Breonna Rodriguez is a writer, designer, and filmmaker currently living on the Upper East Side. Her dynamic skills, outgoing personality, and determination have landed her in incredible places. Originally from NJ, Breonna is the lead digital designer for Sesame Street, Founder of Zenfulie, and Staff Writer at HERMag.com.
The text below is an edited excerpt of a conversation between Breonna and The Light Leaks Founder, Kim Hoyos.
Photo by: Kaye McCoy
Explain what you do?
At Sesame Street, I’m their lead digital designer, which basically means I design websites, campaigns, apps, games and motion pieces. It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
How do you stay creative while working to design another’s work?
I really am just trying to help solve someone else’s problem. When I get attached to that idea, it’s pretty easy to stay energized and help them solve their problems creatively. I want to be a savior to a process — not burn the whole dream apart.
How did you get there?
Practice. Lowering the ego. Listening. Resilience. And some courage too.
What are some challenges/accomplishments?
I think having a day job, and working full time on my own projects creates an energy problem for me. I really have been focusing on food and working out again. I want to do everything, but my body needs me to take care of itself so I can make it all happen.
What do you think creativity is?
It’s both a friend and a foe, but mostly a friend — a rowdy, punch-drunk but generous friend, if you are loyal to her.
How did you see your creativity develop over time?
I always stay engaged with it; I let it change me. Whether it’s writing and article, or cooking dinner. That relationship becomes so strong, it’s almost impossible to break off with it. The more I trust it, the better work I make, too.
What’s your preferred artistic means?
Words. Letters. Even as a designer, I’ve always joked that “I give good type,” — meaning, I really can layout typography really well. It just stems from a love of communicating and writing really. It’s probably my first passion.
How do creators influence media?
I think creators have a unique opportunity to reflect the communities of the world. And if they actually pay attention to the way the world consumes media, and combine it with a superb talent for storytelling, I actually think they can influence media quite a bit. But you need the combination of the two, or else the success of your piece, really just doesn’t take off.
ZENFULIE AND #MINUSTHEDOUBT
What is Zenfulie? Why do you do it?
Zenfulie started off (December 31, 2014) as a blog where I got to express myself and my passion for encouraging other women. As of today, it’s officially an agency where I help brands encourage women. I still make content for my audience (I can never stop doing that — I love it too much.) But I’ve now begun to work with other brands who really like how I talk to my audience and want me to do the same for them. I love it. When I think of something that I really want to do in life more than anything, it’s to make things. When I think of something that I really love to do, it’s encouraging people. So Zenfulie is the product of my two greatest loves. There is nothing else I was meant to do.
What is it #MinusTheDoubt, how did you come to it, what were some challenges?
#minusthedoubt was my vision for helping other women crush their issues with self-doubt. I filmed the project with two friends, and gathered four other women outside of the film, to each chase one big goal and share our struggles with self-doubt along the way on social media. It was a massive undertaking, and in the film, you see me struggle with pitfall after pitfall to make the film happen. But eventually the larger lesson of what self-doubt is really about shines through pretty strongly.
INDUSTRY AND REPRESENTATION
How do you feel about representation in film?
I believe there is great representation of all races, genders, sexuality and social class in film. To say there is not, does a disservice to all the independent and amateur filmmakers around the globe who make beautiful, meaningful, work. It’s just unfortunate that this work is very, very rarely seen on the big screens or accepting academy awards.
I think we have identified that representation in film is largely beholden to the industry’s ability to make a profit. And it’s an interesting discussion to have — why they continue to cast actors like Matt Damon over Shakib Khan? As a business owner, I understand that you ultimately are only providing the supply to a demand. So if profit were at helm of these decisions, what would happen if we, as consumers, played with those numbers? Proactively sought out voices that were more inclusive in film and spent our money there instead? It’s an interesting question, because we have so much power over an industry of greed. I believe the solution to greater representation in film ultimately rests in how we and if we’ll use that power.
What do you wish you saw more of in media?
I think I’d like to see more people of Asian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern descent on the screen. I’m missing these voices and values in my life, and I think it’s really long overdue.
What do you think the biggest problem is in the industry?
I’ve been quite supportive of the asian clapback when it comes to casting white leads in traditionally asian stories. There are so many problems in the industry (in every industry, really), but recently seeing this pushback is yet another reminder that there are so many minority groups in American culture that really deserve a spot at the table. And without them, we really don’t progress in our thinking, our understanding of each other, and our possibilities as a society.
What are the differences you’ve seen for men?
Men still have this ability to fail upwards. I mean look at Casey Affleck. WTF. How is that possible? I just don’t really get why men are so afraid to hold each other accountable. And why we don’t pay attention when women try to do it.
What are the differences you see for WOC?
When I compare the legendary Lena Horne and her white-like features to actress Michaela Cole on the Netflix original series Chewing Gum — I have to say, I am excited for black women in film. There is a victory there — that we we come in all shapes, shades and sizes and are just as beautiful, profound and talented as any white leading actress. That being said, we can still do more. For all the WOC and especially for those that are lesbian and transgender — we can do a LOT more. WOC is not exclusively an umbrella for black women, and latina women, for straight women — but for ALL of us. Until Laverne Cox stands next to her trans soul sisters from Bangladesh, South Korea, and Ecuador in the remake of Fried Green Tomatoes, with a seven-figure check, and box-office records, I just think we have more work to do. But it’s coming. I know it is.