Sarah Huny Young is an ambitious and thoughtful award-winning creative director and artist. Her accomplishments and accolades are well deserved and humbly appreciated. Her passion project, 'American Woman', uniquely and profoundly showcases black women's relationship with America and identity. Huny is a leader and organizer in this industry. She strives to bring people together and make them feel comfortable in any space from hosting gatherings to collaborating on projects. Huny's career trajectory as shifted in the last few years with an emphasis on events, photography, and art bringing her closer to her ultimate goals. And we know that whatever path she continues on she will reach her ultimate creative destiny.
Sarah Huny Young is an ambitious and thoughtful award-winning creative director and artist. Her accomplishments and accolades are well deserved and humbly appreciated. Her passion project, 'American Woman', uniquely and profoundly showcases black women's relationship with America and identity.
Huny is a leader and organizer in this industry. She strives to bring people together and make them feel comfortable in any space from hosting gatherings to collaborating on projects. Huny's career trajectory as shifted in the last few years with an emphasis on events, photography, and art bringing her closer to her ultimate goals. And we know that whatever path she continues on she will reach her ultimate creative destiny.
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Maurice: All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.
Huny: Hello, my name is Sarah Huny Young. I am a award-winning creative director and visual artist. I am also an adventure writer and I consider my work to be based in documenting and exalting black womanhood and queer communities.
Maurice: First of all, I just have to say, it is so good to talk with you again. I think one thing that's happened since I think since we both last talked is that we're both like now fellow Root 100 winners.
Huny: Yes we are. Yes we are. Huge honor. That was wonderful.
Huny: I love putting that in my bio and resume. Congratulations to you. Well deserved.
Maurice: Thank you. Thank you. I wish I would have had time to do the do the event. Unfortunately I didn't have time to go up there.
Huny: That event is fantastic by the way.
Maurice: Yeah, it's a great event. It really is.
Huny: Open bar. Everybody's drunk.
Maurice: Look, it was like that when I did the, when I did the AIGA awards gala, it was an open bar like that. Whoo. It was a, it was a fun night. Definitely by everyone that was there. So I know that a lot has happened since then, so I don't know where should we start?
Huny: Well, when we last spoke to me, I was all the way in side of my amazing, wonderful dope affirming project, American Woman, which is a portrait in documentary theory, exploring black women's relationship with America. Since we talked, I actually mounted an entire exhibition here in Pittsburgh at a venue called Manchester Craftsmen's Guild. That was wonderful just to finally see all of those portraits actually printed out in mounted in that way. I actually was supposed to screen the full length documentary there, but it is still not done. I have not finished that documentary yet. It is become like not the bane of my existence because that's not fair to talk about it that way, but it is become like the thing that is the little ringing in my ear constantly is trying to get that documentary done. Now what I am still intending to do, in fact, the last time we talked, I said New Orleans was my last city and then my act went to Atlanta and I saw you in Atlanta when I was shooting American Woman in Atlanta.
Huny: That was due to funding actually provided by my cousin Damon Young and his wife Alicia. They contributed to my funding and I was able to add another city, but I went back to New York for that project and had like a New York 2.0 and I also needed to always go back to Chicago because whereas I shot probably 10 to 12 women in every single city I went to for American woman. I only shot five women in Chicago. Like I also have to this day no black trans gender women in American Woman. And I cannot ever call this project done until I have trans representation in it. And so there's actually two women in Chicago who I wanted to very specifically photograph, and interview around the experience of black transgender women in America because that is something that really, really needs to be represented in this project and really needs to be represented everywhere.
Huny: I know everybody loves Pose now and that's fantastic as far as media representation, but we can't call it done, we can't call that done, especially when so many black trans women are still suffering violence and even losing their lives. So American woman is still ongoing. It is now year three and it's actually on hiatus while I'm working on other things, but American Woman has reached some milestones, but it was very affirming to actually get that mounted as an exhibition finally and it was a fantastic turnout. We had a big panel and artists talk and party around the exhibition. It actually was not a fellow exhibition. There were two of our artists named Martha Rial and Kenneth Neeley who are a part of that exhibition as well. And it was a beautiful experience, but I still need to get this documentary done and I still actually would love to do a solo show of American Woman somewhere while finding a venue that actually has honestly enough room to present it in the way that I want.
Huny: Because the portraits are really big. They're like six feet by four feet, they're all huge. There's like 60 of them and there'll be about 70 when I'm done circling around in Chicago. And then there is somewhere where I need to actually be able to screen the documentary. So I think honestly, American Woman, I consider it in some ways my magnum opus, but I don't want to call it back because I'm still pretty young and I don't want to say like, "Oh, it was the best thing I'll ever do." It is one of the most important things I'll ever do, but it's still ongoing, so bad as the status of the miracle woman right now.
Maurice: I remember, I think this was maybe like early 2018 or so. CNN had mentioned some news about they were coming out with a series that was honestly very similar to yours, also titled American Woman. Do you remember that?
Huny: Oh yeah, absolutely. I do because I was really upset about it. Actually, I heard about that one New Year's Day of 2018 it was like text, Twitter notification, Facebook, people were calling me like, "Did you know?" Well, really? They were like, "Did you know CNN stole your project?" To which I was like, "Whoa, whoa, what, what? Let me go online and see what the hell is going on."
Huny: It was very similar except of course it was populated by mainly white women. I think the only black women in it where Ava Duvernay and Issa Rae and the focus of it was extremely similar to my project, if not the exact same, as Brooke Baldwin, I think her name is is the CNN news newscaster who worked on that. She actually named Tarana Burke and the Me Too Movement. The one of the inspirations for her doing her series, which was interesting because Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too Movement is in my American Woman series. So mainly I didn't have an issue with someone else exploring and talking to American women around what is your experience as a woman in America today? Right. That's an ongoing conversation that I didn't start that she didn't start that that is just an ongoing thing.
Huny: But what was just frustrating about it was that it was named the exact thing as my project. And it's funny too, people Maurice were like, well you're not the first either. I'm like, actually I am. Okay. I am the first person to ever have a theory called America Woman, that explorer women's relationship with America. It just so happens that my project centers black women completely. So you may think that I'm doing like the so called black version of something that already happened, but actually I did not. I researched whether I had an original idea and an original title for months and months and months before I actually went for it because I wanted to make sure I wasn't stepping on anybody else;s toes. I wanted to make sure I wouldn't have like a trademark or copyright issue. The only thing that were actually literally called American Woman were theories of like workout videos, I want to say some kind of VHS thing that had, they had long since abandoned their copyright.
Huny: And there is a magazine called American Women Magazine. So after my project a good year and a half after my project came CNN's American Woman, they were supposed to do it as a series. They abandoned that idea I guess because they had actually an extreme amount of outcry. I never got an official response from them, but there was a lot of people who were inundating them in my defense, which I appreciate, I'll always appreciate the way that people show up to protect me and other black women around black women's proprietary work. So that was dope, and then there were the TV show, I think it was on FX called American Woman that came out after my project and now there's a movie starring Sienna Miller called American Woman, but I actually have had the copyright for that for a couple of years now. I'm actually working on renewing it right now, which just it's always a[car 00:08:56].
Huny: It's always a cost financially and it's a time thing because you asked the prove, and this is for anybody who wants to like copyright something on and protect their work, you have to monetize it, which is kind of interesting to me. Like I have a lot of thoughts on that living in like a capitalistic society, how you can't actually own your own idea and protect it from other people unless you're purposely monetizing it and making money off of it. So that's, that's kind of interesting with the product like American Woman, because although I do have a coffee table book that I like to put out at some point in the in the next year or two, it wasn't ever to make money. Like, I don't want to make money off of the women who have trusted me and shared their stories with me, although they don't mind.
Huny: They're like, girl, get your money. Like we believe in you. We, we put our image and our likenesses and in your hands because we trust you. So have you need to sell something to make this happen in to continue like protecting us and exalting us and so be it. But that's never what an American woman was for. So that's the process I'm going through ongoing with American Woman. American Woman is probably going to be ongoing all the way through 2020 to be perfectly honest with you. But I do have a whole lot of other things that I'm working on as well because me being an artist and me being just a scatterbrain with ADHD, I always have an idea and I'm always working on multiple things.
Maurice: So I want to talk, I guess you know a little bit about that funding. It's interesting you mentioned that about how unless you're making money from your idea, that's like the only way that you can protect it. And also even in order to protect it, you've got to spend money on it. Like you have to buy a copy or you know, get a copyright or trademark or what have you. I know when we last spoke we were sort of talking about funding two projects that you had American Woman being one of them. The other one was a 1839 mag. As you kind of look at American Woman and I guess any other projects that you're working on now as We'll talk about. What is your relationship now with funding?
Huny: So that's a great question. I am still applying for grants, although not in a gung ho fashion I was doing a couple of years ago just because I've found a way who execute things without being reliant on funding. Now there are always going to be some big huge ideas I have that requires some kind of monetary compensation from someone who is not me. Because I don't have $15,000 to fund anything except one thing, food into my children's mouth and, and, and keeping a roof over our head. So I still believe in pursuing funding in grants, but there's a time issue that is always a factor when it comes to grants. Some of them turn over pretty quickly, like they'll give you a response within a month and you'll have that check on the second month and that's fantastic. But the vast majority of grants and funding opportunities, you really don't find out from months and months at a time.
Huny: Maybe six months later you'll get like a yes and you'll get like the check ideally. But me being, I never sit on ideas for that long and since we last part, I actually have my own artist's studio now where I can do a whole lot of stuff that I didn't have the ability to do before. Before I had like a literal dedicated space where I can take photos, now I paint in there. That's a meeting place for me. I work from there on my creative direction stuff for my company, Supreme Clientele. I work on DJ sets in there because I wandered my way into DJing and that came from the work that I've started doing around event curation as well. And it all, it seems like a lot like when we were talking earlier and asked me my title and I had to really think about it because I have a lot and it's hard to break it off into one word unless I just use creative, but then people are, there's a follow up question like, "What do you mean you're a creative? Okay, what the hell does that mean?"
Huny: It requires more explanation, so I'm still, I'm always going to be a creative director first. That's how my mind works and that kind of encompasses everything that I do creatively as well as on the marketing and communications and PR side, branding, all the things I do for my clients and my own projects. I am always going to call myself an artist as well because I like to remind people like, not that there's not design work that is artistic, but being someone who has always been an artist but not really been a part of an art scene until moving to Pittsburgh five years ago, that's been an important point to make to people as well. Also photographer, that is paying a lot of bills right now, which is glorious because before I received funding for American Woman, I would have never have thought I would be an actual working professional photographer at this point. And then, yeah, the event curation and DJing thing. It's a lot. If all creative though.
Huny: I'm not doing any mathematics or biochemistry. I'm an artist, a right-brained person, my period. And really if anything like involves creativity or movement, visuals, music, rhythm, I'm probably going to be into it.
Maurice: Let's talk more about that event series because this is something that kind of organically came about through your design work. Is that right?
Huny: Yeah, I think. Kind of. Not really. It's helped by me being a creative. But yeah, I mean even just your, I, you know, I like to wander off a question [boo 00:14:25], but when you asked me about like how, "What is my relationship with funding?" So the event curation thing did come from needing money and needing money by doing something that I've always been good at. I've always been a party girl and I don't mean wild sniffing coke off of a stripper's booty cheeks type party girl.
Huny: Although don't knock it till you try it out I guess. But I mean in terms of I love throwing events. I love throwing parties, as I love gathering people. I'm an extrovert. I know there's an ongoing joke in with my friends in New York and probably in other cities too where they're like, "Don't invite me to any more group dinners." Like people don't like group dinners. They don't like figuring out the check. I get it but I love stuff like that. I love bringing people together. I had a lot of great parties in New York. I always threw myself birthday parties in New York. I threw a really epic ass Halloween party in New York that some people still talk about. But when I moved to Pittsburgh, of course that was starting all over. I do have cousins here. My mom lives here, but I had never actually lived here myself and I wanted to find people who were like me.
Huny: There's a lot of events series here that are cool. Some of them are a little bougie for my taste. I'm not really into parties where you have to dress a certain way. I kind of like everybody to be able to express themselves. I'm not really into extremely heterosexual male dominated spaces either. And I think that comes from me just being intersectional as how I'm a black woman. I'm also a queer black woman, so I, I don't like to be in hyper, hyper, hyper heterosexual masculine spaces and that's a lot of the party scene period. But specific to my interests, the black party scene here in Pittsburgh and many other cities is kind of just dominated by that. So I had a friend who I talked about on the last podcast, his name is Aaron Clark, who's the cultural engineer of Ace Hotel Pittsburgh. I threw a birthday party for myself and once I knew enough people, took a couple of years, being here like "Okay, I think I know enough people now to have me a little party."
Huny: It was actually a lobby party at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh and a lot of people came, like a lot of people, like half the people at my own birthday thing. I didn't know them from [a can of paint 00:17:04]. But there were black people. They were ready to party. They were like, this was an interesting venue. I would have never thought to throw a party in a hotel lobby. Me being from New York, I was like, "New Yorker's do that and that's all the time. Like Ace Hotel New York there's always parties in there." I think Q-Tip used to DJ in the lobby of Ace Hotel New York. So that wasn't something that was strange to me, but that one went very well. And then I did another event at Ace Hotel. It was a Halloween party. That one was extremely popping too. Then I did a party around the release of the Black Panther movie in February of last year. Can you believe Black Panther just came out last year? I feel like that movie came out like-
Maurice: Wow. Yeah, that was last year.
Huny: It was, yeah, it was in February of 2018 so I did a huge party called The Afro Features Now at Ace hotel Pittsburgh. That one was actually in the gym. Tricked that whole gym out to look like Wakanda. I hadn't even seen the movie because the party was the day after the movie came out. I was like studying the trailer. This is always the creative director need. I was like pausing the trailer, looking at the art and what was in the background so I could make it seem like that. I hit the nail on the head pretty firmly too, so that was that was the event. I think there was probably about 350, 400 people in there. Gorgeous. The black diaspora is so freaking gorgeous, like blackness is so vast and everybody looks so fantastic cause you know everybody was putting on the [docky gears 00:18:32] and everything.
Huny: Everybody was mad African, mad continent around the Black Panther movie. But there were just so many different displays of, how we tie ourselves to the motherland and how we tie ourselves to being black American as well and our own heritage and culture here. And I saw what I did with that party, and really every party of just like, cause I'm like, "I would like to go to an event like this so if other people come that's cool, but I'll have a good ass time if it's just me and my homies." And it was like, "Okay wait a minute, wait a minute. I can actually do this." Because what happened was people told me exuberantly like, "You need to keep doing stuff because your parties feel different than other parties I've been to here. Please keep doing this. I loved it. This is a black woman run promotion company."
Huny: To which I was like, "Oh I'm a promotion company. Okay, cool. Whatever. Sure. Yeah, let's call it that. Let's just say that was intentional." And then some people started calling me event curator when they started writing about me and I'm like, "Yeah, okay, that sounds cool, that sounds legit. Let's do that." And mainly that women felt comfortable in my space, that queer people felt comfortable in my space, and that the people I do attract who may not identify as queer or LGBTQ class, they would come and not care about that either. And that was important to me. Like you adapt to the people who can't go everywhere to party the way you can. Yes, you're going to see men in high heels at my party in a B phase and there you're going to see the goons that look like Lil Wayne in the corner who don't care.
Huny: And that is a very interesting thing I've found about Pittsburgh. I know that this exists in New York. I know it does, but it was something that I needed to find in Pittsburgh as well. Like, where is the crowd where we can all just be [RFL 00:20:28] and nobody needs to do double-takes or have anything smart to say about the queer boy in the corner who looks fabulous and should be able to express himself in dance and flirt just the same way as anybody else can. So that is the center of why I got into throwing parties. My party company is called Darkness is Spreading. I don't know if I mentioned that or not. The function is on two tiers. The first, it's an inside joke. If you've ever seen scene Chappelle Show-
Maurice: Mm-hmmm (affirmative).
Huny: You've seen the Rick James skit like, "Darkness everybody, darkness is spreading," which is hilarious to me. To this day so funny to me.
Huny: But it also, in that skit, I don't know if you remember, you know Rick James being like a lighter skinned person. He was talking about the Murphy brothers because they were dark skinned and he called them darkness to like mess with them on some colorism stuff. But I was like, I think that is empowering and [attacked 00:21:28] . Like I'm not that Brown myself, but I'm like, "That is like a metaphor I want to use to talk about what I'm trying to do with my series of events. I'm trying to spread black culture throughout a city that is not known for it at all but which there is are lot of black people in Pittsburgh." But there's a lot of black people in Pittsburgh who have been looking for a different kind of event. I love a good theme. I had an Alice in Wonderland themed Halloween Party in October of 2018 that was really successful too.
Huny: There's a blacklight party, everybody glowed look like Belly actually. Three minutes of Belly by Hype Williams. And then I did an event actually on July 4th called Diaspora too Dope, which was a celebration of the black diaspora here in America and beyond. And that I had that even on July 4th was very intentional because I said f this American's birthday crap cause I'm going to try not to cuss in this podcast as well, like f that I would rather center the people who actually built this country. And have, you know, have all the trappings of July 4th that we as black people love. Well we have as people period cause everybody loves a good cookout. Everybody loves a barbecue. Everybody loves a block party. But that is something that I have always specifically tied to our culture. Black people just gathering in celebration and ritual.
