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DeShuna Spencer

Kenya Downs

Kween Kong One Womxn Stand-Up Show

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August 26, 2021
In The Mix

A Wider Lens

With its support of indie content creators, kweliTV projects a vast view of Black life.

Ashley Ray-Harris

Before major platforms like Netflix, HBO and Hulu started investing in Black series and films, it was difficult to find much content created by Black producers and directors.

So when kweliTV launched in 2016, it immediately stood out in the largely white streaming landscape. In the years since, audience demand for diverse content has been proven. Most major platforms, however, still have nowhere near the range of independent works found on kweliTV.

The content on the streaming service ranges from indie films and series to documentaries, podcasts, cartoons and international stand-up comedy specials. Available on all major platforms, the kweliTV app costs $5.99 a month or $49.99 a year; the company has so far surpassed 40,000 users.

"My main goal is to amplify independent Black creators from around the world," says founder DeShuna Spencer, a former radio host and journalist. "To that end, 60 percent of revenue goes to the artists featured on the platform. Even before the platform was officially launched, the first thing I did was talk to filmmakers about what they want — I've met 90 percent of our creators personally."

Actor–comedian Lil Rel Howery (The Carmichael Show, Get Out) volunteered his support via a message to Spencer.

"He was like,'How is your comedy section looking?' and it was pretty tumbleweed-ish, I'll be honest," she recalls. "He's like, 'I think I can help you there.'"

Howery agreed to curate a selection of content. His "Curated by Lil Rel" section offers animated series from Africa as well as award-winning documentaries and indie films. His picks also veer into short films such as Kween Kong One Womxn Stand-Up Show (by Germany-based comedian Mayowa Lynette) and Fat Stripper, which details a woman's return to stripping after falling on hard times.

Prior to the pandemic, kweliTV offered live events, and it still partners with and provides discounts to Black-owned businesses.

The range of the Black experience as seen on kweliTV likely exceeds that of any other network or streamer — and the company's future seems as boundless as the imaginations of its content creators. "I want to focus on competing against myself," Spencer says, "and on how we can differentiate ourselves from those who are similar in the space."


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 8, 2021

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