How did you get started in advertising? What's been your career road map?
I was about 5 years old when I began performing my favorite ad jingle for my mother and her friends at their Saturday night hangouts. I’d sneak in the kitchen, steal a frying pan and start singing “I can bring home the bacon…fry it up in a pan”! This circa 1980 Enjoli perfume commercial reenactment always resulted in riotous laughter to my satisfaction.
Completely unaware that Advertising was a viable career option, I applied to Syracuse Universities S.I Newhouse School of public communications out of high school, in hopes of becoming the next Oprah. It only took 3 weeks of a first-year broadcast journalism class to confirm that the “News” was not my passion. I switched to the Advertising track and consumed all aspects of the discipline.
After graduation, I had no idea how to land a job in the field so I researched mentoring programs. [ThinkLA's] Minority Advertising Training program (MAT) helped me to land an internship at Saatchi & Saatchi where I partnered with an amazing mentor. With her help, I found the Art Production department which was a creative mix of photography, project management and world travel!
After a decade working Automotive accounts and then a few years freelancing, I landed my dream job working on the Apple account. With a deep love for Apple products at an intensely creative agency, I proudly helped to launch the iPad and was one of the Senior producers for the Shot on iPhone campaign. I’m now happily working on Honda on a brand I both love and respect at an agency whose mission is to put its people first (RPA).
What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto?
“Just keep singing”… My love for music and performing keeps me motivated. Learning, writing, performing and creating music cleanses my soul! Even just listening to music of all genres calms my mind. It’s sort of prophetic in the way that it becomes the window into what is happening in culture and in our collective consciousness. When I began writing my own music, it gave me a voice and allowed me to live life more “woke” and happy. Music is therapy and it sparks creativity. Everyone should have something in their lives that fills their heart in this way. What excites you most about this industry? It’s exciting because it’s always evolving and requires its members to evolve as well. You can’t hate change and be successful in this business. Advertising reflects and informs culture and so we have to watch it and live it and make sure we are hiring diverse cultural influencers and experts so that our voice remains relevant and our ideas stay fresh.
Where is advertising heading? What do the next five years look like?
You only have to watch a couple of Black Mirror episodes to know we are only at the beginning of the digital media evolution. My kids aren’t into social media at all, they are busy building their own worlds in Minecraft! Ads are becoming product placements in our digital lives and that is probably only going to go to deeper more savvy levels.
What advice do you have for black advertising professionals that are beginning their career?
Find an amazing mentor! Please note, this person does not necessarily need to look like you! If you find someone you admire, just start asking questions. See if they are willing to make an investment in your dream by sharing what they’ve learned. I’ve had incredible mentors through the years at every level in my career from diverse backgrounds and each enriched my life and path in profound ways.
What should our industry be talking about in 2018?
As advertisers I think we have the power to change the narrative in culture. I believe we should be putting out messages of unity and continue to focus on ending divisiveness in the world.
In the summer of 2016, I was one of the producers on an Apple spot called “The Human Family” which celebrated global diversity and was narrated by the late poet laureate Maya Angelou. It was released at a time when our country needed the message. And yes, it sold products but it also sold hope, unity and the idea that we are all “more alike, than we are unalike”.