One might say Bianca Gaston’s return to Boston was a learning experience. The M.S. Advertising student may have been born in Boston, but Gaston has always considered herself a New Yorker at heart. Her move to BU forced her to begrudgingly come to terms with Boston’s expensive pizza prices.
After majoring in theater at the City College of New York, Bianca Gaston knew she wanted to pursue her love of storytelling by getting her master’s. She thought she might like to be a journalist. But, three words on the M.S. Advertising website — creativity, innovation and strategy — led her to pursue a different path.
Two years later, Gaston is currently 1 of 15 Black creatives accepted into ONE School Chicago’s inaugural class for advertising. She discusses her journey pursuing a graduate degree in advertising and how COM helped her find her purpose in the creative industry.
Jazzy Gray: Let’s just kind of kick things off. Obviously you’re in a master’s program, and I am wondering, why COM?
Bianca Gaston: I always loved storytelling, but I didn’t really have a ton of experience in writing. But while doing my undergrad, I had been helping brands and businesses on social media. I would create content, produce deliverables and manage social media pages. I kind of didn’t realize that was advertising until I saw the [COM M.S.] Advertising program’s website. And it said, ‘creativity, innovation and strategy.’ I thought, “Okay, well, I think I’m creative. I think I have really good ideas.” I knew there was some strategy in the storytelling that I was doing when I was creating content and just helping further amplify these brand voices. In putting all of what I had — in helping brands and businesses on social media — together, I realized I had a portfolio. So I ended up applying to the advertising program.
Moving forward, I ended up not getting accepted to the journalism program, but I got accepted into the advertising program. I was a little bit disappointed, but I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I’d be. The acceptance into the advertising program was kind of that nudge that I needed. I decided to take that leap of faith and ended up in COM.
What drew you specifically to Boston?
Okay, I never told anybody this, but I was actually born in Boston. I’ve always been this New York girl and I always talk down about Boston. I called it boring Boston. I ended up in Boston because I was just like, “Let me just give Boston another try.” I was born there. I have family there, yet it’s always been this place that I never felt any pride in.
You said you’ve been working towards getting into ONE school for a long time. How did you find out about it? What drew you to it? Why did you decide this is where you want to be?
When I first got to the COM advertising program, I was looking for other students of color, and one of the students I connected with told me about this multicultural internship program, MAIP, a program for students of color. It’s like something that you really want to make sure you get under your belt, especially as a student of color, because there’s this lack of diversity in advertising. So everyone who’s a student of color really wants to make sure to get this opportunity.
Last fall, the creative director of ONE school posted on LinkedIn saying he understands there’s a lack of diversity within the advertising industry. That post [led me to discover] ONE school, a completely free portfolio program for Black creatives to be mentored by Black industry leads.
I remember seeing this and thinking, “I’m sorry, MAIP who?” Like, this is great. I applied to it the first time around, but I didn’t get accepted. But I was like, “You know what, that’s okay.” Shortly thereafter, I got an email from the ONE Club for Creativity. The ONE Club for Creativity is a part of ONE school. They offered to set me up with a mentor in Chicago. My mentor was everything, and with the next cycle, I was able to take some time to really focus on my application and luckily I got into ONE school in Chicago.
That’s great! What does your day to day look like at ONE school?
It just started on April 6, and oh my goodness. Just yesterday, we met with the first Black Chief Marketing Officer of Snapchat. He came on our Google session, and that was just a moment. It was so cool. His dad used to be a manager at McDonald’s, and now he’s working alongside creative with McDonald’s. Just seeing that representation, I think, is so important because it kind of takes away that imposter syndrome. But it kind of reaffirms that you belong here.
What’s your dream job or end goal?
I’m still not sure if I see myself working for a tech company, whether it be Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram, or working on the agency side. I really am into the beauty industry, [so] I could see myself working for a brand like Glossier. I’m very interested in producing branded content, whether it be through content creation, visual campaigns, or video campaigns. I see myself being a part of that, as a writer or producer. I really love helping a brand further amplify their brand voice through authentic storytelling.
How has COM prepared you for work in the creative industry or for the ONE school?
COM helped me help me very, very, very much. Coming into this, I didn’t even know what advertising was. COM really helped me realize that there is such a thing as having a creative job. There’s such a thing as a creative industry. I didn’t know that advertising was even a creative industry. I didn’t know there was storytelling in advertising. COM really did show me there is a career here. COM also taught me that there are certain things that I’m looking for, like representation and diversity. COM helped me find what was important to me.
Jazzy Gray, Staff Writer
Jazzy Gray is a human storyteller, writer and communication student studying PR and Journalism at Boston University. The Minnesota native loves all kinds of fun things like coffee drinks, Beyoncé songs, and fictional books with strong female protagonists. In addition to her role with The COMmunicator, Gray also acts as co-Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus at Boston University. Gray is continually amazed by the courageousness a single story can require, and she is honored that so many continue to share their stories with her.