Josie & T are best friends, Auckland University students, and rising social media stars who’re unafraid to speak out on social issues. Their latest video goes in on and straight at ‘blackface’ Youtuber Jimi Jackson. Zaskiya Lesa talked to Josie & T about why they’re happy to be outspoken.
Online video star Jimi Jackson is no stranger to The Spinoff. In fact he was once kind enough to mention the site to his 164,000 YouTube subscribers in a response video recorded in the midst of the backlash over his ‘blackface incident’ and misogynistic comments earlier this year.
That video is part of the reason two New Zealand YouTubers are now calling him out in the debut of a segment they call ‘The Asshole Diaries’.
Josie & T are an up-and-coming social media duo who’ve decided to use The Asshole Diaries to call out influential people in the hopes that they will “check themselves”.
Josie Oloito’a, 20, and Te Awariki Lardelli, 21, are students at Auckland University whose friendship first blossomed at a K Road bookstore. With Instagram follower counts of around 12,800 (Josie) and 4,400 (T), the pair are well known among their fans for outspoken comedic delivery of social justice messages such as fighting homophobia, sexism, and racism. Their channel looks to educate and influence, while helping to “create a fucking generation of not assholes”.
Though Jimi Jackson’s following dwarfs theirs, they say they couldn’t care less about the backlash that’s sure to follow their criticism of him. Sitting with the Josie and T, it’s clear how grounded and self-assured they both are. The raven-haired Samoan feminist and the Gisborne native with the most piercing blue eyes I’ve ever seen have the unbreakable bond of Bonnie and Clyde – but in a platonic (and less violent) way.
So far their YouTube following is small, but they say hope to build their platform and continue speaking out. For now, they just want to give Jimi Jackson a lesson about becoming less of an asshole.
What’s the idea behind The Asshole Diaries and why did you choose Jimi Jackson for your first subject?
T: The whole point of The Asshole Diaries is to educate [the subject] and to educate everyone else at the same time by using that person as an example. With Jimi Jackson, it’s pretty obvious why we picked him – because he’s an asshole. But the thing that is really sad is that he did inspire us once. He really did because he took his career into his own hands and creates content and that’s awesome. We love that and were happy about that, but the Asshole Diaries is more like, not so much a ‘you’re a fucking asshole’, but more like a ‘come on bro, pick it up. You’ve got a responsibility now and you have this influence, so use it properly.’
Josie: I feel like people are scared to go after Jimi Jackson because he makes clap back videos and he attacks them back and he’s got tons of followers. He makes people think it’s okay to be an asshole. That’s the whole purpose [of our series] – just to hold people accountable for their actions and check their privilege.
By putting these people on blast, what are you hoping to achieve? How do you hope people in general and Jimi himself will react to this video?
T: We don’t even care if we don’t get a response from Jimi, but it would be nice if he did respond and apologise for offending. Just acknowledge the fact that through his videos he’s hurt people in a way that he may not think he is, but he is.
Are you guys afraid of the backlash you are going to receive?
T: Nah I mean any attention’s good attention! We don’t give a fuck, if it’s hate then it’s hate. But that’s the thing, when we get backlash and it is somebody that supports Jimi Jackson… how could you come after someone that believes that it’s wrong to be racist, sexist and homophobic? Those are the people that choose not to educate themselves. We definitely had a few nerves, but when we were releasing our video it was kind of like OMG if we do it we’re actually gonna have to do it. And so did.
Josie: When we started thinking of Asshole Diaries we were very nervous because we’re gonna get backlash from their fans and stuff, but then we were like nah the main point is that we’re not roasting, we’re boiling them up. We’re not trying to hurt their feelings, we’re just trying to educate them to do and be better.
In what ways did you feel personally attacked by Jimi Jackson’s words?
Josie: When the blackface thing came on we were like ‘oh that’s not okay’, and T was like ‘oh he made that gay comment’ and then it was like ‘yeah that’s not okay’. Then T mentioned him being a misogynistic telling this girl to use her hands to give hand jobs and I was like ‘nah that’s it, fuck him’.
T: That’s the same with me. Like even though obviously I can’t relate to blackface, I’m aware of the fact that its racism. It’s not really my story to tell because I don’t have the experience to be personally attacked, but just his homophobic language… I’m so aware of casual homophobia nowadays – just the use of the word ‘faggot’ and the use of the word ‘gay’ in a negative way. It’s irked me since I was quite a young kid because it does make you feel isolated. I just so happened to have really great parents so I didn’t really care too much, but I know with a lot of people that it can eventually add to the whole isolation process of a teenager.
What made you both want to become Youtubers?
T: Just the fact that there was a gap in the NZ market. There was no one like us – either you’re a personality or you’re just crude or not very educational. And so when we were talking [about NZ YouTube] and we were like ‘ah it’s so annoying’, we had a lot of things that bothered us about society, but then we had this humour with us, and we were like there’s no one on social media nowadays – no one from New Zealand especially… They’re personalities, and they do relatable content and it’s hilarious, it’s cool but we were like ‘where’s the message though? Where’s the substance, where’s the heart?’ And so together we developed this idea.
You’re fairly new to the social media game. Why do you think you’re starting to build a following?
T: How we deliver jokes, how we deliver even the smallest things like captions, especially Josie, it’s just different to what other people post. You don’t really see people out there nowadays trying to deliver social issue messages in a comedic way. I think that the other thing is that we’re just very different. We just think we’re unique and special.
What does your content consist of, your own content, and how do you relay it back into Josie & T?
Josie: My own content is very feminist and unapologetic. How that ties in with Josie & T is we are also unapologetic with our content, especially with this video – we’re really just going to give it to [Jimi].
T: Just as an example, [recently] she said something publicly [on Snapchat] that could have been taken as offensive. But the thing about Josie is that she uses herself as an example to show people ‘oh look I just checked myself and if I can check myself then you all can check yourselves as well’.
Josie: I didn’t realise that ‘dyke’ can be an offensive slur. But then someone called me out for it – but they didn’t call me out in a ‘you’re homophobic’ way, they were just like, ‘hey that can actually be offensive to some people’ and I was like ‘oh shit I didn’t realise’ and so I posted after that. Like I left it up there and I was like ‘I just got told that it’s offensive and I’m sorry I didn’t realise but I know now’.
T: And that’s the response you kind of want for everything.
Josie: Yeah cause if we can check ourselves then they can too.
This content, like all our television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.