Huny: So it was fantastic Maurice. It was beautiful. Like the best July 4th I've had, maybe even since I was a kid when my parents used to throw big block parties. There's a neighborhood here called the Hill District, I want to say besides maybe a neighborhood called Homewood and maybe Wilkinsburg, maybe Wilkinsburg is hanging on. But the Hill District is the most historic black neighborhood in Pittsburgh. It's the most historic black neighborhood in western PA, like past Philly, which is five hours away. The Hill District as a neighborhood is very, very similar to Harlem in that there's a lot of rich history in that neighborhood and it is still, it's one of the only historically black neighborhoods in this city to hold on to itself. It has not been heavily gentrified at all yet. It definitely needs some work. There's a lot of associations around keeping that neighborhood in the ownership of black people, which is-
Huny: ... Keeping that neighborhood in the ownership of black people, which is important to me. So, to have a block party in that neighborhood that centered us but also took advantage of this beautiful venue that costs tens of thousands of dollars that I did not have to put up. That was spearheaded by a new venue called All Summer. They offered me this space, and I was like, "Absolutely." It so good. I don't know if I'm even explaining it right, but if you think about the best family cookout you've ever been to and just the range of ages there, there was babies there, there was seniors there. My mama came through. My cousins were there. We had soul food. We had music.
Huny: I actually deejayed because that's just, again, that's just a thing that I decided to do. I don't do enough, I also decided I want to deejay. That came out of event curation, actually. I've always loved music. People who've known me for a while and have been following my career know about SoulBounce, which I formerly co-owned, one of the most influential full music platforms on the internet to this day. SoulBounce is still amazing, but I left it in the hands of Kimberly Hines, who was my partner in running SoulBounce for a few years.
Huny: I've always loved music, worked for Vibe Magazine, worked for BET for four years. I'm like, here I am with all this music knowledge, grown up with music. My parents are music lovers. I know a good DJ, which is why I have an ear for my events and who I want to actually hire for my events. When it came to, "I think I want to give this a try just because, why not? Just let me see. If it's too hard, or it seems too time-consuming or if it's not the right fit, I won't do it." So, I started deejaying in January, and I'm still doing it. I actually got some really exciting gigs coming up, Maurice. It's so different. It's so different than when we last talked.
Huny: I'm really grateful in all of the ways in which moving to this city has provided me opportunity to explore myself as a creative and as an artist-minded person in general because if I was still in New York ... I love me some New York. God, I miss it so much, so, so much. But I know for a fact if I remained there or even if I moved to Pittsburgh and originally got a tech job, which is what I thought I would do, I would not have discovered all of these new layers to myself. I'm really grateful for some of the at the time misfortune that has turned out to be a huge blessing.
Maurice: Yeah. It sounds like there's something in the whole event curation process that allows you to pull together all the different skills that you have, whether it's design, or music, or even just having a certain eye for something. It feels like event curation helps you pull all of that together. It takes the intangible and turns it into something that's memorable that people will never forget.
Huny: That's a perfect way of phrasing it, actually. That is absolutely perfect, Maurice. It was something I was thinking about before we started talking a little earlier when I was like, "Oh, crap. I have to do a podcast today. Let me get my notes together." Again, just scatterbrained as heck and totally forgot. But I was thinking that I may have finally found the thing. This is the thing because I can do a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff. It's almost obnoxious when I start talking about what I do with people because they're like, "Okay, well what can you not do? That might be a shorter list. Like, damn, girl. I just asked you what you did out of courtesy. Half an hour later and you're still talking about what you do."
Huny: Yeah, it pulls together a lot of aspects of creative direction, but that's every project I have. Even American Woman, I made the logo of course. I designed the website. I have a whole style guide around American Woman. Even the way it's edited is very specific to my aesthetic. Then my new series, Worship a Queer God, has a completely new aesthetic to it that I'm building. I recognize that as a huge asset because when you put out a really dope series of promotional visuals for an event or anything for your project, for your event, baby shower, your wedding, anything like that, that is the first thing that people can sort of gauge the tone. When people see what I've created visually around my event, they already know, "Oh, this is about to be some good shit right here. This is about to be well done. The attention to detail is going to be there." I'm very grateful to have those skills because there's a lot of people who don't, and then they have to spend a lot of money hiring people like me. I consider that a great advantage.
Huny: The event thing, honestly, it's fascinating. I don't consider it really a departure from what I've always done. It's just getting closer to my dream of using my skills as a designer and creative director, and being able to apply them to my own things. I still do love my clients. I just do because they give me a lot of money in that. I also consider it a responsibility to be heading the visual and marketing and communications process for other people's dreams, too. That is an obligation that I take very seriously when I work for my clients. But I think my dream of just being able to do what I want for the purpose of legacy-building and having something that I can actually pass onto my kids should they want to take up the mantle of what I'm doing, it's really important to me as I get older. Creeping up on 40 and everything, it's good. It's good. It's a good, good thing.
Huny: It causes me to become overwhelmed in a way I wasn't before because now I am responsible for people's good time on top of everything else. It's definitely the bridge I was looking for. My ultimate dream is actually to own my own venue, if not a series of venues that will also enable me to bring in my last gift and skill that I haven't been able to apply, and that is performance. I have a degree in theater arts from Howard University. I actually went to college with Chadwick Boseman. That's the homie from HU. I went to college with Susan Watson, who plays Beth on This Is Us. That's literally the homegirl.
Huny: When I see my former classmates finding success in performance and acting, that is something I desperately miss. Although I find that I have my own artistic release in everything that I'm doing now, owning an actual performance venue is the final realization. I think everything I've been doing, it feels like it's so random, but I've started really in this year, in 2019, I've started to see all of these things start to gel together. Like, "Okay, his finally makes sense." Thank you for seeing that too because that's extremely affirming.
Maurice: It certainly feels like you're moving closer to ... God, it's a Meshell Ndegeocello, I think it's an album or a song with something about becoming closer to the woman she wants to be or something to that effect. I might be getting it completely wrong. As you're describing all these things that you're doing with event curation and how it brings in these other skills that you have, it does feel like you're moving closer to what's the pinnacle of what your creative expression is.
Huny: I definitely hope so. From your lips to the universe because I have hid behind a computer too much of my life now. A lot of that was necessity, and a lot of that is still doing really cool things. I designed What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker, which is my cousin Damon Young's bestseller published through HarperCollins. I got the opportunity to design that book jacket, and so I see my work when I pass Barnes & Noble every day. That's amazing. That's super dope. That's super dope. I know there's so many other creatives who work for Google, work for Facebook, Slack. They work for these huge tech companies, so they get to see their work on TV. They're part of agencies, and they're doing commercial work. It is not rare for someone with my same title as creative director to see their work in that aspect, but I haven't worked for any of those big tech companies. I don't know if Viacom counts. That's a big ass company, but not necessarily in the same way. I have seen my work in that way, but it's just like, okay, no, this is the work I did under my creative agency. This is Supreme Clientele work on the big stage. That is extremely affirming.
