Kya Johnson’s working to change the media landscape as we know it — especially when it comes to entertaining your children. She’s the founder of RainbowMe, a for-profit children’s entertainment website which, like its name suggests, features more main characters and positive role models for Latino, Indian, Asian and African-American children.
A few years ago, Johnson realized mainstream entertainment, especially for children, rarely reflected the diversity of the United States. It became apparent when she watched the 2009 Disney movie, “The Princess and the Frog,” which featured Disney’s first princess of African-American descent.
“And I think it was that moment, you know, we finally had a princess that looked like us,” she told me recently. And that’s when she decided to take things a step further.
“Well, as a lawyer, I do what lawyers do. I did research,” she said. “And then I gathered a team. You know, as lawyers, we always get experts for our cases. So I knew I needed to find some experts.”
Today she and her other “team” members run RainbowMe out of American Underground, a Google-supported makerspace in Durham for tech entrepreneurs. Everyone who works with RainbowMe is part-time, including Johnson. She works in her father’s Greensboro law office three days a week and spends the other two days working in the RainbowMe offices.
Her goal is to make RainbowMe her full-time job one day. “It’s my passion,” she said.
The target audience is children ages 2-12. “The majority of kids are viewing videos now actually on YouTube of Hulu or some type of internet-based channel,” she said. “And to get it in front of that audience, it just made more sense to start off online.”
At the heart of the site is a constantly-growing collection of videos RainbowMe has purchased. They include “Bino and Fino,” a video series produced in Nigeria. “And it features a cute little sister-brother duo who are curious and inquisitive and kind of get into a bit of trouble. But when they get into trouble, it’s educational. So it makes a difference.”
“Feeling Friends” is a semi-animated video series produced in Winston-Salem. It helps children develop what Johnson calls a “feeling vocabulary.” “So it allows them to share their feelings and be able to understand how to express themselves at a young age.”
RainbowMe launched as a free site in late April. When Johnson and her team add games and music , she expects to add an upgrade subscription. Johnson hopes it will, one day, become part of the curriculums of preschools and elementary schools.
“I want the kids to be able to see that they can do anything. I want them to know where’s a lot more out there for them than what, I think, traditional media shows.”
For more information, visit rainbowmekids.com.