In an effort to pay his success forward and get more Black people in positions at gaming companies, Jones uses his newfound influence to recommend Black talent for the kinds of roles he could never get. After a major company reached out to Jones with a potential job opportunity, he instead suggested a friend who was working retail at Walmart but who, he says, was a “way better coder than me.” The next week, his friend went from working in a Michigan Walmart to a six-figure job developing internal prototypes and managing projects in California.
The Artist: Danielle Udogaranya
Danielle Udogaranya, also known online as Ebonix, started out as an ordinary Sims player who just wanted more custom game content that represented her culture as a Black Brit of Nigerian and Barbadian heritage. In 2015, using Photoshop and Sims 4 Studio, she designed a dashiki for her character, which caught the attention of other players who were interested in similar content. “It signaled to me that there was a massive gap in terms of the content available for Black Simmers,” she tells Allure. “And so, over time, I taught myself how to 3D model. That’s when I got into making hairstyles. Once I started dropping the hair, the community went nuts!” She posted her designs directly to Tumblr, before eventually posting them for download on her website, where players can find content and other updates from the artist.
The content is free because Udogaranya doesn’t believe paywalls should keep players from accessing content that enables them to see themselves in the game. There is, however, a Patreon where Simmers can pay $5 a month for early access to content that will eventually be released to everyone for free. With Patreon support alone, Udogaranya was making “a lot more substantially” than her job as a school safeguard; in 2019, she was able to resign from that job and create custom content full-time for fellow Simmers.
With just one look at the custom hairstyle options it becomes evident why Udogaranya’s content is such a hit. Cornrows leading into Bantu knots, thigh-length side ponytails, Afro puffs secured with jumbo ribbons fit for Easter Sunday, baby hairs so laid they give TLC’s Chilli a run for her money — the styles are immaculately illustrated, now with a more evolved creator toolkit, including software like Blender, Procreate, and Adobe Substance Painter. The self-taught artist’s work has opened the floodgates of opportunity in gaming. “I stream as well,” Udogaranya says. “I’m a Twitch ambassador, cofounder of Black Twitch UK, content creator, DE&I consultant, 3D artist. I do presenting and hosting now as well. I’ve just got my hands in so many different things.”
Her hobby-turned-full-time career has also given Udogaranya a new sense of purpose in the work. She recalls an instance when a woman reached out to her and said that her niece loved Sims but would never make Black Sims because she didn’t like how she looked. The woman sent a photo of her niece to Udogaranya, asking if the artist would be able to create her niece’s hairstyle. Udogaranya fulfilled the request, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and emotional. “The same woman was like, ‘You’ve changed everything for her. She won’t stop making Black Sims now. She made herself and didn’t stop looking at herself; she kept showing everyone.’” That particular experience has “embodied everything,” says Udogaranya, “my sole purpose for doing what I was doing.”
The multihyphenate entrepreneur prefers the flexibility of being her own boss and has no plans to work exclusively for a major company, but she does have a few notes for the big gaming companies that lead the industry: “I definitely think that there’s room for better Black queer representation when it comes to gaming,” she says. “And I think there’s room within storytelling to stop promoting our trauma and pain and start talking about the richness of our culture.”
This story is part of a new Allure Melanin Edit series exploring the question, “What does a nerd look like?” Here, more stories about the communities Black women have built: