The celebration of Black creatives over the last year has been abundant for many finally seeing the recognition for their work.
Unlike those who have been receiving their flowers most recently, illustrator and animator Thaddeus Coates is someone who’s been around for awhile and is using his platform to create more space for Black creatives in the digital world.
Coates — a Washington D.C. native and New York-based content creator — seemingly broke the internet last summer amid the protests for the murder of George Floyd and others. His art became a trend of viral sensations calling out the injustices in America while also showing outstanding support for his community.
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Coates has always been a creative kid at heart, but now he wants to share his success with other Black creatives looking to get their shine from a wider audience for their work in the digital space.
His go-to motto “representation matters” has grown to be more than a phrase, but an actionable cause as well.
“Before it was a pioneering thing, I felt like it really meant to show everyone and for everyone to have a seat at the table while not being scared to create your own seat,” he said. “There’s a lot of power in being able to cultivate your own space and allowing people to pull up a chair and that’s what I’ve tried to do with my platform.”
As a known advocate for fellow content creators, Coates has emphasized the point of being a symbol of unity through his work and beyond. His understanding of his place in the industry has helped dictate how we navigate amid this wave of trendy support for Black communities.
“I’m really into promoting representation, diversity, and inclusion, whether it be through breaking social stereotypes or advocating for body positivity,” he shared. “I was always using Instagram as a platform to put my art out there, whether I had two people purchasing it, a hundred, or a thousand. I just wanted to be a beacon of representation and I always wanted to show people that their voice mattered, especially kids. I thought it was really important that little Black boys and girls knew their opinions mattered and someone who looks like them is able to be the hero essentially.”
What Coates also advocates for outside of Black creatives themselves, is the importance of sharing their work across other’s platforms.
“Sharing somebody’s work can be so monumental,” he stated. “There are so many opportunities that come from sharing work, and I feel like we underestimate that all the time. My whole surge throughout the pandemic came about because somebody shared my work.”
Without the support of those who uplifted his art amid the social unrest midway through the pandemic, Coates said he’s “not sure how I would’ve been able to get this far.”
“There were people who saw that light inside of me,” he revealed, “people who I shared that light with that were then able to be a part of the world I was building and creating for me.”
Coates’ breakout moment came about in 2018 after joining the American Eagle family as a model. Following his first campaign, he has since been featured in every season, proving that representation has no limits.
The highlight of all his accomplishments has been the brand partnerships he’s secured through his life’s work.
— Spooky Thaddy 🎃 (@ItsHippyPotter) January 18, 2020
From working with Acura, Nike, Instagram, Ivy Park, Payless, and VH1, to being the face of Target’s premier athletic brand and his latest collaboration with Cartoon Network for Kwanzaa, Coates has had his fair share of explosive creative projects that are setting him up for a lifetime of career triumphs.
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Looking ahead, he’s currently focused on additional projects he has coming later this year — including the release of his book, “Everybody Shines,” which is currently available to preorder.