“With the good and the bad I was born to create, with passion and purpose. ” Annie Raman, Creative Director – Artist – Human Rights Activist

{First appeared OnMogul.com}

I first met Annie through our respective day jobs and to use that cliché, “Dynamite comes in small packages” to describe her would be falling short in explaining what a calm yet feisty, passionate and kindhearted individual she is. 

I asked her a few questions about her life and career journey and certainly learnt new things about her that are truly inspiring and should leave anyone reading this feeling the same way. 

Who is Annie Raman? How did your career begin? 

Some people are born with a specific destiny. I knew that being a creative was the plan for me since day one, and everything I’ve done since then has been a one-way trip to where I am now. Often things happen to a person and you ask, ‘Why me?,’ until as you grow older and realise that you wouldn’t be you without having has those  experiences. 

With the good and the bad I was born to create, with passion and purpose. 

Growing up with a single mother and two sisters during the last years of apartheid, we had little to nothing to our names, times were hard for my small family of Indian woman with no guarantee of how life would turn out for us. That and my own personal medical complications set a number of challenges our way. I always sought refuge in my art and learnt to put my head down and forge on until I reached my destiny. 

Through everything, my family never gave up and my mother and older sister, through extreme hard work and lots of prayer were able to send me to art school to further develop my precious skill.

I went on to study fine art at The National School Of The Arts and then found my way into Art Directing, securing a bursary and graduating with a Cum Laude from AAA School of Advertising. Sometimes I don’t quite know how I got here. So many things could have gone terribly wrong but my blessings continued and relentless work through long days and sleepless nights, doing what I truly loved was the light that continued to lead the way.

Personal album

What have been the greatest lessons learnt throughout your journey? Especially when you started in the industry?

Almost 14 years ago, my career started at The Jupiter Drawing Room when I was handpicked, before I had even graduated, to intern at one of Africa’s biggest and most acclaimed agencies at the time. This meant I did not have to feel the stress of looking for a placement as a young Indian woman in a male dominated industry, and although I managed to graduate with a Cum Laude, that still would not have guaranteed me a job. This was yet another testimony to the hand that continued to guide me through life. This honour made me work even harder and it paid off. 

When working late one night, after my first few months as an intern, Graham Warsop, founder of The Jupiter Drawing Room and highly awarded Ad man, walked past me, stopped and said “You’re certainly worth your weight in gold”. I was in awe and didn’t know that I was even noticed by such a powerful man. I will probably never forget that moment. 

Through my years in the industry, I’ve learned that being a nice person will get you real far. It sounds simple and obvious but in an industry built on egos and competition, I have earned utmost respect through my relentless work and humble lady-like demeanour. 

What have been the challenges in your career thus far and how have you overcome them? Including those of being a woman in the creative industry?

Challenges in my career have been a little easier than the obstacles faced outside of it. I was doing what I loved more than anything and everything that came with that just challenged me to be even better. I was doing well for a long time.

After Jupiter I had moved on to a digital agency. Coming from a traditional agency, digital was still new to me at the time and South Africa as a country was still catching up to our global counterparts. Here I experienced challenges that I never knew were even possible. It was a trying time and even the best of me proved not be good enough. This was something I was not used to.

For the first time I could see the effects of being a young woman under industry egos, let alone being the only Indian female in the creative department as I often am.

I also realised that it would work in my benefit if I, for the lack of better words, sucked up to people that had the ability to give me the credit I knew I worked for. It wasn’t me and after a difficult childhood and a lot of sacrifice, hard work and achievements, I knew I had enough reason to prove myself and that would not be one of them. Although it was challenging I knew it was still important to remain true to myself and not allow my circumstance to change who I was.

At times I wanted to give up and what was once the best part of my days, soon became the worst. I knew deep down that this was something I simply had to triumph over and once I do, I will see the reasons for it. This time my calm demeanour needed to be a fighting one. In time I decided my time there had come to an end and once it was over I began to see the value of the great lessons I’ve learned. 

Directly after that I was hired as Creative Director at Fort, an agency and production house in Johannesburg. This was surprising, coming from a place of little recognition to a place with so much prestige and respect for my skill. Although, after almost 14 years in advertising, working my way up to this role, I continue to work hard if not even harder than I ever did. I have also learned that there is a difference between being a boss and being a leader and so leading a young team of creatives to believe in themselves and their work, including a “Thank you” or “Well done” goes a very long way to great work and success.  

(Image: Timothy Maurice with Annie Raman – unBranded interview on CliffCentral.com)

How did you identify your area of specialisation in the creative industry? Or are you still discovering it as you grow and evolve?

As long as I am making and creating, I know that I am home. Everyday is a new lesson learnt and no challenge is impossible. All it takes is teamwork and never letting anyone else or yourself down. 

When it comes to being a creative, our task is monumental. We have to relate to the world and send out messages that people need to see, including satisfying what our clients want them to see. 

I like to say ‘don’t just give people what they want. Give them what they didn’t even know they wanted’. This idea inspires me to reach new heights and do new things. 

The world is also in constant change and the ability to keep up the pace is important. Discovering new things is endless and exciting but as things change I actually still hope to remain the same.

You’re a busy person! I love how you’re doing what you love through the different areas of your work – how did Starved Magazine come about?  How did you start to tackle such a project and what has it revealed thus far?

I started STARVED in 2012. 

