Christina Dunn is a digital diva passionate about the intersections of hip-hop, social issues, and social media. Her dedication to her craft, as well as, commitment to getting yours together through her consulting efforts is what both attracted us to her story and keeps us coming back for more. Get into our interview with her below and prepare for your both your digital and real life edges to be snatched. Keep up with Chris via Instagram @theinitiative and @christinadunn____ + her website, christiancdunn.com.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you and where are you headed?
I am a natural creative and storyteller, hailing from Queens, New York. I have a deep love for hip-hop, social issues, and content curation. I am a daughter. Sister. Friend. And lover. Kanye’s “I like art type girl:” Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kehinde Wiley are some of my favorites. A Jay-Z stan. #BlackLivesMatter advocate. You can catch me brunching, watching basketball, voicing my opinions on the injustices of the world or spending hours looking for the perfect picture to post. I am headed to becoming a Digital marketing strategist for your favorite brands. I believe I was placed here to put on for our culture and I won’t stop until I get there.
How did you get your start in digital? Who or what inspired you?
I was studying sociology and decided to double major in Communication, late in my junior year. My senior year, I traveled to Germany for an intense journalism course where I documented the lives of graffiti artists who tagged Berlin streets. I’ve always known I wanted to tell the stories of the silenced. Those stories were my first publications on a digital platform. I was also heavily involved with my Black Student Union at the University at Buffalo. (1967 love) Through all of my positions I was responsible for taking ideas and displaying them through digital platforms. Flyers, appearances on our on campus radio station, whatever it was I used media platforms to showcase all the dope things we had going on. Digital started there. It became even more of a passion in 2015. I’ve always been very particular about what gets posted on my personal page. (I’m the Instagram girl in my clique) One day my best friend sent me a flyer to apply to the Black Girl Fly internship, She was like “Chris, this is you in internship form.” I received the opportunity to help with branded content, visual strategy, and managing all of their social media platforms– from then I’ve been hooked. Black Girl Fly Mag has given me the challenge of showcasing every “type” of black girl and reporting on Black lives. (Those girls are my family) My circle has been instrumental in pushing me towards opportunities in this field and truly want to see me evolve.
My inspirations are: Rashad Drakeford, Head of Global Digital Editorial, Beats by Dr. Dre at Apple, Rebecca Ijeoma, Digital Marketing at Capitol Records, Elaine Welteroth, EIC of Teen Vogue and Phillip Picardi, Digital Director at Teen Vogue and Allure. My new favorite person is Beyonce’s Digital Manager, Nigel Zeff.
Oath Audience Development Fellow (shoutout to OATH that was AOL which gave us the gem AIM), Social Media Manager for Black Girl Fly Mag, and owner of your own digital consulting firm, where do you think social media is headed? What do you believe are key pieces of any social strategy?
AND Digital Producer for In Real Life Podcast with Angie Martinez and Miss Info (Shameless Plug). Social Media is one of the most important facets of our generation. Let’s be honest, I get my news from TWITTER and app alerts. Social Media can only go up from where it is now. It has been crucial to starting businesses and continues to transform. Think about it, even though we want an edit button on twitter, we are getting 280 characters. Every company has a social media team and is focused on elevating their social networks. I’ve taken a college classes on social media! Look at 45, (SMH), he even sees the power of social media.
Key pieces for social are: Consistency, storytelling and clarity. Consistency is important because no one will know what your brand is if you’re spotty. Show up virtually!
Storytelling, Angie Martinez once told me that if your content doesn’t make YOU yourself go WOW or move you, then it’s not good enough yet. Work on telling a story through your brand. What you put out is what you will receive. Look at the strategy of your favorites. You love Beyoncé’s Instagram because she has a team that is focused on making content that is meaningful and makes you go WOW. Sooner or later everyone is going to try to put music behind their pictures and have them spin to “Mi Gente.”
Lastly be clear! Make your brand have a clear mission. It’s a shame when people say the social media world is “saturated.” Sure, there are a lot of brands/bloggers but how many of them have a clear objective. Some people’s social media is all over the place. If you’re going to talk about travel or music, stick to that and have a clear and compelling way of get your content across.
