IWD 2021: Senior creatives nominate their women to watch

Which up-and-coming women creatives do the likes of Ana Balarin and Vicki Maguire admire?

Top: Walsh, Hillier, Ayittey and Vongsa-Nga; Bottom: Coel, Payet, Mammoliti and Green
Top: Walsh, Hillier, Ayittey and Vongsa-Nga; Bottom: Coel, Payet, Mammoliti and Green

To mark International Women’s Day 2021, Campaign asked some of the UK’s top creative women to tell us which up-and-coming creatives are inspiring them. 

Ana Balarin, executive creative director, Mother nominates photographer Sophie Green 

I first came across Sophie’s work in an article about her series on churchgoers from south London. The theme was what drew me in, but the photos were so mesmerising that I remember being surprised by a fairly young photographer being able to evoke that kind of trust from her subjects.

Her gaze is so original. Whatever she is shooting, it never feels obvious. The portraits are particularly powerful. Her subjects are obviously posing, but it doesn’t feel forced or unnatural. There’s an ease and honesty, as if the shots were taken by someone who they know and knows them very well.

She completely nails that critical balance that we’re always trying to strike with advertising and which is so hard to get right. And the way she makes Britain and London always look so sunny is a mystery and a welcome sight to my Brazilian eyes.

Vicki Maguire, chief creative officer, Havas London nominates film director Meena Ayittey 

Have you watched Meena Ayittey’s “Mama” for Black Lives Matter? If you haven’t, you should. It’s not an easy watch, but it stays with you. Like all of Meena’s work, it doesn’t back away from a subject. Just watch the trailer for her doco Black Creative: Race and the Advertising Industry. If that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, it should. 

Meena was my go-to designer for all things AFX and motion graphics. But, my God, could she tell a story. It’s come as no surprise that she’s become a director. And a bloody good one at that. Now signed to Great Guns (great hire) – talented, uncompromising, with a fresh take on the real world. Use her now before we lose her to Hollywood.

Metz Bryan-Fasano, co-founder and production leader, Other nominates actress, screenwriter, director and producer Michaela Coel

I am inspired by black women with the passion, drive and patience to tell their stories authentically and without boundaries. Coel leads with full creative control and has turned down the big money to keep her own intellectual property. So, in addition to her creative genius, she possesses integrity, fortitude and, most importantly, self-belief.

Representation matters and seeing not only the end result of Michaela’s honest and layered body of work, but also how she bosses behind the scenes, inspires me to live a fearless life.

Sam Stone, creative director, Coley Porter Bell nominates &Walsh founder and creative director Jessica Walsh

At just 34 years old, Jessica Walsh is a powerhouse in our industry. She’s been coding and designing websites since she was 11 years old, made partner at Sagmeister & Walsh at 25 and founded her own creative agency last year.

Her work is daring, bold and brave, and often tackles societal norms and values. She’s a pioneer for women and not afraid to be vocal about the "boys' club at the top". She set up a fantastic initiative called Ladies, Wine and Design – a monthly event series to help creative women thrive in the design world.

In my opinion, supporting other women is one of the greatest things you can do in our industry.

Becky McOwen-Banks, executive creative director, VaynerMedia nominates Amazon lead creative Mikaela Rice

Mikaela is a tour de force and a great inspiration with over a decade of industry experience. She is committed to enabling others to grow and finding brilliant ways to make it happen. From starting new SheSays initiatives back in 2018 to launching Growth & Grace in 2019, a global network made to connect people through ambition and vision rather than social mobility, Mikaela drives the creative industry forward with passion and focus way above and beyond the day job.

Her eye for design, passion for her craft and general curiosity for all things creative make her a joy to work with and a great team player. At Amazon, she looks after all things creative, from conceptualising to final delivery.

Nadja Lossgott, executive creative director, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO nominates agency producer Darapen Vongsa-Nga

One of the most creative people I admire is a producer. Darapen is inspiring in every way. And it’s through creativity that she gets shit done.

