An iconic beauty brand steps into modern day with this new Black-led agency
Gabrielle Shirdan, founder of Kitchen Table recounts recent relaunch of Madam by Madam CJ Walker for our Black History Month Celebration of Creative Excellence
This year’s Black History Month Creative Excellence Series comes to a close with a story from Gabrielle Shirdan, the chief creative officer and founder of a new New York-based agency Kitchen Table. She also works as an executive creative director at CHÉ Creative, the agency behind the arresting Hologic Super Bowl ad starring Mary J. Blige. Previously, Shirdan had served as SVP and group creative director at McCann New York, where she helped lead major campaigns for Ulta Beauty, Microsoft, LinkedIn and Ad Council—the latter which had named her a “Champion for Good.” Shirdan is passionate about creating authentic and emotionally provocative ideas that help to move culture forward, and at her new shop, she aims to create "for the culture from within the culture." An ardent supporter of mentoring Black creatives and women in advertising, Shirdan was also cited as one of the most inspiring leaders to work for in a recent survey by Working Not Working.
“Gabrielle started her own agency (which I think is amazing on its own) and has made a lot of great work since then,” said our guest editor Sophie Gold, founder of production company Eleanor. “However, the work she's done outside of that is just as admirable. Since BLM she has been a very strong advocate and voice for diversifying the industry. Most recently, she worked on Hologic's Super Bowl spot, where she brought in an almost all-Black female crew.”
Here, Shirdan recounts the first major project out of Kitchen Table, the recent relaunch of iconic Black beauty brand, Madam CJ Walker, alongside Sundial Brands.
Choosing a project or campaign that marked a pivotal moment in my career is no easy task. For me, every piece is pivotal, and every moment has meaning—by design. I end most decks with, “Let’s change the world,” and it’s the collection of work I’ve been able to create that proves this to be true—even if just a little.
Making a difference has been an intentional theme throughout my career. As executive creative director at CHÉ, I was honored help ignite women to prioritize their health with Mary J. Blige on the biggest stage during the Super Bowl this year. As SVP-group creative director at McCann, for Microsoft, we told the story of the first woman to coach in the Super Bowl and elevated a Queer Black artist as a face of the brand. We helped kids talk about mental health through the power of music for Ad Council; for Ulta, we created a $25 million dollar platform to “magnify, uplift, support and empower” Black voices in beauty and welcomed a new era of what it means to be professional for LinkedIn.
It’s hard to choose, but my most meaningful milestone is the first campaign to come out of my recently launched agency, Kitchen Table. I created Kitchen Table, a full-service creative agency built so all brands have a seat to success. We create work for the culture from within the culture, and we focus on championing underrepresented brands. It’s about elevating excellence and ownership.
When I was young, I watched my mother, TJ Shirdan, build her company Sunshine Therapy Club from our dining room table, inspiring everything I do today. Along with her, no other founder represents the mission of Kitchen Table more than the Black beauty entrepreneur and business icon Madam C.J. Walker.
Kitchen Table recently had the honor of creating the campaign for the relaunch of the Madam C.J. Walker brand as MADAM, alongside the phenomenal and passionate team at Sundial Brands and the great-great-granddaughter of Madam C.J. Walker herself. To respect the legacy of America’s first woman self-made millionaire and the beauty of Black hair, we curated a team of Black creatives—from our executive producer, Nikkia Moulterie, to the photographer, Myesha Gardener, to the DP, the entire glam team, and I directed the film myself.
Read: Black beauty brand Madam C.J. Walker relaunches in bid to reach younger buyers.
We started each meeting with the quote from A'Lelia Bundles, “It’s a privilege to tell her story.” It was, indeed.
This work is meaningful not only because it’s one of the first to come out of Kitchen Table for me, but because it’s for the young girl looking in the mirror wondering if the world sees her hair as beautiful as her mother does. Kitchen Table sits somewhere between the words of Shirley Chisholm, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair” and Jay-Z—“Kitchen Table, that’s where I honed my skills.”
Here's to the hungry ones.
- Feb 28, 2022
- Client :
- Madam C.J. Walker
- Agency :
- Kitchen Table
- Chief Creative Officer :
- Gabrielle Shirdan
- Photographer :
- Myesha Gardener
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