I had the opportunity to conduct an online interview with Ashley Akunna, host and creator of the youtube show, The Grapevine.
Firstly, congratulations on the success of your show! Since its beginning, the channel has amassed an impressive 35 000 subscribers. Ashley, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came up with the concept of The Grapevine.
Answer: Thank you so much for the kind words. We just reached 40,000 subs. I came up with the concept of the show after graduating from film school with no job prospects and having to move back home. The economy was in a horrible state, and I was being offered internships with no pay. It was tough. My parents watch a lot of news. And I noticed on these stations, there was no millennial voice. That was a problem for me. I decided to create this show, to take the conversation on social media, that my friends and I were having, and place it on a visual platform.
One thing I love about The Grapevine is that there are a diverse range of voices for people of color, and the panelists discuss topics that are relevant to black millennials such as colorism in the media. What do you think about the current social media movement for dark-skinned beauties? Do you have any advice for young, dark-skinned girls who may struggle with their self-image?
Answer: I sometimes wonder how genuine it is. I am of course, elated that the push for melanin celebration is happening, but I often question if that is being reflected in people’s everyday choices. I think we have a long way to go, in terms of ridding our community of colorist belief systems. I would encourage dark skinned black women to turn off social media and find a true, blazing internal self love so rooted that no one can shake it. Surround yourself with people that affirm you and believe you are beautiful and worthy. Don’t believe the hype.
As the executive producer of The Grapevine, what can you tell us about life behind-the-scenes? What does a typical day look like?
Answer: Life is hectic but good. I do have a day job at a tech company. So my days are pretty full. After work I clock into my work for The Grapevine. Answering emails, meetings with staff and potential guests, audience engagement, etc. I’m always working on the show. I also try to strike a good balance in my personal life by going to networking events and meeting new people who are in the media space.
Where did you find the amazing panelists? How do you ensure there is adequate representation of people of color both behind the camera and in front of it?
Answer: The Grapevine started off with just my friends. It was hard to get guests, because no one knew who we were. As we grow, we have been introduced to so many amazing panelists in person, via email, or via social media. I speak with everyone thoroughly before they appear on the show, and make sure I understand just where they stand on a variety of issues. We never want our show to become an echo chamber, so a variety of opinions is always welcome. In terms of behind the camera, because we are an indie production right now, we hire people who are willing to work with our rate.
Finally, how can we the viewers, help and support The Grapevine?
Answer: Subscribing to our Youtube channel. Following us on Instagram and Twitter @thegrapevinetv. Donating to our channel on PayPal to keep us going, because we are currently self-funded. And last of all spreading the word about this show to your circle. Help us grow by becoming active participants not only in the comment section, but as our unofficial PR!
“While some have described her as overly opinionated, Grace much prefers the terms headstrong and passionate. She is a voracious reader, a dog-lover and a self-professed pop culture junkie. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies, consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people-watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Pre-Law.”