FAMU student empowers women through platform, nearly a half-million strong

CEO Tianna Sankey in her “Black Girl Magic” hair pins. Photo courtesy of @blkgirlsapparel on Instagram

Black women are often misunderstood, misrepresented, and underappreciated. This is what drove sophomore Tianna Sankey to create her own brand uplifting black women and highlighting their many talents. More than 441,000 followers later, her mission is still growing and expanding.

@BLKgirls, created back in 2015, is an Instagram account that serves as a safe space for black women, where they can see themselves in a positive light and be aware of the potential they have.

“My whole brand is around black women and them feeling empowered,” Sankey said.

The Kingston native moved to central Florida at the age of 12. According to Sankey, she did not have her first encounter with racism until after moving to the United States. Seeing as though a beacon of light was necessary for black women despite what they face in society, @BLKgirls was born.

Christin Lewis has known Sankey for four years and can speak to her seriousness when it comes to BLKgirls.

“She did that all by herself,” the Orlando native said. “It’s her baby.”

@Blkgirls on Instagram

The success and reach of the brand came as a surprise to Sankey, but she welcomed it with open arms and used the platform to her advantage. Being featured in CNN, Essence Magazine, and Teen Vogue, BLKgirls has made its mark across the nation and is continuing to expand.

Branching from it is BLKgirls apparel, a clothing and accessory line targeting black women as well with over 1800 orders placed. The website features, belts, durags, hair pins, and more, with the newest addition being the “Protect Me” dress. Items range from $10-$50 and are often modeled by CEO Sankey herself, who labels her products as a unique spin on something you may have seen before.

“With my brand it’s either you love what I put out or you’re like ‘why did she feel like this was a good idea?’,” Sankey said.

Nick Jonas, a student photographer, often does photoshoots with Sankey as she releases new products. Differing from most of his clients, she has a specific vision and execution in mind when they begin.

“She knows what she wants,” Jonas said. “She’s striving to build it to something bigger every day.”

Upon first meeting her, you would never know the business student even has an Instagram account reaching so many people. Besides being very protective of it, Sankey doesn’t want any of the focus or fame that her brand may bring.

“I don’t ever want BLKgirls to be about me,” Sankey said.

In the future, Sankey has plans to open up a physical store to reach more women. Even further down the road, she hopes to sponsor a scholarship as well. BLKgirls is more than a business or an Instagram page. It is a passion and one of her purposes, according to Sankey.