guest post:

The Lesson I Didn’t Want to Learn

I experienced the dark side of the internet.

Trigger/Content Warning: Racism, Self-Harm

I’m a production assistant working for Lumen Couture. I’m not sharing my name, you’ll find out why later. That’s a strange way to open a blog post on a site that usually talks about events and FashionTech work. I don’t usually write on the blog: my job is behind the scenes, editing clips for YouTube for Lumen Couture’s channel, and the new site for Wearable Tutorials. I do this a few hours a week and I’m working on my own YouTube channel to launch this year.

One of my jobs is to make short clips: Lumen Couture (Chelsea) gives me a list of clips and a length for the post, I cut them and resize them into content. It doesn’t sound that exciting but I geek out over it. Last week I was asked to use a clip of a light-up necklace from a collaboration Lumen Couture did with another designer, let’s call them Designer B. I added the clip from the destination link and posted the video and thought that was that.

I didn’t go to film school. I don’t look like most YouTubers. I’ve had a hard time finding work. Last month Lumen Couture asked if they could post a photo of me on Facebook announcing me as a member of the team. I’m usually behind the scenes and I was nervous. But I need to get more comfortable with myself and get out there. It was posted and while it didn’t go viral or anything, it had a lot of hearts and thumbs up and positive comments.

Yesterday Lumen Couture emailed me about the clip. She said that the wrong footage was pulled so she took down the post, and asked if next week I could re-cut it with a different intro. She wasn’t angry about it and didn’t mention any internet drama. I admit it’s not the first time I’ve made a mistake: a while ago I posted a clip without cutting the background noise first, and one time I had a typo with the name of a designer. I figured it was the same as the other times, not good and I need to be more careful, but not a big deal. But curiosity got the better of me I went online and saw the post Designer B had made. I wish I hadn’t.

“You’re unoriginal, trash. People like you can do humanity a favour and slit your wrists.”

– Message from Designer’s friend

The designer called me a bad person. They called Lumen Couture unoriginal and stealing work (the 3-second clip wasn’t even remotely related to the content, which made it pretty obvious it was a mistake) When Lumen Couture reached out to explain the mistake offered compensation or other ways to make it right, Designer B said the Lumen Couture team looks like “Animals” and “From the Street”. The Lumen Couture inbox (which I also see) was filled with nasty notes from people she asked to message us. One of them said “slit your wrists”. It wasn’t addressed to me personally but it felt like it.

“Your Team – it’s look like a People from the Street !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

– Comment from Designer

I thought this might be a random internet troll but that was too good to be true. I found out this was a designer Lumen Couture knew personally, and had contributed to getting past exposure and funding for projects, including content celebrating Designer B that Designer B had endorsed and happily shared. They had collaborated on work (the clip that was supposed to be shared). Designer B had been happily messaging regularly with Lumen Couture up to that point. Instead of reaching out to message directly, they put them on blast and called names. As far as I’m concerned they knew what they were doing: they misrepresented the story to get reactions and an internet mob.

While they didn’t call out my skintone specifically, “street” and “animals” are terms often used to degrade African-Americans. It’s a stretch to find any other interpretation of language like that.

This blog post isn’t about feeling sorry for myself or defending myself. When I asked to write this, the condition was that I should provide something helpful for anyone else in the situation. As much as it painful to see those comments, I came out stronger.

Here’s What I Learned:

  1. Admit and learn from mistakes. I’ve made some mistakes and each time when I’ve heard about them I started defensive. “I got the wrong instructions”, “that’s a hard word to spell”. I’m learning that mistakes are ok, but the only way to get better is to find ways to fix them. I don’t want this to happen again, for a client or my own channel. Now I have a checklist for everything I do. I wish I could say it will never happen again, but that’s wishful thinking.
  2. Reaction is distraction. When I saw the posts I was emotional. When I messaged Lumen Couture she told me “There are people who will say anything to be hurtful, it’s not worth the time going through the comments. The biggest loss is your time and energy, let’s move on and talk about bigger and better things tomorrow!” I spent a whole night stressed about it when I could have been working on other projects for clients or my own channel. Every moment I spend obsessing over someone else’s hatred is a moment I’m not doing my own hustle.
  3. Own it. Today I woke up with a new perspective. I’m not angry anymore that someone thinks I look like I’m from the street. I embrace my appearance and the history that comes with it. Hillary Clinton owned “Nasty Woman” and queers and the black community turned around slurs as words of empowerment. I changed my instagram bio to “From the Street”. It’s growing on me.
  4. Take the high road. When this happened I admit I shared screenshots to my close friends and in discord. I regret it a bit now and wouldn’t do it again. A bunch of my real and online friends wanted to jump in on the comments and defend me, and tear down Designer B with the screenshots of the private messages for the world to see. I admit I wanted them to. But then I’d be doing the same thing as she did: going HAM on someone who made a mistake.

Writing this and sharing my story has been cathartic, and I hope this story might help out someone else in a similar situation. Despite mixing up clips sometimes I’m actually quite proud of the work I do. I’m still working with Lumen Couture and taking on extra projects and work, you can reach me by my new email at fromthestreet@lumencouture.com

Sorry for the heavy content, this blog will now go back to your regularly scheduled geeky tech and fashion!

About the Author: The author is video production expert who is staying anonymous (for now). They are skilled at video editing, production, and social media content generation. They can be reached at fromthestreet @ lumencouture . com