TSW: BOSS SERIES
Liz Montague, also known as @lizatlarge on instagram, is the first African-American female cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine. Liz's work focuses on the intersection of self and social awareness. As a multi-award winning illustrator, she has illustrated for the U.S. Open, Food Network, and Google. Liz has also been profiled by The Washington Post, ABC News, the Today Show, in addition to many other platforms and now she's joining us on our humble little blog in Aotearoa! As our very first guest on the TSW: Boss Series, Liz shares with us the importance of representation as an African-American woman in her industry.
Liz, what inspired you to become a cartoonist/illustrator?
I always loved drawing but had no intention of being a cartoonist or illustrator professionally. When I first emailed The New Yorker about their lack of representation (which kind of started everything) I was working as a graphic designer. I never thought The New Yorker would respond much less that I would be able to create an entire career out of cartoons! My initial inspiration and my reason for reaching out was the lack of representation and lack of Black perspectives which is still a huge inspiration for me now.
As a woman of colour working in your industry, can you share about a struggle you've faced and how you overcame it?
I struggle a lot with self-imposed pressure. Especially right now with the race reckoning happening in America, I simultaneously feel so incredibly exhausted and depleted but also like I have a responsibility to process everything going on at lightning-speed and push out content about it while people still care.
I'm still working to overcome that one but realizing how radical rest is, for Black women especially, has helped a lot. I really limit my social media time and have (almost) entirely stopped doom scrolling on my timelines and bombarding myself with bad news. I also have a post-it note on my desk that says "urgency is a product of white supremacy," I remind myself of that daily. It can be really hard not to feel rushed.
In one of your comics, you noted 'It takes ovaries of steel to create the work that Jackie Ormes did in 20th century America'. Incredible. For you, as a role model to so many women from around the world, how important is diversity and representation in both your professional and personal life?
Super important!! The more perspectives you have the better. Professionally, I think it's really important for people to tell their own stories. In America, who has control of their narrative or a story is really divided along race/class/gender lines. Personally, I think people should have as many friends from as many different backgrounds and walks of life as possible :) Keeps things interesting and more genuine!
What do you love the most about being an African American artist?
I love that I get to contribute to our story.
For anybody that wants to follow in your footsteps, what words of advice do you have for them?
Make honest work and put it out there! It's really (really) difficult to be vulnerable in public but authenticity is really powerful and people are drawn to it.
Liz Montague, Google