Huny: I'm always going to do that. I know I'm always going to do stuff for my friends, and family, and people I really believe in. The ultimate realization is to gradually keep moving away from working on other people's dreams and making sure that I can actualize what I want for myself, too. It's a new realization. Even as I'm saying these words right now, I can feel things coming together. I see my life sometime as a nebula, like this nebula. I swear I'm not high right now, but all of these twinkling stars in the sky, and I'm like, "How do I pull all of this together into the sun for myself?" At this point in Pittsburgh, who would've thought? that is allowing me to do that.
Huny: That's not only taking away some of the things I just fell back on in New York, taking away the comfort zone. I was forced to meet new people and meet some brilliant people, forced to recognize. I've talked about this, wrote about it, spoke about it many times in the past five years since I got here, how I just could have never imagined that my New York ass was going to fall in love with a city like Pittsburgh. Again, my family is from here, so I was most familiar with it in some ways, but the black creativity that exists in this city is absolutely phenomenal. I'm really grateful that I've been able to branch out in these ways that I have.
Maurice: That is just so awesome to hear. When I think back on our last conversation and just juxtaposing that to now, it certainly feels like you're moving closer in what that right direction is. Just based on what you've said so far, how does it feel having switched gears in this way? You've worked in tech and design for so long, and now you're in, it's a different, almost like an art space almost with this event curation, and photography, and deejaying, and everything like that. What is that shift been like in terms of, I guess, one, in terms of creativity, but two, in terms of just your sense of self? How does it feel to shift in that way?
Huny: I think a lot about self actually because, not even the vast majority, all of my work in some way comes back to how I feel about myself, and what things I'm discovering about myself, and who that attracts in terms of people and projects too, but mainly people. Who I'm becoming actually attracts in terms of the people that I've met recently. That's actually inspired my Worship a Queer God series, which I'll talk to you a little bit more about. It felt a little scary, I think, because I've definitely tried to do stuff that I'm like, "Well, that did not work at all."
Huny: My last Diaspora 2 Dope event was in June of last year. It was fun for who came, but in terms of how I gauge success, it was unsuccessful. It ended up getting rained out. We had to end it early. It didn't attract as many people as I hoped because it was actually on the Sunday of Pride Weekend, and people were tired. It was just like, "Okay, these were maybe some unwise decisions. I'm going to do this party again. I'm going to do it again." To be able to do it again on July 4th of this year and to see this vision just come to fruition, I almost cried actually because I felt proud. I felt proud of myself, and I felt proud of what I have been able to organically, honestly, and in a space of vulnerability manifest for not only myself but everyone who's working with me. I never see myself on the pedestal or the throne. It's always a community of people who I want to take with me.
Huny: In terms of the work I'm doing is giving some kind of life and validity to my community, and I consider my community to be black women and queer people specifically, it's really dope, and it feels really good. The money is not super raining down on my ass or anything right now. It's probably making less money than I would make if I just went and got a job at Duolingo or something, which I thought about, not going to lie. But I am very fortunate to be in a space where I can center this dream of mine, this direction and function of who I'm becoming as a person, and kind of what I've always wanted and been afraid to even say it out loud. I want to own a venue one day. I don't think I've said that out loud at all until the last couple years. It's something I've always wanted, always.
Huny: There's been people I've texted like, "Oh, I have this idea," but it's now something I'm speaking out loud with purpose. Things are just falling into place. I think it's not only because I think I'm a pretty dope person, but more so just when you live a life that is a reflection of who you are inside and where you really want to go, it may not happen right away, but eventually you'll find your tribe. You'll find your community. You'll find that like-minded people who have something else to add will add to it. You can just build like a Voltron and kind of realize things that you didn't really think you could. It's incredible to be able to do that.
Huny: It's especially incredible, I guess, in a societal climate and a political climate which is so oppressive. I don't function throughout my day feeling oppressed because I just refuse to, but it's really a crazy time for us as black folk right now, for us queer folk, for us as women. It's just a lot. I'm starting to focus I guess more on self, and community, and what we can manifest instead of getting overwhelmed, I guess, by the big picture, and all of the things that can function as roadblocks, and all the people who tell you no, and all the people who tell you you can't do it, or it's haters. I don't know. I don't feel like I have haters, but I probably have a couple. It's just not something that I'm focusing on for the first time in my life. Not focusing on the hard things or the adversity, which again, it's still a function of being fortunate. I understand that there's just some people who can't really function in that way right now, but I'm really grateful and appreciative that I can.
Huny: Talking about this is really helpful too, Maurice. I think I've told you every episode I've done a [inaudible 00:40:54] so far. You actually offering this, I call it a space. It's not a physical space, but you know what I mean? Offering this space to us as black creatives to not only talk about our work but talk about our dreams, and talk about what makes us nervous, and talk about things that were hard and how we overcome, or maybe talk about stuff we didn't overcome. It's important to not only showing people that we out here, us as black designers, web developers, graphic designers, programmers. We are not only out here. You have proved that we're out here.
Huny: This podcast and these spaces give us an opportunity to be our true selves and not have to function as a monolith or not have to always function as the epitome and the peak of black excellence because some of this stuff is hard. The youngins who come up and hit me up all the time like, "I want to do what you do," and now there's youngins, "I want to do what you do." I'm like, "Oh, which one?" "Oh, events." I'm like. "Oh, yeah. [inaudible 00:41:56] now. Oh my god." That's just cool. I Want them to know, yo, I'm not going to give you no BS story, all right? I'm not a trust fund baby. I couldn't hit up my parents in the Hamptons for a six-figure loan to start anything I'm doing, but I'm still doing it. But it's hard. This is where F-every day up, and this is what I want you to not do. All of that is just a manifestation as well. So, thank you for giving me the space to talk about this because as I'm literally talking about it, I'm realizing certain things that are going right in my life. That's important. For real, thank you, Maurice.
