Jewell Donaldson

2016 Scholar

I learned about the advertising industry from a movie. Well, a TV show and then a movie. When I watched Bewitched as a child, I thought Darrin had a cool job but didn’t realize it could be my job. It wasn’t until Boomerang was released in 1992 that I realized that black people could create advertising. Where many people saw a romantic comedy, I saw an industry that allowed creative people to make business decisions and influence culture. And while Boomerang wasn’t the perfect paragon, the idea of what it represented and its depiction of diverse ad life is why its influence remains unseated for me.

One program that really resonated me was actually inspired by Boomerang. Introduce The Marcus Graham Project (MGP). Being in MGP as a Copywriter was the spark for when things really started to click. After that, it was winning my first award for writing a short film. Then it was successfully pitching my first campaign and having the opportunity to be on production for said campaign. Finally, the icing on the cake was meeting community heroes whom my advertising shone a light upon. I’m thankful for those successive “clicks” and while the moments may change, I have noticed a vein of sameness. It comes in how natural it feels to accomplish my vocation. It’s when I can get out of all of the boxes this industry may try to put a black woman Copywriter, and instead stand upon them. 

While advertising is indeed shifting rapidly, it's doing so at a reactionary pace. When I think about the future of advertising and my role in it, I don't see myself too focused on some title that puts me in a box or continues to react and tell the same narrative. Instead, I yearn to create an impact. I want my legacy to inspire fresh diverse talent to take a leap of faith into a field that has so much more to offer than what was portrayed in those films that initially moved me. I aim to entertain, elevate, and empower because the real power of advertising is influencing culture through creativity. I want my role in that to uphold human truth as much as possible. 

If I could look go back and talk to the 17-year-old me I'd tell myself not to sweat the small things that don't matter in the long run. I'd tell myself not to sweat things like missing junior prom and to keep writing poetry all night. There would be adult "proms" called award ceremonies and professional poetry called copy. I'd challenge myself to really embrace the path less traveled. Stop the whole “Be a doctor. Be a lawyer. Be normal” thing. I wasn't meant to be blue collar (blue hair, however, is a good look). And last but not least I'd tell myself to lighten up a bit - lay off the Sade.

To sum it all up, some things that people would say about me:

  • She’s surprisingly pleasant in an unexpected fashion, like a scented marker.
  • She’s a nerd. A really cool, witty, corny, curious and bougie nerd.
  • She’s driven. She’s passionate. She’s never satisfied (thus drive, thus passion).

There’s a career-ladder for creatives: Junior, Mid, Senior, Associate Creative Director, Creative Director and so on until the pathway either ends in infamy, a quiet thud, or your own agency with a crafty name on the door. I feel, those ladders are antiquated pathways to uncertainty and I aim to be the beacon of light to help guide others. I'm honored to be recognized as a black, female creative continuing Mr. Sharp's legacy and can promise you one thing. While this industry may often be reactionary, I will continue to blaze a trail and inspire as many people that look like me along the way.


Past Scholars