“You can’t be what you can’t see.” - Marian Wright Edelman
This quote often holds true when thinking of career paths for people of color. Often seeing people who look like you in the same types of jobs over and over again.
This was me as a creative in Milwaukee’s advertising community.
For the company I worked for I had quickly became the only creative of color (female too) and throughout Milwaukee’s (WHOLE) creative ad community, I knew of one Black Interactive Art Director, one Asian copywriter and about five to six graphic designers that were of color (non-white folks). This left me feeling isolated and alone for most of the beginning of my career but very disappointed in the lack of diversity and inclusion in the region.
Leading to a lot of questions: Why? Why were there no people that looked like me? Was this just a Milwaukee problem? Why did I work at an agency of 250+ people and there was only four people of color? Why don’t more people of color know that they NEED to be in advertising/marketing? Just why?
My main answer came back to the quote “You can’t be what you can’t see.” And though it’s not that simple; Learning about new career paths and seeing people who look like you and come from similar backgrounds like you, can often change your path in life.
Now enough with me, but into showcasing people that are doing their thing to change the game. **drum roll please**
Our #WCW this week is Nicole Acosta, a Chicana-first generation Mexican-American. Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI with indigenous roots in Mexico. Nicole has made it her life’s mission to preserve cultural practices and traditions and activate safe spaces in her hometown where people can connect to their cultural identities. Whether through dance, visual art or written word, most of Nicole’s work reflects movement, oral and visual storytelling and identity. A lover of travel, Nicole seeks to learn from the origins of where our cultural practices were birthed.
Nicole holds a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing Management from Alverno College with a minor in Elective Studies and is also a dedicated student of Puerto Rican Bomba dance at the AfriCaribe Cultural Center in Chicago, IL. She is a proud graduate of the Milwaukee High School of The Arts, and prior to her transfer to Alverno, spent years at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and Milwaukee Area Technical College studying photography.
As an intersectional artist, Nicole’s work has been exhibited throughout the city of Milwaukee, published locally and nationally; and she has performed spoken word and dance. In most recent years Nicole has devoted her life to art education for Milwaukee Public Theatre, Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, Latino Arts, providing hands-on teaching and creating original curriculum focused on the restoration and preservation of Latinx cultural experiences. Her next career move will be in the summer of 2018 were alongside her partner they launch Botaníca Creative, a marketing-branding-photography & design agency! I’m excited.
Also in honor of being a WOC in advertising I asked her to answer the following questions to get a different perspective of advertising life in Milwaukee.
1. How does being a Latinx creative influence your work in advertising?
"Being a Latinx creative first and foremost automatically suggests that I will create from a place of culture or of my ethnic upbringing. Which is true to a certain point. This is where being a Latinx creative in the advertising/marketing industry becomes a challenge. When I was in my final year of college at Alverno where I earned my degree in Marketing Management, I researched agencies in Milwaukee specifically seeking POC in the industry. The results were not very surprising as you can imagine. This is where I saw an opportunity to pursue marketing and advertising, I had a niche. I could reach specific target audiences that a lot of these agencies could not. I am Latinx, bi-lingual, I stay relevant with socio-cultural trends and I take pride in being a Millennial. I consider myself a hyper-intersectional artist, meaning I have studied multiple art forms and have taught and worked hands on in some capacity throughout the years as this artist but never really knew how to make a career out of it. I binged watched MadMen for an entire month and fell in love with the idea that I would one day I would be the Latinx version of Don Draper because this is exactly how I could channel my creativity. So I befriended my partner Jazmin Delgado, a graphic designer and together we began to envision Botaníca Creative, an agency that specializes in assisting clients through the creative process resulting in visual dialogue aka visual communications. We were intentional about our branding, that we plan to launch this summer. We want to be taken seriously, as as women of color in the creative industry without our culture being at the forefront defining our work because this is not the expectation for non-woc. Although our Latinx culture is extremely important to us. We want our work to speak for itself. Being Latinx influences us creatively no doubt, and we see this in the authentic relationships we build with clients, and most importantly representing Latinx in the creative industry, we hope more young Latinx women/girls pursue careers in marketing, advertising and graphic design!"
2. If you could change one troubling aspect you’ve experienced in the advertising community into a positive outcome, what would it be?
"I would say the lack of women of color in the industry. It’s such a disappointment. Most times it’s because women of color don’t have access to the same opportunities as non-woc. I feel like agencies should see this as an opportunity to recruit from local colleges such as Alverno (shameless plug) or at least offer internships. A little outreach and authentic community building goes a long way."
Nicole continually inspires me to keep working and developing my craft so that these conversations become a lesson from the past.
And if you have a story you want to share about our #WCW or an experience in advertising; let me know in the comments.
Keep creating. /Syn