Opinions

Diversity in Advertisements Starts with Diversity in Agencies

Last week, PepsiCo’s president Brad Jakeman addressed a room of advertisers and gave them some serious tough love and while I was totally here for it, it felt oddly familiar and problematic at the same time. It seems like the past year alone has brought more conversation about diversity than ever before and I’m just wondering two things: 1) what took so damn long and 2) why are white executives getting praised for saying things that multicultural agencies and people of color have been saying for years?

It’s great that Jakeman is calling for more women in leadership roles, but that isn’t all diversity is. It seems as if lately so many companies that have seen the error of their past ways want to just cry “We need more women!” as if that is going to solve all their problems and make everything equal.

Agencies need justice, not equality. Equality is hiring three women after hiring three men, justice is working a little bit harder when recruiting to find a person of color. It’s accepting that they may not have the same background as their white peers, but that what they bring to the table is just as valuable. Justice is not passing over or giving up on applicants from backgrounds that are different from majority of the agency. Sometimes it’s not just about cultural fit it’s about meeting people halfway and accepting their differences.

It’s both dangerous and irresponsible for advertising agencies to have all white people working on a brand that has a target market that is mostly people of color. However, in the same vein, putting people of color on these accounts doesn’t mean shit if you stifle their creativity and silence their voice.

Frankly, I’m annoyed that such a brilliant businessman could chalk up shitty advertisements to a need for more women in leadership positions. While I agree, there do need to be more women in leadership positions I also understand that doing so doesn’t solve the diversity problems that agencies have. Women and people of color can’t be considered for executive positions when they’re passed up for entry level ones. They can’t be considered for executive positions when they are silenced or ignored as an intern and they can’t be considered for executive positions when they aren’t even exposed to the industry and the possibilities it holds.

So while Jakeman was right about a lot of things, he was also wrong. When most listings for entry-level positions expect that you have agency experience, agencies (probably without even realizing it) are pulling from the same homogenous group of people that Jakeman was preaching against. When some of the best agencies are on the coasts, in an area that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (generally people of color) cannot readily move to without assistance, you miss out people with fresh perspectives from different backgrounds. So no, simply sticking more women in leadership positions won’t make the industry better, it won’t make ads stronger and it won’t stop the next executive (read: white male) of a Fortune 500 company from standing up at an event and telling us that the industry needs more diversity.

Here’s an idea: why not lead the way, last time I checked most of PepsiCo’s executives, white men. Why not challenge more of the agencies you work with to use people of color in their ads? Why not create a program that allows people of color and women in entry-level positions to rise up through the ranks and ensure that while they are doing so, they are supported in their journey? Don’t just talk about it be about it.

Sorry Mr. Jakeman, you don’t get a gold star for being yet another executive to cry diversity while failing to recognize just how difficult it is to navigate white male spaces as a woman or person of color.

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#UpForWhatever

I’m not sure if this should serve as my “new year, new me” post or as an introduction to my last semester in college. Either way it’s long over due.

The semester started just three weeks ago, but somehow it feels like the eighth week of school. With a 22 credit hour course load, being named beauty editor of my favorite online magazine The Stylish Standout (it was my favorite before I started writing for them, promise) looking for a full-time job after graduation and serving as Bud Light’s new #UpForWhatever ambassador it’s pretty clear why I feel so overwhelmed (and why my days of binge watching Netflix are over).

It’s almost hilarious to me that I thought I was really going to take a back seat approach to the semester. I swore I was only going to focus on graduating and getting a job after graduation, but three weeks in and I am doing so much more than that.

I just can’t sit still. That’s my problem. I like having my hand in everything, I really like being involved and I like being able to better myself because of all that I’m involved in.

But this post isn’t supposed to be about my busy schedule, it’s about why I am choosing to be #UpForWhatever for the next 100 days (possibly a little longer, but I graduate in 100 days, so that’s where the number came from).

This week, I got the amazing opportunity to visit Dallas for a few days for job training with The Marketing Arm, an agency that creates marketing content for companies such as Pepsi, Nintendo and AT&T. The goal was for the ambassadors to learn as much about the product we would be selling as possible, but what training actually did for me was serve as a starting point for a slogan that I want to try my best to live by all semester.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever campaign, it started last year during the Superbowl and has now funneled into a nationwide movement. Bartenders and Bud Light Ambassadors all over the country are serving Bud Light asking their customers if they are #UpForWhatever and what follows is truly amazing.

