Written by Lyla Johnston

Watch Mahaneela’s Pep Talk on starting out as a multidisciplinary creative

Our latest Pep Talk featured the super-inspiring Mahaneela, who answered all of your questions on honing your skills as a multidisciplinary artist. Hosted by Steph Fung, Mahaneela spoke to us about discovering your mission as a creative, using your day job as a ‘sponge’ for creativity, and at one point running Adele’s Instagram!

The big talking points:

• Why it’s important to have a creative purpose behind your practice (4:29)
• How Mahaneela knew that a multidisciplinary approach was best for her (9:23)
• The value of experimentation (21:00)
• Making the work that you want to be paid to do (27:37)
• Doing what you love and doing things with a purpose (33:39)
• How Mahaneela came to work in photography (38:40)
• Working for gal-dem and experiencing personal success (45:25)
• How Mahaneela made the move from London to New York (47:05)

What did I miss?
After an introduction from our host Steph Fung, Mahaneela shared her own mini-pep talk with us: “Don’t put pressure on yourself to know exactly what you want to do. Allow room for growth; you are an artist, and are always changing!”

Knowing that there is no wrong path to creative success, Mahaneela spoke about a journey that saw her leave a course in philosophy to become a wearer of many hats – from single-handedly creating her own magazine, Cozy, to being part of a Black womxn-centred photography collective on Tumblr.

However, it was through working in various advertising agencies and doing social media for artists like Adele at iconic record label XL, that exposed Mahaneela to a flurry of creatives and disciplines.

As Mahaneela explained, opportunities can stem from simply using your initiative and experimenting. But she also stressed the importance of creating good foundations first – and how acting like a ‘sponge’ can help you build a network of creatives through your day job.

“Don’t put pressure on yourself to know exactly what you want to do. Allow room for growth; you are an artist, and are always changing!”

Mahaneela also shared a few golden nuggets about reaching out to prospective clients as a multifaceted creative, how purpose gets her up in the morning, and how expanding on what you know and love, “layer by layer”, helps create a consistent and high-quality portfolio. Plus, she spoke about what she considers her first personal creative success: shooting a cover for gal-dem, a magazine which exemplifies her vision of a more diverse and authentic industry.

Finally, Mahaneela spoke about how she used the money she made at her day jobs to establish herself internationally, eventually leading her to live in New York.

About Mahaneela
Having initially dropped out of a philosophy degree, Mahaneela has built a career doing what she loves, and today works across everything from photography and fine art to film and music, switching effortlessly between directing, shooting and writing – as well as working as a DJ.

Currently in New York, based in London, and with roots in Ghana, India and Jamaica, Mahaneela’s work often explores themes centred on diasporic history, with a focus on the Black experience. Her work strives to not only address the lack of representation in mainstream media, but also shift the narrative, and provide a new bright, beautiful and more authentic perspective.

In addition to her photography and filmmaking work, Mahaneela is also a creative strategist and consultant, and has created projects for an incredible list of clients including Apple, XL Recordings, Converse, gal-dem, Channel 4 and Tate Modern; and artists like FKA Twigs, Tyga, Sampha and Miraa May.

As someone who is so used to juggling multiple projects, Mahaneela will be ready to talk about all things freelance, using your skillset among many pursuits, creating consistency in your practice, and much more.

See more from Mahaneela on her website and Instagram.

What is Pep Talk?
Pep Talk is our monthly Instagram Live event to share relatable, easy-to-process tips in conversation with inspiring creatives.

Each session begins with a ‘pep talk’, where a chosen creative gets to share their ultimate advice for anyone who might be feeling a bit stuck, before answering questions submitted by you, our readers.

Mention Mahaneela
Written by Lyla Johnston