Maurice: Well, thank you. I think it's important with with Revision Path, one thing that you said also was about to show that it's not about black excellence, which is something that I've been very deliberate about I think since starting this because ... Well, there's two things you said. One was that, and then the second thing was about not focusing on the adversity. Sometimes what can end up happening in, and I hate to say this, but sometimes this can happen in black spaces where the focus is so much on the adversity that's it's a range. You're either very focused on the adversity, or you're very focused on this pie in the sky ideal of what it is to be black or a black creative in that way. There's a lot of room in between for everyone else to only focus on the lows are focus on the astronomical highs.
Maurice: Even with the people that I try to have on the show, I want folks at all different levels. It always pains me when I reach out to someone and they tell me that they're not ready to be on the show yet. They're like, "Oh, I'm not ready yet. I'm not at that point in my career yet to be on the show. I'm like, "what are you talking about? I want to talk to you exactly where you're at in your career right now. That's why I reached out to you. It's not about a status symbol or being a status symbol." But if that's what the case is for them, everyone has their own thing. I get that.
Maurice: I try to talk to folks just where they're at, whether that's in house somewhere in the middle of America or if they are at the top of their field in London or something like that. I try to talk to people that are everywhere, doing all kinds of things to show that what it is to be a black designer is such a rich and varied experience. We know that there is no one way to be a designer, to be a creative in this industry, but also more so than that, I guess there's no one definition of what success would look like, you know? For some people it is getting the job at the big tech company, and then for other folks it's just being in their own creative space to make and do exactly what it is that they want to do.
Maurice: There's this one woman who I interviewed a few months back. I saw her on a reality show, actually. There's this reality show on YouTube called ... Oh, man, now I'm blanking on the name. It's a reality show on YouTube TV about sneaker designers. I think it's called The Next Great Sneaker Designer or something like that. It was a black woman. Her name was Analise, and she was one of, I think, two or three black women on the show. The way that they structured it was nobody really got eliminated. You made it through to the end. You just got feedback. Then they were doing the sneaker designs with D’Wayne Edwards Pensole Academy in Portland. D’Wayne Edward is a black guy who designed for a number of years for Nike, the Jordan brand, all that sort of stuff.
Maurice: So, I had her on the show to talk about what happened since the show because I thought, "Oh, well maybe she's still designing sneakers and stuff." She's mostly gotten out of that and is kind of doing something similar to what you're doing in terms of making these spaces for creatives to thrive and have their own way in Portland of all places, to be able to make that happen. Success looks different for different people. I think it's important to at least here on this show to show that it's not just about being a designer at Facebook or a designer at Twitter or wherever. It could be whatever you want it to be. Hopefully people see all kinds of different avenues and opportunities for being a designer, for applying their creativity through the folks that have been on this show.
Huny: Yeah. You're legit doing a great job of that because I was episode 100 and 200. That's cool. I have never been the big tech company person. People know me just a function of me being around so long. I am for many people like, "Huny was the first black girl I ever saw on the internet." So many people have said that. When people say that around younger people, they're like, "How old are you?" I'm like, "The internet is not that old. I'm like this year or whatever." They're like, "Dang, that's crazy," and I'm like, "Yeah, but we're still kind of new in this field." Just what the internet and digital access has really provided us in terms of all of the multitude of new titles and new jobs that have been born really in the last 15 years is insane.
Huny: I think some of that expectation to be this kind of creative or have this specific kind of success, it's born in some ways out of social media. It's always existed. It's existed far beyond before social media became a thing. But I think about when I was talking before about just that space of honesty and when you reiterated that it's what we need to talk about in these spaces, I think about the saying that social media is your highlight reel. Indeed, I don't-
Huny: ... Social media is your highlight reel. And indeed, I don't use social media as much anymore to vent about certain things. I mean, not personal things, I guess. I'm still, I'm definitely venting about America and just all the trappings that come with living in a society ran by a literal madman. But I do try to, I'm not even going to say I try to keep it positive, but I do try to keep my social media now about the work and about the people that I'm working with and how that is an extension of me.
Huny: But I do feel like that can give people, not the wrong idea, but not a completely correct idea of what we as creatives are really, really going through and what it actually takes to realize some of this stuff. It's a reason that I really want to get back to writing but writing more about the work, because I do realize just having so many years in the game in the way that I do, I have a lot of stuff I want to impart. And yeah, I don't think I'm ever going to work for the big creative agencies because I have my own agency and it will always function as a place where people don't have to have $20,000 minimum to even speak to me about working on their projects.
Huny: But it also will always function as the funnel through my own work, like Supreme Clientele Design Agency will always be the funnel in which I execute things, marketing, PR, communications, consulting, design work, development, video editing, motion graphics, like all of those things that I need to propel my own work will always live through Supreme Clientele.
Huny: But I think for people who do get the really big exciting tech jobs, which I do not knock, because that mess can be very exciting. Like I did interview with Google a couple years ago, got all the way to the in person interview, and it was exciting. It was exciting to look around and be like, this is the heck of big time. This is where you want to be if you're in my line of work and I didn't end up getting it. And I was pretty sad about it but it didn't turn me off of the tech industry because everything I do is still kind of involved, because I do have a design company that I consider to have it's foot in tech as well because I'm doing so much development work and always will because I actually really like to code.
Huny: I want to build my own thing, and if that means getting ... Like if I was going to work for a tech company again, it would just have to encompass a lot of the morals and ideals that I am intensely passionate about and probably not be a huge tech company, either, because I don't think of myself as a cog in the wheel sort of person. I don't function that way in life and I don't function that way at work, either.
Huny: So who really knows where I'm going to go as far as whether I'm going to pursue that. But I do understand more now like I don't have to, and that is not a way, the only way to legitimize myself as a creative, as a artist, as a tech industry vet, I don't have to be validated by that anymore. That could be a choice that I make instead of ... A choice I make out of really truly wanting to and aligning with the ideals of the company [inaudible 00:51:48] in opposition to doing that out of validation. So that's really important, my realization that I want everybody to get to as well.