Naturally, being in training all week with college students we overused the phrase (I mean we really overused the phrase) and I was so annoyed by the end of it. But on the plan ride home, I got to thinking about how it’s not just a catchy phrase, or a great way to get drunk people to do some really stupid things, it could be a way of life, at least for the next few months.

I constantly get so caught up in the details, in worrying about what is next and making sure everything is set to go the way I want it to or think that it should go and well, that’s just not how life is. And it’s definitely not how it should be. Murphy’s Law, everything that can go wrong, probably will and so you have to be flexible and roll with punches.

That is why from today until (at least) graduation I plan to be #UpForWhatever. Now that doesn’t mean that I’m going to go skydiving today instead of going to class or anything like that, but it does mean I am going to practice being flexible, trying new things and not worrying so much about what will happen if I’m not in bed by 11:30 p.m. every night.

To me, being #UpForWhatever isn’t about playing Russian Roulette with your life. I’m not going to drop out of college or act like my last semester doesn’t count or exist because 1) that’s stupid and 2) I’d very much still like to get into grad school. It’s about taking risks. It’s about doing the things you said you’d do your first semester in college, it’s chasing after that dream you’ve always wanted and being okay with whatever the outcome is, even if it isn’t in your favor. What Bud Light has done with this hashtag is actually rather powerful and it has ignited a passion in me to just chill out and enjoy life.

I’m excited. I want this to last well beyond the next three months. Look at it this way, you can spend the rest of your life, planning what will happen next, or you can take a breath, slow down, prepare and no matter what happens still be #UpForWhatever.

Down with Yik Yak

I’m a pretty bold individual, there is no denying that, but even I am surprised to be writing this right now. But I’ve had enough.

When I first toured the University of Missouri, I fell in love. I loved the inclusiveness, the school spirit, the top rated journalism school, I knew it was where I was supposed to be.

I feel like this is the part where I’m supposed to say I was wrong, but I don’t think that’s true. No matter how good or bad the past three and a half years here have been, I have grown, I have grown a lot. Being at Mizzou has forced me to face some things I never thought I’d have to, it’s also helped me take risks and become a more well rounded woman. I will be forever grateful for the opportunities I have gotten by attending Mizzou.

But the one thing I can’t get over, the one thing I just cannot hold my tongue on any longer, the blatant racism.

Six weeks ago my teacher gave us a digital media assignment. We were to pick an online community or social network and immerse ourselves in it for at least a month, getting on it daily. I choose Yik Yak because I had been seeing a lot of Twitter ads for it and so I figured it was worth a shot.

I was almost immediately disappointed. This was the very first Yak I saw upon signing up.

first yak

For those of you that don’t know Yik Yak is a fairly new social networking app that allows college aged students to post anonymously on a virtual bulletin board about the happenings on their campus. Users can see other Yaks up to a five mile radius and can up vote, down vote and comment on individual Yaks. The main point of this app is that it’s anonymous. In fact, when joining all you have to do is certify that you’re 17 and you’re in.

Now I thought the petty name calling and rude jokes were reserved for high schoolers, but this app has taught me that college students definitely aren’t off limits, but I digress.

The reason I am saying down with Yik Yak isn’t because of a few rude comments about a girl’s weight (though that’s no ones business, but her own…and maybe her doctor if she so chooses), it’s because for the first time, I was actually hurt by what was posted on their site and I realized all the app does is fuel the fire. It allows cowards, bullies, sexists and racists to post their thoughts they’d normally keep to themselves for the entire world (or just the area that they’re in) to see. I don’t believe it’s a form of freedom of speech because these people are anonymous. They receive no punishment for their hurtful words. If someone was to (God forbid) hurt themselves because of something said to them on this app, I’m not sure how the creators of the app would trace it back to the perpetrator and that’s not okay.

Say what you want, speak until you’re blue in the face, wherever you want, you have the right to do that, but not anonymously. As adults, we need to hold ourselves responsible for what we say, tweet and even blog. This app doesn’t allow that, which is probably why there are so many rude posts to begin with.

But honestly, racism on the Mizzou campus goes well beyond Yik Yak. If anything, this app has given closeted racists an opportunity to well, still be closeted racists, but with an audience.

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hmm

I guess I just don’t understand why my skin color is such a problem for everyone else. Why are people so angry at me and my black peers for protests in Ferguson that we have no control over? Why does the university continue to push an initiative that simply doesn’t work on this campus?