You recently launched The Initiative, a platform to put us on to new music, new artists, and new albums. Talk to us about where you see hip-hop and social issues intersecting both for the advancement (and sometimes detriment) of the culture?
I owe all my hip-hop knowledge to my mom. She immersed herself in that culture and she made me love the culture and appreciate it. Hip-Hop is a reflection of the times. When artists speak about the burning of the Bronx or the crack era, those are REAL points in time.
I took a class in college called, “Hip Hop and Social Issues” with one of the greatest professors in the SUNY system, Dr. Kush Bhardwaj. We would sit in class and dissect lyrics and see how they reflected history and the state black lives. Hip-Hop is our history books. Jay Z said it best: “We are the culture!” We are the culture that shakes shit up and makes things move. Jay Z, highlighting black wealth in 4:44, J. Cole taking a stance on social issues, David Banner, Vic Mensa, T.I., the list goes on and on, hip-hop artists have always been instrumental in telling our stories. Kendrick’s “Alright,” became a chant for police brutality marches. The intersection of Hip Hop and social issues is only positive in my eyes. Do you know why “F*ck the Police” became so big? because though painted “harsh” for its time it was a true story and reflective of real life. NWA, will forever go down in history, for sticking up for our people. How can people question Hip-Hop’s validity, when we are still fighting police brutality today! Hip- hop is the birth place for saying: “some of us are struggling in our neighborhoods, what are you all going to do to fix it.” I see no detriment. The killing of our people is real, gang violence is real, the drug use is real. But the only reason that our communities suffer is because of the social issue of, poverty. If artists don’t rap about these issues we will continue to be silenced.
What opportunities do you see for women/women of color/girls like you in your field and how do you intend to positively influence this arena?
4 words to all companies: HIRE WOMEN OF COLOR! We need our stories told and our voices heard. I think corporations are starting to see that. Opportunities are on job boards everywhere but I think we need to uplift each other. Girls need mentors in their arena that look like them. So my hope is that I can bring in women of color under my wing when I have the opportunity.
Do the work! Study people in the positions you want to be in one day. I study people like a book. Most people I have made connections with I have been studying them work for years. I find out what networking events they are talking at, watch their interviews, following them on social media, read interviews about them and I reach out to them for guidance.
I think another thing to realize is that all women of color are all struggling. Ava DuVernay applied to the Sundance Film Festival six times! We have to be conscious that we are all struggling and overcoming. I am an avid fan of the Black Girl Podcast. I’ve cried so many times because I can relate to those Black women in media. I was working Street team for the iHeart Radio and didn’t feel fulfilled. When Scottie Beam shared her story of street team, I connected with her story. When Sapphira Martin, quit her job and was starting her own business and I was starting consulting and I connected with her story. I want to get to a point where I can put people on, I really do.
What message would you give millennial women of color trying to find their footing in our digital age? How can they better use social and digital offerings to tell the stories that need to be told?
Be honest with yourself and unapologetic. I work in the same building as Lilly Workneh, Senior editor at Huffington Post and I haven’t told her but the way she puts on for black people at the Huffington Post through Black voices is so important to news reporting. Maxine Waters said it best, it’s our time to be controversial. Use your social media to expose people to your world and the things you know to be true.
What can we expect from you, The Initiative, and Consulting with Chris moving forward? How can we be of support?
You can support by following me: @theinitiative on Instagram,
@christinadunn____ on Instagram and checking out my website: christinacdunn.com. If you know someone interested in leveling up their visual strategy send them my way. I still have so much to learn but I truly enjoy digital marketing and creating brand identities.
In the end, how do you want your story depicted? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I want my family to be proud of me. I don’t think they always knew you could make a life out of “branding.” I want everyone I work with to walk away and say, “Chris was a hard worker.” I want to leave behind some sort of business or foundation for girls in digital and tech. Aside from learning creative ways to brand, I want girls to master coding, multimedia and really expose them to computer science. I want the next generation of women to be their own CEO’s. It’s about time the world got a taste of that.
Just for kicks:
- Erykah or Lauryn?
Lauryn, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is easily one of the greatest albums of all time.
- J Cole or Kendrick?
Love them both. But I’ve seen Cole about 6 times, so I’ll say Cole. He moves me EVERY time.
- ASATT or Lemonade?