Writer "@YeahItsChill" On The Importance of Brown Girl Representation In Instagram Comics
by Shonette Reed
Brown girls becoming a normality in the comic world is a goal for Christine of “@YeahItsChill”, and adding her voice to the mix is a step toward that inclusion.
Though she originally worked in science-related fields, the comic writer wanted to pursue something more creative. This led to her beginning her own publishing company and starting the comic, “@YeahItsChill”, which now has over 50,000 followers on Instagram.
The adventures of “Krysteen”, the character is shown under the “@YeahItsChill” Instagram handle, came through the comic writer wanting to share her life through the moniker, while remaining anonymous.
“I think that even though everyone knows there's a person behind the artwork, it becomes a bit harder to relate to the art once you have a face attached to it,” she shared over email. “Personally, I make preconceived notions about someone and that impacts how I interpret their work, and I’d like that to not be the case with these comics.”
I had the chance to catch up with Christine on how she got into the comic writing business and the importance of brown girl representation.
Q: What prompted you to start making comics about your life?
A: I was procrastinating doing work one day and was anxious about an impending deadline, so I started doodling a cartoon version of anxious me to send to my boyfriend. I drew a couple of comics of me freaking out, and in my procrastination, I had a few piled up. I’ve always been a doodler but this was the first time I drew comics of myself.
Q: If you don't do this full-time, how do you find that balance of working a job-- or maybe working a job and going to school -- and making time for creating your comics?
A: Because I have my own business, I’m able to work on my own schedule. Finding time for fun projects is always difficult, and I work long hours, but I do try and find time for everything that is important to me. These comics are important to me. What I usually do is either wake up a little earlier, or go to bed later, to fit in comic drawing time. Also, way too much coffee.
Q: When did you first see the need for more comics of brown girls?
A: I think representation in all forms of entertainment and media is important, and comics have specifically been really white and male-oriented. Lately, there have been more women, but I think racial diversity in comics has a long way to go. Anytime there’s a new comic featuring a POC [People of Color], I feel like I hear about it being news and I’d like for it to be a normal occurrence.
So, I thought to add my voice to the mix. I think it’s important for people who aren’t brown to see experiences of a brown person that are similar to their own experiences. In addition, I think it’s important for brown women to see themselves and their experiences represented and validated. I also think that, if a brown girl sees herself represented somewhere, she is more likely to feel like she can do that thing too.
Q: Do you think that the creative community does a good job of fostering brown girls’ creativity?
A: In my household, creativity was definitely fostered, and I have always been in art programs in school, but I don’t think society as a whole has done enough to foster creativity in brown girls. In the predominantly minority community, I grew up in as a child, creativity, and art were seen as frivolous and there were more pertinent things to worry about.
I think even if you don’t pursue a creative job, it is valuable to have some kind of creative outlet in your life. I think everyone is creative in some way and it’s important not to minimize it. I think it’s important for brown girls to be able to express themselves and create and play, and I would love it if the creative community did more to foster that.
Q: How would you describe your comic style?
A: I’d say it’s pretty simple and straightforward. Not minimalist, but I like to have the least amount of information in a picture for you to still get what I’m trying to portray.
Q: Have you ever received any negative feedback on your comics? How did you handle it?
A: I have! One of the first negative comments was a guy telling me my opinion was stupid and he didn’t agree with me. I was upset by it but didn’t say anything. The post had around 2,000 likes, and one of the ladies following me responded to him saying that if 2,000 people liked and agreed with the post, then it clearly wasn’t stupid and that the post wasn’t made for him. I am so thankful for that person because it honestly changed how I saw negative comments. My comment section is usually mostly women tagging their friends or people saying the post is something they do, and I have the occasional guy come in, either trying to explain to me why I’m wrong or saying I’m gross and that women are crazy/annoying. And honestly, someone who thinks like that isn’t someone whose opinion I care about at all, so I don’t take the negativity personally. I usually screenshot them to send to my group chat and we question why anyone would feel the need to leave a negative comment on a post that isn’t relevant to their life and on an account they aren’t even following. I still don’t get it.
Q: How does the positive feedback you’ve received make you feel?
A: I love positive feedback of any kind. I’ve received so much of it lately. I’ve been beaming a lot. The fact that people I have never met connect with, and feel seen by, a drawing I made is an incredible and humbling feeling.
Q: What is your creative process? I know you make comics about your own life, but there's thought that goes into how that translates into a comic for thousands to see.
A: I always jot down notes to myself, I’ve been doing it for years. It started out with crazy business ideas, or something random I think would make for good song lyrics, or a draft for a tweet. Really, anything. Because I’ve gotten into the habit, anytime I think a concept would make for an interesting comic, I write it down in the notes app on my phone. Sometimes my friends, sister or boyfriend will suggest something and I’ll write that down. Other times, I do a brain dump and write anything that comes to mind that could be illustrated. Most of the ideas are terrible, but out of all that information, I find some good stuff. Then when I’m ready to draw a comic, I go through my notes and pick the one I feel like drawing that day. I try not to think about the potentially thousands of people that are going to see it because I’d be way too nervous about making something horrible.
Q: Have people been supportive of your comics? Like close friends and family?
A: Yes! So whenever I first start out any kind of creative project, I don’t tell anyone. I read a while back that, if you use your initial excitement to tell other people about your work, you get the satisfaction of doing the thing without actually doing anything. So I kept that magical, excited feeling to myself and made the Instagram account without showing anyone. Plus, I’m pretty sensitive to criticism initially, so if I’m fostering an idea and I get any kind of skepticism in return, I begin to doubt my decisions.
So even though I’d show people I love some of my comics, I kept the Instagram page to myself until it got a couple hundred followers. I’m extremely lucky to be surrounded by incredibly supportive people, and everyone I eventually told about the comics have loved them. One of my friends was even following the account before she knew it was me drawing them, which was pretty cool. I’ve only gotten positivity and love from people close to me. And my boyfriend has been the best hype man you can find-- it feels really great.
Q: Did you ever struggle with your comics having a certain aesthetic?
A: Not particularly. I used to be a perfectionist and that has killed so many creative projects before they had a chance to become anything. I’ve learned that creating something is better than thinking something isn’t good enough...leading you to create nothing. Plus, initially the comics were just for me, so I wasn’t terribly self-conscious about what they looked like; I was figuring out for myself how I wanted them to look. I have improved a lot and have been getting closer to what I want the comics to look like but the whole thing is a growing process.
Q: Did you, and do you continue to, struggle with comparison?
A: I think we all do to a certain extent. Initially, I did really struggle with comparing myself to other artists, but now I think I am making things that speak to me and I really shouldn’t be comparing myself to others, so I try not to. Instead, I try to see if I can learn anything from someone else’s success instead of comparing myself to them. I think comparing present me to past me is way more productive, but I do catch myself comparing myself to others every now and then.
Q: What advice would you give to someone starting out as a comic creator?
A: The best advice given to me was to be authentic in your creativity and voice, and you’ll find people who identify with you. And another major one is to just start! I’ve gotten messages from people saying they wish they could make comics too, and that’s always my initial advice. Starting is the hardest part, but once you get over that, you figure things out on the way and everything gets easier.