Producer Krystal Franklin on Being Confident in Media as a Black Woman

If you scroll Krystal Franklin’s Instagram, you’ll immediately get a beam of bold, Black woman queening energy. From her gorgeous smile to her behind-the-scenes sneak peeks into her TV production life, the immediate experience you take from her is that she’s a bossed up Black woman, confidently killing it in her field. The TV One producer, however, didn’t always show up to life as confident as you may see. In April, Krystal met me at the Donavan hotel in D.C., where she got candid about seeking validation from undeserving men, being made to feel uncomfortable due to her curvy body in the workplace, and how she decided at 30 that something had to seriously change.

I’m from Texas. Dallas. In the South, mostly everybody is super thick and curvy. I’m 33, so I grew up looking at Buffy the Body.

I used to stuff my bra in high school. Me and my friend Amber. She once ordered some pills offline, some “all-natural herbal pills.” They were supposed to make your boobs grow. Who knows what were in those pills? They were big and horse-shaped, and I would take them every day just in hopes that I would magically wake up with double D’s or whatever my version of beautiful was.

I always noticed growing up that men only oohed and aahed at the thick, curvy girls. So seeing a Buffy the Body made me like, “Okay, you know what? I want breast implants and until I can afford to get them and am old enough, I’m going to stuff my bra.” I wanted to appear curvier so I could get the attention of men, or boys at that time. So that’s really where it started, like really where it started.

And then I stopped stuffing the bra in college, horrible, embarrassing story.

I used to use socks but I would fold them like a square shape, and put them in. One day, you could literally see the square in my bra. The boys were like, “What’s wrong with her? What is that?” I was so embarrassed and I stopped.

I didn’t really hear I was pretty from a guy until college.

Do you mean from outside men? What about anyone in your family?

So my dad wasn’t around. My parents got divorced when I was five, so he wasn’t in the household. All the things you should hear from your father, I was searching for from boys, and then men. So to hear, “Oh, you pretty, you fine.” It’s like, what? Now you have my attention, now I’m doing anything you want. You want me to cook? I don’t know how to cook, that’s okay, I’ll learn. I tried out for the volleyball team in high school only because the boys said my booty would look good in the volleyball shorts. So I had this love all of a sudden for volleyball.

So there was a lot of validation you were seeking.

I would literally seek validation from men. I don’t care about no girl. Oh, you know the creepy, old perverted male, talking that “You going to be [fine] when you 25?” I was like, “I cannot wait to be 21 so I can be bad.” It was horrible. I turned 30 and something changed in me.

I was about to ask you when that shift happened, but it really sounds like you began to do some healing.

It’s something about 30. I mean, I didn’t wake up and immediately have this [confidence]. But I was justI wanted freedom in every aspect of my life, professionally, personally, financially, romantically.

I wanted freedom and I could not have that freedom if I was so tied to validation. so I said, “You know what? I’m fine.” 

But you do have your own confidence journey because you’re 33 now, and becoming a true woman. It’s a very different perspective, now. What was that journey really like? What different things did you have to say to yourself? 

My whole thing right now is being the woman that I needed for someone else. 

I was telling this girl on Instagram [one day], “Oh my God, your skin is so buttery smooth, I wish I had that.” I was typing it out, but I deleted everything. I was like, “You know what? We’re not going to do that.” Just say, “Girl, you look good” and move on. I had to stop comparing myself, even in comments on Instagram. You can say you’re fine and you’re beautiful to someone else without dragging yourself into, “Oh, I wish I had thisOh, if only this looked like that.” So I literally had to delete, backspace, and I’ve been doing that a lot.

I love that. It’s an honest tactic that any woman can apply to her life. 

And I look into a mirror and I say things out loud now. I give myself permission to feel whatever it is I’m feeling. Whatever it is. So if I’m feeling jealousy at a moment, I give myself that moment. I don’t give myself longer than 24 hours. 

Beyonce said she does this, too. 

I feel like we’re taught to rush through our emotions or not even have them at all. “You shouldn’t feel jealous, you should be content with everything in your life. You’re here for a reason.” Absolutely, but some days are not going to be exciting and some days are going to be horrible, and it’s okay. And I’d rather feel it than act as if it doesn’t exist.

I’m really past that strong Black woman persona we’re expected to take on.

I don’t want to have it either. I’m a product of a single-parent home, my mom worked two jobs until I was in college. Love her for that. I saw so much from that, grew so much from that, but I am not going to take on everyone else’s responsibilities and just, “do what we do.”  We [always] handle it. We make it happen. Yes, that’s one of our superpowers, but I need a break. Somebody come get Krystal. Take her.

You’re a TV producer. So you have a very interesting, in my opinion, position in media as a Black woman. There’s the gatekeeping aspect of it, but then what I don’t think people see is you probably having to [still] fight for certain things.

It’s difficult.

I’m a senior producer of digital and social media and that’s great, it’s beautiful. It comes with a program car; you can fly, go to red carpets, and you do all of these beautiful, amazing things that’ll get me a thousand likes on Instagram. But I’ve also dealt with some, I call it Mean Girl Syndrome. I’ve been dealing with it even when I lived in Dallas working in radio. 

I’m on my fifth year of dealing with Mean Girl Syndrome at work. You know what I mean?

Yep. It’s something that I think Black women get scared to talk about.

Exactly. And I’m no longer scared. I’m not sugarcoating anything, I’ve just been at peace with the fact that I know that I can be intimidating just physically. Because I walk in so much confidenceand I’m not always confident. However, I know the power that I have when I walk into a room.

A lot of my ideas have been sat on because of the power that comes with having this beautiful idea. So, literally, at both jobs I’ve been told, “Oh, you’re only in front of the camera because of how you look. Oh, you only got that gig because you’re cute.” A Black woman said this to me once. 

And this was in response to something?

Yeah, in response that I got an interview that she was vying for. She has no idea that that still affects me five years later. Because I was like, Ooh.”

There’s some jealousy that I had nothing to do with. And that’s my thing, I’m not responsible for your insecurities. So imagine that in a professional setting. I have great, beautiful, big ideas and they’re being sat on or we’re moving very slowly. But this is a chance to have the entire department shine, the entire company shine, but because you have some issues with me personally, it’s now affecting my professional life. It’s just not fair or cool. And it’s not everyone, but it happens a lot [to us]. 

You fully show up as a Black woman for work, on-camera and in office. It may be different working for a TV network focused on the African-American audience. But, it’s always beautiful to see you embracing your wholeness. 

If it’s a long 20-inch weave, if it’s locs, if it’s box braids, I show up very comfortable and I don’t care who I make uncomfortable doing it. [I hadn’t felt like this] until the last maybe three years. I’m very intentional. I’m not always this confident, but I do recognize when people are insecure. I’m aware. Anyone’s insecurities on how I show up are not about me and I’m learning that and it’s so hard. You literally learn it’s not about you. All that shit they’re going to talk about you? That’s them, something that’s wrong with them. You triggered it, and it isn’t fair they’re projecting it on you or possibly holding you back in some ways at work because of it. But it has nothing to do with you. 

This interview was edited for brevity and clarity, only.