On Sunday, Dallas photographer Marrica Evans posted on Instagram a photo questioning the inclusiveness of rewardStyle's annual conference.
The Dallas-based company, founded by fashion blogger Amber Venz Box, partners with bloggers, influencers and brands, allowing influencers to monetize their social media posts.
Using rewardStyle, a blogger or influencer can link his or her outfits on a blog or social media account. From there, fans can shop the outfits, and in return, the influencer receives part of the sale. RewardStyle's LiketoKnow.it app also allows fans to shop participating bloggers' outfits through a screenshot or simple like, and the blogger or influencer gets a portion of the sale.
Some people are able to make a living off the system. All parties must apply and get accepted before using the platform.
Each year, rewardStyle hosts #rSthecon, a three-day, invitation-only conference where the top 200 bloggers and influencers in the country gather to network with brands and other influencers and learn more about growing their brands.
Even though Evans has not been to #rSthecon, she says a conversation about rewardStyle's exclusion began offline among minority bloggers and photographers.
"A lot of people are afraid to say something because that's how they make their livelihood," she says.
Evans applied for and was accepted into the rewardStyle platform but says she stopped using it because of its unfairness.
When Evans posted the Instragram comment about the conference Sunday, blogger Lauren Kay commented that rewardStyle invites the top 200 influencers who use the app based on performance and sales.
"That has absolutely nothing to do with appearance, race, or gender," she wrote.
But Evans says even if that's the case, why should the influencers who are doing well be the only ones who have access to the information?
"So to me, these people are already in the top 200 and excel in your company," Evans says. "Wouldn't you think that the information you're giving, they already know? I would think that info would help somebody that's trying to excel in their business as well."
But at the root of it, she says that's not the issue.
"The problem is we see these pictures every year online of this big conference that basically takes over downtown, and I see these girls, whether it's in my community — I see plus-size women, minority women — but every year, the same women get invited, and they all look the same to me."
She says the hoards of women remind her of a sorority that's not inclusive to everyone.
Requests for comment from rewardStyle via email and phone went unanswered.
Stephanie Drenka, a Dallas blogger, joined Evans on Instagram and said the issue has been "eating away at me for the past two years."
"I've been blogging for nearly a decade, but can't continue to do so responsibly without fully acknowledging my participation in a system that rewards privilege," she wrote Sunday night on Instagram.
Angie Garcia, a Dallas-based photographer who attended this year's conference, said on Instagram that it would be her last year to attend.
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"Why invite the top 200 performers when the smaller blogs can benefit from this the most," she wrote. "Everyone should have a fair shot at learning. Including women and men of all shapes, sizes, ages and colors."
Garcia declined to be interviewed, saying she was frustrated that the Dallas Observer's guide to fashion bloggers didn't feature diversity.
But Evans doesn't blame anyone for that.
"I can understand where you got that information because that's all that's being showcased to you guys," she says. "But they're not the only ones that are here in the city."