Spotify's Dominique Wynne is set to become ONE School's first female class leader
ONE School —The One Club for Creativity's free portfolio program geared specifically to address the advertising industry's diversity deficit — thrilled to begin its second year, with the deadline for Fall 2021 applications due on Friday, September 10.
The first two semesters of ONE School were an unparalleled success, with 80% of its graduates currently working in creative departments across the country. And the students aren't the only ones moving onto bigger and better things, as Spotify creative director Dominique Wynne — who has served as a mentor to some of the first year's grads — is about to take on the role of leading the entire Fall 2021 Atlanta class. Even though the program is still nascent, Dominique's ascension marks the first time a Black woman will head a ONE School class — and it's about time!
We had a wonderful opportunity to chat with Dominique about her new role, and how her professional journey has prepared her for this moment.
First of all, a big congratulations to you for becoming the first Black female to lead a ONE School class! What does it mean to you to step into this role?
It’s nothing short of amazing to be the first female leading ONE School. The guys at ONE School get the title “Ad Dad” and I don’t think I’m an Ad Auntie (for alliteration's sake), but I can definitely be your favorite Ad cousin. To all the creative Black women, me stepping into this role is my Bat-Signal to you. We exist and it’s no secret that our perspective pushes culture forward. Come through!
Of course, this isn't your first ONE School rodeo, as you've also served as a mentor to the previous classes. What was that experience like, and did that play into your decision to take the reins of the Atlanta class this fall?
I started mentoring at ONE School as soon as it opened last year because I wanted to make sure that someone, somewhere, starting out would know that Black women exist in advertising! As a mentor, being able to directly impact someone’s growth is so rewarding. I’ve seen my mentees grow and get opportunities like no other, so when asked to head Atlanta it was a no-brainer. For me, this position is more than just educating, it’s “If you can see it you can be it” in action. Building equity in the Black community like this is so important.
Let's go back to the beginning of your advertising journey, since creatives tend to have rather non-traditional entryways into the biz...
I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up and would cry when my teachers and my parents asked about it. I was always a creative kid and leaned into the arts, music, and theatre. My mom has a great story about me bawling and crying at a young age saying “I don’t want to work in an office!!!” during Take Your Children to Work Day. Advertising felt like a cheat code to me. My thought process on that was kind of like “...fine, if I have to be in an office then I better get to be creative, too.” I didn’t want to compromise on that.
I tripped and fell uphill into the advertising industry though. It is so hard to enter the space as a Black woman. I saw that BBDO had an I.T. position open, applied to that just to get my foot in the door, and they ended up hiring me as a Creative Assistant. Once I was in the building I made it my sole goal to become a creative. I did a lot of knocking on people’s doors, I took some night portfolio classes, and David Lubars finally put me on a pitch. We won that and they ended up promoting me to junior art director on the account.
I got the best piece of advice ever from an ECD when I was starting out at BBDO: Don’t be afraid to be a squeaky wheel. He was right. When you’re a person of color it’s a tough space at big agencies and you really have to be able to advocate for yourself. Today I think my biggest lessons are a combination of that and the “If you can see it, you can be it” mentality I mentioned earlier. As I was making my way up the ladder, I saw fewer and fewer people that looked like me, and that was really discouraging. I started to feel like I didn’t belong in the advertising space. But as I started to meet other Black creatives, it really motivated me to continue down this career path.
"Don’t be afraid to be a squeaky wheel... when you're a person of color it's a tough space at big agencies and you really have to be able to advocate for yourself."
And today you're a creative director at Spotify, working on celebrity music brands. Any fun stories to share?
I love my job so much! My day-to-day can get crazy. Tight timelines, surprise albums dropping out of nowhere, everything just moves fast. You never really know what you’re gonna get with celeb music artists. As challenging as that may be, I’ve gotten to work with some of my favorites! I think the most exciting part of my job is working on projects that fans can actually enjoy. I just did a photoshoot with Doja Cat that went viral. It’s cool to do culturally relevant work and watch the world react to it in real-time.
You're leading the ONE School Atlanta class — a technicality since both students and mentors are joining remotely from across the country — but you split your time between New York and Los Angeles. What do you love about each city?
I decided to live a part-time New York/ LA life this summer. I grew up in Queens, and I love everything about New York. The people, the grit, the culture, the fashion, the street food is unmatched. I feel like I get most of my inspiration from walking around Brooklyn. What’s great about LA though is the weather and proximity to nature. I feel like you kind of get the best of both worlds out there. A lot of people moved to upstate New York during COVID to be away from the hustle and bustle, but what LA does for me is gives me the city feel with the option to get out in nature to wind down.
Let's get back to your role as one of ONE School's Fall 2021 leaders. What should attendees expect to learn from you — and equally important, what do you hope to learn from them?
One thing I’ll have to offer students is a relatable, real, multifaceted perspective. Black creators are not a monolith and I’m so excited to teach that. I want to emphasize that we don’t have to pull from our suffering to make great work. I feel like in advertising a lot of Black creatives tend to get put on briefs that make them take inspiration from trauma. But we are so much more than that. We can be cool, weird, quirky, emotional, vibrant. We can do it all.
Something that’s so dope about ONE School is that the students come from all different walks of life. It’s such a rich pool of inspiration. My first mentee was a textile designer! There’s so much to gain from the exposure to different upcoming creatives here, especially working at Spotify, where you have to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s cool across all different types of mediums.
"I feel like in advertising a lot of Black creatives tend to get put on briefs that make them take inspiration from trauma. But we are so much more than that. We can be cool, weird, quirky, emotional, vibrant. We can do it all."
Now that we are a year into this grand experiment we call ONE School, what can you say about it that makes it special? And moving into a brand new year, how do you see it growing?
There’s nothing like the ONE School out there right now. It’s so much more than just a Black creative’s path into the industry. It’s learning from some of the best creatives in the game, it’s getting the opportunity to work on real briefs, getting mentorship from someone who looks like you, someone who was literally once in your shoes. It’s learning how to overcome that impostor syndrome that comes with being Black in advertising. It’s crucial to support something like this because in an industry that’s historically been run by the same kind of people, ONE School levels the playing field.
Moving forward, we need to grab new talent from unexpected places. Not just going to the career fairs, but the places where Black creatives actually are. The coffee shops, the community spaces, the events. We should be as integrated into the culture as we are on our day-to-day. They go hand in hand.
We are just over a week away from the Fall 2021 application deadline. For anybody who has already registered, and for those still sitting on the fence, what tips can you offer that will help them get the most out of ONE School?
Literally just be yourself. I know that is so cliché, but Black creatives really do have that secret sauce. Come into the course, learn the techniques, refine, refine, refine, stay close to your mentors, keep things weird and the rest is within you.
Any closing thoughts?
Diversity is more than just a buzzword. The industry really needs to continue its efforts long after'diversity' stops being trendy. I’m excited to see it live up to that.
Applications for ONE School's Fall 2021 program are due Friday, September 10.