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Future Black History: The Creators the World Is Watching Now

Social stars like Jay Versace, Pat McGrath, Ayo & Teo and many more are changing the Internet now and look primed to do so for years to come

1 / 10

Ayo & Teo

Ayo's Instagram (1.6 million followers at press time): @ogleloo
Teo's Instagram (2.7 million followers at press time):  @shmateo

With over one million YouTube subscribers and over 300 million views notched for "Rolex," dancers Ayo & Teo have seamlessly transitioned from social media stars to platinum recording artists. After building up a dedicated online following, the Michigan-raised brothers linked up with heavy hitters like Usher and Chris Brown before ultimately dropping their own viral single. With a contagious beat and even more infectious choreography, “Rolex” had the whole country hitting the “rollie” and rocking custom, vibrant face masks. Just 21 and 18, respectively, Ayo & Teo have already proven that their impact on the industry extends far beyond just viral snippets. Having quickly translated internet fame into commercial success, the young duo has the entire world eagerly awaiting their next big moment. –Tina Xu

2 / 10

Jay Versace

Instagram (2.9 million followers at press time): @jayversace

The Fader dubbed him "The Funniest Teenager on the Internet" in 2016 and a look on any of his accounts will tell you things have only gone up since then. He initially broke out with millions of followers on Vine by taking everyday happenstance and spinning them into ridiculousness with wigs and accents, and he's translated that to other platforms for Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, which have now collectively surpassed his initial Vine numbers. Alongside his antics, Jay peppers in important social commentary about today's issues while also sharing his progressive stances on sexuality and other topics...all while including his signature comedic styling. –Jeff Benjamin

3 / 10

​Pat McGrath

Instagram (1.8 million followers at press time): @patmcgrathreal

After spending decades as one of the most innovative and sought-after makeup artists in the fashion world, Pat McGrath finally founded her own line of products in 2015, deciding to finally become an entrepreneur at the height of her influence. She started small with just a handful of unique items, but everything she produced sold out in record time, and it was clear she couldn’t keep things intimate for long. While it took a long time for McGrath to become a brand in the most commercial sense, it didn’t take long for her company to become a powerhouse. Her lines are bold and brightly-hued, and while they are not meant for the faint of heart, they are also best-sellers, and the cosmetics visionary is now helping a generation of makeup fans reinvent themselves and stand out. –Hugh McIntyre

4 / 10

​Virgil Abloh

Instagram (1.4 million followers at press time): @virgilabloh

Describing exactly what Virgil Abloh does is difficult, since he doesn’t have just one “job,” and he doesn’t work in only one medium. He is, in every sense of the word, a creator, and he can’t be limited to only one field. He’s a fashion designer with a line called Off-White, which is worn by many of the biggest celebrities on the planet. He’s directed music videos for artists like Lil Uzi Vert. He’s produced and recorded songs and DJed major events. He even created the packaging for  Jay-Z and  Kanye West’s Watch the Throne album, which earned him a GRAMMY nomination. All to say that perhaps Abloh’s legacy will not necessarily be about the products he created, but his role in elevating the world of hip-hop to a new, more glamorous plateau of artistic integrity and style. –Hugh McIntyre

5 / 10

​Elaine Welteroth

Twitter (45,000 followers at press time): @ElaineWelteroth

You might not know Elaine Welteroth’s name, but you have absolutely read something she’s had a hand in writing or editing, or at least that has her influence all over it. Welteroth is the relatively new Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue, a position she assumed last year. She helped develop the publication’s newfound era of relevance and importance not only as a purveyor of the typical (or stereotypical) topics that interest young women—fashion, music, celebrities and makeup and beauty, where the editor got her start—but also politics. The magazine has proven that treating young people with respect and teaching them about what’s going on and how they can get involved in bettering their world can be an effective way to rebrand, and her impact on the title in just a short period of time is incredible. She is also just the second African American to hold an editor title at Conde Nast, and the youngest in its century-long history. While Welteroth recently announced her departure from TV's parent company Condé Nast, the star has already signed with Creative Artists Agency which indicates that her on-camera work and scriptwriting (seen in a Black-ish cameo and writing an episode of its spin-off Grown-ish) may be taken to the next level. –Hugh McIntyre

