Multi-Hyphenate Artists: The Stigma and Shifting the Conversation

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Let’s be honest,

the days of having one job are in the past, especially in the arts and entertainment space. More and more we are seeing artists like Donald Glover, who do it all: writer, actor, musician, producer, comedian. Or take Rihanna, the O.G. badgal is not only a singer/songwriter, but an actress and businesswoman with the launch of Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty.

It’s no surprise that many creative types dabble in varied forms of artistry, so why is it that for a long time “having your fingers in many pies” has been considered taboo? I’m sure any artist can relate to at one point or another being told they need to pick a lane and stay in it, but if someone wears many hats in their work, why not support, represent, and celebrate all of their skills?

This stigma may have derived from the assumption that having multiple trades was an act of survival for artists, and while there is most definitely truth to that, these days having the ability to excel in various fields or explore new mediums, we think, is something to celebrate. Coakley Public Relations founder, Sarah Coakley, talks about this aspect of an artist’s life to be organic and necessary. “It’s a part of the growth of an artist to try new things - new collaborations, new forms of art. We feel lucky to get varied projects or varied art forms from the artists that we work with” she says.

A large part of the negative connotation may still be upheld by agencies representing multi-hyphenate artists, but maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Sarah says, “for a lot of talented artists, one form of expression is not enough, and we [as public relations specialists] want to embrace that rather than be scared of it.” She continues, “being a multi-hyphenate artist only enriches your trade and allows us to build a multi-layered campaign.”

While there is something to be said for needing to focus a client’s image to make them more marketable, this doesn’t necessarily have to require an artist to choose one arena.

“We work with artists who feel they are too all over the place and we help them get to a place where they feel comfortable having their hands in multiple spaces. After all, humans are messy and complicated, and no path to success is linear. We like to respect that and use it as a pro rather than something that’s debilitating,” Sarah says.

In the end it comes down to passion, drive, and curiosity. Artistry isn’t what you do, it’s who you are. So why not honor everything that makes that person unique. After all, there are thousands of actors, but there is only one actor/producer/graphic designer/screen-printer.