RaceSex & Gender
why i, a black woman, decided to create my own advertising agency – you can do it too!
June 20, 2017
By Shannie mears*, AFROPUNK Contributor
“You know very well, who you are. Don’t let em hold you down reach for the stars” – Biggie
This has always been true, but coming from Biggie and reciting it in my head in his voice just makes it so much cooler (and relatable). You don’t actually know deep how true these lyrics are until you start your adult life and see that actually these lyrics are exactly what you need.
In 2015, I graduated with a degree in dance. When I started university it didn’t bother me that I was one of two black girls in my whole class and probably 6 women of colour. At the time, all of that didn’t matter because I just assumed that’s how it was (silly me). It wasn’t until I was doing my dissertation on the emancipation of black dance and the portrayal of the black female body that I understood the problem with having no one really to ‘relate’ to, or to tell me the right books to read. That was university, and to be honest that’s all it took for me, I knew I wasn’t going to be a dancer and it was then I knew I would do more to promote and support the culture I derived from.
In January 2016 I found out I was accepted into a programme called Digify, an 8-month advertising internship. This was my foot into the creative door. I was working with brands, assisting on shoots, seeing cool talent, but still something was missing and I just couldn’t put my finger on what It was…
It was black people. (I mean that in the broadest sense, no one looked liked me, spoke like me or had a similar background).
Although Digify gave me a fantastic opportunity to enter an industry I didn’t even know I could be a part of to begin with, there are things I’m only learning about myself now because I’m in a position where I finally feel like I deserve ‘a seat at the table.’
I was able to learn this because after working at a global creative advertising agency and the CEO of that company in London decided to leave with me so we could start our own. Now that is amazing and I used to think all sorts of “why me, what can I do, is he crazy?” The industry is stuck in traditional ways, and it makes it easy for a ton of creative, dedicated young people not to know that they deserve to be in these positions as much as everyone else.
There are barriers that we are going to face in life, there are people who aren’t going to like you, there will be steps and moves in your career you won’t know you have to make until that time comes to cross that bridge and that is just life. In that respect, as young people, and particularly people of colour, those things might make you feel like you have to work harder than everyone else in the room, you have to prove your right to be in the position you’re in, and sometimes you feel like you should be ‘grateful’ somebody gave you a job in the first place. In addition, we often feel like there’s only room for one of us but not all.
That stops now!
I’m talking to all those young go-getters out there, those young g’s who are beyond talented and building because they have ambitions higher than the ceiling. You will meet people who don’t want you to achieve past a certain height, but you will also meet people who believe in you and will push you beyond measure. Those are the people you need to take hold of. Come away from this invisible ceiling, forget expectations and just FOCUS. There is a seat at the table for you, you just have to find what table is right for you. Not everyone at the top doesn’t want you to be there and just because your friend got in through a door that way doesn’t mean you will too.
This is coming from the girl who continued to look for doors and doesn’t know it all but continues to experience different sides of many.
So with that said here is my advice:
Work hard, but also work smart. Meet people who will push you make decisions based on what you think is right, not what others think.
Don’t change to ‘fit in’ be yourself, it’s priceless.
Stay motivated, it will be hard but your passion and drive is what will keep you in the game.
Be a nice person (always). You never know whom you’re going to meet or who knows your next employer.
Have faith. Remember there is a higher purpose to money, cars and clothes keep the faith and you’ll find it.
With all my love and care- Shannie mears
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