Being a part of the creative world, I saw the hunger for young people to be seen and heard. As creatives we are all still starving artists, dedicating our souls to the work we love and getting little in return.  More and more our youth are standing out and doing things our parents before us never had the opportunity to. With this in mind I started STARVED as a platform to shine a light on the unknown young creatives that are doing incredible things, mostly independently.

Starting it was simple. In the digital age, with the internet and easy to use platforms within reach, I started a website and designed an attitude. There are so many young people that deserve and crave recognition, so it was even easier to speak to them and share their stories everyday.

The platform has since been dedicated to this task and through it I have received unexpected recognition and respect for the purpose it serves. I’ve also met incredible people who are tirelessly committed to the talents they’ve been given. Being a creative isn’t always easy. You work through the nights and sacrifice a lot of yourself and your time to your trade, often going unrewarded but those who never give up are the most inspiring and are the truest creative souls.

What or who inspires you?

Everyday I’m inspired and driven by the world around me. So many people have come before us and lay down foundations for us to build on; artists, inventors, poets, musicians, activists, filmmakers and humanitarians. Then there are people paving new ways and inspiring new things right before our eyes.

There is so much that we have seen and yet to see that influences what I think and what I do. There will always be struggles but giving up is never an option!

You are a big activist for human rights and also championing the awareness of human trafficking – how did this come about and why?

Like for many people, growing up wasn’t easy and there were hundreds of reasons to allow circumstances to destroy you. I felt my own pain and saw the people in my family go through pain. This heightened my sensitivity to the world around me.

I believe you can decide to either become your past or to overcome your past. Experiences showed me that there is always a reason behind it and I knew I was being built up for something much bigger than myself.

Something was instilled in my heart, and for a very long time, the plight of women and children being exploited for their bodies and abused through human trafficking and in their own homes keeps me up at night. For many years and in every waking moment a voice kept talking to me about them. I saw their faces without seeing them and felt their pain without being there. This troubled me and I would often start shivering uncontrollably or burst into tears at odd times of the day with these thoughts consuming me. 

People often say that you will know when God talks to you. I spoke to my younger sister about it some years later, trying to find a reason for these constant images in my head. She told me that in some cases God will break your heart, for the things that break His and in this case mine was in pieces. This is the reason why we’re here. When people ask ‘Where is God?’, we as people are here as His answer to them.

I am still working towards my full potential in helping people in need but through organisations like A21 and Thorn that I support in every possible way. I am being inspired and educated everyday on how to break the chains of bondage that people all over the world have undeservedly been dehumanised by. A21 often says that only 1% of people in these situations will ever be rescued. That is overwhelming and feels like a heavy burden but strength lies in prayers and people coming together to save others that need us.

I was born to create with passion and to save with purpose and I am grateful for each opportunity that allows me to do this.

Personal album

What are your thoughts / opinions on how women are shown in the creative space? Is what we’re seeing out there, really what women are about? 

It is stereotypical to undermine a woman’s abilities and skills in the workplace. Personally I quite enjoy being underestimated. It’s amusing to prove people wrong. For women that is a daily task, amongst so many others. Breaking stereotypes and first impressions is my reward at the end of the day.

Like most industries, creative fields have been powered by men. Speaking more for me, it is also most uncommon for an Indian woman to be part of it. In South Africa alone it is fair to say there is but a handful of us. 

I don’t believe any of these things should suppress a woman’s ability to lead and to stand amongst men. I have proven, even just to myself, that hard work and a good heart can set you miles ahead and still earn you respect while you get there. 

On the other question, media certainly objectifies woman and that is not ideal. While I do believe in the beauty of woman and the magic they possess through this, it is unacceptable to turn something so beautiful into something vulgar. It has a negative impact on the way men see us, even from the time they are young. That in turn has a negative impact on how women and girls see themselves and how they measure up to what they are truly worth.

Woman activism is an important step in eradicating this and now for the first time we have a louder voice. It is extremely important to understand what it means to be a woman and to not feel as though being beautiful, nurturing or sensitive to people around you is in anyway disempowering. Even when we reach the top, we must do it with the heart of a woman.

What is next for you and your work (and all your hustles)? 

While I continue to meet many goals so far in my career, my focus is now shifting to helping others.

I am launching a project called Legacy League which aims to bring creatives together to combat human rights issues and help people that need it most. This project is still in its infancy and although overwhelming, it is something necessary and also quite uncommon in the South African creative industry. We have to do everything in our power to save lives and there is really no excuse not to.

Do you have any words of wisdom or key learnings that you can share with other people considering pursuing a hustle / an opportunity that helps them fulfil a passion (that may fall outside of their 9 – 5 employment)?

Never, never and never give up. 

Nothing rewarding comes easy but when it does, it should make you proud of yourself even though sometimes you have to sacrifice a lot to get even a little back. 

People have the common idea that to succeed in life, you have to be hard headed and to lead you have to become a dictator. I believe the opposite. To earn utmost respect, you must give just as much. Love as you want be loved and work as hard as you want to rewarded. Someday that will mean you will get the recognition without asking for it because good karma is always returned in full. (#LOVEIT)

It’s also a little true that it helps to know the right people, but you need to be brave enough to meet them in the first place. Be endearing, courageous, confident but humble and lead always by example. Like ripples in the ocean, we can all move together to create waves of change.

Annie Raman – She’s the kind of queen that knows her crown isn’t on her head but in her soul- Adrian Michael.

Twitter: @annieraman @starvedSA

Instagram: @annieraman @Starved_Magazine

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StarvedSA/

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