Balancing college life can be a struggle for many students. Nina Sharpton, a graduate community psychology student at Florida A&M University, is simultaneously learning how to balance being a student-athlete and a social media influencer.
The Palm Beach County native played different sports growing up but ultimately chose volleyball.
“I played basketball, did gymnastics, and swam, but volleyball was the only one that stuck,” she said.
Sharpton received her bachelor’s in psychology at North Carolina State University, where she also played the setter position on the school’s volleyball team.
After taking a hiatus from volleyball and graduating from N.C. State, Sharpton knew she wanted to play volleyball at an institution where people looked like her. She is also a legacy being that her grandfather attended FAMU.
“I knew when I wanted to come to FAMU because I wanted to have the HBCU experience and be around people that understood my experience as a Black person in America,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton said she sometimes felt like she couldn’t fully express her thoughts and ways of thinking at her PWI, whereas at FAMU, she shares “similar ideas and opinions” with her classmates.
Sharpton says she enjoys FAMU but playing volleyball for the school keeps her occupied.
“I love the school and the environment,” she said. “I just wish I was able to get out a little more and socialize, but I feel like with volleyball, we’re so busy, so I’m never able to go out and experience things.”
Sharpton can’t even enjoy her first HBCU homecoming because she has six am practices this week, and we’ll be traveling to Louisiana this weekend during the homecoming game.
When Sharpton isn’t playing volleyball, she is a social media Influencer. Sharpton has more than 380,000 followers combined on Instagram and TikTok.
Sharpton started posting on TikTok in early 2019 and went viral after posting an “athletic couple check” video with her then-boyfriend, Gregory Rousseau.
“I played volleyball at NC State, and he played football at the University of Miami, and that video got over a million likes,” Sharpton said.
In 2020, when COVID had just started, Sharpton took her social media career more seriously.
“[Content Creating] was something I was always interested in when I was younger,” Sharpton said. “But when it started to get more popular, and there wasn’t much to do during the lockdown, I started posting more videos.”
Having a big platform comes with negativity. Sharpton has had her fair share and does not let the hate stop her.
“Most of my negative comments come from TikTok. Usually, I’ll just ignore it, but sometimes it will get to me if I see the same comment over and over again. I don’t draw any attention to It because I don’t want to start drama online, and I also don’t want people to get the satisfaction of them knowing that they made me upset over a comment,” Sharpton said.
After having such a public relationship broadcast online with Rousseau, Sharpton says in her next relationship, she will not be sharing as much.
“I will probably do a more private, but not public, relationship because I would want people to know that I am in a relationship, and I would want my significant other not to feel like I was hiding them.”
Although Sharpton makes enough money to support herself right now off of social media, it is not enough to make it a full-time career.
“Social media is so inconsistent,” Sharpton said. “One month, you could have five or six brand deals, and next month you could have one.”
Sharpton’s biggest challenge is balancing schoolwork and social media work. Both have deadlines that she has to meet.
“I wouldn’t say influencing is hard. It’s just time-consuming,” Sharpton said. “Sometimes I have to pick and choose whether I want the content to be late or schoolwork to be late.”
After graduating with her master’s in community psychology, Sharpton hopes to take her content creation full-time. She also wants to use her degree to impact the Black community positively by using her social media platform to spread knowledge.
“I maybe want to start a podcast that talks about recent events and apply my knowledge of Black history and psychology to the topics I discuss,” Sharpton said.