Huny: Like why? Why do you want to work for these companies and what is your exit plan? What are you going to be working on for yourself? And it doesn't even mean everybody has to own their own business. Everybody should not. It is not for everybody and it has nothing to do with skill, talent, or perseverance. But it's just, it's not for everybody to strike out in that way. It's not doable and it's not attractive for everyone. But I always think that you should always have your personal things, always have your personal passions, always have your personal projects that you can apply your skills to as well, because our skills are not for other people only. Our skills should always be in service of ourselves as well.
Huny: So I hope that people get that out of not only my ... Out of what I say on Revision Path and beyond, but just out of all of the interviews that you do, because I think there's just a sprinkle of that in at least every person you've talked to. Like the importance of passions and doing what you want and having the room to create, because that's really what tech is at the end of the day. Like technology in general is just like this vastness of possibility and it ties very closely to Afrofuturism, which is a concept of style, a mind state, an artistic genre. Afrofuturism is a lot, but I consider a lot of my work and a lot of my future work to be Afrofuturistic, not necessarily visually, like we don't all have to be depicting ourselves in the stars or in space. Although that is super dope, too, because there are black people in [inaudible 00:53:44] to Alisha Wormsley, one of my favorite people here in Pittsburgh, but just the freedom to be what we want to be and the limitlessness that we can have as black people and black creators in general is Afrofuturistic conceptually to me as well. So yeah, I mean, damn we getting mad deep up in here.
Maurice: No, this is great. No, no. One thing that I definitely wanted to touch on, because you mentioned it a few times already, is this Worship a Queer God photo and documentary series. I want to hear more about that.
Huny: Yes, yes, yes. That is my new ongoing portrait and documentary series. Worship a Queer God explores gender nonconformity and androgyny in queer individuals. And that is specifically evidenced by their own words, their preferred pronouns, their personal style and aesthetic, and how they have created their own safe spaces or found safe spaces and found altars of their own body. And by alters, I mean not only just in the religious context, but how is your body, which is so politicized, when you're non-binary or trans or even androgynous in presentation. How have you fully realized or what is your journey to fully realizing yourself as a higher being who deserves like this reverence, respect, humanity, and yes, even worship. And that sounds super deep. I try to bring my language back down to Earth when I apply for grants.
Huny: Because artists, the way artists, the way we talk about our work is hilarious. But when you're applying for a grant, it's like, okay, that's cool. That sounds really important and I'm glad you're passionate about this. So what are you going to do, though? What are you going to do? How are you going to pay for it? What's your timeline like? Always like that. I think that's why I still keep coming back to the grant proposal process because it brings me down to earth. But basically, we as a society, we still have a very narrow idea of gender binaries, and some of that extends into our community as queer people as well. Namely with how fiercely we cling to our labels and demand labels of others. Like with women, sometimes it's like are you a stud or are you a fem?
Huny: With men it can be, or men identified people, are you at top or bottom? Like there's a lot of labels that exist in the queer community in general, but our evolution as queer people includes this increased and oft-stated recognition of how limiting those labels are to some of us and how so much of it ends up being the costume of expectations. So I wanted to explore that through my portrait and documentary, just focused.
Huny: Because I just, I really love capturing people. Although I love to draw and paint, it always kind of comes down to portraiture and actually being a documentarian and a historian of people is really where my mind goes to constantly, constantly. And maybe why I was an actor, as well, because I'm just so into exploring you know other people and other people's stories.
Huny: It is based here in Pittsburgh. It will eventually include portraits of probably 20 individuals, again, who identify as androgynous, nonbinary, and/or transgender. And I will also be interviewing them on video. And it's a way to grant people a platform to share their stories. Famous American Woman. But with this one it's specifically details around gender, their journey, their gender-based journey, how they use the aesthetic to express themselves and how they navigate the world seeking or defying acceptance and understanding. Many queer people, especially trans and nonbinary queer people have been ostracized by their families and communities. And for many of them, simply, like think about this, simply dressing in a way that ultimately fits how they feel inside is a revolutionary act. And I just think we have a lot more work to do around people truly grasping and understanding the concept that gender can be very limiting.
Huny: And really, if we took the part about Afrofuturism specifically, how gender should really not matter at some point in life, like I think it will always matter in some ways biologically. But beyond that, it's just kind of boring to keep looking at everything with these strict like you're a dude and you should dress like this and should look like this and act like this and play with these toys when you're a kid and do this when you're a man, and you're a woman and you should be like this and do this and look pretty and wear heels and conduct yourself like this and not be a sexually autonomous person. Like it's boring. Limitations are so boring to me. And the people that I have met, that I know, that I have known, but also that I've met recently by working more specifically with the queer community here, which I mean I've always been queer, but I've been more focused on working in the queer community since I got here, which is awesome.
Huny: I think that's just because it has to be more intentional. New York, like I never had to work to find a queer community in New York. Never. It was like never even a thought that had to enter my mind, but here, it was like a more intentional thing that I had to do to actually find my queer community here. But I'm really excited about that. I actually started it in December, 2018, but it's been, I've just been doing it when I have time. I've approached people who are already ... Nobody thus far has been anybody that I didn't know already and didn't already have a really good relationship with. But now, I've kind of expanded conceptually what I wanted to do with it because I always have to make things harder.
Huny: But these people, they're just so cool. They're so free. And I think that when we talked about how my manifestation of self and how that informs my work, that is still a part of it. Like yes, I don't like limitations and I don't like rules that impose things on people that make them feel like they're not really being themselves. So it sounds like it's super serious, and in some ways it is. In some ways this is a serious conversation, but the art that we're creating together right now, it's not sad or woe is me, just like American Woman. It's vibrant and beautiful and raw and honest and real, and I'm really excited to keep going with it.
Huny: I haven't really super put it out. I've trickled somethings on Instagram and Facebook, and I do have it on my photography portfolio. Oh, that's another thing I have now. Yay. I not only have supremeclientele.co, which is of course my design agency, but my portfolio for my photography and portraiture work is shooter.hunyyoung.com. And so I finally have a way to kind of encapsulate and show people what I do as a photographer specifically. So I do have some Worship a Queer God stuff on there. Of course I have American Woman on there, but that project is still, I would say in its infancy. But I am cool to talk about it because now's the time that I'm probably going to be focusing more on it. So I said at the beginning that I wasn't going to be long winded today, but I got to be me.