I’m sick of it. I am. I’m just tired. No I don’t need to grow a backbone, don’t even think I’m shedding a tear over the ignorance I read on this app or hear on campus, but I do get angry. I get angry because I’m expected to keep calm, I’m expected to apologize, I’m expected to “just deal with it,” because “that’s just the way it is,” but it doesn’t have to be.

And that’s why we protest, that’s why 104 (and counting) days after Mike Brown was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson people are still tweeting and holding protests and demanding answers.

I refuse to let some petty social media app insult my race. I refuse to lie down and take it and that’s why I’m writing about it. To make someone, anyone aware of what’s happening on our own campus. So that my peers can see what other peers are saying about an entire race based of off a 30 second clip shown on CNN once or twice a day.

Grow up. Stop posting anonymous hate on social media sites. Stop supporting them altogether. I’m sick of seeing messages like what I posted above and so this is me doing something about it, join me.

P.S. as soon as I’m done with this assignment, Yik Yak is definitely getting deleted off of my phone.

Black in America

In the wake of a tragic shooting, where an unarmed college bound teenager was shot to death, my heart is very heavy.

I tried to shy away from writing anything about my opinion on what seems to be like the consistent killings of innocent black males, but it’s not in my nature to keep quiet about anything.

I don’t have much to say about what occurred yesterday afternoon to Michael Brown and his family. They are in my prayers and I hope the cop who wrongly killed him gets everything he deserves.

As an older sister to a young black teenager and possibly a future mother to one, I cannot help, but be terrified for their futures. How can you raise a child to love the color of their skin, while also teaching them that people will hate them for it? How do I tell my little brother to be the bigger person when his suburban white “friends” use the n-word and giggle like it’s nothing?

Much like the killing of Eric Garner, this situation as gotten a lot of attention on social media, so much that I had to log off Twitter last night and go for a drive. I physically could not handle the ignorance I was reading.

We’re humans, we’re curious creatures. We like to take what little information we have and piece it together to get the full story and whether it’s true or not, we usually take it as fact.

I can sit here and type for hours straight listing statistics and sharing articles about how blacks are more at risk for dying at the hands of police than any other race. I could try to put into words how it felt to get told I couldn’t play with everyone else as a 5 year old at summer camp because I was black. I could recall every time a boy didn’t think I was “cute for a black girl,” and I could tell you about my walks home to my apartment where every day I pass by fraternity houses praying out loud that they don’t call me the n-word that day, but does any of that even matter to the majority?

My struggles don’t affect you, my anger is just apart of who I am, I’m just fulfilling the stereotype I have been given since birth, right?

The truth is, no three minute video, or 10 minute newscast, or even a newsfeed full of personal experiences could make anyone who isn’t black understand what we go through when week after week we see black males slain across concrete drenched in their own blood.

But if people would just listen. If people would just stop trying to make excuses saying “well maybe he was stealing,” or “maybe he broke the law,” maybe we’d reach an understanding, or at least start to.

 

 

Selfie Game Too Strong

A few months ago I had the pleasure of going to a leadership development conference that helped young people hone in on their facilitating skills. At the end of the conference we were supposed to take all we had learned and put it to use in a 15 minute speech about anything. I’m more of a jokster, so I choose to do my presentation on how to take the perfect selfie (I am a self proclaimed selfie enthusiast, after all).

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I’d say it was pretty successful. The crowd definitely liked it and we even took a group selfie (more commonly known as an usie) at the end of it.

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Before doing this presentation I never really saw selfies as a problem, in fact, I saw them as something positive that my generation had come up with. With all the focus on beauty standards, being thin and fitting in, it was nice to see my generation kind of band together and embrace our new found confidence.

That’s what selfies are after all, right? We can argue that they are leading teenagers to become more depressed or that it leads to narcissism, but why not focus on the positive?

I’m not saying that excessive selfie taking couldn’t lead to these things, or that the research done on it is totally trash, I just find it heartbreaking that something that is pretty positive is being ridiculed so harshly. Why not ridicule magazines that glorify getting thin in three short weeks by doing some crazy ridiculous master cleanse, or blogs that shame girls with curvy figures for wearing two piece swimsuits in the summer? If you ask me, that’s the problem with society, not the fact that we take a few more pictures of ourselves than normal.

Selfies are apart of the self love revolution. For the first time children are growing up in a generation where they need to be told that they are beautiful to believe it. It’s not us begging for attention, or being needy, it’s just fact. We are bombarded with so many images of what is beautiful and what isn’t that sometimes we get caught up in it and honestly, it can be pretty difficult to decipher.

