espnW celebrates the "Game Changers" -- empowering women who are breaking boundaries in sports and culture.
Viral internet moments shouldn't define the scope of your talent or your career trajectory. After all, Instagram stars are not all one-trick, heavily filtered ponies. Many of them are writers, producers, cinematographers and actors all rolled into one. They just happen to use their social media skills accordingly.
To be coined "The girl who's never been on a nice date" -- which was part of an IG video series in which one clip alone amassed over 67,000 likes -- would be to sell Quinta Brunson short (no pun intended, though she is about 5 feet tall).
Brunson, 28, who departed Temple University early in hopes of pursuing Hollywood dreams, is a game-changer. She is part of a self-produced movement, where women of all ages, sizes, and races are controlling their content from start to finish. And cashing in on it.
The Philly native and Buzzfeed content creator talked to espnW about risking it all to pursue her dreams and controlling her destiny.
espnW: You're a former dancer. Has that influenced your work?
QB: I took ballet, tap, modern and jazz growing up. I attended L&L Dance Productions, and I spent a bulk of my life in practices, sometimes five times a week. Then there were the recitals and performances, which were all quite athletic.
Through dance, I learned that I enjoyed stage performance. One of my dance instructors gave me an acting role in the performance, and that got me into acting.
espnW: You left Temple University early to pursue a career in acting and comedy. Discuss your journey.
QB: It was very easy for me to make that decision. I was extremely optimistic. I don't think I understood how poor I would be. It was a rude awakening. I initially got a job at an Apple [store] in L.A., and I used that job to transfer to the West Coast. It all seemed very logical and simple to me.
espnW: How did the Buzzfeed opportunity come into play?
QB: I had been doing Instagram videos, stand-up comedy and some improvisational work for a while, then a friend of mine who worked at Buzzfeed asked me to visit the office and be in a video. When I arrived, I was like: "I need to work here." At the time, I was looking for consistent pay. And even back then, I knew where the Buzzfeed brand was going and what kind of reach the company was going to have. I knew I could mix my vision with theirs. And it all worked out. I needed steady pay, and it was a resource house for me; they had everything I needed on-site. Plus I was surrounded by smart people.
espnW: Stand-up, and comedy, is a notoriously male-dominated world. How did you navigate those choppy waters?
QB: Before I started doing stand-up, I never envisioned doing it. I strictly saw myself doing improv and sketch comedy, and then, when I started doing it, I enjoyed it. I found the value in it. Improv is a fun thing to do on stage with others, sketch comedy is a great way to showcase your writing and acting, while stand-up is a cool way to learn to be comfortable on stage all alone. It's another art form, another way to tell stories. And to this day, I still struggle with stand-up. It can be a very dirty sport, for lack of a better word. It's something I take breaks from and go back to it.
As far as stand-up being male-dominated and me being a black woman, I've always found that it was cool that I always had a different perspective than most people in that world. Who gets paid for performing stand-up is a separate discussion. That digs deeper into the [pay equity] problem in this industry.
espnW: Did you feel like you had to change your physical appearance or look a certain way to pursue a career in show business?
QB: Only in a few stand-up performances. I started to notice that I was more well-received if I was dressed a certain way. There have been times when I've had to perform after leaving a premiere, and I'm all dressed up. And in the stand-up environment, you're not as well received if you're in, say, a red-carpet premiere dress. Too much glamour seems to put people off in that environment. These are weird spaces you learn to navigate as a woman in comedy.
I think there are particular boxes that are already crafted that people would like to put you in. They want to put you in the Mo'Nique box, the Wanda Sykes or Ellen DeGeneres box. But, the reality is, you want to be yourself in these spaces. Why be in a box with someone else?
espnW: You've created your own lane with digital content; do you think this will help the masses rethink how they digest comedy?
QB: It's exciting. It seems like one of those things in history that you'll never get flowers for, but I enjoy being a part of the change in media. Being a part of this movement is refreshing.
espnW: You recently signed with ICM Partners, a talent and literary agency, and have a book deal in the works. What other projects do you have in development?
QB: I'm writing the book proposal now. As soon as I finish the proposal, it will be picked up. Signing with ICM was great for me, they understand the brand I've built and my goals. Because I do writing, stand-up and etc. -- the agency sees all parts of me. They help make all of my different "lanes" harmonize together. Which is not easy to do.
espnW: Discuss the "Quinta vs. Everything" digital series. You're the lead in the show, and you produce it. What does that process look like?
QB: The show was based on Facebook videos I had done in the past, which were very well-received. They did well with Facebook sharing and their metrics, then I decided to create this world that centers around me as a character. So once I got the idea, I wrote the sketches, then helped with the production. I was a part of pretty much every aspect of the project.