The Creative Impact of Intersectionality

Spectra A.I. Asala

Spectra A.I. Asala

Shanley Knox

Shanley Knox

Lauren Lotka

Lauren Lotka

7 mins

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How do our multidimensional selves shape our creativity?



We held our second Creative Sparks event in honor of International Women’s Day, focusing on how our lived experiences and our multidimensional selves shape our creativity. Joining us, we gathered with three intentional, driven, and multifaceted individuals—Spectra A.I. Asala, Lauren Lotka, and Shanley Knox—to hear how their personal intersectionality has propelled their professional impact. 

Creative Sparks is an event designed by Neol to bring together creative leaders who are shaping the world and ignite discussions on how creativity and design can lead to positive change. 

Woven through personal narrative, the sharing of art, and conversational sparks, each of our guest speakers shared powerful stories of their lived experiences as creative leaders. Through vulnerably sharing their experiences with PTSD, immigration, queerness, and estrangement, they helped us become aware of our own intersectionality and how it can change our creativity.

As a queer, black, African person who has experienced immigration, non-acceptance and violence towards their queerness, Spectra has a depth of personal experience with the tension and creativity that comes when our roles intersect. 

Lauren Lotka also lives with many intersections. An entrepreneur, creative, step-mother, speaker, sister, friend, and more, she defines herself as a “multi-hyphenate,” someone who lives within each of their containers and actively—daily—seeks to understand the intersections between. She talks about the power of accepting “the insecure parts of [ourselves] and the very real, vulnerable pieces.” 

Shanley Knox is equally familiar with multiplicity. She shares about her struggles with fear, the loss of identities, living with both dissociative identity disorder and PTSD. Now she works with language to “create clarity…so that we can remove distractions…creating ways of working that may not fit within traditional structures.” 

Through their vulnerability and storytelling, we gained key insights into the benefits of intersectionality. We distilled these insights into 6 observations about identity, intersectionality, and creativity:

  1. Intersectionality informs personal growth
  2. Personal growth becomes professional growth
  3. Intersections carry both tension and beauty
  4. Creativity thrives when we build bridges
  5. We need to accept our own multiplicity
  6. We use our intersectionality within ecosystems

What is Intersectionality?

Intersectionality is the concept that we all have multiple identities that intersect and interact with each other, resulting in unique experiences of privilege, oppression, and marginalization. By learning about our identities and bridging the gap between them, we provide a deeper understanding of our creative body as a whole. 

1. Intersectionality informs personal growth. 

By radically accepting your identities and acknowledging the challenges that come with them, intersectionality cultivates a more holistic approach to personal growth. You begin to see your own multiplicity and the beauty that each role can contribute.

2. Personal growth becomes professional growth.

Through self-awareness about our individual privileges and disadvantages, we begin to understand our unique roles within a broader context. This awareness allows us to develop greater empathy for those outside our roles, while helping us recognize the value in our own. 

3. Our intersections carry both tension and beauty.

Since intersectionality refers to roles that often experience exclusion, there are many systemic cultural ideas that negatively impact people within those roles. Being excluded or discriminated against builds walls between these intersections, causing us to hide our individualities to keep ourselves safe. Our intersections define our holistic self, and yet we begin to begrudge them. If we step through the wall, we will discover its weakness, yet the fear often stops us from bridging the gap. It is within that tension and vulnerability that we are challenged to build bridges, pushing us towards creativity.

4. Creativity thrives when we build bridges.

The vulnerability of our intersections make a gap for creativity. There are “multiple points of friction with the norms of society today,” Spectra shares. The discomfort of these frictions challenge us to create solutions, to build bridges and break down walls.

Our creative work is also informed when we begin to draw from a wider range of perspectives and insights, recognizing the interconnectedness of social identities and experiences. Intersectionality encourages us to draw from diverse perspectives and experiences, collaborate with others, and combine our own perspectives in order to solve problems.

5. We need to accept our own multiplicity

“We're holding a lot of things that are true of us in different facets of our identity,“ Shanley shared. She calls these different facets “shared containers.” Having so many containers that seemingly do not belong together is terrifying, especially as a creative leader who wants to have it all together. “The most powerful tool I think we can have as creative leaders is to just acknowledge that it's okay.” our host Luisa added. 

Often we build the walls between our roles so strongly, we cling to the identities that fit easily into the world and diminish the ones that make us feel vulnerable. When you stop fighting your vulnerabilities and instead ask what you can do to incorporate them into your creative strategy, you experience a deeper sense of security within your unique skills. 

“Creativity is the power to use our imagination and we can only do that if we can be all the different parts of ourselves and feel safe.” Luisa continues. Only when we create an intentionally safe space for our multidimensionality can we unlock our highest potential creativity.

6. We use our intersectionality within ecosystems

Intersectional leaders are people who build bridges between their own intersections as well as within communities. They nurture safe spaces for their own unique challenges to grow, while simultaneously incorporating other perspectives into their solution finding. Using their multidimensionality, they cultivate creativity in order to solve the problems they face both as individuals and within their professional ecosystem. These leaders emphasize the communities they are part of—actively contributing their individual skills while holding space for others to do the same.

Through our conversation on intersectionality, we were inspired to find our unique identities and then individually contribute to our creative communities. The vulnerability Spectra, Lauren, and Shanely shared with us was a warm and welcoming inspiration and we are equally grateful for each Neolian that engaged with Creative Sparks: Identity and Intersectionality. Through them, we learned about the power of accepting our unique identities and intersections and how building bridges between them will create positive change.

If you were inspired by our discussion of identity and intersectionality, you will love what we have next in this event series: Creative Sparks. Become Neolian to build your community, creativity, and curiosity!

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