As a young, black creative who is always in the process of finding new people to admire and celebrate, I generally start with the people around me. And an HBCU undergrad studying communications in the place formerly known as “Chocolate City,” I find myself admiring and celebrating people that look like me the most.
“Black Girl, Creatively” started off as a way for me to connect with talented girls and women with small business and big ideas at my school, Howard University. But, today it’s a lifestyle that I have adopted as a means of looking at life through a cultural and artistic lens, and one that the girl’s I’ve spoken with have built their platforms on.
The first person I speak to is Fatou Sow, a legal communications major, African Studies minor from Detroit, Michigan. I connected with her through Twitter after I posted about my search for creatives, which blew up in ways I never expected (but probably should’ve). I was blown away by her website design and content, and couldn’t wait to ask her about it.
Let me start out by saying that your website design is amazing! The colors and layout are really unique. Did you have a specific vibe in mind when you set it up? So, when I was thinking of the website design - funny enough, my sister actually did it. She was a design management major at Parsons in New York - so, I was like “you know, I want something translucent. I kept thinking of fun, soft, plush type of colors, um… I just think I’m a very, not necessarily soft, but I love when I get on websites and it’s very simplistic, but it still has a little bit of color. I’m not a very standard, black and white type of person, like I love color, but I didn’t want it to be like too much going on, so I wanted something that feels smooth and if anybody gets on the website, they will enjoy it.
How long have you been writing and what inspired you to write? [laughs] How long have I been writing? I feel like I’ve been writing since I was… well, I’ve always had a diary, but writing writing? Probably not until I got to Howard honestly. I think I started my first blog, which I had on Wordpress in my freshman year, because I had traveled and so once I was traveling I wanted to write, like, all the time, and so when I went to Senegal, I wrote like every single day. And I actually want to turn that journal into a book, so look out for that! So I really started heavily writing when I first got to Howard.
mom, and my mom was very set on us being global citizens, world-minded citizens, so I just know that through the outlets that I enjoy, whether that’s writing, traveling, reading, I’m always gonna connect with people, so I think that it’s really important for all Black people, especially African American people, to step outside their comfort zone.
You’re also the creator of the Cornerstone Book Club which shares similar goals with the Dinner Table Documentary! Why was it important for you to focus on literacy in the black community? So, this past summer I went and visited my family and I found out that someone really close to me doesn’t know how to read. And that was really, um…[pauses] It was just interesting, and I was emotional, like, some things just started to connect and different things began to make sense and I felt like out of all the places I’ve been, just seeing how they hold literacy to such a high standard and how we have all these resources at Howard, we have all these resources in the United States in general, so many people are not reading or don’t know to read? It’s sad, and it starts with students at Howard. If you’re not reading, how are you goin’ to go out into the community and encourage others to read? So I started focusing on the DC community, getting off campus to really encourage people to go into the community. I really want to encourage black men to read specifically, so I’m still trying to find ways to get more boys and still more girls to join. But yeah, I feel like you can’t do anything or be your best self if you don’t know how to read, because essentially there’s always going to be something that holds you back.
That same day, I am introduced to Naomi Merlain, a political science major from Millburn, New Jersey whose very first photoshoot went viral on Twitter. So many people had sent me her profile that I knew I had to pick her brain. At the very last minute, I was able to connect with her to see what goes on in the mind of an overnight success.
Before I saw your page thanks to a friend of yours sending me your Twitter handle, I was introduced to your work via a viral photoshoot that you creative directed. Tell me the story behind that. So actually, that was not the original version of the shoot. Labor Day weekend, me and my roommate - who’s also my best friend - had nothing to do. And she was looking in the mirror, right, and I was like “it would dope if I took a picture of you through the mirror, but you’re the focus” but the lighting in the room just was not gonna work so I took the mirror off the wall and was like “okay, let’s go to the park” so we went and i had little desk mirrors and we took a bunch of shots and sent them to my mentor who then asked me “what’s the idea behind this?” I told him I didn’t have one, that it was just a spur of the moment thing and he was like, “okay, so redo it but make everything intentional” so that’s when I started looking at Pinterest, looking for people, trying to form a concept until we got the pictures that went on Twitter.
