Sneaker queen Jazerai Allen-Lord on 'inspiring the dream' with New Balance
The multi-talented creative reflects on a Black History Month activation that honored the legacy of MLK and the career of NBA all-star Kawhi Leonard
Our celebration of creative excellence for Black History Month rolls on with sneaker queen Jazerai Allen-Lord, a polymathic creative who began her career as a journalist, serving for nearly a decade at Compex’s “KicksonFire.” During that time, she interviewed some of pop culture’s most influential artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Lauryn Hill and Eric "Shake" James and Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC, with whom she later partnered to open a conceptual boutique for Adidas in 2015.
Allen-Lord, aka “NerdLikeJazzy,” went on to debut her own unisex streetwear line, a Club-C sneaker with Reebok (which will be on display at the “Sneakers Unboxed” exhibit at the London Design Mueseum this Spring), as well as her own creative firm, True to Size, where for top brands she has been leading creative strategy and messaging that also amplifies marginalized voices and speaks to the heart of local communities.
Allen-Lord is featured in Lena Waithe’s docuseries “You Ain’t Got These,” and has been featured in numerous sneaker and footwear industry “best of” lists.
This week’s guest editor, Wieden + Kennedy copywriter Jordan Dinwiddie, praises “Jazerai's dedication to making sure that Black women have not just a seat but multiple seats at every table. Whether she's working with New Balance or Reebok, her presence is always felt.”
Here, Allen-Lord recounts an important project for New Balance, the "Inspire the Dream" Black History Month activation with L.A. Clippers NBA pro Kawhi Leonard, which represented the first time she was part of an all-Black brand and creative team dedicated to a community-centered push.
The project I have chosen is New Balance's inaugural Black History Month Launch Event from 2020, executed in partnership with my head of experience at True to Size, Dawn Martin. We have many client teams at New Balance; however, this particular pack was designed and managed by a self-assembled, cross-sectional African-American Product Team, led by Portia Blunt.
Launched in partnership with NBA All-Star Kawhi Leonard, the team in full decided on using a Black-owned business to concept, strategize and produce the experience, continuing the throughline of the product storytelling. The overarching goal of "Inspire the Dream" was to celebrate Leonard's career in the community that he came from, among youth who embody the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream.
Kawhi Leonard and New Balance Marketing Manager Samia Akbar
When scouting potential partners and locations to activate in Los Angeles, we opted for the Boys & Girls Club within the Mar Vista Housing Community over the more pristine and flashier Santa Monica location to ensure that we created a meaningful impact. Keeping in line with the product storytelling, we selected Black-owned and immigrant-owned vendors for the event. We had New Balance's African-American Product Team there as well as Kawhi to give representation to young children who were interested in entering the footwear, sportswear, and sports industries.
We served 300 young kids of color through a carnival experience on the Boys & Girls Club campus, culminating in a Q&A with Kawhi. While this particular project was thirteen years into my career, it was pivotal since it was the first time that I worked with a brand team that was 100% Black, with the specific intention to tell a community-driven story.
The unfortunate irony is that when we see a product, brand or agency team that is 75 to 100% white, we don't blink an eye. But, to see a 100% POC team, or more specifically, [a team that is 100%] Black people, it's almost nonexistent. I hope to see that shift in the next five years and see this moment as the beginning.
Dawn Martin, head of experience at True to Size; Akbar and Allen-Lord
Q&A with Kawhi Leonard
Leading ladies of True to Size
Getting ready for the 'Inspiring the Dream' festivities