She’s as comfortable handling massive productions as she is much smaller, off-the-cuff ones. And she sprinkles every production with her flair. Everything she touches is always done to a high standard. Because she is in love with creativity in all its forms and her wicked sense of humour energises everyone around her.

Plus her courage to speak up for what is right inspires everyone around her to be better. It’s why she is loved and respected by everyone that works with her. 

Our producers are so often the third creative brains in teams and while she already has a formidable award-winning body of work on her reel, I have no doubt her brain will go on to make truly incredible, iconic work. 

Melody Sylvester, head of film, Engine nominates Brixton Finishing school student Leila Nithila-George

What to say about Leila? Mainly, how lucky we are to have her on placement in the early days of what is likely to be a long and successful creative career. She is a funny, intelligent and passionate young woman with a voracious appetite to learn, question and acquire skills.

She refuses to limit herself and has set out to build on her graphic design background and acquire more knowledge and experience in a fashion that can only be described as fearless and considered. She is 24 and already understands what for many takes years to grasp. She will go far. 

Emma de la Fosse, chief creative officer, Digitas UK nominates Digitas copywriter Chesney Payet and art director Leah Mammoliti

Despite their youth, I always know that I will get sophisticated thinking from Chesney and Leah. They’d not really worked together much before they came to Digitas, but they just gelled and, like the very best creative teams, they are greater than the sum of their parts.

What does being female bring to the party? I don’t know really. They’re just a bloody good team who happen to be women.

Sue Daun, executive creative director, Interbrand nominates Interbrand design director Macaila Vorster

In this industry, there are a rare few that have the ability to stretch their skills and thinking across all categories – corporate, consumer, strategic and tactical with equal measure. Macaila Vorster, a design director in the Interbrand business, is one such unicorn.

Her talent is more than just the creativity she brings through big ideas, attention to detail and craftmanship, but also a wonderful brain and a big heart. She understands the power of a big idea and is meticulous in her consideration of detail.

She is well-tempered and with an immense empathy for clients and their business, but does not shy away from standing up for things and people she believes in. She is curious, adaptive and incredibly diligent.

But, most of all, every experience of working with her brings new ideas and new thinking that inspire all. What more would you ask in the leadership for tomorrow?

Nicola Moulton, creative director, Seen Group nominates beauty photographer and director Hanna Hillier

I’m always looking for great beauty photographers and am particularly keen to shoot with young female creatives who can capture the essence of beauty in a really fresh and original way.

I love the work of Hanna Hillier because her approach to capturing beauty is refreshing and unique – she celebrates and captures all the quirks, imperfections and realness in her work, and she isn’t afraid to go close in and show real, unfiltered skin.

She has already worked with big brands including Charlotte Tilbury and Sainsbury’s, and has also shot stunning editorial imagery for the likes of Rose Inc. At Beauty Seen, we recently commissioned Hanna to capture some images that give a modern, aspirational yet inclusive representation of beauty and have been blown away by the results.

What I also love about Hanna is that she is always keen to explore new creative challenges. She shoots both stills and moving image and works with both models and still lives. Having been based in NY, Los Angeles and now London, there is an openness to her work that I think makes her easy for brands to work with, while also retaining her own aesthetic. A next-generation creative change-maker, for sure.

Victoria Buchanan, executive creative director, Tribal Worldwide nominates Tribal creative Emma Harris

Emma started her career as an apprentice, a new breed, and worked her way through to becoming a copywriter on the social team before taking a side transfer into the creative department. A young, socially born, sharp, smart head, Emma has developed her work from short, quick-witted, social banter to richer comms language, experience, and interactive storytelling. A kooky, fresh outlook at life and a native to digital, she always has been fast to feel a thread, pick up a sniff, a trend, a movement, a moment. Signature mac and eyeliner, watch out for her next move.