It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message is sharing Gavin Barrett’s short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry—marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Barrett writes the profiles as a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better.
Hello #CanadianAdvertising. Meet Lauren Russ-Constant. Lauren decided she wanted to be a strategist when she was just 18. Strategy has been a mainstay in her career for the past 10 years, during which she has traversed politics, events, education, mental health, entrepreneurship, and the charitable sector.
What drew Lauren to our world? “The 1968 Muhammad Ali Esquire magazine cover by George Lois,” she says. “The way that one piece of communications was able to reposition and reframe Ali’s opposition to war, changing the minds of the public (and boxing commission), had me hooked.”
She’s had an amazing time working internationally on some great accounts and attending the EACA international summer school, but she’s most grateful for the people she’s met. She gives a special shoutout “to the incredible team I currently work alongside at Pilot PMR.”
Navigating racism within the industry has been a journey for Lauren. At the beginning of her career, she says it was something she struggled to name. “Bias and micro-aggressions were things I felt,” she says. “But as the only POC in most rooms, would often end up gaslighting myself.” As her experience, confidence and awareness grew, Lauren has been able to call out racism and call-in people. “It’s not easy and I don’t always get it right, but I will always try,” she says.
Lauren is passionate about seeing more Black and Brown people in strategy. She’s seeking more BIPOC mentors—“If anyone’s looking for a mentee, please say hi,” she says—and also mentors whenever she can.
For advice to those entering the field, Lauren tells the story of when Bill Moyers was interviewing Maya Angelou in 1973. “Asked about freedom and belonging, Angelou said ‘You only are free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.’ To me, that means when you truly belong to yourself, you simultaneously belong everywhere and nowhere.”
It became Lauren’s motto. “My superpower is knowing who I am, how I see the world, and unapologetically owning that… the price is high, but the reward is great,” she says. “It’s a shortcut to identifying which people, spaces, and agencies are right—and which aren’t.” Lauren supports others with this focus, this daily work of showing up and owning who we are in a world that tries to shape us, through consulting, coaching, speaking, and her own podcast Identity Soup (on all major podcast sites) which she talks about on her Instagram @laurenaisharc.
For work, Lauren shares that she has been working on building a new Canadian pregnancy subscription brand. In a market historically focused on pregnancy’s physical changes and baby development, this is a brand that will show up for women: “For the woman she is, and the mom she’s becoming,” Lauren says with pride.
“The process of becoming a mother is a beautiful, huge, complex life transition that can shake every fibre of a person’s being. And there’s a name for it—matrescence, a concept still largely unexplored within the medical community.”
My thanks to Natalie Bomberry for nominating Lauren.