Parsons student Avery Youngblood knew almost instantaneously she was a representation of what Beyoncé describes as a Formation Scholar: A young woman who’s bold, creative, confident and willing to break outside of society’s mold.
“I found [the scholarship description] really similar to what I was looking for, what I wanted to achieve with my designs and the personality I wanted to come across,” says Youngblood, a second-year graphic design student at Parsons School of Design in Manhattan.
Youngblood, of Ridgewood, Queens, is one of four recipients of Queen Bey’s inaugural scholarship program, taking home $25,000 to further her studies. Expected to become an annual program, the scholarships are awarded to students studying music, literature, African-American studies and creative arts.
The 23-year-old — a Bey fan since the days when Destiny’s Child topped the Billboard charts — uses visual design to convey messages of activism and women’s rights, something she says is inspired by the singer herself.
“It’s difficult to find a way as a black woman in American society and society in a whole, and it’s inspirational to see someone who’s not only made it so far, but kept her roots in a way,” Youngblood says. “Her image is so influential, so there’s just a lot to be said about putting your authentic self out there, not taking anyone else’s impressions of you or trying to mold yourself into something else.”
The Dallas native’s portfolio includes a 10-sided pamphlet, “How To Be Black.” Her text-focused design only includes a pop of color, and highlights a three-step process. But don’t be fooled — the design isn’t actually a “how to.” Supported by her personal experiences, the artwork speaks to black culture, history and identity as seen through her eyes.
Youngblood applied for the scholarship through her school during her Spring 2017 semester by providing an essay and clips to her previous work. She found out she was a winner last month.
“Something that I talked about in my essay was the similarities between my own work and 'Lemonade,' specifically in seeing the way that art evokes certain reactions,” Youngblood says.
While Youngblood sees a parallel between her own message and that of Beyoncé’s, the graduate student says she’s aiming to tell a story of women’s rights through art without being as transparent as Beyoncé. A monumental album for the artist, "Lemonade" dug deep into the personal for Bey and husband Jay-Z.
“What I liked about ['Lemonade'] was that it spoke to a wider audience and that’s what I want to do,” Youngblood adds. “Maybe not necessarily by putting me at the forefront, but making my designs as relatable as possible so everyone from diverse backgrounds will be able to draw something meaningful from it.”
Youngblood, expected to graduate in 2018, says she’ll be using her prize to help expand her design work, which may take her away from the city.
“I’m thinking about furthering my studies elsewhere, maybe abroad,” she says. “I’ll see where design takes me. Seeing the cultural influences of design in other countries would be a really great thing for me.”
The three other Formation Scholars winners are Sadiya Ramos from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Maya Rogers from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Bria Page from Spelman College in Atlanta.