December 7, 2017

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Shayla Hunter Addresses and Clarifies What It Means to Be a Black Female Today Through Her 100 Black Females Project

What are you working on—on the side?

My side project is the 100 Black Females Project. It is about connecting with Black Females of all ages and having them share their personal stories and experiences of being a Black Female today. I have done many personal side projects over the years, but this is the first that went beyond the personal. The 100 Black Females Project began as a challenge which later blossomed into something I never expected.

100 Black Females began earlier this year, April 2017, while I was a graduate student at the SVA Masters in Branding Program. A component of the curriculum is completing a 100 Days Project under the direction and mentorship of Debbie Millman, the department chair of the Masters in Branding Program. For each student, The 100 Day Project assignment began as something to personally discover everyday for 100 days. I went through approximately 4 different ideas before reaching the idea of 100 Black Females. I was led to the project when I looked inward at what I was trying to avoid or not think about. I thought the idea of talking about race was going to make things too uncomfortable or be too sensitive of a topic. That is where it struck me that I needed to walk this path of the unknown. That personal journey evolved into a project that created a community for Black Females and making a quiet dialogue around being a Black Female much louder. The project is about vulnerability, honesty and sharing your true self with the world. 100 Black Females is not just for Black Females, but for everyone. Each story, thought and expression is different but can speak to someone in an unexpected way. There are many stereotypes and expectations existing in the world surrounding Black Females. With those stereotypes and expectations, people are not seen as their true selves and treated as such. I want to help break that, allow people to share their stories, know these stories matter, and should be heard. For each Black Female, I interview them with a few questions. I run the questions and their answers along with an illustrated portrait that I create. One question is highlighted on Instagram, @100BlackFemales, while additional questions and answers are shared on the website. Creating illustrations was something I haven’t explored in a long time, but it has made me more confident in working and sharing this medium.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

I continue to show up for it and make it happen! It is funny, because during my graduate program, the project was something I needed to find time to accomplish and document on a daily basis, on top of all the other school work I had and working a full-time job. Yes, I surprised myself everyday! I wondered how I would find the time, but I did just that—I found the time. When things are important to you, you make time to accomplish them. I also don’t pressure myself too much about the schedule. Some weeks are easier than others, so I meet, connect, interview and draw for 100 Black Females when I can. The project becomes part of a daily thing for me. I am always looking for females of all ages to feature for the project. I find them through friends, at events, social media, the hair salon, all over! Presently, I have surpassed the original goal of 100, and the new goal is 200. Hopefully it will go even further than that!

Why have a side project?

I always believe having side projects are a great way to express one’s self-creativity. I am also a photographer and modern dancer which means I get to be a part of different communities. As I kid, I was always wanting to try out something new to learn. There was art class on the weekends, dance classes, piano, etc. I think it helped me to not be afraid of trying new things and learning. With side projects, they are something for yourself that you can build and steer in any way you want. Plus, they may open a path into something else that you never expected.

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Diptych courtesy of Shayla Hunter.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.

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