Chris Witherspoon: entertainment and social networking as a gay, Black founder
By John Kregler, StartOut
Chris Witherspoon (he/him) was born with a passion for entertainment. After growing up in a small town in Ohio, he saw a world of untapped possibilities ahead of him and moved to New York with goals of breaking into the industry.
He interned for Good Morning America and worked as an NBC page where he met the world of big media up close and personally. But after working for MSBNC, CNN, TheGrio and Fandango, Chris started to see a gap in the market that wasn’t being addressed.
“I realized there was a lack of opportunity for audiences to share how they felt about a TV show or movie they had seen. I wanted to hear directly from the people watching the content and I wanted to create a social community that could host those opinions. With the market becoming so saturated with new streaming platforms and programs, it felt necessary to take the leap.”
In 2020, Chris launched PopViewers, a platform that helps audiences find what to watch next, invites them to react to the TV shows and movies they’ve watched, and encourages them to share the experience with other content-lovers.
Throughout his career, Chris saw the effects that major critic groups — who were primarily white and male — had on new shows and movies. He knew they didn’t reflect the diverse array of people who were actually consuming the content and that it needed to change. Through PopViewers, the power of review is back in the hands of the people who matter the most — the viewers. And particularly, the ones who often get set aside.
“As a Black, gay man, I represent a whole other community of people that’s overlooked. We’re a powerful consumer and we can build buzz around shows and movies just because gay culture signed on to it.”
Chris lives loudly and proudly as a minority founder. Unfortunately today, Black and queer entrepreneurs don’t recieve nearly as much support and access to resources as their white, cisgender, heterosexual counterparts.
But as Chris will note, being Black and queer is his greatest strength.
“When you’re a founder of color who happens to be LGBTQ+, you automatically have strikes against you. Sometimes we hesitate to learn into the things that make us special when in reality, those are our greatest superpowers. There are organizations that specifically want to help people like me and every time I’ve reached out, I’ve found the support I was looking for.”
Chris joined StartOut in 2018 after looking up resources for LGBTQ+ founders. Since then, he’s benefited from a community that shares the same passion for lifting up and supporting underserved entrepreneurs.
“I would say to anyone who’s Black, know that nothing has ever come easy to us in this country. Our history, our roots and our stories are made up of struggle, resilience, and defying odds. On your toughest of days you should find comfort knowing that we stand on our ancestor’s shoulders. We’re the manifestation of people like MLK and Medgar Evers — people who dreamed of being bosses. With that, we’re already winning.”
Today you can still find Chris making guest appearances on the Wendy Williams show and spending time with his 10-year-old son who serves as his biggest motivator:
“I love that I get to be an example for my son. I want to live courageously and boldly for him so that he knows he can be anything he wants to in life. One day, I know I’ll be able to pass the baton to him and that keeps me going through whatever life decides to throw my way.”