How have the Arts impacted your life?
The arts have had and continue to have a huge impact on my life… daily. At a young age, my parents instilled in me and my siblings the importance of partaking, experiencing, and sharing in all types of arts… from piano lessons, to choir, to band, to dance, to acting… we were in it all! I remember even being in a couple local commercials and doing some voiceover work in my preteen and teenage years. So, arts have always been present in my life, and continue to inspire and drive me today.
What is your favorite arts project that you supported and why?
I would have to say that the most important recent project is “King Ester,” a digital series created by Dui Jarrod, about a trans woman in New Orleans trying to escape before Hurricane Katrina. In its truest form, it’s simply the story of anyone forced to fight societal constraints to achieve greater success… so the underlying theme is universal. It recently got shortlisted for the Daytime Emmys… so we are excited to see how it will fare there. Additionally, I am working on a new project that I think will be hugely important for the culture. It’s called ODE Audio, which is essentially a streaming radio, music, podcast, and digital entertainment app for our community FROM our community. It should be launching and available within the next couple of months, so be on the lookout.
What is your role and responsibility at Diageo?
At Diageo, I am Innovation Director and the Head of Multicultural Marketing. My responsibilities include leading multicultural strategy and activation across the entire Diageo brand portfolio in North America to meaningfully engage diverse consumers, keep the brands relevant in culture, and create unique and memorable brand experiences. From an innovation standpoint, I develop and work with our team to deliver the innovation strategies, new product development ideas, and disruptive launch/cultural partnership plans for our North America whiskey brands like Crown Royal, Bulleit Bourbon, and IW Harper.
What impact do you feel your contributions have made with the projects that you have supported?
I tend to support those projects which I am personally passionate about. I truly believe if a project touches me, it has the ability to have the same effect on someone else. I can only hope that the sharing of my skills/abilities/resources in the arts have made some type of meaningful impact in the lives of creators, artists, cast, crew, the people it touches, or society as a whole. Whether this takes the form of more empathy for certain communities, reconsidering a personal viewpoint on a specific issue or topic, or simply being introduced to music that touches or speaks to someone individually.
Tell us about your experience in Africa and how it impacted your life.
I recently visited Ghana, and was able to not only spend time in Accra but also visit my ancestral village of Princes Town, Ghana: an absolutely beautiful place with beautiful people. They hosted a homecoming celebration for me and my family, full of rich culture, dance, song, spoken word, and guidance from the elders and chiefs. Life-changing experience! People on the streets would greet us by saying “welcome home”… it just felt like a place where we belonged and were appreciated. We also got a chance to visit a few of the slave castles, which are very haunting reminders of that abhorrent crime committed against humanity over 400 years ago. This experience not only emphasized the fact that we are a people that have survived the most unfathomable conditions, but also renewed a sense of perseverance and tenacity within me. We are the children of those who refused to die.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you?
This pandemic has really just forced me to be grateful for the people, things, and experiences in my life that are important. Situations like this have an interesting way of teaching us not to sweat the small stuff.
Photo Credit: Dexter Fletcher | Hoodie: Demarcus McGaughey
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