Karama Horne a/k/a “theblerdgurl,” is one of today’s foremost authorities on geek culture. She’s a journalist, correspondent and entrepreneur, who provides insight on geekdom with an intersectional, multicultural lens. The Brooklyn resident manages her own brand, helps creative entrepreneurs with theirs, hosts Theblerdgurl and Radical Geeks podcasts, writes a weekly indie comics column for SyFy, and has recently launched theblerdgurlLIVE on Twitch. She’s also worked with Marvel and Comic-Con in multiple cities. Horne is a go-to blerd navigating a world where there are few people of color—especially Black women—who get to work with major brands or interview some of the biggest names in pop culture.
Representation matters, and Horne has learned—among other important lessons—about how to use her platform to create the type of coverage she wants to see. In other words, she forged her own path through hard work and perseverance, and the way she got started is actually the perfect origin story. She didn’t intentionally set out on this career path, but once she discovered she could get paid to talk about nerdom, it was game on.
Horne’s passion for geekdom started during childhood with a love of Star Trek, international films, Anime, and all things considered nerdy. She was encouraged to pursue her interests, which ran the gamut from comics to gaming, by her family, whom she describes as “fellow nerds.” It was fun, but at times her hobbies often provided an escape from the torment of being an outcast.
“The geek part was always there,” Horne tells AURN. “I never thought that was weird, but in elementary school, junior high school, and most of high school, I was not around a lot of Black folks. It’s not like I wasn’t around them at all, but when I went to school, I wasn’t. I was around Black people at church and other things like that, but I was always other. The White kids didn’t like me because I was Black, and the Black kids didn’t like me because they thought I was too White.”
Growing up in a small town in New Jersey, Horne experienced racism so profoundly that at 10-years-old she demanded her teacher let her address the class with all the reasons why they needed to stop calling her the n-word. She literally stood up in front of her class—without warning—and demanded respect.
“I remember my mother being terrified,” Horne recalls, “and my teacher being mortified. I had gone and done research. I was a little investigative reporter at 10-years-old. I remember asking my mother, what are the racial names for Italians and Jews and Dutch and stuff like that. She was like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I would say, ‘I’m going to explain to them how they’re not going to call me the n-word.’ I was determined to appeal to their intellect at 10-years-old.”
The presentation was so successful that some of her classmates apologized to her afterward. It taught Horne that her words had power, but also that no one was going to protect her. It’s a hard lesson for a child to learn but one that has propelled her DIY attitude toward success.
Horne ended up majoring in TV and film at Northwestern University where she learned production and stage management. After college, she worked as a video editor where she edited commercials for J.C. Penney, L’Oreal and more, in conjunction with top advertising agencies. But tragedy struck in 2013.
“Not only did I lose my father to a series of strokes that year,” Horne explains, “but I almost lost my house, I was going through a divorce, and then I had a stroke. At the end of 2013, I actually was in Philly working on a freelance editing job. It turned out, I’m anemic. I get dizzy on a regular basis. I didn’t realize that some of those dizzy spells were actually mini strokes. Black women — we stay trying to work through it all, and I was going through a lot that year.”
Horne had to go to rehab because the left side of her body shut down. She had to learn how to walk without a limp, how to use her left hand properly, and once again needed to escape the rigors of life. As a way to pass the time, she launched theblerdgurl as a tumblr page.
“I kept having conversations with my friends about comics and about geekdom,” says Horne, “and a lot of people were talking about diversity and how there are no people of color in comics and I was always like, ‘But there are. I just don’t know them.’ I think I made that decision to launch my tumblr in the hospital. I had friends that were sending me comic books. And I said that if I get out of this, I’m going to lean into this more and start working on stuff that makes me happy—and maybe try and help some people while I’m at it. And years later, it paid off. I did go back to editing, but I started theblerdgurl as a full-on blog on the side.”
Horne continued freelance video editing as her health took an upturn while also working on her site as a side hustle. In 2017, she freelanced for a company that created content for various brands and ended up going to San Diego Comic-Con as a video editor. That served as the springboard and inspiration to launch her personal brand into popularity.
“There’s live stuff that gets edited at a lot of conventions,” says Horne, “and all that stuff gets edited the same day, even if it’s not live-streamed. And I remember somebody calling me up and going, ‘Hey, we’re going to San Diego Comic-Con. Do you know anything about comics?’ And I was like, ‘Have you met me at all? Have you ever had a conversation with me?’”
At Comic-Con, Horne found herself explaining a lot of what was going on to her co-workers who weren’t familiar with the scene. As Horne explains, “They weren’t geeks. They were people who were hired to put together a show.” Horne’s knowledge led to her becoming a de facto producer and realizing she was on to something. From there, she began pitching her skills and knowledge to various outlets, as well as forging connections in the industry, and in 2018 her blog posts began to go viral. The rest, as they say, is history.
There’s a lot to learn from Horne’s career trajectory, but most importantly she stresses thinking globally, not limiting yourself, and understanding the power of betting on yourself. “It dawned on me,” says Horne, “that everybody is worried about what somebody on Facebook or somebody on Twitter or somebody across the street is saying or thinking about them. You have to start thinking globally because a company might tell you ‘Your idea isn’t that big here. This is not what we’re looking for.’ That’s been said to me tons of times, but I’ve had other people in other countries find me for events or ask me my opinion on certain subjects. Every ‘No’ really just means, [the] next opportunity. Do your homework, do your research, and do a proper bid or proper pitch—and talk to the people who sign the checks.”
Starr Rhett Rocque. First of her name. Brooklyn-based freelance journalist, author of ‘Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted, cool nerd, and digital content creator. Writer of culture, travel, motherhood, lifestyles and pop culture. She is trying to stay sane in a world that makes that near impossible. Send wine.