Taylor K. Shaw: Success Of Black Women Animate Is Proof That Investing In Diverse Talent Is A Winning Strategy

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OnStar - She Knows Tech - Taylor Shaw

Source: Courtesy of Taylor Shaw

Black Women Animate (BWA) is transforming representation in animation. Founded by Taylor K. Shaw in 2018, the groundbreaking animation studio empowers Black women in animation and is proof that investing in diverse talent has been a recipe for success.

“I started the company because I love Black women, and I wanted to see us have careers in animation,” says Shaw, BWA’s founder and CEO.

BWA’s mission is to create opportunities for Black and diverse animators to tell dynamic stories. “There’s so much space for us. We have so much opportunity to tell our stories across our different diasporas,” Shaw says. “Animation is an invitation to dream and think outside of the boxes of the world that we occupy.”

In addition to offering creative services like CGI and character design, BWA actively nurtures emerging talent among diverse creatives. “The only way to solve this problem of a lack of diversity in animation is to give people opportunity,” Shaw says. “We’re a studio that intentionally builds people up, training people up into our pipeline as a part of our mission, and we actively spend money on that.”

OnStar - She Knows Tech - Taylor Shaw

Source: Courtesy of Taylor Shaw

Not Your Average Diversity Program

The innovative animation studio strives to be a blueprint for equity in the entertainment industry. In April, the company hosted its fifth annual BWA Boot Camp in Los Angeles. Over 300 animation artists attended this year’s event, building community through workshops and networking opportunities.

During the Boot Camp, BWA launched the Equity Excelerator, an exciting new initiative designed to further the studio’s vision of creating a more inclusive media landscape. “This isn’t your average diversity or inclusion program,” Shaw says. “It is geared towards true job creation because we’re giving people real hands-on experience.”

While more than 70 percent of animation students are women, representation in the industry is lacking, Shaw says. “There’s a huge drop-off, and then you add on those layers of being Black or being nonbinary. We see the representation fade the more you add our intersectional identities to the equation.”

What’s Next for BWA Studios

Shaw founded BWA in 2018 alongside founding and managing partner JLove Calderón. Six years in, the company is winning jobs and seeing commercial success — working with big brands like Hulu, Netflix, HBO, A&E, Mattel and more.

The next stage for BWA is producing original content. “We made it to this point where we’re industry-recognized and we continue to grow,” says Shaw, who is looking forward to the next evolution of BWA. “We’re going to start making these shows and creating intellectual property that really sings and resonates with diverse audiences.”

It’s a full circle moment for the Southside Chicago native, who started BWA out of a desire to connect with talented Black women in animation for a passion project. A TV producer with Vice Media at the time who had little to no experience with animation herself, Shaw realized that diverse animators were few and far between.

She saw an opportunity, and Black Women Animate was born. “It was kind of a natural progression of me seeing that lack of inclusion in animation and then wanting to do something about it,” Shaw says.

OnStar - She Knows Tech - Taylor Shaw

Source: Courtesy of Taylor Shaw

Tell Your Story

As BWA Studios continues to evolve, Shaw and her team are fueled by the power of diverse narratives. By amplifying these stories, BWA is moving the culture forward.

“Uncover who you are and don’t be shy about sharing it. The specificity and personal nature of your story will relate with others and it can change the world,” Shaw says. “We are sorely missing the stories of Black women being amplified in animation. So it’s really important that you do what you do and know that it has value.”

With all the hype around AI and emerging technologies, Shaw encourages artists to apply these tools. “I would say to all artists to not be intimidated by technology but to learn it and understand it,” she says. “What you will find is that it cannot replace you.”