We had the good fortune of connecting with Mercedes Oliver and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mercedes, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
This question is so important to me because creativity has been such a big part of my life. I come from a family of creative people, my mom is an interior designer, my brother went to school for graphic design, my little sister is pursuing photography, my dad is an entrepreneur that can draw, and then there’s me the photographer, graphic designer, and sometimes videographer when those skills are called upon. It was almost natural for me to pursue a career in creativity, I was the kid in school everyone disliked because I has such extraordinary ideas and over the top projects, I’m the kid that if we have a presentation everyone submits a PowerPoint, I’m going to make an After Effects presentation instead. I played a lot of sports too and something I really gravitated too were Nike Commercials. I feel in love with how they made me feel. The visuals, the narration, the colors, the mood, I absolutely loved how it inspired me. It made me feel like I was going to win and succeed at anything I put my mind too. This is where creativity sparked for me, I would watch hours upon hours upon hours of these videos because they had a special way of making me believe in myself in ways that I couldn’t conjure up by myself. That’s when it hit me, I want to make things that make people feel stuff. I want people to feel emotion when they view my art, I want to tell stories and I want to tell them in an extremely compelling way. It was love at first sight really for me and creativity. Being I love athletics, a lot of my work involves that realm. I love the pure energy, celebration, emotion, the highs and lows that sports bring, and also the ugliness that it shows. I always felt at home in the sports world, I’m a pretty tall, broad shoulder, buff woman so growing up I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere but there. Creativity has allowed me to capture my childhood dream of making things just like Nike…maybe even better? hahaha I’m capping haha
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
What sets me apart? I am a sharp shooter, honey! I am a no nonsense type of gal when it comes to my work. I will set boundaries and reinforce those boundaries and I am not afraid to speak up for others! I have an ability to make the shyest person a shoot feel like they have known me for forever which allows them to be comfortable and be themselves. What am I most proud of? Just simply how far I have come. I never thought I would end up being a graphic designer and a photographer. I never thought I would be able to work in sports creative media. I never thought I would have clients or a business. I just wanted to go to the Olympics that’s all I ever thought about, and now look at me? I’ve done more interviews than I could ever imagine, I always thought why would anyone care or want to hear from me? I’m a nobody. Now look at me? Striving, thriving, living and most importantly, I’m happy. Where I am today wasn’t easy. If you go look on sports creative Twitter for five seconds, you will see just how miserable people are in the industry and just how burnt out and mentally exhausted everyone is. Overworked and underpaid, carrying multi-million dollar organizations on their backs to help tell a brand story for trash, pennies, and passive aggressive bosses. Let’s not even open the door for what it is like from women working in sports creative, ignored, overlooked, and what did they tell me I was? UNAPPROACHABLE AND DIFFICULT TO WORK WITH, simply because I wasn’t a push over, expressed my concerns and ideas, called people out when it didn’t make sense, and asked them to communicate properly so I didn’t get last minute work assignments at 9pm on Sunday. Once you set boundaries where people can’t use and abuse you, I guess you become unapproachable and difficult to work with, which happens to be a very familiar stereotype they attach to black women but whatever I suppose. I overcame these challenges by still executing and putting out a high quality product at the end of the day what anyone says about you is noise, I just put my head down got my work done, and created some of the best graphics and photography I have ever pursued in my life. Which ultimately pushed me ahead to gain more clients and opened more job opportunities. Just because the hate was being thrown my way, I still did my job and I still did it well. Trusted the process of my craft and abilities would bring me more positive opportunities, and God delivered right on time. The lesson I learned remain true to yourself, the same qualities I was being scrutinized for before or being celebrated and appreciated somewhere else. Now, I’m working in a much better environment and have no issues whatsoever, my boss tells me I’m the easier designer she has every worked with so I guess that unapproachable and difficult to work with narrative was false, ey? see how everything works itself out. My biggest lesson and message to anyone be confident and who you are and self-reflect, be honest with yourself and change the things you need to change but change them for you! Be proud for your ability to speak up and not be afraid to be the bad guy! We need more in the sports creative industry I know too many people who don’t have that quality and that’s okay but those who do we have to stick up for them too! Support your fellow creatives and protect each other! The world should know about my brand story I’m an amazing, loud laughing, funny person, who will do anything for anyone in need, I am a protector and nurturer, I stick up for the little people and love being around those who are different than me. I put a lot of time in my craft and always striving to reach back and help those who are up next and pour whatever knowledge I have into them.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well considering I am a massive homebody and hate the heat. I hope my best friend knows we aren’t going anywhere hahaha Just kidding.
I love me some good ol brunch food, first stop Southern Kitchen to grub on some chicken and waffles! I think I eat fish tacos at least once a week from Urbana Taco Food Truck so lunch stop is definitely there. My absolute favorite place, I’m a regular there, is Okinawa Japanese Restaurant amazing sushi, amazing soup, amazing everything we will be there at least three times for either lunch or dinner, I don’t care, 3 rolls of sushi for 14.99? stop it, they hold a special place in my heart. I’m not much of a drinker so I wouldn’t even begin to know where those spots are. I like parks and to hike so Railroad Park is a favorite and Red Mountain! We would check out the beach at Gulf Shores because I love being a beach bum more than anything.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shoutout has to start with GOD! If that is cliche then so be it. I have been through some very traumatizing and just down right depressing moments in my life. I have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts and truthfully, without the full might and me going to God with all my broken pieces and just being transparent about my own mental state, I really truly believe I would not be here doing this interview with you today. God has been such a light in my life even in the moments I have turned my back, always there to lift me up. So that is the first and most important shoutout I have to give! Naturally, my family without them birthing me with creative talents I would never have pursued this path in the first place. As all families we may not get along all the time and see eye to eye but they support any and everything I want to do, they have never tried to confine me to one place and really let me spread my wings and sore. The would provide whatever support they could within their means and I am truly grateful for them. My professors in college at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH, really pushed me. I was very focused on my track career at the time but they saw something in me I didn’t see and were able to kind of slap me in the face and say HEY YOU ARE NATURALLY TALENTED AT THIS FOCUS ON THIS A LITTLE MORE AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS and Blis Devault was right! See what happened! My mentor also at Xavier played a massive role in allowing me to be this little annoying gnat and stalk him around and be apart of all his video shoots and talk to me about creative things. He was like a celebrity in my head and he probably hated me screaming at him from the top of my lungs any time I saw him on campus haha. I just thought he was so cool and he really took me under his wing and I appreciate him greatly for it. My friends are extremely supportive, they are my biggest fans and make me feel like I’m the best thing since sliced bread, and certainly not last, whew, this man deserves a trophy and a million dollars, my husband Rondell Bartholomew. Man, oh man, he sees the most vulnerable side of me out of anyone else and I can tell you the wildness he has to deal with is not for the weak hearted and he loves me anyways even when I’m on his last nerve. I appreciate him for loving me at my most unloveable moments, depression and anxiety isn’t easy on a marriage and he does his absolute best to love me through and support me as I find avenues that will help me heal. Even before we got married he really was instrumental in pulling me out of despair and I can’t speak enough about his resiliency, his pure determination when life is stacked up against him is so admirable, he has the sheer dawg mentality that allows him to stay disciplined in all situations. His work ethic and drive inspires me to go ten times harder. He is an amazing Chef and just an overall incredible human being and I don’t think anyone wants to read me gushing over my husband anymore but I am truly blessed and in awe to have him in my life, a true work of art he is.