Black Woman Creator: Maureen Aladin
Maureen Aladin is the Founder and Executive Producer of TWELVE18 Media, Inc. The NY/LA-based company is a full-service production company specializing in creating broadcast, digital and exclusive branded content, including social media consultation. Maureen began her career as a writer penning a television segment for a Spike Lee special airing on BET. She later moved into producing by creating the popular online music sessions show the "MSpot". TWELVE18 Media is set to change the landscape of television by developing meaningful yet entertaining projects and content. With careful selection of talent, audiences will be pleasantly surprised to see a variety of personalities that will positively impact our generation, through entertainment. We spoke with Maureen about her work in digital entertainment and producing reality style shows Comida Caliente and My Life Offline.
Black Girls Create: What do you create?
I create digital and broadcast content and our production company also offers social media consultation. My focus is to create content that is uplifting, positive, impactful, engaging, and entertaining. Most recently, we just held a cast reunion at YouTube Space New York for the award-winning web series which I executive produced and created called My Life Offline. It features three of the top natural hair and beauty vloggers on YouTube: Nina Ellis-Harvey(@beautifulbrwnbabydol), Vaughn Monroe (@MsVaughnTV) and Chime Edwards (@haircrush). The show is a digital reality-based series that follows the ladies and the social media empires they’ve built all on their own. They’ve managed to amass a following of over 1 million plus subscribers of those who love them, those who hate them (because you’ll always have those), and those who aspire to be just like them.The series chronicles their journey and gives you a behind-the-scenes look at what happens when they turn their YouTube cameras off. My Life Offline is about women who are transcending their digital profiles towards a bigger platform with the universal appeal of taking their online persona and brand, to the next level, sans all the drama, name calling, and brawls we see today. Outside of My Life Offline, I also have another digital show that was created by my production company called Comida Caliente. It was co-executive produced by myself and Stefani Vara and it's a digital reality cooking show featuring a Mexican-American family who is absolutely off the hook funny.
BGC: Why do you create and what is it about reality shows that made you want to step into that space in particular?
I am a writer at heart and I've been creating digital content for a long time. There was a time in my life when I used to be a singer and that sparked my foray into producing. I never really knew what producing was, and I'm very much a visual learner. I read the definition but it didn't mean I really understood the job of a producer.Through music, I created a show called The M-Spot. It was actually my very first digital show. It was such a fun time, but that was really when I started producing, I was like okay this is what producing is all about, I get it, I like it, and I fell in love with it. We're working on a lot of exciting projects with TWELVE18 Media. We're a growing company, and we have a very talented team of people who are very passionate about creating good content & content that we want to see. We're constantly coming up with these ideas. Sometimes the ideas that I come up with feel like they're not my own, I have a saying which I’ve coined that says “Inspired by God, Executed by Faith,” I believe He drops these ideas into my head and I'm like “okay, I know how to execute!”
BGC: Who or what continues to inspire you?
BGC: Who or what inspired you to do what you do?
I work out, I pray a lot, I listen to positive music. I listen to gospel music, I listen to inspirational music. I listen to Les Brown, who's like my favorite motivational speaker. My dad told me about Les Brown when I was a kid. One of my favorite Les Brown quotes is “Some will, Some won't, So what.” I also listen to Oprah and Ava DuVernay. I listen to people that are in the same space as me but who are also inspiring people through their own experiences and wisdom. I listen to Wayne Dyer. Those moments when I do get down, I will turn on a YouTube video and listen to Dr. Bill Winston or my pastor here in Brooklyn, Dr. A.R. Bernard.I believe that you have to constantly feed your mind with all things positive to keep you going.
I’m inspired by life. Inspired that I can wake up every day and have the opportunity to do what I love. There are a lot of people who are stuck and can’t do what they’re passionate about. Circumstances prevent them from stepping into what they really want to do. I thank God that I don’t have those barriers, so I can continue to live out my passion. I’m bound to my passion and get to live it out. Is it hard? Is it difficult? Yes, absolutely, but I'm definitely built for it.
BGC: Why is it important as a black person to create?
I just wanted to create content that was normal, you know? I don't know if you're familiar with Black & Sexy TV but they're like the black Netflix and when I came across RoomieLoverFriends, probably through Issa Rae’s channel, I was like, I love this! I started watching a lot more of their content. I totally support it because it's just us, but it's not us murdering each other, throwing drinks at each other's faces, cursing each other out. It's just everyday us and we don't see that enough. You need to see yourself because it gives you something to look up to, which is why the natural hair community was such a big deal because it was like a rediscovery of your authentic self. It’s like I was born with this hair, why am I changing it for society? I've never been caught up on hair at all, and I've never had an identity issue, but I could relate to the girls because they were discovering their true selves. Of course, the implications of hair and society is a much deeper issue rooted in physical and mental enslavement. We’ve come a long way, and when you have the opportunity to see somebody being their authentic self, you can essentially relate and see yourself as well. You see that it's okay, you see that it's cool and that you have something great within you too. We have greatness within us. I think we should all tap into that, but if you don't see those images, it becomes harder to do so. Sometimes and unfortunately, you have to see something to believe it. Not everyone will believe what they can’t see, which is why I wanted to create positive images of black women in media so women like me and young girls could have more images to believe in.
