This interview is part of our Empowered Women series in partnership with FREE THE WORK, The 3% Movement, The Female Quotient, and TIME’S UP Foundation — a coalition effort to champion more equal and accurate representation of women leading at work, at home, in their communities and beyond. Read more about this initiative here and download images from the Empowered Women collection here.
Malakai is an award-winning director and philanthropist who has made it her mission to build worlds for the next generation. Her award winning 501(c)3 non-profit, Made In Her Image is dedicated to bringing social equity to the film, media and technology industries. Launched in Los Angeles and Phoenix, Arizona in 2018, the organization empowers young women and non-binary youth of color by arming them with the tools they need to be media disruptors.
We spoke with Malakai about her work and how Made In Her Image is supporting the next generation of creative leaders.
Hi Malakai! Tell us about yourself, what was your career path and how did you get to where you are today?
I started originally within the world of editorial. I always wanted to direct, but never quite saw myself. I was always afraid and truly had to push to fight to see myself within the social atmosphere where I existed. Being able to build myself up as a director was a slow and steady brink of courage. Each moment, each thing I created propelled my further and further into who I was meant to be. I am now happy to say, that I’m an award winning director and work within the industry — especially within film and commercials.
Made In Her Image is a non-profit movement striving towards social equity in the film, media and entertainment industries for girls and women of color. You launched the organization in 2018, have partnered with companies like Paramount, Disney Animation Studios, Ford, CAA, and have curated 30+ multi-city workshops and programs dedicated to educational advancement. What led you to create this organization?
As I began to dive into my career as a director, I always felt as if I wasn’t seen or heard. That’s why I created MIHI. Made In Her Image was born out of a need to grow, to build and to truly provide opportunities and visibility for young women of color. We are revolutionary and we create and elevate opportunity across the board. We’re about empowering and teaching the next generation the building blocks and steps to cultivate and create more.
What are some of the key programs Made In Her Image currently offers to give girls and gender non-binary youths of color the opportunity to create their own vision within the realms of film?
We currently offer programs within cinematography, film, media & technology. Our biggest mission is to build equity and to strategically elevate and offer opportunities to the next generation.
What do you see as some of the biggest opportunities to positively drive meaningful change for underrepresented creators and support the rise of new talent right now?
This is a pivotal time. A time of building and forging new pathways. The biggest opportunity we have is to create and to offer and elevate young women of color within the fields of film, media and technology. We need to give young women of color and non-binary folk WORK. That’s it. Hiring equitably while elevating and being allies.
What are your thoughts on the power and importance of visual representation to help support the rise of more women and girls to leadership in this industry?
We need to keep building out films and media that actually reflect us. For me, that’s my goal through and through. As a director. As an artist. It’s truly about cultivating media and content that allows the next generation to have a voice.
When you look to the future, what inspires you and what initiatives are you currently most excited about?
We’re excited to elevate and offer the next generation and opportunity, where they wouldn’t have otherwise.
How can people support the work you’re doing?
By donating and visiting Made In Her Image, you can see our programs and spread the word about who we are and what we’re doing.
What advice would you give to aspiring young creators who are navigating the path to leadership in film, media and technology?
Don’t be afraid to move and to shift change by simply existing. Create and do it fearlessly. No excuses.
About FREE THE WORK
FREE THE WORK is a nonprofit initiative dedicated to identifying systemic inequalities in film, television, advertising, and media, and finding actionable solutions to expand access for underrepresented creators.
This mission is supported by FREE THE WORK’s field work & advocacy, editorial content, events, partnerships and curated talent-discovery platform.