Having been voted as one of Vogue’s 25 most influential women in 2020, starting the Black Lives Matter protest in London and being the co-founder of Justice for Black Lives, Naomi Smith has accomplished a lot since the first national lockdown.
Before the first national lockdown, Smith was working in one of the UK’s most renowned barbershop, called Smokey Barbers and enjoyed working there. While working there, she created a strong bond with the people that worked there and was also creating content, and doing hair. Since then, life has changed with the UK having undergone three national lockdowns amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was funny because the first week I was like this isn’t going to last. I thought it would be probably just going to be a couple of weeks. I generally thought it would be two weeks. Before we knew it, it was three months. I am still looking at my four walls”, said Smith.
She explained that during the time her Instagram followers started rising and wanted to use that to her advantage.
“People just followed me because I was dark-skinned, pretty, and I did hair. No, I do not want to say there was nothing much to me. But, you know, people followed me for a reason”, she said.
However one day, Smith went on Instagram Live to show her audience how she outs on her wigs and it went viral.
“A Caucasian guy kept replying to everything that I was doing. He was asking loads of questions. After a while, I accepted him into my life. As soon as he got on, he was so intrigued. He just asked so many questions,’’ she said.
‘‘I know there are people out there who would take the mick, but this was not that, this was wholesome as a lot of people described it to be. As soon as it hit all the blogs, all the comments are like, Oh, this was so wholesome,’’ she explained further.
Smith’s Instagram followers grew overnight and big UK blogs such as The Shade Room, UK Gossip all covered this story.
“My 24 hours of fame is happening. So, I just kept going and kept going. Lockdown started to get to me and started to get to a lot of people”, said Smith.
In June, George Floyd was killed at the hands of police officers in the US. This incident sparked protests across the globe.
“One morning, I felt so empowered, but then I did not know what to do. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. I said to myself just post this tweet, post it on Instagram, and just see,’’ she said.
‘‘Like you do not know what can come from this. I cannot just sit here every morning thinking I cannot do anything about it. It was a stressful time.’’
Smith explained what had happened after posting her tweet on social media.
“It was everyone else. It was all these different communities from different ages, different walks of life that came together and made that day happen. I genuinely made this group chat to a point whereby 500 people were in that group chat,’’ she said.
‘‘After that, they started working together to ensure the protest went well. Due to the fact, there were a lot of people in the group chat, it was easy to find people that would make flyers, first aid, sing etc.’’
It took Smith and her team three days to organise the Black Lives Matter protest. She says how on the day of the protest ‘’her anxiety levels were high because the post she posted on social media was blowing up.’’
‘‘I was worried as people started making me aware of like, you know, things that potentially happen to people that do these types of things.’’
On the day of the protest, there were over 100 volunteers and loads of journalists interviewing Smith. “The minute we even got there, there were cameras there already. It is like, people already knew what was going on due to social media. I did not realize how big it was. Within the first like 30 minutes of getting there, I did like four interviews,’’ she said.
‘‘I was expecting 2000 to 3000 people at the protest. It turned out to be 20,000 people that turned up. It was just crazy. It was very, very moving, I will be honest, I was running around like a headless chicken the whole day. So, I did not have time to take in the whole kind of movement. I could easily say it was one of the best days of my life”.’’
She added that “it was difficult for me because I never wanted people to say, oh, like, you know, therefore she blew up, or this is the reason that she’s kind of famous.’’
‘‘It got to a point where people started calling me Miss BLM. Like why call me Miss BLM? This, not a movement that I just kind of used for social media gain. It is something that everyone should take seriously.’’
After the protest, Smith continued to use her platform to spread awareness of what is going on in the world. She co-founded a group called Justice for Black Lives. The group is a youth-led organization that promotes abolitionist justice through protest, political projects, and outreach services for all black lives. Towards the end of 2020, Smith was voted the most influential woman amongst 24 other women.
She also urges people to use their platform for the greater good no matter their following size.