Interviews

Black History Month: It can be lonely as a person of colour in the creative industry

4 min read

31 October 2017

Former deputy editor

Detailing his experience to Real Business, we heard from a creative industry founder, who has declared the space can be lonely for people of colour.

In our last profile, we heard from an entrepreneur operating in the fitness sector, and now we move onto the creative industry to conclude our Black History Month business features.

Ollie Olanipekun, is the creative director and co-founder of the Superimpose Studio in East London. He also runs a not-for-profit social platform called Public Outcry, which helps support underrepresented artists.

Detailing his experience to Real Business, Olanipekun has declared the creative industry can be lonely for people of colour.

What have been the key business challenges that you faced to get to where you are today?

Moving to London to search out a career is tough for anyone and unfortunately we live in a time where without financial support this can feel like an impossible quest.

There’s no denying that nepotism sits at the core of the creative industries and watching those around you being handed opportunities can be disheartening. And the saying of “having to work twice as hard” feels real a lot of the time.

Have you ever witnessed racism in the workplace, whether directed at yourself or a colleague?

Working with international clients that have key markets to satisfy I’ve heard some very suspect things said when it comes to casting.

How was it dealt with?

A lot of awkward conversations but when I looked around for support there were no other black faces in the office, and these experiences get glossed over. It can be lonely as a person of colour in the creative industry, but it’s our duty to pave the way for others.

Do you feel as though your heritage has ever been a factor in your career development?

100 per cent. For a long time, I was wheeled out for clients as the “cultured guy”, but now culture is “cool” I’m capitalising. Our agency is founded on these experiences and now these experiences are our USP.

How important is an initiative like Black History Month – on a cultural and business level?

I think it’s of the utmost importance but I feel there is still a lot more to do to make it have the desired impact. What we’re seeing of late is a lot of conversations around diversity are slipping into the tokenism territory. The main question I’d like us to focus on is, who is our audience?

We should be looking at how this month really benefits the next generation on a cultural and business level. Undoing all the whitewashing that has been done throughout history is not an easy task, so we must bring our A game in everything we put out.

Do you think UK companies or leaders should be doing anything to highlight Black History Month?

Yes, but it can’t be halfhearted. We should be celebrating this month but also looking to at our complete output all year round.

The hard work that was done by those who came before us should act as a manual for what we need to do moving forward. The baton is now in our hands.

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