2 Minutes With … Celestine Maddy, Head of Marketing at Pinterest
Celestine Maddy is global head of consumer and brand marketing at Pinterest, overseeing global consumer brand strategy and campaigns, product marketing, social media and content innovation for the inspiration platform.
Before joining Pinterest, she was most recently SVP of marketing and communications at The Wing and also spent time at Foursquare and Reddit.
We spent two minutes with Celestine to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations, and recent work she's admired.
Celestine, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in the suburbs of Pennsylvania. I spent time in Philadelphia after graduation, but moved to New York in 2001 and have pretty much stayed put. I've decamped to California twice, but to my great disappointment, the West Coast never takes.
What you wanted to be when you grew up.
I wanted to be an actress when I was wee, and then a publisher from there on out. I like stories. I like narratives and characters. Oddballs, emotionality, and perspectives.
In some ways, I am a publisher in my current job, but I still festishize the traditional definition of the word. Although I know The Deadbeat Club is right, "there is no money in books."
How you discovered you were creative.
It just was and is. I've always told stories to myself. Made magazines. Wrote torrid teen fiction. I'm always singing, listening to something. I can play an instrument half well. I die for a story, be it a video game or a graphic novel. I like discovering new ideas and entrants for my own little cultural catalogue. These things are persistent.
I have creative life goals right now, though: My 7-year-old is good at doing something creative every day. Even if it's miniscule. I gotta get with that approach.
A person you idolized creatively growing up.
Oh so many! Debbie Allen. The emotionality of her dancing in Fame was all fire. She's so chic. Definitely Google Debbie Allen + '70s.
Kurt Cobain. I felt that way.
And of course, Grace Jones. Ms. Jones if you're nasty, and I bet you are if you're into Grace. I remember seeing the Island Life cover, the liner jacket with the "twins" photograph, and feeling like the world had fallen away: "Oh this is powerful."
I really hungered for Grace, as my household wasn't about her. So I could relish her turn in Conan the Destroyer, but really didn't discover the full power of Jones until later. When the internet was full blown. When I could get my hands on her albums and ephemera.
Nowadays, creativity and inspiration is right there for you. Not to plug my own platform, but it's one of the things Pinterest does for our users—serve up inspiration. Tell you what, take the Pinterest challenge: Use it in certain ways for a little while and you'll see your world explode with ideas just left of your center. But honestly, there are so many other platforms, from Amazon to YouTube to Substack to stuff like APOC, that have made creative ideas readily accessible (to some degree) for a large part of the population.
Feed me, Seymour. I cannot get enough. I love content.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
The most life-changing moments for me were found outside of those two environments. I'll say that coming home and telling my father that I wasn't going back to college and him kicking me out was seminal. I had been raised with financial privilege. Having to make my own way corrected my class perceptions deeply and with meaning.
The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.
The first concert I ever saw was MC Hammer. Still one of the best concerts I've ever seen. Since everyone knows it's hard to name just one, I've plucked some from my current rotation: Kikagaku Moyo, Squid, and always with Megan Thee Stallion.
Your favorite visual artist.
Right now, I really like Alex Da Corte. Wacky. Wild. All that color. He's playing with all my favorite themes from cartoon stylings to gender. His work feels electric.
Your favorite fictional character.
I am a lover. There isn't just one fictional character for me. Impossible.
The best book you've read lately.
Black Futures by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham.
Your favorite movie.
Can't and won't do it! No, I will not.
Your favorite Instagram follow.
How the Covid-19 crisis changed your life, personally or professionally.
For me, the pandemic is synonymous with the resurgence of the Civil Rights Movement writ-large for America.
As a Black executive inside a very human corporate system, work can get uncomfortable. Professionally, I have noticed that I have changed my approach to tackling racism and bias at work. There is no hesitation. There is no question. As leader in D&I once told me, "It's OK for everyone to be uncomfortable." I took that to heart. As much as I can, I speak truth to power. Quickly and with compassion.
I once said to an employee who was complaining about racism that she should expect it. She's Black. Full stop. At the time, folks were aghast I would say that aloud, but now, in 2021 post-George Floyd, it's accepted that this is true. You gotta acknowledge the truth to be able to fix. I don't have to argue this point any longer. It's accepted.
Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on.
Easy. Wilder. It was a beautiful project created by some amazing women that meant something to me and a lot of others. I completed a creative project there. I met my long-time collaborator Abbye Churchill there. She's the editorial genius of it all.
A recent creative project you're proud of.
We just wrapped on Pinterest's newest commercial. I think people remember Pinterest as being a mood board. Over the last few years, it's become the place where people are searching for their next inspiration, they are planning their future and making decisions about what to do next, from what to cook for dinner, how to decorate their home, and what to wear. I am proud of this spot because it does a great job of showing the viewer that path of discovery.
How do you go from searching for shopping for patio furniture on Pinterest and end up with underlights hair? (This really happened to me.) That sort of journey of discovery happens all the time. So this spot, "You Just Might Surprise Yourself," reintroduces the brand to the world and forces reconsideration by tapping into the spirit of the current time and climate, and inspiring people to take action in their own lives.
It's a great product and a great spot to have worked on.
Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago.
Theaster Gates, Stony Island Arts Bank.
Someone else's creative project that you admired lately.
Lisa Rovner's Sisters With Transistors.
Your main strength as a creative person.
Alchemical. I'm not very precious about ideas. I'm willing to let an idea unfurl and blossom. I'm adaptive. If something isn't working out or isn't going to, I can evolve the project or widen the frame in a new and different way.
Your biggest weakness.
I can get obsessed with narrative flow and miss the details. I've come to learn to always work with more detail oriented people than I am. Together, we make great stuff.
One thing that always makes you happy.
Ohhhhhh, Star Wars anything.
One thing that always makes you sad.
I'm writing this on the day of remembrance of George Floyd's death. I am always sad when I think about the bodily injustices Blacks suffer and the realities of the American prison complex.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.
I'd own a gardening center, some quiet place and always have a bit part in the community theater. Make zines. Hang out with my kid. Solve a murder here and there. More Jessica Fletcher. Less Luther.