We met up with the inspiring and talented Madison Utendahl at her Brooklyn apartment in the early days of Spring to interview and photograph her for Neu Women's 3rd year anniversary web series. We took a bit of a break…along with the rest of the world, but we’re back in action and ready to share the story of this incredible founder and creative.
Founder and CCO of Utendahl Creative, in her only 30 years Madison already won 2 Webby Awards and was listed as Forbes 30 under 30 class of 21'. But we wanted to learn more about how she actually identifies herself…
"It shows up in marketing and design, but my core essence is as a storyteller. And I always identified myself as a Black person, even before I do as a woman. I am Black female storyteller."
AN IMPACT-DRIVEN MISSION
Both personally and professionally, the key for Madison is authenticity. Even when fear, hesitation or judgment come along, her core mission is always living genuinely as herself. So many life lessons (we took many notes!)…
For Madison, it's not about the legacy, but the impact she generates on others and the world itself.
And that was the impetus to create Utendahl Creative with a clear mission - branding content as a source of storytelling, optimism and connectivity - and selective approach with clients. Her agency consciously chooses to work only with brands that have a story and a narrative behind them. She says 'no' to potential clients that are in it only to make money and have no emotional connection to what they are trying to sell and/or communicate. To that we say bravo!
"STORIES ARE DATA WITH A SOUL", Brene Brown.
"For brands, your emotions and how you feel should have as much value as any quantitative/numerical figure." Madison tells us during the shoot, while we chatted about our shared passion for storytelling and the reason we created the Neu Women web series in the first place.
We wanted to create a space through our blog to share the inspiring stories of independent female leaders from many different fields and backgrounds like Madison. This space is a way to celebrate their work with the hopes of inspiring you to open up for reflection about what it truly means to lead a more conscious life and how we can all start doing things differently in our own way and terms.
"Statements or words like “vegan”, “sustainable”, “no trash” can become very polarizing because we feel that they are definite, that there is only one way to do these things and I don’t subscribe to that because it prevents people from taking baby steps. The way I think about sustainability is daily “What am I going to do today that's a more sustainable decision?” Vs. putting pressure on myself." Madison explains, taking a clear and honest stand about her beliefs one more time.
Madison has been always surrounded by women that have not only inspired her, but also helped forge her leadership style to guide a 100% female agency.
“When I think about all the women around me and in front of me, mainly women of color, that really had to pave the way to be heard, to be trusted, to be recognized, I reaffirm that I’m just walking in their path and paving the road for whoever is behind me. I want to do this for them.”
If you still haven't heard it, we strongly recommend digging into the two mini-series she recently released. One with writer Tembe Denton-Hurst and the other with storyteller Sophia Li. HER NAME IS reintroduces the names and narratives of "unrecognized" Black female figures and the legacies they left behind. From Rosetta Tharpe, to Fannie Lou Hamer and Jessye Norman, they are all unmissable. THE ELEPHANT addresses the big question that comes from her friendship with Sophia: how do they continue to show themselves up as Black and Asian allies and bring awareness to radical injustice impacting on both Black and Asian communities respectively?
As we said before, for Madison it is not about the legacy, but the impact she has on others and the world. And we feel absolutely inspired and grateful for having the opportunity to share her story with all of you!
NEU WOMEN Q&A
Neu mantra: Surrender, appreciate and accept what is
Neu sustainable habit: No fast fashion purchases & a glass water bottle
Neu self-care/healthy practice: Daily mediation and journal
Neu female voice: My own
Neu inspiring book or news article: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Neu song obsession: Lake by the Ocean by Maxwell
Neu go-to veg restaurant: Misi (not full veg but veg forward)
Neu spot to reconnect with: Silverlake Reservoir
Neu decompress routine: Turning on airplane mode on my phone hours before bed
Neu weekend retreat: Shou Sugi Ban House
Neu travel destination: Goldeneye in Oracabessa Jamaica
Neu style icon: I don’t have a single one; I’m constantly pulling from hundreds of different references and women!
Neu everyday look: Loose straight jeans, square toe boots, white tank top, oversized jacket
Neu sustainable brands you love: Neu Nomads!
Neu Neu Nomads favorite style: Karlie Jacket - Yarn Dyed
MADISON IS WEARING
You heard it here first: Soft suiting is having a moment. Gone are the days when the suit was just for the man about town. Now, suits are bringing back their curves with feminine shapes, delicate fabrics, and a whole color palette of wonderful shades. In linen or silky TENCEL™, we’re wearing a soft suit everywhere we go, and so should you.
The dappled sun, the shade of unique colonial architecture, the sticky sweet smell of cañoncitos hawked by street vendors, and the cool taste of Argentinian wine. This fall, we’re launching our neu-est collection in the fabulous Buenos Aires, where the streets are filled with infinitely stylish porteños enjoying the most incredible atmosphere in Latin America.