Data consistently shows that consumers are looking for diversity in the media and content that their algorithms feed them. Yet, despite this data, many brands are struggling to properly represent behind-the-scenes. In fact, a recent study found that 91% of marketers agree that there is still room for greater diversity in marketing material, with another 88% believing that enhanced diversity would help a brand’s image.
So why are so many organizations still slow to adapt?
As a creative executive at MTV and an award-winning artist with a wealth of experience across multiple sectors of the entertainment and creative industry, Rich Tu is working to both answer and implement solutions for this question. This industry leader is fighting for greater inclusion for creatives of color in the industry.
“The algorithms that feed us content do not paint an accurate picture of our world. With this fractured approach to spreading culture and even driving global movements, it’s crucial that we have better representation in front of the camera, behind-the-scenes.” informed Tu.
Through launching multiple initiatives, such as his Webby Honored podcast First Generation Burden which showcased immigrants in the creative industry, or the COLORFUL grant, which Tu co-founded with the One Club for Creativity in New York and provides financial opportunities to early-stage BIPOC creatives. He’s also made it his personal mandate to include BIPOC creatives in the projects as the VP of digital design and creative for MTV Entertainment.
“I know how challenging it can be for anyone to break into this industry,” reflected Tu. “One of the goals of COLORFUL is to push for equitable spaces in the creative industry, in addition to breaking down traditional barriers that have historically existed for early-stage creatives of color. This includes representation behind and in front of the scenes, financial creating financial opportunities, and creating safe spaces.”
As a role model, an inspiration, and a mentor for many young creatives seeking to make their mark on the entertainment industry, Rich Tu has shared five pieces of advice to help aid in this journey:
Build trust through work ethic and life balance (spoiler alert: this is a masterclass in itself)
“I’ll break this one down into my top pieces of advice for building trust:
- Be attentive to your schedule
- Manage your time with dedicated moments for mental and physical activity
- Never promise something that you can’t deliver
- Care about quality, great products always stand out
- Take care of your mental health and set boundaries
- Be honest with yourself, the only person you can’t fool is yourself
Building trust and delivering on your promises will take your career to the next level, no matter who you are
Think larger than where you are, and act with intent
“Many years ago, when I was getting my start in the industry, I was an art director at a really small agency. We won a pitch from a small mobile client, and it was one of my first times taking a creative leadership role. After we celebrated a job well done, my boss offered me the role of ‘lead designer’ at this new agency we were about to start.
I was excited by the opportunity, but I also knew it was my chance for a “big ask”. We didn’t have much money, but I told them to make me an “art director” instead of a “lead designer” for the same salary, which in that context was an instant promotion. They said “yes”, and I was able to naturally grow into the role, and it became a good fit.
“This lesson early on in my career taught me to always ask for a little bit more. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you know your worth or even what you want to be worth, just make sure you ask with intent.”
Cultivate your circle, establish your “power group”
“Lean into the strength of your friends. When I was coming up I became friends with all sorts of creatives, from designers to writers to photographers to filmmakers. We were able to share each other’s energies and expand our perspectives collectively.
As your professional relationships expand and you start intermingling, you know you trust each other, you know how each other works, and you can learn from each other. Over time, creative friendships can organically turn into professional relationships, based on pre-existing trust.
“It’s not about being cliquish, it’s about being inclusive and collaborative with fellow creatives who can help you in your career pursuits.”
Invest in your power, don’t be afraid to identity-first
“A lot of creatives that are from underserved communities perceive the glass ceiling as something right in front of them. This needs to change, and everyone from early stagers to seasoned vets can take a step towards investing in their own power. When you lead with your identity, you’re drawing strength from yourself. This allows you to show up as your true self.
“As a first-generation FilipinX immigrant, I allowed my identity to shine through, and that enabled me to make a safe space for others to be open about their own identities. As creatives of color, we need to stop trying to flatten our culture in an attempt to grow our careers. Audiences want to see themselves in the work we put out, and it’s our responsibility to fulfill that promise.”
“Generosity is something I really care about, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be its recipient throughout my career. Now, as a person who has the ability to provide opportunities, I’m investing in more ways to pay it forward to the next generation.”
“Recently, I partnered with The One Club to put together the COLORFUL grant. This is one way I’ve been able to give back to the community that brought me up. We’ve already selected the winner, but throughout the process, I got to experience the work of so many amazing BIPOC creatives and I’m even more motivated to create safe spaces for early-stage creatives of color. As you grow in your career, always remember to give back.
The main thing is this, if you ask for a lot you have the opportunity to give a lot, and you can create an environment where everyone is helping each other.
For those seeking to break down the barriers blocking diversity within the creative industry, the words of wisdom shared by Rich Tu will help prepare anyone to take on the task.
Discover the many ways Rich Tu is encouraging creative young BIPOC’s to enter the entertainment industry and how you too can join the movement.
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