Photos of the Elephant Room participants

Creative Storytellers

In My Shoes With Champions of Pride Mentees

When it came to Pride 2022, our goal was clear: we wanted to celebrate - and elevate - individuality in a way that felt meaningful. To amplify up-and-coming voices and take the lead in bringing greater diversity to the creative industry.

So, we teamed up again with The Elephant Room, bringing back our confidence-boosting, career-building collaboration: the One Month Mentor programme. Together, we found ten incredible individuals from the LGBTQ+ community and gave them the opportunity to learn from mentors who have successfully walked the walk.

From insightful talks to a Clarks photoshoot, the One Month Mentor Champions of Pride programme provided our mentees with expert guidance and hands-on experiences. Here, they talk about what inspires them, why mentorships matter and their ambitions for the future.

“I’ve felt massively supported throughout the programme. My mentor made me feel valued. We were able to have open conversations which was amazing.”

Kobi Axel

Tell us about yourself?

I’m Kobi, a 19-year-old photographer, creative director, and journalist.

Tell us about your inspiration for creativity?

My inspiration comes from music as well as other creatives like Virgil Abloh, Gabriel Moses, Quil Lemons, Ayishat Akanbi, Bimma Williams, Zane Lowe and Nadeska. I also thrive off fashion, black, and queer culture and music.

What has been one of your proudest moments of the mentorship?

Shooting behind the scenes for Clarks! That really was a full circle moment for me - to go from someone who used to buy Clarks school shoes to having the opportunity to work directly with the brand. It’s one for the books.

Sahara Malcolm-Smith

Tell us about yourself?

I’m Sahara, a 23-year-old creative. I express myself through digital design and makeup and have a particular love for music.

I also enjoy collaborating with fellow creatives.

Have you felt like you’ve been supported throughout the programme?

I’ve felt massively supported throughout the programme; the concept of it being a safe space was made clear from the start. This really helped me to form connections and feel comfortable in sharing my thoughts and feelings. My mentor was great and made me feel valued - I was never an afterthought. We were able to have open conversations which was amazing.

How confident are you about your career development now?

I feel confident that I’ll eventually gtet where I want to be. The various talks showed that no journey is simple or linear, that it takes time to achieve your goals and that these goals can evolve over time and that's okay.

Nic Alford

Tell us about yourself?

I’m Nic. I live in London, although I’m originally from the Devon countryside. I work in the growth team for a large advertising network; it’s my job to attract and win new clients. I’ve recently taken on the role of Head of Pride to drive inclusion throughout the industry and provide a safe space for my colleagues and friends. I’m quite loud and not as funny as I think I am. You can find me on dance floors or swimming in the sea.

Tell us about your inspiration for creativity?

I’m inspired by creativity that either represents or creates change. Whether it’s essays that highlight gaps in representation or society, or songs that hammer home the message that it’s 100% okay to be you, these are the things that give me warm, fuzzy energy.

Have you ever done anything like a one-month mentor programme before?

Never. I always felt that I had to have the goal first, and then ask how to climb that ladder, but this programme has shown me that you don’t have to have a goal, or even a ladder, just the willingness to go and find the wood to build a ladder. That sounds lame but hopefully you can see where I’m going with it…!

Anu Miracle

Tell us about yourself?

My name’s Anu and I’m a spoken word artist and actor from South London. I’ve been writing and creating practically my whole life. I’m hugely interested in the fashion industry and will be studying Fashion Communication at university.

What has been one of your proudest moments?

My proudest moment was probably sharing my proposal with the team; although it was hard it felt really good to share my ideas and turn my camera on for the first time!

What's the next big thing that's on your to-do list?

To keep spreading my creativity! I’m currently in the process of starting my own business and releasing a poetry EP, so I’ve got some big things on the way!

Joe Weaver

Tell us about yourself?

I’m Joe, I create bold branding and emotional interfaces for startups. I love working with bold colour palettes and I’m on a mission to find the best burrito on earth.

Why is it important for you to be mentored?

I feel like I’ve reached a point with what I’m doing, so now I really need to find a path and commit to it. I’ve been lucky to get to where I am, but I kind of just fell into it!

What has been one of your proudest moments?

On the programme, the reaction to my final presentation. I wasn’t 100% confident but everyone was so encouraging. Outside of the programme, sitting down on a train from JFK into New York City and seeing two guys using the app that I designed in a basement in London.

Enmanuel De La Rosa (Manie)

Tell us about yourself?

I’m a storyteller. Through acting, singing, and writing I find ways to celebrate my spirituality and culture. Born and raised in the Bronx, you can find me splashing in the fire hydrants or leading worship at my church.

Tell us about your inspiration for creativity?

My inspiration for creativity would be discomfort. I often have trouble communicating. At school, English teachers would always tell me I lack structure in my thoughts. I’ve found that when I’m creating, the structure looks a little different. Whenever I feel unable to communicate, I find ways to speak.

Why is it important for you to be mentored?

As a recent first-generation graduate, I felt a major responsibility to my family. Most days I would wake up with anxiety, feeling like I had no direction. Having a mentor showed me how similar my experiences were with everyone else in the programme.

Daniella Brookes

Tell us about yourself?

I’m a multifaceted creative with communication at the heart of everything I do. I create and produce marketing campaigns and events, write, and perform spoken word poetry.

Why is it important for you to be mentored?

I think everyone should be mentored. It was especially important for me because I haven’t had much exposure to people in creative jobs; being mentored has helped me to gain confidence and build connections that will have an everlasting impact on my career. Like many people, my family encouraged me to pursue a ‘practical’ job, but the truth is the world needs creative people, and the best way to understand how to navigate an unfamiliar path is to learn from those who have already walked it.

What has been one of your proudest moments?

My proudest moment was when I wrote an article titled “We need to stop leaving mixed-race people out of the race conversation” which gained a lot of recognition. I had lots of people reach out to me who resonated with my experiences and took comfort in having their thoughts and feelings validated. Knowing that I provided reassurance to people I may never meet was a really powerful moment.

What's the next big thing that's on your to-do list?

I’m in the process of putting on an event to bring creative neurodivergent people together, as well as creating more safe spaces for LGTQIA+ people.

Tolu Elusadé

Tell us about yourself?

I’m a Nigerian Londoner; a photographer, researcher, curatorial assistant, and consultant. I’m continuously discovering myself as an artist. I document, archive, and connect. I preserve ideas cultivated from Black British living, with the aim of creating and sharing imagery to illuminate the magic in the mundane. The core themes of my work are healing, joy, and resistance, through the lens of softness.

Why is it important for you to be mentored?

Guidance from those you aspire to emulate is something that I think is such an important part of success. So much of my knowledge and experience has come from those further along in their journeys bringing me along for the ride.

What has been one of your proudest moments?

I was proud of myself for my quick thinking and my ability to step out of my creative comfort zone during the OMM shoot. We could no longer use the location we'd planned for, so it was up to me to location scout and come up with new dynamic shots on the spot. It felt good to work collaboratively and have the other mentees be involved in the artistic process too.

All images are owned by Tolu Elusadé @toluelusade please credit when sharing on any social/website