Beyond the #Girlbossmoment: Bárbara Astrini Empowers Future Makers & CEOs
“I remember the day we got cable and saw there were whole channels just for kids. I stayed up the whole night in my parent’s room flipping from Scooby-Doo to Rugrats. When I moved to America, I practically learned English by watching Hey Arnold!
Fast forward to high school, when I was designing layouts for my high school newspaper; I became very focused on mass communication. I realized art is not for myself, but to send a message. Making beautiful things that people want to look at and learn from is an incredible experience. My design journey went through newspapers, magazines, software, and marketing agencies, but it eventually led me to the most fun of all: making cartoons. In 2015, I made the move to New York City with my husband and two cats to design and animate for Nickelodeon. I worked on exciting things like holiday campaigns and the Kids’ Choice Awards. But I always loved the pre-school audience. Soon, Nick Jr. became my home, where now I share space with super talented and inspiring people.
Recently, my colleague Lasette Canady and I pitched a concept of an alphabet-song animated short using Nick Jr. characters. Our goal was to promote literacy through music. This became Alpha-Beats! We worked with amazing typographers and composers, along with our incredible in-house animation and production team.
I got to direct the art and animation and have input on the lyrics. We made sure that all the words didn’t adhere to gender stereotypes (like P for “pretty”) and that we included boy and girl characters so all kids could enjoy it. We also had curriculum specialists making sure the words were learnable for our audience, and of course we made sure it had the most important quality of all: fun! My team was on top of it; we made our deadline early, and it has been very well-received by our audience! It was the perfect mix of thoughtful work, talented people, and a focused process.
It has been empowering, especially considering it came out the same week as my two-year anniversary. Nick Jr. is a great place for a Girlboss—our team is roughly half-and-half in terms of gender, and I have been taught and lead by brilliant mentors.
Three tips for growing in your career:
1. Surround yourself with supportive people. Uprooting your family for a big career move has been standard for men, but I felt that I was questioned about it more since I’m a woman. Even the “move to a big city” was met with hesitation by some. The seeds of doubt from others can be dangerous; I’ll admit that they created fear and guilt in me (and it’s probably more prevalent for girls). But all of this is normal, and what pushed me through was keeping close to people who understand me and that this move was the “duh” decision to make. My family and best friends have always been supportive of my career, and I don’t take it for granted because it doesn’t come automatically.
2. Put in the work and keep learning. People will want to watch stories and look at beautiful things for as long as we have eyes, but mediums and technology will always change. Keep up with software and be open to learning new skills all the time. This isn’t about what’s comfortable for you; it’s about how you can spread a message. Go to lectures, take classes, and DRAW!
3. Have integrity in your work. I chose to design for preschoolers partly because they love colorful things, but also because they are naturally so ready to learn. It’s an incredible responsibility to have a tool to shape the minds of the next generation, so I made the conscious decision to work for a company and channel whose message I stand behind.