Anthony Mayes: break down barriers, so others can follow

—It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry: marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Written by POCAM members, the profiles are a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better—

While today he is the director of production at Fuse Create in Toronto, Anthony Mayes stumbled into marketing, and more specifically production.

He started his career in experiential marketing as a brand ambassador, and kept climbing the ranks due to his ability to problem-solve, work hard, and quickly learn new things. “It wasn’t an industry I planned to be in,” says Mayes. “I quickly realized my skillset made me a valuable asset.”

During his time in marketing and advertising, Mayes hasn’t worked with many people who look like him. Fortunately, one of his clients who does served as his “informal mentor.” Seeing him succeed, and observing how he climbed the ladder, was influential to Mayes throughout his career.

“His success in the industry has shown me not only that it can be done, but also what it takes,” he says. “He has always been true to who he is and has provided countless crumbs of knowledge for me to snack on along the way. You never know who is looking up to you, and I hope that I can be that same beacon for someone else as he has been for me.”

The work he did with that client also became some of the favourite of his career, including being one of only two operators of Disney’s BB-8 in Canada, and learning from some of the best creative thinkers in the industry. Nothing tops being on the set of Solo: A Star Wars Story and exploring the Millennium Falcon. “I wasn’t allowed to make the Kessel Run unfortunately,” he jokes.

Mayes responds to adversity with positivity, a tactic he also uses when dealing with microaggressions. He likes to give people the benefit of the doubt, but isn’t afraid of speaking up to call out bad behaviour. “I try to operate from a place of peace and provide education where I can, so behaviour isn’t repeated towards myself or others,” he says, “It’s best for me to take bad behaviour head-on, and shut it down immediately. I like to use clear and concise language that doesn’t open things up to interpretation or create ambiguity.” 

He wants to build an industry that’s open for all, including more people who don’t see themselves represented as much as others. “As generations did before us, we must break down as many walls and doors as we can so that others can follow behind us and continue to make changes,” says Mayes. 

For Mayes, it’s about starting with actions that are close to home to create effective change. Over the years he’s become more involved with Fuse Create’s inclusion and diversity initiatives. “Nothing changes overnight, so the more seeds of change you can plant the better,” he says. His advice for those who want to get into the industry is simple: reach out to people, and you’ll be surprised at how many want to help you.

Outside his day job, Mayes and members of his agency team are participating in Raptors for Research initiative with Sinai Health. Click here to learn how to support.

This POCAM BHM 2023 profile was written by Aleena Mazhar, SVP and managing director, partner at FUSE Create, and a steering committee member of POCAM.