Outspoken comedian Franchesca Ramsey is returning to Comedy Central, but this time on her own terms. Yesterday, the network announced that an untitled late night comedy pilot will be executive produced and hosted by Ramsey as part of its 2017-2018 line-up of development shows.
Well-known to the online community, Ramsey had been making her own hilarious YouTube videos, a mixture of song parodies, impersonations, and socially conscious comedy sketches, since 2006, but it wasn’t until she made “Shit White Girls Say…To Black Girls” and went viral, racking up 1.5 million views in just 24 hours, that Ramsey was really put on the map. The video has 11 million views to date, and it gave Ramsey the confidence to pursue entertainment full time. “Quitting my day job took a huge leap of faith, but I knew I wouldn't be able to pursue the opportunities I was most interested in with a 9-5.” We’re all better off for it. Since then the actress, video blogger, and writer has quickly become of the most exciting voices, in both comedy and social activism, of our time.
Ramsey spent time as a writer and contributor to "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore," where her recurring segment #HashItOut was a stand out part of the Comedy Central show. In 2015 landed her a gig as the host of "Decoded," an MTV News web series that speaks to issues of race and culture. She also still creates original content on YouTube, both for her comedy channel @Chescaleigh and her lifestyle channel Chescalocs, which focuses more on beauty, natural hair care, and styling (the two channels have over 250k subscribers and 29 million views combined), and does speaking engagements at colleges, inspiring and educating (and cracking up) students around the country with her incisive wit and cutting intellect. In short, she’s killing it. But ‘twas not always so. In fact, just a few short years ago, Ramsey was considering giving up on entertainment altogether. “In 2014 my videos weren't doing very well and I had a hard time booking auditions, so I seriously considered abandoning entertainment and leaving NY,” she recalls. “Instead, I got a remote job writing for Upworthy and used that to supplement the few acting jobs I was able to pick up until things started to take off.”
Even now, as accomplished as she is, Ramsey still encounters more than her fair share of challenging moments. “Being a woman of color on the Internet is challenging, let alone being one that openly talks about racism and feminism. I deal with an intense amount of harassment, which at times can be discouraging, but is also a reminder of why these conversations are so important,” she says of the trolls who follow her every move. Ramsey credits her husband, her parents, and her audience for keeping her going when things get rocky. “I'm really fortunate to have people around the world that enjoy my content and continuously reach out to let me know that it's making an impact on their lives,” she says of her devoted fans. A self-described “gym rat,” Ramsey also works out five days a week at 7 am. “It’s when I really let go of everything and just focus on accomplishing whatever my trainer puts in front of me,” she says of her routine.
Aside from her family and fans, Ramsey raves about her friend and mentor, Tracee Ellis Ross, as an ongoing source of influence and inspiration. “I'm incredibly inspired by her talent, work ethic and humility. She's given me tons of great advice over the years and most recently I got the chance to write for her when she hosted Black Girls Rock for BET,” Ramsey says of Ross, whom she met a few years ago through her YouTube channel. “She's incredibly gracious and a firm believer in supporting and uplifting other women which, is something I think is incredibly important.”
Another thing Ramsey (and we) think is incredibly important? Activism, and specifically, a commitment to intersectional feminism. “It's important to acknowledge our privilege and remember that there are all types of women from a variety of walks of life that face challenges that we do not,” Ramsey says. “If you're truly committed to advocating for women you have to be willing to stand up for all women regardless of race, sexuality, physical ability, religion, class or gender identity, not just ladies that look like you.” For her part, Ramsey is already making a big difference in the steering the current cultural conversation. As for her personal goals? “One day I'd like to be in a position to break and foster new talent,” she says. We have zero doubt that will happen, and probably much sooner than she thinks.
The original version of this article appeared on our site as part of Create & Cultivate 100.