For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a creator. Whether it was making mini-movies with the cast of my Barbie dolls or writing down short stories that often danced around in my head, I’ve always managed to find a way to express the goings-on in my rich imagination.
That’s why I was pretty damn excited when Ford Motor Company told me about their new initiative, especially as we celebrate Black History Month.
From Ford’s press release:
Narrated by award-winning actress Angela Bassett, Ford’s latest ad campaign, “Built Phenomenally,” shines a spotlight on the all-new 2020 Escape—the company’s best-selling SUV. The new African American-focused campaign celebrates the defiance, transformation and versatility of black women as creators, marketers and performers who own their uniqueness and live phenomenally.
While Ford Motor Company had me squealing in delight when they invited me to sit at their table at the 2020 Essence Black Women in Hollywood luncheon, it was their own private and intimate luncheon (which, occurred the day before and featured a “vegetable-forward” menu) that held a special place in my heart.
The speakers of the afternoon included Dee Guerrero, multicultural marketing manager of Ford Motor Company; Raj Register, head of brand strategy and growth audience marketing, Ford Motor Company; Dr. Knatokie Ford, STEM/Entertainment Engagement Advisor, Association of National Advertisers’ #SeeHer Initiative; Malakai Johnson, Founder, Made in Her Image; Kanyessa McMahon, director of the ‘Built Phenomenally’ campaign commercials; Tiffany Miranda, Founder, Girls Make Beats; and Charia Rose, director/screenwriter and representative of FREE THE WORK.
Miranda got to take a select few girls to the set of Bassett’s voiceover session so that they could meet the legendary actor and get a sneak peek into how the process works.
Additionally, Johnson took a select few black girl creators on the set of a commercial for the new Ford Escape, so that they could see all of the nooks and crannies that goes into making a 30-second spot.
“I’ve never been on an actual set,” Maya, one of the young talents invited to the set said. “That inspired me to go back home and start filming.”
When Maya said that, I have to admit I teared up a bit. I thought about that little girl who loved the vast worlds created in movies and who dreamed of becoming a member of the studio audience during the production of a live television show (particularly, The Bozo Show, which was filming in Chicago). I thought about that young lady who obsessed over the director’s commentary located in the “Special Features” section of a DVD.
Mostly, I thought, ‘Wow, imagine if I would’ve gotten that opportunity as a little girl.’ And as I watched those little girls through the eyes of the 35-year-old I am today, I became awash with the highest sense of pride. Look at what little black girls get to see. They get to see black women who look like them not only starring in a commercial but working on technical aspects of the film such as costume design, cinematography and most of all…as the director leading the production. And in that representation, they see, firsthand, that they can do it, too.
“You just need the opportunity,” McMahon stressed. “And the reason I don’t have it is because no one’s given to me. I’ve worked all these brands and all these people. And even with that, [the overall perception is] like, ‘We haven’t seen it.’ And I was like, well, you haven’t seen it because you haven’t let me [in]. I mean, I can’t be any more disappointing than these mediocre... fellas.”
“Some of the comments that came from them, it gave me goosebumps,” Register recalled. “There were several [of the girls] that said, ‘I didn’t know I could do this. I didn’t know that there would be so many women.’ They were so impressed with Kanyessa, Marci, and even Dee and I. [They were] like, ‘What do you guys get to do? How do the storyboards work?’ This is how it all comes together. We have to make sure that we follow suit because when we take it back, [look at it] and say, this is what we created, there is intention behind it.”
The priceless feeling of empowerment and fulfillment is exactly what Ford created with intention and I’m grateful for it. I remember leaving the luncheon with a lingering smile on my face, overjoyed with the positive energy this group of ladies had poured into me.
Just like that Ford Escape, black girls are absolutely “built phenomenally” and when provided with the fundamentals such as representation and opportunity, there’s no stopping us. Get ready.