How I Made It

Goth Shakira, Meme Artist

FLARE #HowIMadeIt celebrates 100+ talented, ambitious and driven Canadian women with cool jobs. Want what Goth Shakira has? Here's how she did it

Goth Shakira headshot

(Photograph: Rebecca Storm)

Goth Shakira; Montreal; @gothshakira

Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?

I’m a content creator and Internet artist.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I have a degree in international relations from the University of Calgary.

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)

I worked a retail job while doing freelance social media work creating online marketing campaigns for small businesses in Montréal.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

The Marché des Marveilles ad campaign I did for Gucci. They slid into my DMs. The internet is wild.

Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?

I haven’t had that moment. As an ongoing exercise in relinquishing control, I try not to have concrete expectations about anything having to do with my creative work and/or online persona. I’m grateful to have the privilege of being able to keep a separation between my main source of income and what I do creatively (although the two are closely related), because that helps me maintain integrity when it comes to my creative process. I make the things I want to make when I want to make them. I’m not interested in it “working out,” I’m just interested in working. The rest will follow.

What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

I struggle with producing consistently and intuitively at the same time, which is a challenge in an industry situated within the internet that, out of necessity (because the relevance of content is so fleeting) demands a high-output volume. You have to engage users according to what’s happening in real time and what I call hypertime, which is what the passage of time on the Internet feels like to me sometimes. I ask myself, “Is this content or is this art?” At times it’s one or the other, at times it’s both, or neither, and I have to treat my creation of it accordingly. My most significant shortcomings involve balancing this tension in a way that’s honest, and also marketing and branding myself. It always feels so corny to me, but I’m trying to get over it because I know I’ve definitely missed out on opportunities by not being more proactive about it. Because of this I surround myself with a lot of bossy pals who are confident and authentic self-marketers so I can learn from them.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

Don’t be professional. “Professionalism” is a white supremacist, classist, sexist and ableist notion designed to devalue the communication methods and presentation norms practiced by individuals from marginalized communities. It has no place in the workplaces of the future, especially in forward-thinking industries (and all industries should be forward-thinking). There is usually very little holistic return for these performative and reductionist displays of control over one’s self and immediate environment. I got where I am by demonstrating my respect for myself and others through honest irreverence, by speaking my truth, by saying “no.” Being 15 minutes early to an interview dressed in all black because you think you have to is professionalism. Showing up as early as you know you need to be to the interview in order to feel prepared and fulfill your commitment to the employer, while dressed in a way that you feel demonstrates your capability and confidence, honors the time and resources of both yourself and your potential employer. Conduct yourself with respect and authenticity for yourself and others, not professionalism.

What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?

That I had to get a post-secondary education straight out of high school to secure a financially stable future and be happy with my work.

Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?

In some ways, content creation can be very much a boys’ club. I’ve felt like dudes are accepted into the fold much quicker and more readily receive opportunities from bigger outlets—the whole “women aren’t funny” stereotype and/or misconception.

Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?

I’m not always sure. When it comes to freelance work, especially when you’re producing content that doesn’t fit into a neat category like “article” or “photo,” there are a lot of gray areas. If I don’t know how much I should charge, I try to talk to other creative people who have been doing it longer than I have, and they guide me towards a rate I should ask for. We need to talk to each other more—being hush-hush about financial matters only privileges corporations and makes it easier for them to take advantage of you (which is what happens in so many cases). When in doubt, ask for more. The worst they can say is no. And I always keep a side hustle or two on deck.

What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?

That we’re entitled, which is true, but I don’t see that as an unequivocally bad thing. Survival situations (where you have to work a less-than-ideal job to, you know, survive) notwithstanding, millennials know that if we’re going to spend 40+ hours a week somewhere, that place should work for us as much as we work for them. We understand reciprocity. We seem to know better than those who came before us that productivity should be secondary to humanity, so we expect more (which is what all workers deserve, millennial or not).

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