Exeleon Magazine

Imani Ellis: The Diversity Queen

Imani Ellis Exeleon Magazine

Ideas without action are useless. For Imani Ellis it has been always about taking actions, instead of dwelling on the idea.

Following her realization of the lack of diversity in talent on stage, Imani chose to take an action instead of being disheartened by it. “It was really one of those, “If you don’t see it, build it” moments,” she recalls.

And thus, led to the formation of CultureCon, a conference built for the culture by creatives of color. In this Exclusive Interview with Exeleon Magazine, Imani Ellis talks about her journey, her beliefs, and more.

What according to you makes one a transformational leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?

A good leader knows their team, but a transformational leader understands their team and leads with empathy and humanity. I think it’s so important to always carry forward with an authentic curiosity that allows you to stay a student in the process. Leaders are truly in service to their teams and their community, and I think it all starts with genuine curiosity.

Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader/entrepreneur that you can remember?

I did ballet for 14 years beginning at age 3 and ran track throughout high school. I truly believe these experiences played a huge role in developing my work ethic and instilled in me the value of persistence and perseverance. I am someone who doesn’t stop when the job gets hard but when it gets done. This mindset has been such a game-changer for me because I am able to put off temporary rewards for the larger (more fulfilling) vision.

What was the idea that led to the formation of CultureCon? What is your vision through this endeavor?

Living in New York City, I was attending a number of conferences and started to realize that I was not seeing true diversity in talent on stage that represented the talent I saw all around me. Instead of getting disheartened by it, I was empowered to do something about it. It was really one of those, “If you don’t see it, build it” moments. My North Star of purpose is to continue to champion underrepresented voices and create brave and safe space for them. Our team has built something that we did not see in the world and invited our community of creatives to be a part of this brave space that is really filled with people who want to empower each other.

Brief us about your idea of culture. How important is diversity in business in today’s work environment?

Culture starts within us and then comes from there— it’s a pooled body of experiences that is shaped by history, community, survival, resilience, and creativity. From there, it bubbles up to the surface of our hearts, collectively brewing within us to aid in helping us feel connected and whole. We are all multifaceted people connected through culture and the diversity of our individual experiences.

I can’t stress enough how important diversity is in a work environment — besides it being a proven business case for success— diversity is shaping the future, inviting every viewpoint to the table and asking them to be a key contributor to the conversation.

What has the journey been like for Imani Ellis over the years? Looking back, what would you have done differently when starting out?

As I look back, I can truly say my journey has been a beautiful one. There were incredible challenges but with God and my family and friends, I was able to constantly find a way ro persevere. I’ve always been someone with laser-vision. Meaning, I could look out into the world and find a direction. The destination wasn’t always super clear, but a general direction was always placed on my heart. If I could go back and change anything— I think it would be to not worry quite as much when I was younger. Life has a way of working out in a beautiful way.

What would be your advice for aspiring and young women leaders and entrepreneurs?

The Creative Collective team relies on three pillars: hustle smarter, building a life, and driving culture. I would encourage aspiring women leaders and entrepreneurs to avoid hustle culture that says they cannot rest and instead lean into hustling smarter. I would also encourage them to build a life that they love, and to constantly audit themselves and their process to see what’s working best. Knowing your capabilities and limitations is the first step to increasing your potential and being an accountable leader.

Finally, what does the future look like for CultureCon and The Creative Collective NYC?

For CultureCon and The Creative Collective NYC I hope that we continue to create brave spaces for creatives of color, so they know this is a place that was intentionally curated just for them. We also want to provide resources that lead to economic freedom, creative liberty, and unprecedented access. For myself, I hope to continue to explore new avenues of fulfillment and to never cease being curious about things, after all curiosity keeps you young.

About Imani Ellis

Imani Ellis is the Founder of CultureCon and The Creative Collective NYC, a community dedicated to facilitating brave spaces for Black and Brown creatives. Born in Imani’s one-bedroom apartment as a means to foster meaningful connection, TheCCnyc has since parlayed into the fastest-growing community devoted to creatives of color.

TheCCnyc’s marquee event is CultureCon, a conference celebrating the impact diverse voices

have on culture. Past speakers include Tracee Ellis Ross, Will Smith, Regina King, John Legend, Spike Lee, Lena Waithe, and more. CultureCon is the first of its kind ideas conference that caters to all aspects of creative and young professional life.

In addition to community events, The Creative Collective NYC provides countless resources and workshops. In the height of the pandemic, The Creative Collective NYC launched CultureCon at Home, a virtual campus that reached over 22,000 creatives in over 131 countries around the world, and Creative Curriculum, a series of digital masterclasses touching on everything from entrepreneurship to navigating the corporate world.

Named a “2021 Breakthrough Creative” by Ebony, and a “Diversity Champion” by Adweek, Imani has been recognized by Forbes as a “Visionary” and “One To Watch” by Black Enterprise.

Imani graduated from Vanderbilt University with a major in communications and a double minor in German and Film.

Read Digital Version

Visit Imani Ellis Website 

Visit Instagram Page

Visit LinkedIn Page

Transformational Women Leaders_Exeleon Magazine Logo

Read Previous

Interview with Global Health Innovator – Riya Mehta

Read Next

Linda Greub: Challenging the Status Quo