Youth worker, social media maverick, and founder of Exist Loudly, Tanya Compas has teamed up with Instagram as part of their Black Perspectives initiative, inspired by Instagram’s ongoing commitment to champion and support young Black creators to grow and make a living on and off the platform. Tanya has launched Erasure; a two-day bootcamp where four young, Black, LGBTQ participants are taught how to engage in authentic storytelling and forge fruitful friendships and careers in the creative industries “while simply being themselves”.
AZ have been lucky enough to catch-up with Tanya in the leadup to Erasure, to talk about the importance of authenticity, the joys of storytelling and much more:
Why is authenticity especially important in the creative practice of queer and otherwise marginalised young people?
Tanya: I think authenticity is the gateway to connection and I feel that without authenticity, whatever you build is never gonna last. Creating something without authenticity is like building something out of sand; It might look pretty but the ocean will just come and wash it away whereas authenticity acts like cement bricks- it’s something that lasts, something will stay there indefinitely.
I think it’s particularly important for Black, LGBTQ creatives because it’s very easy for us to lose our authentic voice and start feeling like we have to play into what society or what brands want of us… and that’s a really sad way to go.
How would you say that the intersection of queerphobia and anti-Blackness manifests to limit the creative capacity of young people?
T: It literally manifests in so many different ways. The briefs and the commissions for which LGBTQ+ people are sought after are often within these really restrictive stories. Usually stories around trauma. All these stories they seek from us are always created by people who aren’t even from our community. I think that then creates this really difficult environment where, Black and queer people who are being paid to create these stories end up centering their whole identities around trauma.
It’s so problematic because you start losing yourself in the process and you lose the joy that you got from [the work] in the first place.
What is your favourite aspect of storytelling?
T: Storytelling for me has always been the way I build connections with people, especially young people. Instagram has always been somewhere I tell stories whether it’s about my youth work or my experience with sexuality or whatever.
Oral storytelling is something we inherited from our ancestors and I feel like it’s something we’re ignoring. People forget that you can tell stories through your social platform or through any creative medium and that one story can make a person feel seen, like they’re not alone. It’s about reminding people of possibilities that exist outside of the cis-het white world that we live in and it’s enough to make people feel like it’s worth living just one more day.
I want to teach young people to be confident in their stories and that we all have stories worth telling. I think a lot of people discount their stories because they feel like they don’t have a platform but you don’t need to wait to get a platform to believe in your story, it’s worth telling now, let people catch up.
What has it been like for you to plan and design Erasure bootcamp?
T: I’ve loved it, I’m not gonna lie! To be honest the process has been amazing. Exist Loudly has always worked within London because we’re a tiny organisation so I just focus on what I can do within my remit. With Erasure, I’m doing something for young people outside of London and it’s also allowed me to connect my work as a content creator with my work with young people which is great because usually, they’re so separate.
It’s exciting because I get to give a blueprint to these young people as to how they can also create revenue from [social media] platforms while maintaining their integrity, their joy and their boundaries. We’re doing things like a photo shoot so [participants] are gonna get proper headshots so that they can keep moving forward. We’ve also got a panel called ‘Let’s Get This Bread’ where people from No Signal, Instagram and GUAP will talk to [the cohort] about how to work with brands and how to navigate contracts… All these little things that I only learned through getting burned, I’m like na, you lot don’t have to get burnt, here’s a blueprint.
How many young people are taking part in the programme?
T: The actual core cohort is four. I do small programming because I don’t want to do it big, I want to do it well…It’s all really catered specifically to them. I’m very much a quality over quantity type person with all my youth work and I want to actually get to know [the cohort] properly.
Is there a particular activity of the boot camp that you’re looking forward to the most?
T: I think the photoshoot… Seeing young people get comfortable in front of a camera is just an incredible experience. They get to see how it feels to be shot by a Black queer photographer and be supported by a Black queer movement coach. We’re showing what it looks like to be in a Black, queer team so when they do go into spaces where maybe they are doing shoots without people that look like them and they feel off, they can trust in themselves [and speak out].
Also, there’s an event at SOHO house with the four young people from the programme and eleven young people from Exist Loudly and then fifteen of my friends are gonna come together for a night of storytelling. We’re gonna have the young people read out the stories of my lot, like naughty stories. The stories that you normally only tell on your Instagram close friends, the young people are gonna read them out anonymously and then they have to guess which of us the story comes from. All of this is to show that it’s the stories outside of being an educator or an activist that actually connect the community. I’m telling the young people not to lose that [playful side] because that’s how you build a community that will last.
Content from Erasure is available to watch on Instagram @TanyaCompas