The creatives behind Quirktastic grew up without a space for black youth in nerd culture… so they made their own.
“You’re not really the right race to dress up as that character.”
“You don’t really look like a geek.”
“Are you pretending just for guys’ attention?”
Lauren Grant has heard everything in the book. But together with Bryanda Law and Larissa Orakunda, she’s cultivated an inclusive space for geeks, nerds, and weirdos to freely be themselves with no judgement.
Quirktastic is a website dedicated to all things alternative, featuring articles, videos and quizzes on everything from anime to crystal healing. Beginning as a blog in 2014, Quirktastic has grown into a full fledged, LA-based media company.
Law’s goal when creating Quirktastic was to make an outlet that people wished existed when they were growing up quirky, alternative, and black.
“There was no other site dedicated to creating black-business lists that cater to quirky black women, or anyone writing love letters to black men who play with LEGOs,” Law stated in a 2017 interview. “I wanted to be that site.”
Grant, a VCU Broadcast Journalism alum, joined the team in 2017, two days after leaving the worst job of her life. One of her best friends tweeted her Quirktastic’s call for writers. When she saw the website, it was love at first click.
“When I clicked on the website, I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of Quirktastic before!” says Grant. “Quirky black girls like myself were writing pieces that related to me, pieces I actually wanted to read not only from the perspective of a nerd, but from the perspective of being a woman of color.”
Grant has moved through the ranks and is now the Chief Content Officer of Quirktastic, producing all of their video and podcast content.
Grant has always known life as a geek. She first remembers getting into the culture at about seven years old, when her childhood friend Amanda introduced her to Sailor Moon, a popular Japanese cartoon and comic book about a group of magical teenage girls saving the Universe.
However, largely due to her gender and race, many people have looked at her interest with an air of skepticism.
“I wish I could say that it’s stopped, but even as someone who has worked in a geeky space for years, I still am hearing, ‘You don’t look like a geek.’”
Even black female celebrities have recently come under fire for their interest in nerd culture. Rapper and singer Lizzo dressed as Sailor Moon for a concert. Megan thee Stallion did a photoshoot for Paper magazine as Todoroki, a character from the anime My Hero Academia, and has multiple mentions of anime in her lyrics.
Both celebrities, especially Megan thee Stallion, were accused of faking their interest in order to chase “clout” and exploit “real anime fans.”
This strict gatekeeping has been one of the greatest hurdles that the Quirktastic team has tried to overcome since relocating to LA. During many investor meetings and networking events, they keep hearing, “Well, you don’t really look like geeks.”
Quirktastic has made strides in creating a community for those who feel ostracized. With the creation of a friendship app and the hashtag #thisiswhatageeklookslike, the Quirk community has a strong emphasis on inclusivity.
“We give everyone a chance to shine, especially women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community — but our platform doesn’t just cater to minorities like ourselves,” said Grant. “We don’t care who comes into our nerdy space, as long as you come in with empathy and respect… and often that’s all anyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexuality, wants.”
When it comes to advice for young black nerds who might feel alienated, Grant has plenty.
“Find your tribe! Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you don’t belong in this space. There’s room for all types of geeks! YOU are what a geek looks like!”
Top Photo via Quirktastic