Quenlin Blackwell reflects on internet comedy career during PPC, BAS event


Amaya Lobato | Staff Photographer

Quenlin Blackwell speaks to about 70 students Tuesday night in the William Pitt Union’s Assembly Room.

By Carissa Canzona, For The Pitt News

When asked which app she liked posting content on the best, Quenlin Blackwell jokingly said, “Faceapp,” which resulted in an audience of Pitt students erupting into laughter. 

About 70 students gathered in the William Pitt Union’s Assembly Room Tuesday night to hear from Blackwell, a 22-year-old influencer and internet comedian, who Pitt Program Council (PPC) and Black Action Society invited to speak. 

Blackwell discussed everything from overnight virality and mental health to favorite Twitch streamers. Gloria Kehinde, a member of BAS and a junior neuroscience major, and Elizabeth Amstutz, a member of PPC’s lecture committee and junior theater and film major, moderated the event. 

When asked about her thoughts on becoming an internet sensation overnight, Blackwell said it gives users a false sense of security. 

“I don’t know if [going viral] is good, back in the day celebrities were trained to be celebrities,” Blackwell said. “You don’t deserve a house off of one joke, you deserve a house off of being a good comedian.”

Blackwell started her career on Vine when she was 14 in 2015. On the short form video app, she accumulated more than 500,000 followers and 1 billion loops. She then gravitated to a career on Youtube, where she began to upload some of her most popular videos, and now has almost 1 million subscribers. 

On TikTok, she has amassed more than 8 million followers, where she continues to post comedy and lifestyle videos, all while speaking candidly about her struggles with mental health. She shared with audience members that she is now planning on breaking into new corners of the industry including modeling, acting, designing clothing and writing. 

While Blackwell said she doesn’t have any specific fashion influences, she loves maximalism and seeing what people are wearing on the streets of New York City. “I can serve a look, but I’m not 6-foot,” Blackwell said. Blackwell explained that while she is passionate about many other business ventures, including making music and acting, she doesn’t want to rush into any major career decisions. 

When it came to deciding on a speaker this month, the lecture committee and BAS decided to feature Blackwell together after gathering feedback from students in their organizations.

Annabeth Collis, PPC’s lecture director, said she was excited to see how Blackwell would bring humor to the lecture while discussing serious topics. 

“Quenlin is cool because she is working on a lot of different things, working in the music space, fashion space — she’s sort of a renaissance woman quality, with humor and vulnerability, showing how humor can come with darker moments,” Collis said. “She provides a mixture of comedy with more serious discussion with mental health.” 

Macie Berkley, BAS president, said she was especially thrilled to welcome Blackwell to Pitt during Black History Month seeing as she has found such great success in a white-dominated industry. 

“Her being able to break into that and be so successful is something that is super important for us to highlight, especially since influencing is such a hot career choice for younger people right now,” Berkley said.

Blackwell said her biggest challenge as a content creator and Black woman is that she feels pressure to put out exceptional work. 

“I wish I could do a ‘Get Ready with Me’ video and get 400,000 likes, but that doesn’t happen. You have to add a joke,” Blackwell said. “I should be allowed to stand and be applauded like they are.” 

This statement was followed by an enthusiastic round of applause from the audience. 

Blackwell also said she feels as though class plays a larger role in internet success than race does, acknowledging “nepo babies” and how the unpredictability of the algorithm can make anyone blow up overnight without any preparation. 

Blackwell said she isn’t sure where the future of social media will lead and acknowledged just how unpredictable the future of technology is. 

“Anyone in this room could be the next TikTok star,” Blackwell said. 

Blackwell shared that she doesn’t like the word “relatability” when talking about how vulnerable she has been on the internet.

“Being vulnerable is good, but there needs to be things that you keep for yourself. The people that I know that are too vulnerable on the internet are miserable in real life,” Blackwell said.

When asked what legacy she could see herself leaving behind, Blackwell left audience members laughing and inspired. 

“Making jokes is easy, but I want to do other things,” Blackwell said. “I would like to be remembered as a person who made people feel loved, and that’s why I want the girls to cry at my funeral.”