By Emmy Liederman, Ad Week
LaToya Shambo was used to being the only Black woman in rooms that advocated for the same faces in marketing campaigns—the typical white, thin determinants of beauty and success. But it wasn’t until 2011, when she was hit by a vehicle while crossing the street and holding her newborn, that she decided to do something about it.
Surviving that accident, spending months in rehab and her entire maternity leave in a cast changed Shambo’s life forever. “During that process, there was a lot of self-reflection,” she said. “I decided that I had to give back to the culture.”
A lifelong singer, Shambo had briefly flirted with the idea of working in music before settling on marketing. Following that, she transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology, switched majors from music business to marketing and spent her spare time in the library sifting through career books. After landing on the radio ad sales page and snagging an internship at 106.7 Lite FM, Shambo decided what she really wanted to do was work in media planning and buying.
Shambo has made stops at companies including SpikeDDB, Complex and Condé Nast, with each new role deepening her understanding of how to package and sell media while building a sustainable business model. At Complex, she got to observe the publishing business and connect with Black female bloggers who struggled to monetize their platforms.
Then came the accident. A few months after it, Shambo stopped by the Complex office to sign some paperwork. Her boss asked her why she had a smile on her face given all she had endured, and Shambo replied that she had “figured it all out.” Her vision was to build her own Complex, which led Shambo to found Black Girl Digital in 2016.
The shop’s mission is to address the equity and wage discrepancies for Black and multicultural women in the marketing industry through meaningful action, such as the launch of its own app, iLinkr. The program is a tool for brands and agencies that are looking to book and manage talent of color.
“At the time, there were no ad networks specifically for Black female bloggers,” she said. “That birthed Black Girl Digital, which was originally designed as a service to the Black community from the perspective of bloggers. All my bloggers then became influencers, and Black Girl Digital is my contribution to the culture.”
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