Jackie and Manny both dropped videos today where they had the chance to interview President Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, over Zoom.
An initiative organised between The White House and YouTube, the unlikely collab encourages COVID-19 vaccination in the US. Both Jackie and Manny asked two pre-approved questions to the President and Dr. Fauci about the vaccine and issues surrounding its rollout. Jackie asked the President and Dr. Fauci to address the fear surrounding the vaccinations, as well as the issue of equitable access to the vaccine, while Manny asked them to clarify the rumours that younger people do not need be vaccinated, as well as talks of a “vaccine passport” that tracks who has been vaccinated.
In both videos, President Biden and Dr. Fauci assured the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, and encourage younger people to be vaccinated in order to protect the wider community.
Dr Fauci explains, “there’s also the responsibility you have of not being part of spreading the infection throughout the community, so you almost want to take what I call a societal responsibility”.
President Biden continued, “I think it’s an obligation to help your fellow man.”
While all involved made valid points, people are still left wondering how and why this unusual collaboration came about, especially when the generally left-leaning, educated Gen Z and Millennial followers of these beauty gurus are already likely to support the COVID-19 vaccine. What can we make of this seemingly random PR decision?
The weight of influencers
It’s important to recognise the immense sphere of influence held by the likes of Jackie Aina and Manny MUA who are currently sitting on 3.58 million and 4.86 million subscribers respectively. Influencer marketing is a lucrative industry with most organisations setting aside major budgets for prestigious partnerships. According to Business Insider, annual spend on influencer marketing is set to hit $15 billion by 2022, so it’s not surprising that the White House is also investing in these strategic relationships.
In the opening of her video, Jackie thanked YouTube and the White House for the opportunity and explained that YouTube had reached out to her as a representative of the black community and a voice for black issues.
In the ending of Jackie’s video, President Biden said to her, “Your voice matters. People listen to you. [Your audience] will listen to you more than me or anyone else.”
The politicisation of influencers
In 2021 it is also increasingly common for influencers and celebrities to take a stance on divisive topics. Recruiting influencers to promote political messages is not a new phenomenon by any means, especially after the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 US Presidential Election; in fact we could argue that those with a following are increasingly expected to use their platform for positive social change.
In the opening of his video, Manny said, “Whether you guys want to get the vaccine or not, that’s absolutely up to your prerogative…I, of course am fully vaccinated, and I absolutely recommend getting vaccinated”.
Speaking to Gen Z
Perhaps the most perplexing part of this collaboration is why the White House chose to tap into the YouTube beauty community rather than political commentary channels. Their decision to target an audience densely populated by Gen Z possibly points to a broader acknowledgement of the cultural capital and relevance that Gen Z possesses. The most prominent celebrity figures of 2021 are include the likes of Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and Zendaya; all who have been approved by a highly critical generation, one that values authenticity and representation above all else.
“One of the reasons I’m so incredibly optimistic about the future…is that we have the most generous, the most informed, the most caring generation coming up,” said President Biden in Manny’s video.
While interviewing the President of the United States was once too lofty a goal for any influencer, this collaboration has set a precedent for the future of politics and influencer relations.
Which unlikely influencer do you think Joe POTUS will collab with next?