Jewell Donaldson

2016 honoree


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 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, its depiction of diverse ad life is why its influence remains unseated for me.

People talk about when things “click” but for me, it wasn’t like that; life didn’t go from mud to ever clear. I’ve had more so percussive moments of clarity, where my efforts were affirmed as something important and worthwhile. First, was being a copywriter for The Marcus Graham Project. After that? Winning my first award for writing a short film. Then it was successfully pitching my first nationwide campaign for Black History Month, and then seeing strangers wearing a t-shirt that bears a slogan I wrote. And this wasn’t because it was some branded activation, it was because the campaign created a movement. Because it was real. Because it was for the culture.  I’m thankful for these successive “clicks”—and while the moments may change, I have noticed a sameness with them: they come when I get out of all of the boxes this industry may try to put me in, and stand upon them instead.

When I think about the future of advertising and my role in it, I don't see myself too focused on a title that stiffens my capabilities. I aim to entertain, elevate, and empower. I desire to inspire progress. The real power of advertising is influencing culture through creativity. I want my role in that to uphold human truth as much as possible. I'm honored to be recognized as a black, female creative continuing Mr. Sharp's legacy and I will continue to inspire young ones who dare to be creative. I will tell them that they CAN, and they SHOULD, and they BETTER. We need them more than they know.

Past honorees