How did it feel to have your first official shoot pop the way it did? It felt unreal. The whole week, I was like “oh, this isn’t gonna go well” up until the the day of shoot when I was still stressed, and now, I think it has over seven thousand likes on Twitter, uh… Just mad unnatural. And it’s crazy because I have three mentor figures who I sent my stuff to and usually, they’ll constructively criticize my ideas and concepts, but none of them had anything to say about this shoot. One of them called me and she was like “I’m so proud of you because I know how hard you’re working” so yeah, that just made me feel like, okay, so if this is my first shoot, imagine how I can improve this and make the lighting better or the location. How much greater can I be, you know?
directing something, but I just never labeled it. And in church, I was like there’s no way you can tell me that the only way to worship God is through preaching and singing. So I made a different kind of service with all kinds of art and brought everything back to God, like, the idea of a baptism and water giving life instead of drowning you. Just stuff like that with art and film and photographer and lights. But even then, I still didn’t call myself a creative director.
Do you have any other artistic talents? I write, I can paint, I actually can do almost everything! In my life, I’ve pretty much done it all, like, I used to play the piano by ear and I can’t anymore, but I still listen. I can draw and paint, but I wouldn’t consider myself big on that. I write a lot, and I dance.. I can, yeah. I can do it all.
What are some big creative goals you have for yourself for this year? I want to constantly be creating this year, so I have a list of projects this semester. I want to do at least four this semester. Next semester I want to push myself and go for five, so if it’s photography and film or directing, but at some point, it would be really dope for me to direct an event. Not sure what that’d be yet, but it’d be dope. Another thing I want to do is a visual, like Beyonce’s Lemonade but on a much smaller scale.
The last person I got to interview is a very close friend of mine who I get to see grow creatively on a daily basis. Jean Jackson, television and film major, Chinese minor from Memphis, Tennessee is a YouTuber and videographer whose work is inspired by the many places she’s been over the years.
When did you start your Youtube channel and why? Why’d you name it after yourself?
I started my Youtube channel as a 2017 New Years resolution to explore my creative side and become more attuned to the thoughts circulating in my head. The idea was born when I travelled to Beijing summer of 2016 and wanted a way to remember my experience there. Since I am a nostalgic person at heart, I decided I wanted to video as many of my life experiences as possible so I could look back on those moments and remember why I even decided to video them in the first place. I named my channel after me because my name (first and middle) is important to me and I wanted people to know that everything on my channel is a journal of my life.
How would you describe your editing style?My editing style is simple and chill. I wanted to create videos that weren’t too difficult to follow, didn't have too much going on, and did not have a bunch of fancy effects. Once I started gaining subscribers and they started telling me how relatable and calming my channel was to them, I didn’t want to create a gap between me and them with videos and editing that seemed unrealistic. My editing style captures my life almost exactly how I see it through my eyes, all I’ve added is music.
lights, the stars, the atmosphere, it was all unlike anything I have ever experienced. Everyone who was anyone was at this film festival, many trying to make breakthrough deals. It was intimidating being so young and inexperienced at one of the biggest film festivals in the world but it was incredibly inspiring and an amazing place to help me figure out what path I might like to go down next.
What kind of films do you hope to make in the future? I am into documentary filmmaking at the moment. Documentaries like Planet Earth and North America have my heart. I also love documentaries about people in different places all over the world and the cultures that are unique to them. I don’t know exactly what I would like to document, I just know I would like to travel as I film. However, I don’t want to limit myself to one category of film; I’d rather pull an Ava Duvernay and be skilled and capable of versatility in the film industry. One day I might make a documentary, the next, a sci-fi fantasy movie!
If you could collab with any director or filmmaker, who would it be and why? The Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter, and animator Hayao Miyazaki! I know that he does animation films and that’s not exactly in my realm of expertise, but something about the Studio Ghibli movies draws out a strong sense of nostalgia in anyone that watches the films; so much so that for the past year or so they have had special screenings of his movies in US theaters. The messages in the movies on top of the tear jerking music and beautiful animation makes me want to understand Hayao Miyazaki and his mind. He is an incredible creator able to surpass the boundaries of language and I want to be able to inspire people and make people feel as much emotion as his films make me and others feel. I think I also like him because he is a Capricorn and represents our sign well.
Written by Iyana Botts
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