Huny: I don't know how to be like, employ more brevity when I talk about things I'm passionate about. So that's in a nutshell what Worship a Queer God is going to be. Again, still in the beginning stages of that one, but that's like my next big, big personal project to tackle.
Maurice: Well, Huny, just to wrap things up here. I know we've been talking for a while now, and you just mentioned your photography portfolio, but where else can people find your work online so we can follow your creative journey?
Huny: Oh, yeah. So it's supremeclientele.co. Of course, that's my design agency that has my client-based professional work, like the book cover, or the book jacket design, excuse me. Case studies about how I approach work. I was actually the director of marketing and communications at a company called Pittsburgh Filmmakers Center for the Arts for a while. They're a arts organization here in Pittsburgh, so all my work from that time is on there, as well as all of my old projects. But shooter.hunyyoung.com is my photography portfolio. Not only my photography I've done for other people, events [inaudible 00:15:05], things that I've shot for galleries and museums out here, but it also has American Woman and Worship a Queer God on there.
Huny: I am on Instagram, @hunyrocks, H-U-N-Y-R-O-C-K-S. Instagram is fun to me now because I used to maybe post like once a week or once every two weeks. I used to forget Instagram existed, but my beautiful, awesome, dope friend, [Terana Burke 00:01:03:31], who I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, she posted a whole bunch of photos I took of her for American Women that had not been posted yet, and I got like 2,000 followers in two days on Instagram.
Huny: So I'm like, "Oh nice." She's like, "Be more frequent with Instagram." Let me pay attention to Instagram a little more. Like the American Woman account probably got like 2,500 new followers through that, so I am like so grateful to Terana for putting my work at the forefront. Like that's the way I want to be found. I don't want to be found from shade room because I got caught up doing something embarrassing. I love that so many new people have discovered me and my work because of Terana. So yeah, hunyrocks on Instagram.
Huny: You can also follow my event series on Instagram, that is darknessisspreading, all one word. American Woman is americanwomanproject on Instagram. And yeah, I'm on Facebook, too. Do not add me as a friend for you, because I have so many friend requests on Facebook, I cannot ... But if you want to follow my public posts on Facebook, that would be dope, too, if that's your platform of choice. You just search for Sarah Huny Young on there.
Huny: I have a Twitter account, but I don't use Twitter that much anymore. I might check it like once a week, but my Twitter handle is huny, H-U-N-Y. If you search Huny, if you put H-U-N-Y in Google, you will find me. I am, so I don't think I'm the only H-U-N-Y Huny in the world, but I'm the most popping. So if you didn't hear any of that or write it down, just put H-U-N-Y into Google and you'll probably find me.
Maurice: All right, sounds good. Well Sara Huny Young, I mean it's always a pleasure to have you on the show, and I have to say just you now being the only person to have done a three-pete on Revision Path, it's just been amazing to continue to see how your creativity has evolved over the years. And I mean, I'm just interested in seeing on what's next, because I feel like this event curation is going to open up a whole new world of opportunities for you. So I'm really excited that it's ... That you're getting your foothold in Pittsburgh, but I see this spreading worldwide, so I'm just glad. Oh, no, I see it. I do. I mean because being able to curate experiences and things like this is something that ... And I'm just honestly just basing this off of the live event that we did back in New York a few weeks ago.
Maurice: It's a lot. Like it takes a lot to pull everything together and you just hope that when the door is open that it's going to be good from start to finish. And it takes so much work to make sure that that happens. And so for you to be able to really bring all of your creativity into that and make safe affirming spaces for so many people, I mean that speaks not only just to your skill as a designer but also just your empathy as like a human being. So that's something that a lot of people are looking for. So I see it, I definitely see it happening. So I'm just glad to be able to be the chronicler, in a way, of all this as it happens and to let our audience kind of follow you on your journey as you continue to evolve. So thank you for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
Huny: Thank you, Maurice. You are, oh, I mean I've known you for, like, ever. We've known each other forever, but you are just so encouraging. I just want to hug you right now. You're so encouraging, always. You do amazing work yourself. I thank you for letting me be the only person to be on this podcast three times. That means a hell of a lot to me because you have some incredible people on Revision Path, but I am deeply honored by that. I consider it a distinction worthy of bragging about.
Huny: I am definitely glad that you approached me to do this again while I was in such a good space with what I'm doing, because I got to tell, you over the past couple of years it's been that I've had some downs. I've had some downs. I'm still financially trying to figure things out right now. But I'm in a good space and I'm glad to be able to have this moment in my life chronicled, as well. And I do, if I may, I just want to give a few shout out to some people who I'm working with in Pittsburgh.
Maurice: Sure. I
Huny: Because I really love them. And part of meeting them and working with them is why I've been able to get to this new space in just the art world in general and event curation and having a more solidified focus on what I want to do. So those organizations are True T Pittsburgh, Sisters Pittsburgh, Poncho and the [inaudible 01:08:28] Family, Allies Pittsburgh, and Girl Effect. Those, I'm about to cry, I'm getting so emotional right now because those organizations and the people that work in those organizations and who have extended opportunities to me just because they appreciate what I'm doing and they see my vision, it's incredible.
Huny: I would not be so looking forward to the next step in my life without having the advocacy of other people here in Pittsburgh. And I got to shout out like Boom Concepts as well. That's a really incredible organization and a art space here in Pittsburgh. Thank you to Manchester Craftsman's Guild for mounting American Woman. Thanks to Ace Hotel for continuing to provide me this event residency. Thank you to All Summer, the New people I'm working with who have extended an opportunity for me to create these beautiful like block party events, like ah, Pittsburgh, you dope as hell. Thank you. And all my friends out here in New York, you also the greatest and I hope that next I can find a way to bridge my communities between New York and Pittsburgh. Maybe that's what I'll talk about on my fourth episode a couple years from now.