We all have our favorite animated series from The Boondocks, to Rick and Morty, Family Guy, and Daria, but have we ever stopped to think how many of these animators were women or even black women? When 23-year-old Taylor Shaw — a content creator, producer, and writer decided to make her own animated series surrounding black women from Chicago, she thought to herself that it would only make sense for black women to be the animators behind her creative brainchild. “I went on a search, and I couldn’t find any. Black women in this industry are truly unicorns,” she told Teen Vogue. That instance alone was the main force that drove her decision to create a space where black women in animation could be discovered and cultivated. “In animation, you don’t really see any women at all. You see a few white women, no women of color, and hardly any black women at all. What we’re doing [here] is transforming the media landscape, and making sure that women of color are included in this space,” she explained.
After doing extensive research about the racial demographics for women of color in animation, Taylor couldn’t seem to find much data. “There’s no research at all. These demographics show women in animation, yes, and they show that most university animation programs are mostly women. But who is getting these jobs? White males. Men are getting the jobs, women are not,” she says. “Our goal is, one, to get some studies out there that show the demographics of women of color in the industry, but you won’t find the numbers broken down because they don’t exist. The fact that there aren’t any numbers proves that there are very few — if any black women, and if there are we need them to be a part of our collective.” From then Taylor searched Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Slack to find black women in animation. “There are a few sites, but none that are specifically targeted towards black girls in animation,” she acknowledged.
Last December, Taylor officially launched her Black Girl Animators Collective (BGAC) which — as far as she knows — is the first and only animator collective specifically for black women. BGAC provides three different services for its members: A talent agency, original content, and the collective for training and development. BGAC now has approximately 20 registered members and counting, across three different levels of membership. The VIP collective membership allows its members to be represented by the talent agency; a collective membership which gives members the opportunity to enter BGAC’s training and development; and a youth membership is available for ages 10-18. Teen Vogue talked to Taylor to find out all about the great things the Black Girl Animator Collective has in store.
Teen Vogue: How does BGAC align with your personal passions?
Taylor Shaw: I’m passionate about changing, transforming representation in media, and showcasing underrepresented narratives across all the work that I do, as a producer, as a writer, as a host. I’m from Chicago, and that’s why representation is so important to me, too, and partially why I went to journalism school. Being from Chicago, representation, and quality in that representation and honesty, and reality and perspective in that representation is immensely important to me because Chicago is a place that is not represented with integrity well. When you think about just the difference in perspective that’s brought when you have black women behind the camera, when you have black characters being drawn, a lot of times what these cartoons will do if they have characters of color, they’re not even voiced by people of color, they’re voiced by white people. We want to change all of that.
TV: Does BGAC currently have anything exciting in the pipeline?
TS: Right now we’re in the process of doing our pilot training and development program. Our collective members are invited to join that program, and then if they want to be represented by us as a talent agency, we help them get work. Our goal is to, one, help them get coveted jobs in the industry, and, two, build a community for them. That’s where they fit in. We’re training and developing, getting their skills up, honing them, and then our goal is to funnel them into these major animation studios and media companies.
For the talent agency, we represent them, and we produce work, animation, motion graphics for different clients. For our original content, we have that animated series that we’re pitching. That’s going really well. We actually have two animated series right now in our original content, and the potential for a feature film, which is super exciting. We’re talking with different animation studios about that, and then we’re building relationships.
TV: Your initial Black Girl Animators Launch at Vice was such a huge success, do you have any other events coming up?
TS: We’re gonna have our first salon at Vice and the tentative day right now is April 27. In this salon, we’re gonna be showcasing the work of some of our women and also giving them the opportunity to present what they’re working on individually and show off their skills. What I really want to do is get these women exposure. That’s really a huge part of BGAC getting [women] exposure and visibility. Black women in this industry are invisible. Black Girls Anime is designed to make them visible, but not only make them visible, get them work, get them jobs, and build a community for them.
TV: How do you see BGAC helping black women in their professions?
TS: In this industry, the way that black women tend to work is through freelance, and they’re figuring everything out on their own. Which can be so stressful and time-consuming. What we want to do is just make it easier for them, and give them a space to control their narrative, and give them a space to really have time to do their art and build community.
Black women in this industry are invisible. Black Girls Anime is designed to make them visible, but not only make them visible, get them work, get them jobs, and build a community for them.
TV: You mentioned that your youth membership is from ages 10-18, do you have anything special coming up for them?
TS: This summer we’re going to do girls anime days in New York, Chicago, and L.A. I’m so excited about that because they are going be one-day workshops, but I’m also excited about that because it’s the beginnings of our summer camp. With those days, our goal is to expose girls of color to the world of animation, to create a long trajectory of transforming what this industry looks like. This is really a career development opportunity. We want women of color to know that you can have a career as a professional artist. You can have a lucrative, successful, fun career as a professional artist, and we want these girls, we want to expose them to that.
A part of our membership requirement is to be a mentor to a young girl who’s interested in drawing art, and so we want to cultivate and hone their skills early because what we see now is that’s not happening for women in animation, it’s not happening for women of color, and it’s definitely not happening for black women.
TV: What ‘s your goal for BGAC?
TS: To become the company that people in the world of animation come to and say, “Yo, can you guys teach us how to consult and transform what diversity and inclusion look like for us? Because we need the help because we want to produce the most purposeful content that really resonates with our viewers. Or we want to create content to reach this audience.” It’s time for media companies to start reaching out to all people that are out there, and it’s time for them to do that in a conscious way, and you can only do that consciously by hiring and incorporating the narratives of all people. We’re starting here with women of color — with black women. I’m so excited about it but it’s challenging work. It’s necessary work.
When I embarked upon this journey, I didn’t know that there weren’t many black women or any black women in animation. It felt right for us to embark upon this journey because as someone in media, I feel a responsibility to fill the holes and the gaps. I think partially this hasn’t been addressed because people assume that everything is fair, and everything across the board. It’s like oh, it’s 2018, open opportunities for all. We all have to actively do our part to make sure that representation is there. For me, storytelling is at the center of all of the work because everyone deserves liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Learn more about Taylor Shaw and The Black Girl Animator Collective here.
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