Zoe Mukendi: ‘Show up as you are.’

—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—

Zoe Mukendi has a motto: If they can do it, why can’t I? “Not so much in the sense of comparison,” she explains. “But in the sense of releasing the limitations we put on ourselves.”

Today, she is an account executive at Bleublancrouge in Toronto, but she got her start in Canadian advertising a little more than three years ago as a creative coordinator. With a background in languages, Mukendi admits to “stumbling” upon agency life, but the draw was strong. “Handling the awards and reviewing award-winning works really sparked my love for the industry,” she says.

Mukendi has been inspired by the creatives she’s worked with, and by seeing all that goes into building a campaign. And she has found a sense of connectedness with those she works with. “The most amazing thing that has happened to me in the agency is finding my people,” she says. “I moved to Canada three years ago, so being able to find my community has been pretty amazing.”

However, one key support Mukendi finds missing is the lack of industry mentors. “Finding a mentor is difficult, but there are a couple of great BIPOC leaders/managers that I look up to, but I am 1,000% open to a mentor.”

The industry as a whole could do with “more,” especially in the decision-maker roles, she says. “I would love to see more of everyone BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, minorities…communities that have been ‘othered’ in the industry.

“Those making the decisions should look like the diverse talents that are represented in our works. I would also like to see more BIPOC in managerial and senior roles in this industry.”

When dealing with bias, microaggressions and plain racism, or a lack of diversity, Mukendi does not hesitate to use her voice. “I was raised to speak up,” she says. “It could be in the form of education, or letting someone know how they made me/others feel after an interaction, or correcting someone after a microaggression.”

Her advice to young Black talent who want to get into advertising: “Show up as you are, don’t dial down who you are, and be confident. Find ways to continuously learn and grow, and find a mentor… I should really take my own advice there.”

Mukendi shared a pic (above) of one of her favourite work projects. “This is my friend and I,” she explains. “We worked tirelessly to produce this festival in B.C. sponsored by White Claw. We were navigating so many moving pieces… logistics, partnerships, agency partners, vendors, etc. We worked so hard on the days leading up to the event and the day itself, but the pay-off was wonderful: The event was awesome and everyone, clients included, had a great time. It was epic.”

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.