How many interior design/home improvement TV personalities can you think of? Sure, there are tons, right? But how many of them are Black? If you’re struggling to think of a single one, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, the truth is that it’s not at all hard to binge-watch home décor shows on a Saturday and not see a single Black or Brown face in a lead role. The June 2020 Vogue UK article “Interior Design Has A Race Problem—And It Needs To Be Addressed” explores the stark lack of diversity across the industry.
Texas mom of eight Tara L. Paige didn’t see Black women represented in the home design media ecosystem so she decided to create her own space.
Tara’s passion was ignited as she explored options for extending her living space beyond her four walls amid Covid-19 shelter in place orders. As she imagined ways to elevate her own backyard, she scoured programs online and on television and quickly realized that African Americans were dreadfully underrepresented among the long list of highly celebrated hosts and experts. “Imagine you’re flipping through a book, looking for a page and you are frantically flipping, but you can’t find what you’re looking for,” explains Paige. “I couldn’t find anyone who looked like me.”
Longing to find “her tribe,” she was inspired to start the Facebook group Black Women Who Love Outdoor Living Spaces, a group that’s surged to more than 200K members since April 2020. Paige describes it as a community where Black women of all ages from across the country are forming deep bonds by sharing outdoor décor and design inspiration. For many, the group has grown into an online family and sisterhood of fellow Black women who also needed a lifeline during dark times of separation. Tapping into both her personal interests and innate creativity, she decided to speak directly to communities of color, and the response has been tremendous. During patio season, her Facebook group reportedly gets about 9 million impressions per month. As a result of the significant growth, what started as a Facebook page has now become a full-time job for Tara where she oversees a team of approximately 20 along with 26 moderators who keep the discussion flowing smoothly.
But Tara didn’t stop there. The community that she developed on the Facebook group inspired her to launch her own online brand The Patio Chic. She describes it as a multi-channel digital content platform and inclusive lifestyle brand for people of all backgrounds to find inspiration, tips and products. Indeed, this creativity maven’s frustration around lacking representation for Black and Brown professionals in the interior design space has evolved in less than a year into an active social media community, lifestyle brand and full-time business.
What Does the Industry Say?
HGTV—a leader in this space—doesn’t deny that there’s a problem. “We should be much further along when it comes to developing and showcasing BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) experts—in lead roles—on home-focused programs,” admits HGTV President Jane Latman. “We agree that there is a need to be more proactive in that area, so we are hyper-focused on that effort to ensure that more of our next generation programing reflects the diversity of the audience.” Latman highlights examples that showcase BIPOC HGTV talent:
· HGTV Dream Home and HGTV Smart Home interior designer Tiffany Brooks will headline the new series $50K Three Ways in 2021.
· Mika Kleinschmidt and husband Brian are leading incredible home builds in 100 Day Dream Home
· Going for Sold fan favorites Jon Pierre and Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin continue fantastic home renovation and design work in the new program Two Steps Home.
HGTV recognizes that they’ve enjoyed successes over the years with BIPOC talent (including Breegan Jane, Egypt Sherrod, Ashley and Andy Williams, Page Turner and DeRon Jenkins and Kim Myles), and Latman confirms that HGTV currently has more than 30 pilots and series featuring BIPOC talent in their development pipeline. “Some will air on our linear platform HGTV and others will be available for streaming on discovery+,” explains Latman.
Indeed, Tara is a great example of some of the unique difficulties that Black women often face pursuing their dreams either within traditional corporate spaces or through their own entrepreneurial pursuits. “Black women have always been left behind,” reflects Paige. “Now our voices are finally starting to be heard, and I hope people are realizing that we are powerful. With leaders like Stacey Abrams and Kamala Harris, our power is being taken seriously and we are showing up.”
Arguably, her success is largely attributable to her willingness to show up as her authentic self, embracing both her culture and racial identity. In a world that often tells Black women (overtly and subliminally) to assimilate and become something they’re not, Tara doubled down on authenticity. “I think I was able to grow the Facebook group and The Patio Chic by absolutely being my #blackgirlmagic, outside loving, southern belle entertaining, hardcore rap music listening, ATV riding, sitting by the fire pit drinking my wine, fun self. When you are simply yourself, your tribe will come.”
Tara has also embraced the responsibility that many successful Black women feel—to inspire and mentor young Black girls and women. She’s brought on Black girls as interns to provide them behind the scenes access so they can begin learning early. “I always talk about climbing the mountain to show other Black women that it can be done, and I will always have a hand to pull up my fellow women until we all feel what it is like to be at the top.”