For many Americans of color, specifically Black Americans, it’s difficult to get into career fields where their demographic is not represented. Black Americans are highly aware of this, which is why they tend to rally around and support people in their communities. It happened when Venus and Serena Williams exploded into the tennis world, and when gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles competed during their respective summer Olympics. It’s also why so many Black Americans go their own route when trying to break into any white-dominated field, which is exactly what Taylor K. Shaw did with her company Black Girl Animators Collective (BGAC.)
Shaw is a 22-year old Chicago native with a love for animation. After researching and looking into the field to see what the statistics were for black women animators, she found that there was virtually none. “Black women in this industry are truly unicorns,” she told Teen Vogue, which was the motivation to start BGAC. “Being from Chicago, representation and quality in that representation — honesty, reality, and perspective in that representation is immensely important to me because Chicago is a place that is not represented with integrity well.”
Indeed, just getting representation for a usually ignored demographic is trying enough, but getting adequate, non-stereotypical, well-rounded representation is like pulling teeth. No person of color wants to be the “token” anything in the field of their dreams and Shaw recognizes that struggle.
“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.” Shaw says.
BGAC, which launched last December, is the first and only animation company specifically for black women. Shaw wanted her company to focus on three things: A talent agency, original content, and the collective for training and development and includes three levels of varying memberships. Women can join either the collective memberships, where members will receive BGAC-centric training and development; a VIP collective membership that includes representation by a talent agency; or for young black girls between the ages of 10-18, a youth membership, which holds anime workshops in cities like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.
“Right now we’re in the process of creating our pilot training and development program,” Shaw explains. “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.”
Shaw’s goal is to change and reshape the narrative the media has concerning black people and people of color into something positive. “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.”
Shaw’s motivation, coupled with her innovation, is already making waves, as she’s worked with MTV, VH1, BET, CNBC, Comedy Central, the Chicago Tribune, and South Africa’s premiere news network, eNCA, and currently produces interstitial content for VICELAND, Vice Media’s television channel. Her company currently has 20 members and growing and Shaw hopes to leave a giant mark in the world.
“…I feel a responsibility to fill the holes and the gaps.” She says. “ I think partially this hasn’t been addressed because people assume that everything is fair and everything across the board… 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.
For more info, visit Shaw’s website here.