Meet Jay-Ann Lopez, founder of gaming platform Black Girl Gamers and co-founder of hair and beauty platform Curlture UK.
Both initiatives were started to empower and represent Black women in industries where there has historically been the intentional erasure and omission of the contribution Black women have made.
Jay-Ann was always creative, from a young age she was involved in various activities from learning instruments like the piano and violin, to exploring different types of dance and theatre which Jay-Ann says impacted all avenues of her life as she got older.
Her love for dance and music shines through on the shoot as Jay-Ann will occasionally launch into a quick dance break and is constantly playing and vibing to tunes throughout the day.
Facts about Jay-Ann
- She’s an East London Native
- She’s of Jamaican and Cuban descent
- Star sign: Pisces
- She enjoys any MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game) that allows the player to dodge
Jay-Ann tells us she was inspired to start Black Girl Gamers in 2015 because, as a gamer herself, she didn’t see other Black women playing games and this isolation left her open to racism, misogyny and verbal abuse when playing online. There was a gap in the gaming industry which needed to be addressed “because even though there was a discussion around race, diversity and inclusion, it wasn’t from the perspective of the invisibility of Black women in gaming”, Jay-Ann recounts.
“When creating the space and community, I always wanted it to be a progressive one and not just a safe space”
Jay-Ann’s ethos, of creating platforms that push culture forward, can also be found running through Curlture UK, which she co-founded in 2014 with her best friend Trina.
At the time Curlture was born, Jay-Ann and Trina had just begun their natural hair journeys, and like many Black women who have decided to go natural but were stumped as to where to start, they looked to the internet for guidance.
What Jay-Ann and Trina found was that “a lot of the influencers in that space were American. We did research and there were few Black British influencers that were prominent”, Jay-Ann says. So they decided to start Curlture and six years later, it has blossomed into an online initiative championing the fact that kinky, curly hair is acceptable and beautiful to 47,000 followers.
Curlture UK is not just an online platform however, as they aim to affect change in the world too through being founders of The Halo Collective, which aims to eradicate hair discrimination in the UK through policy and change as well as releasing ‘KINK’, a self empowerment book of poetry accompanied by photographs of natural hair.
Towards the end of last year, Jay-Ann was nominated for an award in the category of content-creator of the year by The Game Awards. Although this doesn’t nearly encapsulate the work that Jay-Ann does through Black Girl Gamers, it’s a testament to the years that she dedicated to establish it to what it has become today and the validation it provides Black women and girls in gaming.
On what still needs to be improved in the gaming industry, Jay-Ann tells us “I’d like to see a more diverse workforce, I’d like to see more Black leaders in positions of power in the gaming industry with equity and impact, I’d like to see a lot more accountability from the gaming industry about the problems that are created by omitting people who are not white in the industry, and I’d like to see them stop empowering problematic gaming streamers”.
The future, for Jay-Ann Lopez, is anything she wants it to be as she continues to empower Black women through Curlture UK and Black Girl Gamers, focusing this year on putting more solid action behind the conversations she is passionate about facilitating.
Check out more fashion content here