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Thrillist "Local Heroes" Award

I’m really honored to be named a “Local Hero” by Thrillist & really proud to see Studio ATAO's work be recognized. You can read all about what our team has been doing & what we are planning in our 2020 Impact Report.

I do want to say 2 things about awards at large while we are on this topic. The first is that while awards are often given to one person, as we consider equity & representation we should challenge the idea of “individual” achievement. Dig into any award winner & you'll find a team propelling them forward. That could be a work team in the traditional sense, or it could be the labor of CARE — the partners who put your ambitions first, the nanny that frees up your day, the friends who keep you energized. (It is not an accident men are generally award recipients while care based roles fall on BIWOC.)

Not to mention, what is “worthy” of being granted an award? We've been indoctrinated to recognize “value creation” only in certain situations (e.g., the reason DoorDash has just IPO’ed for billions but the restaurants on their platform are shuttering). Our ideals around “improvement” & “forward progress” focus on a narrow definition of innovation vs. creating holistic & sustainable processes (e.g., celebrating chemical-based “breakthroughs” for soil health instead of rebuilding the ecosystems nurtured by Indigenous tribes).

Second, the ability to be “top of mind” for the award curators is highly correlated with media exposure. As I’ve covered in my Washington Post piece, access to press draws upon many privileges — social capital, generational wealth, free time, etc. Many awards also require an entry fee OR a nomination from someone within that award’s “world”. How much are we really scrutinizing the decision-makers behind the awards — esp. who does (and does not) have ready access to them?

As awards season rolls on, I hope we can keep asking more questions to challenge our current system of awards & reward. With all this being said, a big congratulations to all the incredible people & orgs recognized (I am so humbled to be included). Thank you all for your support!

Photo by the lovely Alicia Cho Photo.

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