Name: Kamey Butler
Title/Position: Director, Creative Services at Guthy Renker
DT: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? And some highlights in your career? Please name drop (laughs).
KB: My name is Kamey Butler, originally from Baltimore, MD and have since lived in Miami, New York, South Africa, London and most currently Los Angeles. My career started in the film industry working for Spike Lee on films – Summer of Sam & The Best Man. The long days quickly made me re-think my initial excitement for the film business and I was drawn to working in Fashion. A natural progression since my mother is a designer. I became a model agent and I worked on the teams that started the careers of Channing Tatum, Ashley Graham, Cameron Russell and Gelia Bekele to name a few. After 10 years as an agent, I transitioned to the client side. Heading up production and creative operations for companies such as Avon, Loreal, Keihl’s, Michael Kors, IMG and most recently Guthy Renker. A leading global beauty incubator managing 20+ celebrity lifestyle/wellness brands, plus a portfolio of start-ups in various stages of development. In my roles I have made it my mission to impact beauty and fashion campaigns by hiring more minority talent behind and in front of the scenes.
DT: Why is it important to have diversity in the beauty and fashion industries?
KB: Beauty and Fashion draw influence from diversified backgrounds in order to stay relevant, on trend and living up to the demand of their target market. If the decision makers who are creating the brand strategy, brand ethos and the visual representation – those stakeholders should ultimately reflect their variegation of their consumer.
DT: Have you seen shifts in the last decade?
KB: The industry has collectively taken a giant step forward towards inclusivity. From embracing body positivity, LGBTQIA communities, intergender and interracial couples and non traditional models. While many brands have taken a step forward, we still have a ways to go when we look at the backlash of poor culture decisions made by – H&M, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger to name of few.
DT: In a perfect world, what would be an ideal evolution in the industries of beauty and fashion?
KB: Ideally, everyone has a seat at the table! Sounds cliche, but as someone that works on Advertising, having a voice in the room makes a difference. If it does not always influence the output, it sheds insight on how brands should be engaging with their consumer.
DT: Do you realize that your presence in the industry, inspires many people around the world?
KB: Honestly, it is not something I ever thought about until 2 moments in my career. 1 was when I was a Director at Ford Models and I was in a meeting with Taye Diggs (mind you as the only other black person in the room and had shoulder length dreadlocks at the time). And when everyone left he looked at me and said I never expected to see black women here, thank you. At the time I was in my early 20’s I didn’t see the big deal, but as my career progressed and I was in rooms with Executives and Celebrities and was often the one minority either as an African American or as a female – it clicked! The 2nd time was during a strategy meeting for a new brand whose founder was a minority woman and the marketing team was only talking about using caucasian women in the ads and I raised my hand and said – the founder is melanin Phillipino woman, whose audience includes both African Americans and transgender consumers, why are we not reflecting that? Eyebrows raised and heads nodded in that ‘you have a point’ way – and just by saying what seemed like the obvious, the campaign was changed to include diversity.
DT: What advice would you give your younger self?
KB: “Don’t be afraid to speak up, if you are in the room, you belong there! Use your platform wisely.”
DT: Are you living your purpose?
KB: I have always felt my purpose was to inspire, encourage and remind people who they are beyond the ‘face’ they show the world… especially women and minorities. Ironically when you work in a business that creates the illusion of aspirational lifestyles – staying true to your purpose can feel overwhelming. I have had to find ways with how I am still being purposeful in my day to day. And for me that is continuing to own my truth and use my seat at the table to not only influence decisions, but by just showing up, vulnerable, authentic and open to continue to learn what may not always be familiar to me, is encouraging others to do the same.
DT: Finish this sentence: “I am grateful for…”
KB: “…the simplicity of breathing, because it reminds me to stay present.”
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