The Melanin Reaction

"The Melanin Reaction" is an Undergraduate Summer Student Research Project created by Bowie State University, Fine and Performing Arts student Amber Matthews.  Over a 6 week period, this research will examine, question, and analyze the role and reaction of women of color in advertising.

This research and creative multimedia project will begin by conducting a similar test and the examination of this topic through surveys, the review of related images and advertisements. This research will also be the basis for an example of advertising design, multimedia and video response that will accompany the results of the research in order to promote the value of healthy self-image for women of color.  This information will be important to not only share with the HBCU community but with society as a whole. To identify some examples of advertisements of women of color past and present. 

The overall objectives and milestones will be a project lasting six weeks (broken down into weekly phases) that incorporates the tools and strategies mentioned above to 1) identify some examples of advertisements of women of color past and present, 2) address the myths, stereotypes, attitudes or reactions to these images and 3) produce and illustrate through an example of advertising design, via a poster and/or video/commercial an examples that challenges/responds to results from research and via a creative and multimedia project.

Link to "The Melanin Reaction" Survey -

Photo By: Amber Matthews Models: Destiny Owusu (Left), Micah Mentis (Right)

Week 1

-  Pre-production and Research.  Development of survey questions created to observe the thoughts the subjects have about women of color in advertising.  Creation of Blog page. Brainstorming ideas for final banner.  Beginning to research previously gathered sources to begin research paper.

- I started thinking about the questions to ask on the survey. I definitely wanted to include questions that would allow to analyze the data based on demographics. I started developing the questions but changed them several times as I typed them. Professor Melchishua and I met to discuss the project and came with a plan for the methods I would use to complete the progress.  In order to administer a survey we had to complete an IRB form and submit that for processing, so I started gathering information to complete the form.

- In the meantime I started working on my sketches for the ideas I have for the photo ad I'll be creating.  I also contacted the model I wanted to use for the shoot which was Destiny Owusu, popularly know through social media as a "Ohwawa."  I definitely have to use her for this shoot because first she is an amazingly gorgeous, Ghanian model on the rise from the DMV area.  She currently has a low haircut, she's very dark skin, tall and slim, with amazingly gorgeous bone structure.  She is my friend, and as I've watched her progress to where she is now I've also witnessed her inspire a lot of other people, but mainly girls. Dark skin girls. These are girls who she's helping embrace themselves and skin tone by flaunting her own! She is the perfect subject for the project and she's even been promoting her hash tag #IsYourMelaninOnFleek (fleek - a slang term meaning: on point, flawless, perfect) which basically promotes flaunting your skin! This is perfect personal campaign which is an example of how important the topic is.

- I had previously mentioned the project to Destiny while completing the proposal, so I called to make sure she was still interested in participating in the project as my model and to discuss potential dates and times as well as possible make-up artists to use for the photo shoot portion of the project.

- I began to start brainstorming how I wanted the large poster to be presented at the end of the project and I can't really decide if i want the poster to be vertical or be horizontal and banner-like.  I know for sure that I really want the photography and concepts being presented in a way that they are the focus. Visually stunning and bold.

- This week I also went ahead and signed up for Survey Monkey which is an online website which allows you to create a dynamic survey with up to 10 questions for free.  I came up with about 8 questions I first saved as a note in my phone and later I typed them in an email I sent to Professor Mel.

- I all ready gathered a list of sources I did moderate research on, which were the sources I used for the proposal. Additionally, per the meeting with Professor Mel he also provided some sources that he thought would be useful for the project and we also discussed the use of several documentary films addressing issues of race and skin such as Oprah's, Dark Girls.

-Another great reference was this article
There were some really interesting insight on people of color in advertising in this particular article and how black bodies are portrayed.

Week 2

- The most important thing I had to complete this week was making sure Professor Mel had all the necessary information needed to complete IRB form for the surveys I planned to give to a pool of 50 participants which would gather some information about the thoughts of current society on the role of women of color in advertising.  In order to actually the submit the form, I had to finalize my survey questions and send those, along with the information for the form to Professor Mel for revisions and submission.  Everything was sent via email and submitted to the office by Professor Mel so they could begin processing the request.

- In addition to submitting the form for the survey I began creating release forms that would be needed for the completion of the surveys as well as the interviews I wanted to complete as apart of my visual presentation.  Some of the people I want to interview are the participants of the photo shoot including Destiny, the make-up artist and any assistants on the project.  Since I've all ready created release forms in the past for clients I've shot as a freelance photographer, re-purposing them for this project wasn't a difficult task.

- I also began to develop a list of people I plan to reach out to who may be experts on this topic.

- Professor Mel also mentioned equipment I would need to complete the visual aspect of the project. Equipment needed includes: Tascam 100; light kit, lavalier mic(s), use of BSU FPAC studio and lighting equipment.

- I talked to Destiny again about shooting and the date and time but we were unable to coordinate schedules so we're to get her schedule to finalize a date.

- I also created a Pinterest page to help me find articles related to my research topic, visuals of old ads and new ads, and inspiration the ad I would be creating myself.

This is the Pinterest Page :

Week 3

- This week I really began to delve into my research by first starting with short articles and documentaries.

-Many of the documentaries I wanted to watch I have previously seen on TV out of my own interest in the topic.


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