BGC: How do you prioritize your projects? How do you know when you need to simplify and practice self-care?
You need to have balance in life. You can't be all work and not have that balance that allows you to rejuvenate, meditate, and take care of yourself. I feel like I've paid my dues in terms of building my career as a producer. I absolutely love producing, but my producing plate can become very full. I actually had a very good friend of mine recently call, (because a lot of people like to share ideas with me), and she told me about an idea that she wants to do. I had to say I can consult you, I just cannot do another project. I love her to death, she's my ace, but I was just like I can't do another project.
BGC: It sounds like you've figured out, at least for yourself, and what was the journey like to get to this place, where you know your own capacity for projects?
Well, when I decided that I was transitioning from a singer into a producer, I was on a number of projects and I felt like I needed to be on those projects because it was necessary for me to learn. I needed to build my experience as a producer and so I was okay with working on a multitude of projects. After I worked really hard on several projects I was like okay this is it. I need to cut it down to my top three. As a creative being, you’re always going to have ideas. It comes with the territory of being a creative, but you also tend to neglect other areas of your life and slack on balance. Balance is important to me, I think you should love what you do and you should also enjoy life, which means that it's not all work. It can't always be all work, you need time for yourself and your family so that you can come back with new ideas. I think that's a big part of knowing and managing my capacity. After I felt that I had gained a substantial amount of experience as a producer, I then decided that I would only work on my top three projects. Sometimes I still kind of get sucked into projects so I have to go back to the beginning, right now I'm involved in a lot of projects and that's why when I got the call for this new one I was like oh no I can't. My no is no and my yes is yes, I’m gonna be strategic and I’m going to mean it. You just have to go back to what you first told yourself. Revisit and reassess.
BGC: Any advice for young creators or people who are thinking about taking creating more seriously?
I believe that if you have an idea that’s in your heart or an idea that keeps showing up in your life, then it's not there by accident. It’s in your mind for a reason, and it's given specifically to you, for a reason. You're meant to bring it to life, but you should never overwhelm yourself to the point where you feel like you have to create it in one day. You should give it some thought, think about if you really want to do it, and then start making plans towards executing the project. Don't put any pressure behind yourself to get everything right. It's ok if you make mistakes, that's the whole point, that's how you learn along the way, but commit yourself to it. Believe that you can do it, be with a group of people who believe in you as well and make it happen. Take a chance with yourself and see whether or not you can bring to life what was deep in your heart, what you are passionate about. I think that people should just go for it, you know? Don't wait for anyone to give you the green light and say go ahead and do it. Don't wait for anyone to do that, you don't need approval from anyone, which is why we put so much content out digitally, because we are not in the business of selling gold. We know we have gold so what we'll do is put the gold out there and let it shine and when that shine hits you, you'll come to us.
BGC: What makes your work unique and special?
I believe in operating in excellence, so anything that I put out there I want it to be my best. You know for me, I serve an excellent God and it's not about being religious or spiritual I just have a relationship and I believe that if He's in excellence that I need to operate in excellence too, not perfection per se but I just need to do things to the very best of my ability if I'm gonna put it out there. People think that you can't execute what's in your head, people think that it's too hard to manifest what you've seen for yourself because of situations, circumstances, negativity, whatever it is, they feel that it's hard, and ok let's say yes it is hard, but it's supposed to be hard, nobody said it was supposed to be easy, so now that you know that how do you proceed? I think, people have to learn how to play “life chess” and find different moves. We have to figure things out and if one thing isn't working then it doesn't mean that you quit, it means that you find a new move., Dreams need to be simplified so that goals don’t become dauntingly unreachable. Anything that you can envision is possible. Nobody else may see it, but if you can see it, that means it's reachable. “How” you get there doesn't matter, it's just about taking steps towards it every day. I believe that people need to hear that. People need to be inspired by that.
BGC: Any future projects you're working on?
Absolutely, we're doing a national search for the season 2 cast of My Life Offline. We will also be doing season two of Comida Caliente, the digital reality cooking show, and we've released a special red carpet documentary on Alyssa Cheatham who is a rising star. She plays Will Smith's daughter in the new movie Collateral Beauty. She is only seven and is an amazing actress, model, motivational speaker and now singer who just released her very first pop smash single called “The Weekend.” The song is really good. It was written by my business partner (her mother), Sharra Dade. We are excited about Alyssa and what 2017 has in store. I am also the Chief Marketing Officer for Fragrances of Wine, which is my family's perfume business. It's me and my siblings and