A viral video may have jumpstarted Tabitha Brown's career, but it's hard work and talent that have sustained it.
"Acting has been a part of my life from the time I can remember, and so I had to spend the rest of my life from that time until now trying to pursue, you know, the life of being an actress," Tabitha explained during E!'s Ones to Watch: Celebrating Black Voices video series.
The North Carolina native has been chasing her dreams for years, appearing in shows, commercials, "so many things," she said. "But I never got that real big break."
That was, until December 2017. At the time, Tabitha was making a concerted effort to grow her online presence. A self-proclaimed vegan foodie, she'd share videos cooking in her kitchen or eating in her car—anything that, unlike some of the projects she took on as a young actress, allowed her to "be who God created me to be."
"All my old acting stuff—all the movies, all of that stuff—when I look back, I wasn't free," Tabitha said. "I wasn't living in truth, right? I was trying to be who I thought they wanted me to be. I was trying to fit in, when all along I was just meant to stand out and just be myself. And when I did that, that's when the door opened."
Said door came in the form of a partnership with Whole Foods, which the company pitched after Tabitha's review of one of their sandwiches went viral.
As the views on the video grew, so did Tabitha's following count. Today, she's amassed more than 12 million followers across multiple platforms.
Not only that, but she's gone on to star in her own YouTube Originals series Tab Time.
The children's show is educational in more ways than one, and most importantly, it shows that "all of us should be represented," Tabitha said.
"Representation matters. We need to feel like we exist in the world, and you don't feel that way unless you see it," she added during OTW: Celebrating Black Voices. "We see it and then we say, 'Oh, this is for me as well!'"
Tabitha continued, "And that's why it's important to me to be, you know, a whole Black woman with an afro, honey, out here in the world showing kids from all backgrounds that we all matter."
Tabitha is equally passionate about passing the CROWN Act, which stands for "Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair." If passed—the CROWN Coalition is working to accomplish this in all 50 states—it would prohibit race-based hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots.
"When I heard about the CROWN Act, I was heartbroken that I did not know about it," Tabitha explained. "But also heartbroken that it exists, that it is legal and okay for businesses to tell you your hair's not professional because it's natural; for schools to send children home because they have braids or they don't like their natural hairstyles."
"And this only applies to Black and brown children," she continued. "It's just not fair."
Though Tabitha didn't know about the CROWN Act itself, she's certainly faced this sort of discrimination before.
"When I moved to L.A., it was pretty instant," she recalled. "I went to casting workshops and met with agents, and a lot of them told me the same thing. They just said, 'You know, for your skin complexion, you're going to need to wear your hair straight if you want to work.' And I was like, 'Okay,' and I believed that. But then I realized, honey, that's not freedom, and it's not right."
"Our hair is professional," Tabitha continued. "Our hair is appropriate. The way that it grows, the way that it naturally looks. Whatever style we decide that we want to represent—whether it's braids or locs or afros or puffs or whatever the case may be, that's our business, honey. We should be able to do that."
Upon learning more about the issue, Tabitha got to work, and today, she continues to sharing resources about the Act along with the Coalition's official petition.
Hear more from Tabitha in the above OTW: Celebrating Black Voices video. Then, catch more of her when Tab Time releases five new episodes on Wednesday, Feb. 2.