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Faculty Spring 2021: Timeka N. Tounsel

Black Girl Magic, Inc: Mass Media and the Business of Black Womanhood

Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Media Studies

Described by consumer analytics firm, Nielsen, as a quantifiable “sway” that “self-made and self-reliant” women wield over popular culture, Black Girl Magic has emerged as a dominant framework through which authentic Black womanhood is understood. What CaShawn Thompson, who coined the term, intended as a proclamation of Black women’s resilience has been repurposed as a gateway to an attractive niche market. For several decades, the very mainstream brands and mass media companies that have ignored Black women have been “(re)discovering” this consumer market when it suits their profit agendas. These corporations have been all too happy to acknowledge Black women’s possession of a distinct magic; so long as they can exploit and profit from those organic charms and properties. Black Girl Magic, Inc: Mass Media and the Business of Black Womanhood examines the beginnings of this commercial empowerment infrastructure in the late 1960s, how it operates in the contemporary moment, and what it offers Black women and the institutions that seek to profit from them. Drawing on memoirs, interviews with Black women media professionals, oral histories, and other archival data, Black Girl Magic, Inc shows how corporations have reconfigured empowerment to carve out an arena within the media landscape that operates as both a sacred space for Black women and an easy hunting ground for their dollars.