About Dr. Kyra Gaunt, Ph.D.

Read About Me

This is the blog of ethnomusicologist and YouTube scholar Dr. Kyra Gaunt, Ph.D. who is one of 40 inaugural TED Fellows, the award-winning author of The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop (NYUP), and a digital media ethnographer. She specializes in black girlhood studies and children’s rights issues online and off. She is the lead researcher of a collaborative ethnographic project with undergrad students that focuses on the digital media literacy and consequences of broadcasting while an adolescent/teen who is black and female. We collect quantitative and qualitative data about black girls who appear to be under 18 who broadcast while they twerk on YouTube.   This work involves the study of music, dance and intersectionality as well as the ecological costs of digital self-presentation on the future net worth and identity of adolescent and teen girls of African American descent online and off.

On Intersectionality:

Consider an analogy to traffic in an intersection, coming and going in all four directions. Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars traveling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them.

Similarly, if a Black woman[or girl] is harmed because she is in an intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination or race discrimination. . . . But it is not always easy to reconstruct an accident: Sometimes the skid marks and the injuries simply indicate that they occurred simultaneously, frustrating efforts to determine which driver caused the harm.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989, 139–67 (p. 149).

Integrated School of Girls


To book a speaking engagement, a TEDx talk, or a media literacy workshop , send Dr. Gaunt an email at kyraocityworks@gmail.com

Screenshot 2014-08-09 20.08.11“My research and writing is designed to make visible the online threats to and digital seduction of the digital self-presentation of adolescent/teen black girls who twerk.  I focus on three problems outlined by media expert Henry Jenkins (2006). In an “always-on” available anywhere and everywhere, new media ecology, the study of black girls’ twerking videos reveals participation gaps in monetizing their own content while a significant number of male channel owners exploit the images of minor girls (as well as women) to increase traffic and hopefully earn an easy profit on YouTube. The transparency problems arises when black girls’ twerking vids in the form of the same mobile “vernacular creativity” that digitally- tethered teens around the world use as a means of social networking that often exploits cultural reproductions (Burgess and Green 2009, 26), are solely viewed at “face-value” through stigimatizing and stereotypical lens of the menacing teenage baby mama or ratchet ho. Surely triggering a sensationalized irony, the “face-work” of black girls’ contribution to YouTube’s popular vernacular genre of bedroom dance videos involves ass-shaking directly to a webcam as opposed to the extremely prevalent monologue, diary fashion rant and reasoned debate, delivered directly to the webcam and often coupled with witty editing to remove any pauses by the speaker.

Black girls are doing the similar kind of YouTube vernacular video as did Israelis Lital Mizel and Adi Freimerman with their most-watched “Hey Clip” back in 2006 on YouTube. The ethical issues of protecting minors from harm to their future identities is lost on most viewers and many of the youngest creators on YouTube. Commercial media content distributors profiteering or riding minor girls’ content to bank at the same time that girls are the top demographic consuming content that objectifies and stigmitizes the rich cultural heritage and practice of exuberant dancing by black females old and young.

This blog is about educating girls about their ownership of their own representation online in order to learn how to protect their future identity and increase their ecological fitness and future net worth. A girls’ digital self-presentation will dramatically affect her future worth in ways not yet understood by them or the people who care about them.

Adolescent girls of all backgrounds rarely think of their future identities and net worth in the marketplace and my work aims to introduce them to protecting their ecological fitness which may be far more critical to their self worth and net worth than their adolescent reputuation or being liked.

I present research and training in digital media literacy, content ownership, agency and (political) voice for girls’ longterm growth and development as well as for other who are not hip to the power and pitfalls of broadcasting yourself in online video. The specific audience I address are black girls and women and the people and organizations interested in their present and future wellbeing esp. around issues of race, gender and sexuality online.”


Cookies in the Hood (TM) is a startup venture designed to empower girls and women to secure their own personhood, adulthood and neighborhood with handheld devices and mobile learning and sharing.


Click to buy the Kindle version of her book The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop.

Also purchase her original R&B/jazz music is available on iTunes or Amazon.






Speaking at the opening ceremony of ISFiT in Trondheim, 2011.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of ISFiT in Trondheim, 2011.

As a TED Fellow she has been a sought after speaker (and often performs) around the world. She’s been a guest speaker at TEDx events in Beijing, China with students from Paris to Poland and one hundred select students in Moldova (one of the poorest countries in Europe) and she was one of the only faculty invited to attend the largest international university student-run festival known as ISFiT2011 convening over 1000 students from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America in Tronheim, Norway. She’s been invited to private boarding schools and universities thoughout the United States and Canada.

She’s been presenting her latest research on twerking around the nation.


13 thoughts on “About Dr. Kyra Gaunt, Ph.D.

  1. Hello, My name is Alexis Gaunt and before now I have never came across another African American with the same last name as me. Do you know if you have any family in the Washington, D.C. area? I know I have relatives who live in NY but my family and I were disconnected from them so time ago.

    1. Hey Alexis, did I ever reply to you? If not, I am from the DC area. My immediate family lived in Rockville, MD but my peeps were also in South and Northeast.

    1. Where in Rockville?? My mom & aunt live in Lincoln Park near Rockville metro. May I ask are you of African descent?

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