Being a “unicorn” in the office can be an advantage, but it’s mostly a heavy burden. In the predominantly white world of advertising, minorities are constantly faced with being the sole voice for an entire demographic while seeking to maintain a sense of originality.
This challenge, and a slew of others, is why three formidable black ad women—mono producer Amalia Nicholson, Colle McVoy copywriter Shareina Chandler, and Fallon art director Leeya Jackson—created the honest, hilarious and at times emotional podcast Borrowed Interest.
“[Minorities] have to be the voice of their race, gender, sexual orientation,” Nicholson told Adweek. “We have to say, ‘This idea makes me feel bad, and here’s why.’ And that’s a big burden.”
Every Wednesday, Nicholson, Chandler and Jackson discuss their experiences with racial disparity, from struggling to enter the industry to finding time to braid their hair while working around the clock on a pitch.
“Blackness is not singular,” the group said, and success does not look the same for everyone because every woman of color is different. “We’re often the only voice in the room. I don’t want to wear a cape all the time. We need diverse voices but not only to be diverse. If I’m being called on for my black opinion only and not for Leeya’s perspective, that’s a problem,” Jackson added.
The women said they are grateful to “have each other now,” but realize that many black women in their industry are not so fortunate to find confidantes. “At the end of the day, we needed a couple of brown people to talk to … We want to be your friends … Let’s laugh,” they said in the first episode. Nicholson first met Jackson when she interned for mono about a year ago, before taking on her role at Fallon. Chandler was brought into the mix when she interned at Fallon before moving to Colle McVoy.
Nicholson, a seven-year industry vet, told Adweek the podcast has received primarily positive feedback since its launch three weeks ago from both their bosses and fellow ad professionals alike.
Creative agency mono funds the project as part of its WRK+REC program. Each quarter, mono employees compete to have an idea produced—and Nicholson, who lured Chandler and Jackson into the project at a happy hour, beat out eight pitches for the slot.
Over the past three months, mono has allowed Nicholson to spend 25 percent of her workday producing the first season of “Borrowed Interest.” The agency’s funds have helped the project secure studio space, interview national guests, purchase music rights, publish and host the podcast, and promote the show.
Nicholson praised her “predominantly white agency” for being the best example of a “white ally.” She added, “Sometimes the best way to be a white ally is to help lift up and magnify the voices of people of color in your community, workplace and then listen to what they have to say.”
While Fallon and Colle McVoy were not directly involved in the project, Jackson and Chandler said their agencies have been supportive, too.
The episodes consider a wide range of topics including major racial movements Black Lives Matter and Oscars So White. April Reign, the activist and creator of #OscarsSoWhite, will be a guest on an upcoming episode of “Borrowed Interest.” Nicholson said plans are already in the works for a second season.