6 / 10

Makeup Shayla

YouTube (2.1 million followers at press time): Jackie Aina

Makeup Shayla was a fan favorite on Instagram for years, and she finally made the anticipated move to YouTube two years ago. The former MAC Cosmetics artists uses her background to create videos that range from minimal everyday makeup to the most badass and glamorous night looks. Her versatility later caught the attention of Maybelline last year, when Shayla made history by teaming up with Maybelline for the brand’s first-ever influencer collection. It’s one thing to partner with a beauty influencer, but it’s even more significant when the person is an inspiring and confident Black woman. –Bianca Gracie

7 / 10

Amber Whittington

YouTube (642,000 followers at press time): AmbersCloset33

While her channel originally started as a way for those struggling and questioning their sexuality and identity, Amber and her Amber's Closet channel have expanded to bring her message to stand for something much larger. Black LGBTQ and queer identity issues, parituclarly with women, are underrepresented in and Amber hasn't just focused on being a digital help space for her followers. Amber is also open showing the different aspects of her life (including fitness, business, entertainment and even her relationship) to act as a real-life, unapologetic role model that anyone—no matter what their race, sexual orientation or interests—can find inspiration. –Jeff Benjamin

8 / 10

Jackie Aina

YouTube (512,000 followers at press time): MakeupShayla

Despite the growing number of beauty influencers getting recognition in the professional industry, there is still a lack of people of color who deserve to have an equal voice. Jackie Aina, a makeup artist and influencer who recently hit two million on YouTube, is one of the women taking the lead for inclusivity. Her videos provide a safe space for dark-skinned women who don’t feel like they fit in, as well as highlighting black-owned businesses. Last year, she partnered with Too Faced to help expand the color selection of their Born This Way foundation. She recently called out Tarte for their embarrassing disregard for darker shades in their new Shape Tape foundation, and also posted a tongue-in-cheek but important video titled “I Don’t See Color.” "I am not a victim, but what I am is sick and tired of seeing people who look like me get stomped on, constantly," she explains. "This is for literally anyone who is told, 'I don't see you.' This is what it sounds like when you say, 'I don't see color.'" Along with being a fierce advocate, Aina is also hilarious! Her witty, charismatic personality makes her even more enjoyable to watch; it’s like rooting for the older sister you’ve always wanted. –Bianca Gracie

9 / 10

Nicholas Fraser

Instagram (400,000 followers at press time): @downgoes.fraser

A good Vine is funny, a great Vine has a message that requires much more than six seconds. Nicholas Fraser's oh-so-viral "Why You Always Lyin'?" moment was not only a catchy take on Next's "Too Close," but also a legitimately appropriate response to when our friends or co-workers are being shady. Fraser has continued to find viral fame since then, becoming one of the Internet's most recognizable faces and that continues to show why Black creators are making some of the Internet's best work and the Fraser is just a few digital seconds from breaking big time. –Jeff Benjamin

10 / 10

Alissa Ashley

Youtube (1.1 million subscribers at press time): itsAlissaweekly

Alissa Ashley is another beauty influencer who uses her platform to empower people of color and fight for advocacy. Alissa recently joined Jackie Aina in her video blasting Tarte for their dismissive approach to the Shape Tape foundation launch, and she created her own video with alternatives for the foundation. Along with being a voice in the industry, Alissa is also a wizard when it comes to YouTube. Her editing skills are enviable and her makeup technique is one of the most unique on YouTube. These skills later snagged her a collaboration with E.L.F. Cosmetics, where she released a rose-colored lip gloss that she made sure would suit all skin tones. Each video she puts out is so creative and shows her growth as a talented artist. –Bianca Gracie

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