Sheri Johnson was frustrated. A self-described “Black masculine-of-center lesbian,” she rarely saw herself portrayed in mainstream popular culture.
So she decided to start her own TV drama. A decade later, she now has her own network: Strong Voices Television.
“I got tired of seeing people beg for a seat at the table in television, film and sports,” Johnson told me on this week’s “Sports Kiki” podcast. “Our community is begging for a seat at the table. So we decided to build the table.”
Johnson launched her show, StudvilleTV, in 2012. It chronicled the lives of Johnson and her three best friends, presenting viewers with an unvarnished view into their daily existences. The program, which spanned four seasons and aired on YouTube, attracted 100,000 subscribers in 39 countries.
In other words, it was a smashing success. But then YouTube changed its monetization rules, making it harder for Johnson and other creators to increase their revenue.
On a chalkboard wall in her apartment, Johnson started sketching out ideas to create a streaming platform for LGBTQ people. Originally titled “Gayflix,” she settled on Strong Voices Television.
SVTV launched in 2017. Today, it’s available via the web, iOS, Amazon FireTV, Android, AppleTV and Roku.
“I felt that the LGBTQ community needed their own platform to express their own stories and lives,” said Johnson.
A former Division 1 basketball player for the University of South Florida, Johnson played semi-professional basketball before starting on her path combining creativity with advocacy. Sports have always been part of her makeup, and thus, are now a lynchpin for SVTV.
Earlier this month, SVTV became the first-ever TV platform to stream the Gay Softball World Series from Dallas, Texas. SVTV has also aired the HBCU Legacy Bowl, the ASANA Softball World Series and even gay polo. Next month, SVTV will begin a new partnership with the National Gay Basketball Association.
“Over the past few years there have been so many laws against LGBTQ people, particularly transgender athletes,” said Johnson. “The idea of adding sports just kept coming in my face. So finally, we just said ‘enough is enough.’”
While LGBTQ representation in Hollywood is improving, shows and movies are still largely about cisgender gay males. The summer hit, “Fire Island,” rightfully scored points for casting two Asian-Americans in leading roles; but still, the comedy focused on four gay men partying in an exclusive vacation destination — while staying with their chosen lesbian mother.
“Bros,” the gay romcom starring Billy Eichner, centers around the unsuspecting romance of two white gay men.
At SVTV, the rest of the rainbow is represented.
“There’s something for everyone under the rainbow: Black males, white males, lesbians,” said Johnson. “If you fit into the category of LGBTQ, no matter what color or creed you are, if you’re part of the community, there’s something for you.”
Click here to check out this episode of our Outsports podcast, “The Sports Kiki.” You can also subscribe to the show on Apple’s Podcast page as well as on Google Podcasts, and wherever you’ll find Outsports podcasts.
1:30: Carl Nassib is just another football player
3:15: Minnesota Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards gives weak apology for posting homophobic rant on social media
11:45: Sheri Johnson interview