Meet a deaf art director taking the world by storm
Storm Smith grew up inspired around anything arty and creative. Today, she is taking the world by storm as an art director and motivational speaker.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Smith lost her hearing at the age of two to three years old. This meant relying on her eyes to communicate with the world. From the beginning, she loved getting her hands on anything visual. She also loved to express her creativity through drawing, painting, and writing. It wasn’t long before her mom noticed her talents.
“My mom told me that I was gifted at such a young age at what I do,” Smith recalls during her interview with HearingLikeMe. She embraced artistic and storytelling talents by executing projects and connecting with people.
Smith attended Gallaudet University, a deaf-friendly university. There she communicated in American Sign Language (ASL) with her peers. Today she uses a mixture of ASL and speech.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, Smith undertook numerous jobs. She dabbled in photography and filmmaking, but never considered them for a career. That is, until she received encouragement from a mentor while in graduate school. She made a short film in a week despite not having any film background or formal training. When she came in fifth place in a film festival, she quit grad school and began making films.
As Smith told PopSugar, she became the main specialist, producer, and director at Gallaudet in their communications and marketing department. For two years, she produced content for them. Then the new president of Gallaudet – the first female president in 152 years – appointed her to “build out more visibility for the deaf and hard of hearing community around the world.” This allowed her to build her craft as a storyteller, she says, and is how she was recognized and recruited by a global leading advertising agency in New York City. Now she’s an art director for the agency, and the first deaf female there, no less.
In the same PopSugar interview, Smith said that because of her deafness and being a woman of color, she’s on a mission to make the world more inclusive and diverse. She also wants to inspire “other aspiring creatives to pursue the life of their dreams.”
Proactive and positive
As part of her mission, one of Smith’s goals is to increase awareness in the workplace, where communication can be challenging for people with hearing loss.
“Be proactive and make it work, no matter how difficult,” says Smith about working with hearing loss. “You have to self-advocate and raise awareness for hearing colleagues to meet halfway communication-wise. This way, both worlds can work together effectively.”
To communicate with her colleagues, Smith uses technology tools such as notes and voice to text apps.
Facing adversity and aiming high
Despite her success, Smith has faced her share of obstacles in life. In addition to her hearing loss, she’s dealt with racism and sexism. As a result, she felt hurt, confused, and upset. Over the years she discovered her true self by investing in resources, such as therapy sessions, books, and seeking valuable support from family and friends.
“A new perspective of light, positivity, and hope, with the declarations of ‘I love myself’ and ‘unconditionally accept for who I am,’ helped me overcome the circumstances and become stronger each time,” she says. “These strong words of advice show how important it is to put yourself first, accept your hearing loss, and to “always find a way when you face obstacles.”
Smith encourages others to face challenges with adversity and to gain the tools needed to overcome obstacles.
“We all don’t have it all figured out and can’t always be too prepared,” says Smith. “As long we have the adversity tools to overcome, nothing will be in the way and will be a step closer to our dreams and goals.”
The drive she found inspired her to become a motivational speaker alongside her day job. She presents talks, lectures, and workshops on popular subjects of storytelling. Her dream is to become a producer and director for studio work. “I want to incorporate representation and the human experience that really reflects all of us,” she told PopSugar. “I want that to be on screen, for that to inspire people — especially deaf youth, deaf youth of color, deaf youth who are girls of color — to have them to see that and go, ‘Wow, I can go just as far as you can, Storm.'”
Recently she was invited to speak at a creative summit about “Visual Accessibility and Maximizing Audiences with Creative Captioning.” Her presentation provided new eye-opening perspectives and a new way of thinking, especially for businesses.
It’s incredible to see Smith using her platform as a way of inspiring, educating and raising awareness to others. Speaking publicly enables her to “give back to communities by sharing my experiences and resources that they deserve to thrive for bigger things in life,” she says.
“Any types of disability, including a range of hearing loss, is a massive struggle in this society,” Smith adds, “but as long we tap the relatable stories and resources with the light of possibilities in the distance, nothing can stop us. We become warriors.”
Smith’s main motto remains clear: “Always remember – any types of obstacles you face does not define who you are.”
Follow Storm on Instagram here!
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