People of Duke Arts: Naomi Lilly ’20 is Disrupting Arts and Entertainment

Duke senior Naomi Lilly has just launched a new kind of online community. Her company, NAL-Nay Lilly is “creating networking opportunities for silenced voices in the media industry.” Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of this arts project, which is informed by Lilly’s own creative practice, her experiences in Duke in LA and NYC, and her major in Department of African & African American Studies and double minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies and Visual Media Studies.

In this interview for Duke Arts, Lilly shares her motivations for this new kind of networking platform and invites Duke students to get involved.

Naomi Lilly (right). Photo courtesy of Lilly.

Tell us about the platform you are building: NAL-Nay Lilly.

NAL-Nay Lilly is an online platform that amplifies the voices of marginalized creatives within the entertainment and media industries. You name it, we cover it—from music and film, to theater and makeup.

“I kept hearing people tell me they didn’t know where to find diverse and inclusive talent. I thought, okay, something needs to be done about this.”

When I did Duke in New York and Duke and LA, I kept hearing people tell me they didn’t know where to find diverse and inclusive talent. I thought, okay, something needs to be done about this. NAL- Nay Lilly would be a perfect solution to filling in those gaps. I essentially think of it as a creative LinkedIn—creatives can get on this platform and network with each other, think about ways that they can work with each other, communicate, and create their own sense of community.

Instagram for NAL- Nay Lilly

As a content creator yourself, what do you think other content creators get from using your platform? What is the benefit of this online community?

One of the biggest things that can be gained from NAL-Nay Lilly is mentorship. In the process of creating my own radio show and documentaries here at Duke, and even in LA and NYC, I didn’t really have anyone guiding me on how to pursue the arts long-term.

I knew I wanted to do work with diversity and inclusion in the arts, but I didn’t know what this looked like on a practical level. I didn’t really have any mentors telling me how to do it. I learned by trial and error. This type of platform mitigates some of that learning process, especially for people who feel as though they don’t have the financial security to engage in that trial and error while trying to establish themselves in the arts world.

The Duke Entertainment, Media, and Arts Alumni Network is Here to Help!

I know that NAL-Nay Lilly is focused on marginalized creators. Can you tell me a little bit about what that means to you?

When I think about marginalization, I think about areas and groups of people that are consistently oppressed. Not just ethnic or gender variations—I am also thinking about my friends and allies in the LGBTQ community. I also think about friends and allies who live with disabilities, and those affected by a host of different types of oppression.

I started to think, how can I make this as inclusive as possible?

What stage are you in right now and how can students get involved?

We actually launch in early February, so that’s really exciting! Duke students can get involved by creating a profile where they will be able to self-identify as creators. Once they are officially users of the platform, they will control what parts of themselves (as people and artists) that they want to share publicly on their profiles.

If you want to work directly on the project, you can contact us directly at our email address. We’re welcoming ambassadors right now!

How has the Duke arts community helped with the launch of NAL-Nay Lilly so far?

Everyone I’ve met with has been extremely supportive, especially Dr. Jules Odendhal-James and Story+ staff at the Franklin Humanities Institute for their recommendations for on-campus artists to feature in the campaign leading up to our launch.

What is one thing you want people to know about you and your work?

I want people to know I am very passionate about this work. This is my purpose. When they see this platform, I want people to understand the effort the entire team put into it. I am really grateful for all of them and couldn’t have gotten this far without their work. They remind me each day of one of my favorite quotes [from Verna Myers]: “Diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance.”

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