Ayanna McNeil Speaks on the Creation of Brainwash Media, Why She Decided to Start the Digital Platform, The Importance of Highlighting Black Millennials and What’s to Come for the Brand in 2019.

There aren’t many digital platforms out there today that highlight black and brown creatives or black and brown people in general. The very first time I came across Brainwash Media I instantly said to myself this site is different but in a good way. Their overall mission is as inspiring as anything within the digital mag and blog world and it’s something we felt the need to showcase because of how important it is.

I had the pleasure to chat with the founder and editor-in chief of Brainwash Media, Ayanna McNeil. The young creative and I talked about why she decided to start Brainwash Media, why it’s important for black and brown millennials to be highlighted in today’s climate, the message behind the platform and what’s to come for the brand in 2019. Check out the full interview below.

1 – What inspired you to get into writing?

It’s funny. It took me a long time to recognize that I was a writer. But come to think of it, I’ve been using words to tell stories for as long as I can remember. Through words, I’m able to understand the spaces in which I occupy, the worlds in which I live in. My favorite writer of all time is Malcolm Gladwell. I like the idea of being able to take an idea, pull it apart, analyze each part, and put it back together. That’s sort of what I like to do with my writing. 

2 – Who or what were your motivating factors while you were in the process of creating your digital platform?

So at the time, I was a sophomore/junior in college. I had discovered the world of freelance writing and decided that I wanted to take a stab at it. I looked around and realized that there were no spaces where I could write about Tyler the Creator’s use of color in “Yonkers” or a stream of consciousness album review of A Seat at the Table or a docu-series with my dad. So I created it. 

3 – Explain the overall mission of Brainwash Media.

Brainwash is a digital editorial platform for black and brown millennials to share their stories + examine the humanity within themselves by examining the humanity in the ideas of others. Space where we come together and tell our stories and the stories of folks that look like us and share it with the world. We have a Lemonade album review and a personal essay about asexuality on the site. Love poems, and cultural criticisms. Photo series featuring black men and a rundown of the most stylish dancehall artists. Our mission is to continue to grow and build this space and invite others to live in it.

4 – In your opinion, why did you feel it was necessary to highlight black and brown millennials?

Let’s be real here. There are a LOT of blogs/digital media platforms/ magazines, etc. of that pool, there are only a handful of spaces for and by people of color— specifically black and brown kids. of THAT group, I can probably count on one hand the number of spaces for all gender identities. I do think there’s value in having spaces for just women or just men or just gender non-conforming folks but I like this idea of having space where we can all exist alongside one another. Being a millennial is such a specific experience and for me, it was important to honor that experience. Our entire team is black. All of our contributors are people of color. Men and women. All identities. That’s important to me.

5 – Brainwash Media covers a lot of different aspects of black and brown culture. Although it’s all important, which do you think has helped your site stand out the most? Why?

So I think our “In Living Colour” series has really gained some momentum. I’m super into color theory and the ways in which color is used to communicate ideas. Wes Anderson, one of my favorite directors alongside his DP, Robert Yeoman, really understand how to use color to drive their story home. Each month, we take one of my favorite artists and dissect the ways they use color in some of their standout videos. we create full-color palettes, analyze shots, dissect the emotion the artist is trying to convey, and how we believe color is best serving that goal. It started off as just a whatever thing— something I was doing every now and then and the team started to notice that folks really enjoyed them. The first one I did was Tyler, The Creator. That one is probably my favorite. Our senior editor, Gam did Janelle Monae. This month we did Blood Orange. Next month we’re definitely going to do Travis Scott. I’ve never seen this done before so it definitely sets us apart from other platforms.

6 – Your site represents the culture and puts it in a positive light unlike a lot of other sites and publications. In today’s sensitive climate, was making your site based on black culture the first choice or was there some sort of hesitance? Why or why not?

Honestly, I cannot separate my blackness from my art. It’s all one in the same. So I always knew that at the center of Brainwash is blackness. It just IS. We will never have white contributors. They have plenty of spaces to contribute to and exist in. This ain’t for them. And whoever doesn’t like it that’s fi dem business.

7 – What message do you want Brainwash Media to convey?

Brainwash is love. It’s support. It’s thoughtfulness. Introspection. Childish Gambino was on The Breakfast Club where he says people aren’t thinking anymore. Brainwash is meant to get you thinking again.

8 – As far as the brand goes, do you feel like you’ve accomplished what you set out to do up until this point?

I’ve interviewed a dancehall artist, Konshens. I’ve collaborated with my father on a video project. Locked down a solid team of beautifully gifted folks. Did a second merch drop. Dropping content on a consistent basis— Monday/Wednesday/Friday we put out something new and we have our newsletter that goes out on Sunday. We’ve added contributors from all over the world. A girl from Lagos, Nigeria. A man from London based in Toronto. New York. Detroit. Really proud of that.

Gam LaFrance, Senior Editor
Leah Hill, Managing Editor
Screen Shot 2018-10-25 at 12.16.08 AM
Briana Atkins, Contributing Editor + Social Media Intern

9 – What advice was given to you in regards to putting Brainwash together?

Be consistent. Build a team of folks who “get it.” Make sure the business is TIGHT. No one cares, now make them care. So many folks have given me solid advice. I’m grateful.

10 – What advice do you have for any digital creative out there who aspires to start their own digital magazine or platform?

Just start. Do the thing, make the mistake, adjust, and keep going. I’ve made so many mistakes along the way. But with each one of those mistakes, Brainwash has become better and better each time.

11 – What can we expect from Brainwash Media is the last quarter of the year? Any big plans for the brand in 2019?

As we wrap the year we’re going to continue with our regularly scheduled programming. New merch for the holiday season. We’re launching our new site in January. It’s currently being designed by an amazing Black woman, Cory Lancaster. We have a partnership with ARTSY Magazine for their women’s print issue so that’ll come out next year. We’re excited about that. My managing editor, Leah Hill is the founder of Kindred Media & Entertainment. She threw her first music festival in Detroit this year with all up and coming artists from the city. We’ll be collaborating with her next year for a likkle ting. New columns. New partnerships. New contributors. New Series. SECURING THE BAG SO MY PEOPLE CAN EAT.

Check out Brainwash Media here!


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