender-affirming surgery for trans people and the waiting list in public healthcare facilities is 25 years. The funds raised will be to cover part of the surgery costs.

I’ve been filming the entire experience: from trying to find the right surgeon, to the holes in the public healthcare system in South Africa for trans people. I’ll continue to document the process, including the surgery and recovery, to make experiences like this more accessible to my trans siblings who may be thinking about affirming themselves through surgery.

Any last advice to queer content creators out there just starting out?

Learn to centre and ground yourself and not to take things too seriously. The content and the process of creating it is supposed to be fun, so taking time to find the joy in what you’re doing is so important.

What’s next for Zoey Black?

Ten thousand subscribers. And feature films… they’re coming, soon.

If you want to support Blacks fundraiser, go to backabuddy.co.za/zoey-black

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