What can you give to MAIP? Why should the advertising industry want you?

Imani Sherrill: educator, designer, and strategist.

For the past three years, I was a Teach For America teacher in the small North Carolina county of Warrenton.  I thought I came to the country to save and expose their community to the big city ideas and technology. The fact remains that just because someone is different from you doesn’t mean they need saving or help. We are better as a society when we can learn from everyone. My experience being a teacher taught me that a lot can be accomplished by simply listening and learning.


Over the past few years, companies have made an effort to diversify but often fall short. The advertising industry needs a brown face at the table that is willing to speak up, educate and take the risk. I understand the impact that a simple campaign can have to influence the masses. What better industry to educate others in than advertising?  As a nation, we consume and interact with advertising so much we sometimes rarely notice the change it can have on us.

For every project I’m given at the Brandcenter I consider its effect on all of the communities I am apart of and an ally for. No one should feel alone in this world. Ultimately, I want equality. If selected as a MAIP intern, I will use my eye for design, brain for solutions, and my heart for people to promote unity.  A personal philosophy I live by is that we are no stronger than our weakest link. I believe anything that I gain I should also share with whomever I can. With that in mind each day, I make it my mission to listen hard, learn, and educate others.

Breakdown your favorite or least favorite advertisement/campaign.

Shea Moisture released their "Break The Walls: What’s Normal?" campaign one year ago. The campaign focused on taking their products out of the urban aisle of the store and changing what normal is defined as for the beauty industry. Although controversial, the message behind the campaign rang true with me. I was excited that products for me were in the grocery store and no longer being segmented  from the mainstream products. In the past the separation of my products made me feel less than beautiful. It was a huge risk to take a stance against the norm, as it could not always yeild positive results.  

Through this campaign, Shea Moisture also started to expand their target consumer beyond African American women. They launched a commercial that promoted everyone getting (hair) love. The commercial trivialized the struggle of being natural in biased society and only showed culturally accepted hair. The exclusion of women of color was the reason they started the campaign. This new message divided their customers and fell short of their mission as a company. Formal mission statements have no place in a commercial but when they are not aligned it could become detrimental. Shea Moisture has since apologized and taken measures to recenter their message. I can appreciate a company that will admit its wrongs while growing. I will continue to support them because I sympathize with the hardship of breaking the standard. A company that takes a stance for what I believe in shows me they value me and my experience. We are not perfect but Shea Moisture is pushing to make women all over the world feel that their imperfections are what make them perfect.

What is your personal passion? Describe what you spend hours doing even though it is not your job and why you love it.

Every month I travel two hours to see, Brenda. Brenda is my nail tech, friend, stylist, and therapist. All of my family and friends know if I am with Brenda I am not available. Nail art is my personal passion. My time in the chair is precious and all about creating great works of art on my nails. My nails have always been a conversation starter and a confidence builder. They are my subtle way of expressing myself. While in the chair, Brenda and I think about the message I want to convey and what colors, words or pictures will do it justice. Important human values of time and money go completely out the window when it comes to my nails. I spend my time out of Brenda’s chair researching, screenshotting, and digging into all the latest nail trends. My camera roll is full of screenshots from the top techs I follow social media. From chrome to unicorn nails, I've had them all.

Even though I am an introvert I love talking about my nails. These conversations usually spark some interesting thoughts from all ages, female and male.  Building meaningful relationships has always been very important to me. Without them, I’ve recognized that I would not be the great woman I am today. It's surprising the friends I've made and things I've learned from people, that start with a simple conversation about nails. Driving past hundreds of nail shops to see Brenda might sound ridiculous but having this perfect accessory has done nothing but add to great things and people to my life.

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Describe something that has a major impact in your life, no matter how big or small it might be.

My father, a navy soldier and police officer, was called to war after 9/11. Then I would pray that he would come back home with every limb. What I didn’t know was he’d come home diagnosed with PTSD and an assortment of mental health issues from the war. How was I supposed to plan for a divorce at the age of 13? How do you organize your emotions? My brain began to fill with questions and concepts too complicated to mask. I needed a way out. The new strategic plan: control everything in your power and let the rest sort itself out.  I had to focus on myself.

I found my voice by participating in several activities. I became a cheerleader in high school, a resident advisor in college and participated on as many service trips as possible. I needed to learn who I was and how I fit into this crazy world. I learned that I am an introvert with this amazing power to lead and organize when comfortable. I learned that life is short. Time is of the essence. There’s always someone with less than you so don’t complain but find a solution and a way to help. I know it’s destiny for me to use the gifts I've gained to help others.