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A Personal (R)Evolution With Joy Fennell

We're honoring Black History Month by featuring some of the incredible Black creators in our community that are using their platforms to make an impact and inspire and empower others. Joy Fennell is a former fashion makeup artist turned creative director, creative strategist, and social media graphic designer. She is the founder of the All Black Everything Summit, is currently building her creative and design studio specializing in AI/AR, The Future In Black, and is a co-founder of The Black Creative Directory. We were lucky enough to feature her in our My Hair, My Journey campaign and true to her name she was an absolute JOY to collaborate with. Read on to get to know her and be sure to follow along (links below) for updates on the amazing work she's doing!

You're a multi-hyphenate who's currently going through a personal and professional (r)evolution - tell us about your career journey up to this point.

As a multi-talented individual, I have embarked on a diverse and dynamic career path thus far. My journey began when I pursued African American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park, while simultaneously venturing into the fashion industry as a makeup artist. For many years, I had the pleasure of creating stunning looks for various clients, publications, and fashion events.

Throughout my career, I've recognized the significance of following my instincts and interests, while also embracing fresh opportunities and experiences. As a result, I'm thrilled about my ongoing personal and professional growth and eagerly anticipate the exciting prospects that lie ahead on this journey.

What were the factors that impacted your decision to transition from your career as a professional makeup artist to the latest iterations as a consultant and creative director and most recently to your foray into AI?

There were multiple factors that led to my decision to move on from my career as a makeup artist. Firstly, I had dedicated the majority of my life to doing makeup, and I craved something new. My work was no longer fulfilling, and my intuition urged me to move on. Additionally, many people have noted my talent for creating a complete vision as a creative director. I would spend hours lost in the process of mood-boarding a concept, and it never felt like work. As I got older, I became more aware of the physical toll that a career in makeup artistry can take on the body. Moreover, a few years ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that further exhausted my body, making it clear that it was time to move on.

My entry into the world of AI/AR was a serendipitous occurrence, but everything happened quickly after that. First, I tried on a VR headset at a friend's house and was immediately captivated. Then, in a friend's Clubhouse room, I was asked about the beauty space, which intrigued me even more. From that moment, my curiosity about AR and AI exploded, and I delved into learning about the field. While AR was my first exploration, my foray into AI has been a game-changer for me. I am having a blast working on my projects, but I have not yet established my signature style. I am confident that it is currently forming, and when people see my work, they will recognize it as mine, which only motivates me further.

What was the impetus behind starting The All Black Everything Summit and how did it come together?

The inception of the inaugural ABE Summit was a spontaneous, late-night idea that came to me during the pandemic. Concerned about the impact of the pandemic on freelancers, particularly Black freelancers in the photo and fashion industry, I couldn't sleep. I woke up determined to take action and organize a 3-day summit where I could converse with top-level professionals in the industry and explore ways that our community could survive post-pandemic. Incredibly, I planned for it to take place within two weeks! Despite the challenge, the event was a tremendous success, and I felt like I had discovered part of my purpose - ensuring other industry professionals could move forward despite setbacks.

The second ABE Summit occurred in October, and we were delighted to see double the attendance. Following a brief hiatus, we are thrilled to announce that the event is returning soon, and I'm already brainstorming new ways to introduce freshness and uniqueness to the summit experience. Stay tuned and follow our updates to discover what we have in store!

You also founded The Black Creative Directory in an effort to elevate Black talent within the media, creative, and events industries - tell us about this public resource and your plans for its future.

The Black Creative Directory was created to address the all-too-common excuse of not being able to find Black talent of a certain caliber. Although I was initially uncertain about how to position the directory among my other verticals, I'm happy to report that I have several ideas for its development, and it will be making a comeback.

Even though the directory hasn't been fully optimized just yet, we've already been able to help a few members secure employment. Moving forward, I want to build out the directory into a robust resource, but I also recognize the importance of taking things one step at a time.

How do you think your career in beauty has influenced your eye, taste, and skillset as a creative director and a creator in general?

Honestly, I believe my true calling was to be a creative director or an art director. I've always been fascinated by the bigger picture, looking at everything from the lighting, posing, fashion styling, hair, and makeup, rather than focusing on just one aspect. I could spend hours looking through fashion editorials, particularly from overseas publications that weren't afraid to push boundaries. The more high-quality fashion editorials I viewed, the more my eye, taste, and skillset evolved. I enjoyed creating mood boards and envisioning complete concepts, but I became frustrated because I didn't know how to capture my ideas in pictures. If I had that skill, I probably would have pursued a career as a photographer. Actually, a lot of people don't know this, but it's a natural progression for makeup artists who become tired of relying on others to capture their visions to eventually begin shooting their own photos.

What drew you to wanting to work with AI and what have been some of the perks and challenges associated with it so far?

Well, I stumbled upon the world of working with AI by chance - it was as if the universe was telling me, "Hey, you should try this AI thing!" At the time, I was totally focused on mastering AR, but AI won me over with its limitless creative possibilities.

Before AI, all of my concepts and editorials were stuck in my head, like tiny prisoners in a maximum-security brain prison, lol! But now, I'm like a super creative with the power to create anything I can think of! And let me tell you, it's a real confidence booster to know that I no longer have to rely on others to bring my vision to life.

Of course, I still love working with teams and other creatives, but right now, AI is my go-to for satisfying my inner creative director and I love it!

You also appeared in front of the camera as one of the models in our My Hair, My Journey campaign a few years ago - what was that experience like?

Before the EVOLVh My Hair, My Journey campaign, I had been in front of the camera a few times during my career as a makeup artist, but I was always nervous. However, I pushed past my nerves and took those opportunities. This campaign, however, was the first time I truly let loose and had a lot of fun. Even though my hair is not very long, I made a conscious decision to not be afraid and let my personality shine through.

Being able to represent Black women and their unique hair journeys in the media was something I was extremely proud of. Sharing my own personal story and helping to inspire others who may have faced challenges with their hair or personal limitations was a fulfilling experience.

Thanks to the support and guidance of the EVOLVh campaign team, the experience was positive and empowering. It is something that I will treasure for years to come.

Are you doing anything unique or special to commemorate Black History Month this year?

While I'm not doing anything formal on my channel for Black History Month, the truth is that my channel features Black history content all year round. However, I'm excited to share that I was recently hired to create a client's Black History Month campaign, which has been an amazing experience for me.

I was able to leverage my skills in AI to honor and celebrate our true unsung heroes from the past, by using advanced tools from the future. This opportunity has given me immense satisfaction, and I'm thrilled to be able to use my expertise to acknowledge and highlight the contributions of Black individuals throughout history.

What can we look forward to from you in the coming year?

This year, I have some major plans in store. First and foremost, I'm working on transforming The Future in Black into a more creative and design-focused platform that incorporates AI and AR elements. 

Personally, my goal is to continue to expand my skills as an AI/AR artist and grow my design skillset. I'm feeling more comfortable and at ease in this field, and I'm truly enjoying the experience.

I'm also excited to announce that I'll be bringing back the ABE Summit. I'm currently finalizing dates and getting everything in order, because I'm determined to shake up the industry and make a real impact.

Lastly, I'm eager to meet, network with, and collaborate with as many creatives as possible. It hasn't always been easy to do so in the past, but now I'm committed to getting out into the real world and working hard to take my personal and professional life to the next level. I'm excited about the possibilities that lie ahead!