To say that Kiitan Akinniranye has built a successful platform for showcasing her sense of style via social media is a bit of an undersell. By the numbers, the fashion influencer has garnered over 556,000 followers on Instagram and 259,000 subscribers on YouTube—no small feat in the golden era of content creation. And, notably, she’s managed to parlay her social media success into a popular headwrap brand called Atarah Avenue.
So, how exactly has she garnered such an impressive audience? Her style is definitely a reigning factor, but it’s her pearls of realdom that have cultivated a community. Like this recent poem that she shared via Instagram: “You Dear Brown Girl, Don’t be afraid to shine. Your hair is so beautiful. And your skin is divine.” At our Self Care Summit, she reinforced why she’s one of our favorite people to follow on social media by telling us: “I have a job title of being an influencer and I don’t take that lightly… it is my duty to make sure I am spreading positivity.” (Cue applause.)
Ahead, we ask the fashion influencer and entrepreneur to fill us in on how she stands out in such a saturated space, her secret for growing (and maintaining) an engaged social media following, and the mistakes she’s learned from along the way.
CREATE & CULTIVATE: On top of your successful style platform on social media, you are also the founder of Atarah Avenue. Why did you launch this company? What is your brand’s mission? What vision do you have for the company?
KIITAN AKINNIRANYE: Atarah means crown in Hebrew and I created the company to celebrate black women’s beautiful crowns and accentuate them with my accessories. I’m really happy we are entering a period where black women’s hair is being more socially accepted, I grew up at a time when it wasn’t, and so the mission of Atarah is to empower women by showcasing their beauty but also giving them great accessories to support them on their hair journeys.
You are such a successful content creator with more than 259K subscribers on YouTube and 530K followers on Instagram. What makes your content stand out in a very saturated space? How do you break through the noise? What’s the secret?
I think my content is unique because it’s coming from me. I think we’re really living in a golden era of content creation where all you need is an idea, some material, and an iPhone to sell your content and build a following. It’s a beautiful thing to see. My followers buy from me because I think they like my style, support my vision, and enjoy Atarah, but honestly, there are so many amazing men and women taking leaps in fashion and I am honored to be a part of it!
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you #FindNewRoads + switch gears to find success?
Working as an entrepreneur is always a challenge because you are paving your own path and carving your way in what is mostly unknown territory. I really see hurdles as a part of the job, which I think takes the pressure off of me when I hit a bump; to not see it as an extension of myself or the work I put into what I’m doing. My best work and growth comes when I’m most challenged, so even though those moments are hard, I can stick with it by looking forward to what’s coming on the other side.
What advice do you have for other content creators reading this who want to achieve the same success you’ve experienced? How hard is it to break out today?
I think it was easier when I started because there were fewer people using social media to create personal brands, but I definitely think it’s still possible to do now. The biggest thing I would encourage people to do is be yourself. That’s so cliché, but in this market, nuance is so important. I follow so many accounts for fashion tips but each of them brings something different. Some people are super funny, some people are really detailed with their styles, some pages I just love aesthetically. Your quirks are what will set you apart in the end.
What is your best social media advice?
Be authentic and post frequently. These are two things that can be really hard, especially when you grow a big enough following that companies start reaching out to work with you. My friends really help to remind me why I started my brand, which is to empower black women like us, and I’m constantly assessing my partnerships to make sure they stay true to the authenticity of my brand. Then, you just gotta be consistent with your output, which is really hard, but if people know they are going to get content from you regularly, they are more likely to stay around. Inconsistent posting makes for inconsistent results.
You cover so many content categories on YouTube, but if you had to pick one, which would you say you most enjoy creating content for? Why?
I started Youtube to share my hair tutorials, and it’s definitely still remained my favorite thing to post and watch. I love seeing all of the creative styles and new looks, it’s gives me tips for my own styles, and it’s also just inspiring to see what everyone else is doing.
With success comes opportunity, but that also means you have your hands full. What keeps you inspired and motivated to keep going even on your most challenging days?
First, my friends. I don’t know where I would be without them. They encourage me to constantly push myself, and they also provide me with constructive criticism, which I really appreciate. My followers also keep me inspired. I am always looking to put out the best content for them because I know there are people who look up to me and look forward to seeing me grow. I’m really fortunate to be where I am, especially because I never thought that I would make it this far.
How do you remain unique and true to your voice in such a competitive space?
I am my only competition. It’s definitely a hard mindset to keep at all times, but I think society has really tried to push this idea that there’s only so much space in any room for people who aren’t white men, and that’s completely false. I’m unique because I’m me, sharing what I love with people who love it too. I’m always challenging myself to push my limits and try new things, but it’s an internal push, not an external one.
What’s a mistake you’ve made and what did you learn from it? How did you turn it into an opportunity?
The biggest career mistake I’ve made, I’d say, is taking on too many projects at once. I did this once at a pivotal moment in my career when I was transiting to a different state. I had already taken on a really big project and was approached by another huge brand for a partnership. I didn’t want to say no to either, so I took them both on. That was a big mistake!! I lost a lot of sleep and energy making sure I got the work done. In the end, the clients were happy, but I was miserable. It was a lesson in saying “no” and realizing that it’s not a “great opportunity if it comes at the wrong time.
What do you wish you’d known when you were first starting out? Why? And what do you wish more people knew about your job? What are the biggest misconceptions?
When I was first starting out, I had no idea what I was doing, and that made me insecure. I was taking in everyone’s opinions, negative or positive, to heart and that just ended up confusing me more. When it comes to content, I am always open to constructive criticism and I love hearing from my followers, but now, I have learned that it is best to not share every aspect of my life. It’s best to have a core group to look to for advice and counsel and make sure you’re thoughtfully filtering everything else that’s coming in.
What is the #1 book you always recommend? Why?
Right now, I am reading The Purpose Driven Life and I really love it. I’d recommend it to anyone who is searching for purpose and even people who are already walking in their purpose. It really gives insight into how to do it from a God perspective, which is really important to me.
Photographer: Jenna Peffley