I see selfies of a way out of that. A way to celebrate the cute new hat you bought, or a lunch date with your best friends. In a generation that tends to over share, is a photo portraying our confidence doesn’t seem like the worst thing we could do.

So I say, to hell with the beauty standards and negative comments about the selfie, if you want to snap a photo of yourself, do it! In the words of Donna Meagle from Parks and Rec, treat yo self!

Treat Yo Self

What am I doing?

Tuesday night around 10 p.m. I turned in my final paper, which meant I was officially done with junior year. After a sigh of relief and an hour or two of catching up on TV shows I’d missed, an unsettling feeling came over me. 

I’m a senior. I’m a senior in college. A moment I have been waiting for since I went to freshman orientation as a senior in high school, but now it’s here and I don’t even know what to do with it. 

Of course I want to live it up, go out with friends (I did just turn 21 after all) lose my voice at football games, find the craziest outfit to wear for Halloween and just celebrate, but that also means I have to start getting realistic about life after college.

After my first semester at Mizzou I said there was no way I would consider graduate school, or law school or anything similar, but after spending a bit more time here, looking at the field I want to go into and seeing who’s where I want to be and what they did to get there, I’m realizing grad school, might be inevitable, which is fine, but then that brings up the questions of, where? 

How do I even begin looking for grad schools or jobs for that matter? I’ll admit I’ve been on LinkedIn a lot more this semester than ever before and I’m proud of my ability to continuously update it, but what if that isn’t enough to get me a job?

I spent my 5 week long winter break apply for internships, a little over 30 internships and I maybe got a response or an interview for half of them, and of that I got offers from just about all of them, which is promising I guess (if you’re wondering, I decided to be a brand ambassador for Dell and Mosaic). But here I am, on my bedroom floor in my parents house wondering what’s next, wondering if what I have done the past three years is enough to get me a job or into graduate school. 

The reality is, out of all of my senior friends graduating, one of them has a job, one of them has a plan, the rest of them are spending their summer in Columbia like me. That terrifies me. I don’t want that for myself, I don’t even want that for them. They’re too talented. Unfortunately (and I’ve found that people in comfortable well paying jobs don’t like hearing this) that’s the reality of a graduating senior in the world today.

Then there are my friends who took a different route. Who decided to enter the military or take classes at a local college and work to save up money. Those friends, specifically my best friend, is getting married in two months. Oh yeah and I’m a bridesmaid. I never thought at 21 she’d be getting married and I’d be standing right beside her in support, I mean it’s crazy right? It makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong.

Now when I run into classmates from high school who stayed behind in Fishers they are married, or engaged or pregnant and when they ask what I’ve been doing, my mind goes blank and I choke out a “Oh you know classes, work, looking for an internship haha one more year!” It sounds normal, it sounds like I’m doing fine and if I’d just sit down and breathe, I’d realize that I totally am. I just finished an amazing semester, I’m VP of an organization on campus, co-founder of another, I had an amazing internship where I learned a lot and I’m working for Dell this summer! Those are all pretty awesome, but for some reason I feel that they won’t be enough, which makes me think, what am I doing? 

I guess this post wasn’t meant to have a resolution at the end. This isn’t a 30 minute sitcom on TBS or ABC Family where all the issues are resolved until the following weeks episode. This is my life and I’m hoping the question of what I’m doing will be revealed to me as the next year unfolds. 

 

21 Lessons Learned In 21 Years Of Living

With my 21st birthday coming up, I really wanted to take some time to reflect on what I’ve learned over the past 21 years, which of course means I made a list. I was hoping it was something that could reach a lot of people because 1) people love lists (even the people that say they hate them) and 2) every time I read over this list, it makes me feel a little bit better about where I’m headed in life. For a second time this semester, I have been blessed to have my words featured on Thought Catalog, words can’t express how thankful I am. Happy early birthday to me!

Thought Catalog

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I know what you’re thinking, not another list from a twenty-something that has yet to experience life. Twenty-one years may not be that long, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a lot. This list may not reflect everyone’s 21 years of life, but it sums up mine pretty damn well and if it helps someone else along the way, well hey, that’s cool too.

1. You don’t know everything. As the miss-know-it-all of my friend group in high school (and maybe even still a little bit today) this has been a tough pill to swallow. What I thought I knew 100 percent, I maybe only know a quarter of and what I thought I kind of knew, I definitely don’t know at all.

2. No matter how much you claim you want to be single, you will find yourself going back to that one guy or looking for a…

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