Back in May I introduced a series to the blog that received such amazing feedback that I HAD to circle back and give you more! Chic Little Me's Creative Woman of Color series is all about celebrating fellow minority women in creative fields who are amazing at what they do, and are simply crushing it at life. Today I am super excited to present to you my close friend, Ruth Brooks, who has not one, not two, but 3 design degrees! I had the pleasure of meeting Ruth while we were just little high school nuggets! We were also in Marching Band together (Go Trojans), and we even graduated from the same interior design program at Georgia Southern.
In addition to being a freaking awesome human being with an incredible sense of humor, she's also one of the most super cool, down-to-earth people that I know. She's my friend, my little sis, my bridesmaid, my buddy... I'm so excited for you to learn more about her! Here we go!
Creative Woman of Color
Name: Ruth Brooks
Location: Albany, Ga
Bachelor of Science in Interior Design
Georgia Southern University – Statesboro, GA
Master of Architecture
Florida International University – Miami, FL
Master of Art in Architecture
Florida International University – Miami, FL
(Yes Folks, that's 2 different Master Degrees! )
Occupation: Architect - (Architectural Intern)
James W. Buckley & Associates – Albany, GA
Website: coming soon!
Social Media : Instagram: @travelandbean (photography) @ruth.jenese (lifestyle)
What served as the catalyst for you to begin your creative career journey in Interior Design and Architecture?
My first film photography class in high school opened me up to the creative world. I have yet to experience many more feelings that are better than being in a dark room and developing a picture. That’s when I knew I needed to do something creative with my life, but I wasn’t exactly sure what. The idea of pursuing photography sadly was never in my vision, mostly due to my own insecurities as a photographer. But how I found my way into interior design school is honestly due to the lovely creator and author of this blog! I admired Rae in a way that I never expressed to her and I wanted to follow in her footsteps. And I tried, but at the conclusion of my interior design education, I realized that interior design wasn’t for me. I couldn’t keep being a follower and I had to find my own path. A year later I took a leap of faith, moved to Miami to start my architecture education, and I guess the cool kids would say the rest is history.
If you could describe your design style in 3 words, what would they be?
Minimal, geometric, transparent
Who do you design for? What would be your dream project be at work or on your own?
In my real world I work on education projects, mostly k12. But in Ruth’s world I design for the minimalist. Someone who appreciates simple geometry, details and materials in their natural state. My dream project would be to design an urban, affordable housing project that is ACTUALLY AFFORDABLE and is ACTUALLY UTILIZED by the most vulnerable population.
What trepidation did you have, if any, going into your chosen field?
I had a lot of fear about not being successful. I am still fighting that battle at times, but those fears are lessened every day that I leave the office knowing that I’ve positively contributed to the firm’s work in some way, no matter how small.
How would you describe your creative process?
In school, my friends always said that my design process is backwards. In a way, you’re taught to come up with a concept, sketch those ideas onto paper, and then create a whole by continuously developing that idea and piecing things together. But I tend to create a whole first, break it down into parts and then come up with my concept by making those parts work together in some way, shape or form. Also, I don’t sketch. In fact I hate sketching lol. At times, it has crippled me but I have always found a way around it. I tend to work through ideas in diagrams on the computer.
How do you stay inspired?
I am a part of a very small group of African-American women that don’t even make up a percentage of architectural professionals in the United States. Not only am I considered an underdog but that’s the market I wish to design for. I want to make a difference and create some type of social change through architecture. If I could inspire just one person who does not fit the norm of a woman in the design field to hop on board and to make a difference, then I know all my struggles have been worth it!
What doubts, obstacles, or barriers have you had to overcome to get where you are?
I found out along the way that I was my own barrier to accomplishing many things. Some say that you are your worst critic and I found that to be very true for me. I had to overcome a lot of self-esteem and identity issues. I have God, my family and close friend to thank for overcoming that!
Who is your biggest supporter?
My family. They believe that I could literally move mountains! Lol! That’s how much faith they have in me, and I am more grateful for that than they know!
What do you wish someone had told you before you began your educational / career trajectory?
That it’s okay to not have a clear vision of what you want to do right away. That it’s okay to follow the unbeaten path. That your idea of success may differ from everyone else’s, and that’s okay.
What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?
I need to learn to ask for help because sometimes I can’t do it all on my own (no matter what trending mantras are saying).
What is the best advice you have ever received regarding your life or career?
When I first decided to move to Miami for graduate school, I was terrified and almost decided not to go. But then a lovely friend by the name of Rae Cook told me that if I went and didn’t like it after a year, I didn’t have to stay. I’ve honestly taken that approach with many things in my life. My life is flexible enough that the decisions I make do not have to be permanent for the most part. I feel very blessed in regard to that! For instance, If I move somewhere for a job and give it a fair shot but do not want to stay, I don’t have to. That advice has allowed me to take more risks and I haven’t regretted a single decision yet!
What’s next for you? Where would you like to see yourself in a few years?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately for some reason. I’ve been teaching for the past 2 years before I started my first job in a firm 5 weeks ago. Although I am enjoying it, I know I will eventually find my way back in education. I love learning and there’s no better way to do that than in the classroom, both as a student and as a professor. So honestly, I see myself most likely working towards another degree and/or getting some type of fellowship and doing research somewhere. No matter what I end up doing, hopefully I will end up creating social change in some way.
What’s the one thing that every creative young woman should have?
The confidence to not follow the crowd.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Food. Any kind really. I’m a foodie.
What music do you currently have on rotation (and your choice of device)?
J. Cole, Lauryn Hill, and Mosaic Music. I can go from trap music to gospel in a heartbeat. Honestly depends on what mood I’m in, which are as up as down as my music choices to be honest lol. I’m usually at work or in my car when I’m listening to music.
What’s one thing you miss from the “good ole’ days”?
Being in marching band in high school and college. Those were times where you could forget about whatever else going on in life and be with fellow nerds who loved music and color guard as much as you. Football games were a plus!
What is your go-to outfit?
A black dress with sneakers
Any favorite design pet peeves?
Not really. But I do have an issue with the design industry and how it’s marketed to society. It’s seen as very inaccessible to people of color. I guess that’s a nice way of saying we need more black folks, lol! I just wish that people of every background could see that there is a spot just for them in the design world!
What design trends are you currently loving?
Uhhhh, as a designer is it wrong for me to say I don’t keep up with current trends?? Oops!
I’m kind of weird when it comes to…
being clean and orderly. I need to be clean and orderly or I get hives, lol!
What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
It’s okay to have some fear, but don’t let that fear hold you back from taking the next step. Also, buy those shoes, you deserve it!
So readers... what do you think of Ruthie's story? Did it resonate with you? Leave me a comment below and let me know! And as always, I'm looking for more creative minority women to feature, so if you would like to participate (or if you would like to nominate a friend) let me know! :)