Jayanta Jenkins (Photo by J.R. Mankoff, courtesy Jayanta Jenkins)
In the fall of 1994, Tim Kaine was just beginning his political career with a city council campaign, Richmond’s art scene was flourishing and Jayanta Jenkins was starting his senior year at VCU.
“Richmond was really an amazing place to be in the ’90s. There was Twisters [now known as Strange Matter], the Jade Elephant; you had so many interesting cultural movements going on at once,” Jenkins says. “It was really a hotbed for music and the arts at that time.”
On Monday, Twitter announced that they had tapped VCU grad Jenkins as their new global group creative director, the company’s top creative position.
Jenkins got his start locally at The Martin Agency, and quickly moved on to larger advertising agencies like Wieden + Kennedy and TBWA/Chiat/Day. During his time there, he worked on national campaigns with brands like Nike and Gatorade, where he served as the art director for projects such as Kobe Bryant’s “Love Me or Hate Me” campaign and the “Chamber of Fear” campaign starring LeBron James.
“My time at Wieden + Kennedy allowed me to throw away everything I thought I knew about advertising, and I really learned how to tell stories,” says Jenkins. “I would say that my rawest, most inspired work came from 2000-2005.”
Most recently, Jenkins was global creative director for advertising at Apple/Beats by Dre, where he led the brand’s short-film series starring Serena Williams, Cam Newton and Draymond Green.
Originally from Centreville, Jenkins chose VCU because of its reputation as one of the best art schools in the country. He cites Jerry Torchia, creative director for The Martin Agency, and Donald Earley, one of his professors in the fashion advertising program at VCU, as some of the people from his time in Richmond who were instrumental in helping him discover the world of advertising.
“They were both hugely influential for me, one from the fashion world and one from the visual arts world,” Jenkins says.
Looking back on his college experience, Jenkins says the biggest takeaway from his time in Richmond was a strong, grounded worldview that he pushes into his work today.
“Being from the South and being an African-American, what I took away from my time in Richmond was a great sense of self,” says Jenkins. “Richmond was a great place to create a strong identity, and that became my anchor to look at the world in an interesting way.”
As a top executive at Twitter, Jenkins joins the very small percentage of minorities in a leadership role in the tech world, but he sees his new position as an opportunity to create inclusion, and to challenge a new level of growth.