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Rich Tu, a Brooklyn-based first-generation immigrant, has received widespread recognition for his impact on the creative industry. Today, MTV’s Digital Design leader is leveraging his hard-earned influence to inspire greater BIPOC representation in the creative industry.

Rich Tu, industry-leading creative

The creative industry is one rich with imagination, expression, and mental stimulation. However, what it lacks is a sense of diversity. In fact, a recent article shared that only 11.4% of industry jobs are filled by creatives of color in the U.S, with only 11.5% of creative director roles held by women.

Statistics like these draw into question the cost of creativity, forcing many to recognize the fact that a creative career is a luxury within the United States, afforded to those who are free to let their mind wander without the fear of eviction, poverty, and dishonor.

For Rich Tu, an award-winning artist and a first-generation AAPI immigrant whose family hails from the Philippines, the barriers he faced when entering the creative industry were overwhelmingly high, but not high enough to stop his success.

His passionate pursuit of an artistic career led him to work with industry-leading companies including MTV, New York Times, Nike, and many more.

Today, amidst a career full of groundbreaking accomplishments, Rich is dedicated to creating opportunities for fellow BIPOC creatives through design leadership, podcast content, and social influence as the VP of digital design and creative for MTV.

Fighting the good fight for representation is always at the forefront for Rich, even amidst the current wave of anti-Asian violence.

About Rich Tu: Breaking Down Barriers

The leader and inclusivity-advocate has pioneered a successful and multi-faceted career in public speaking, designing, and artistry. Born and raised in the cultural kaleidoscope of New Jersey, Rich has gone far beyond accomplishing the original goals that inspired his creative career.

After attending Rutgers University for his undergraduate degree, Rich was accepted into a Masters of Fine Arts program at the School of Visual Arts in Chelsea, NY, to chase his dreams of becoming an illustrator and designer.

Despite family pressures to pursue a career as a lawyer, doctor, or engineer, Rich followed his heart and worked diligently during the day as a personal trainer, substitute teacher, and mall associate. His daytime hustle provided him with the funds necessary to afford to attend his Master’s program, where he laid the stepping stones for a thriving career.

Following his graduation, Rich steadily rose the ranks, establishing his artistic expertise one project at a time. His expansive portfolio boasts work done for some of the most notable names in the world.

After designing footwear at Nike and working for reputable clients including the New York Times and Broadway, Rich settled into his career as Vice President of Digital Design at MTV. This role has given Rich the freedom to create an internal disruption, changing the culture within MTV to be more inclusive.

Bringing Diversity to the Creative Industry 

As a Young Guns award winner at the humble age of 27, Rich’s presence in the creative industry has been felt for over a decade. The Young Guns award honors creative professionals under the age of 30 by validating their careers and efforts. This award not only recognized Rich’s creative influence, but positioned him as an inspiration for fellow creatives of color searching to establish themselves within the creative industry.

Rich shares his voice as the host of First Gen Burden, a popular podcast discussing inclusion and celebrating the immigrant voice. The 2020 Webby Honoree podcast production hosts a series of interviews with other thought-leaders and powerhouses in the industry as they discuss diversity, impact, creativity, and how they can inspire change. First Gen Burden has been recognized by Fast Company as the podcast that Apple, Moma, and many other designers regard as a must-listen.

Rich’s influence at Nike positioned him to be part of a special NYC x NikeByYou drop where he, “…collaborated with Nike on these Nike Air Max 270 Reacts, which were inspired by the First Gen Burden podcast.” Proceed from the hundreds of sneakers sold were donated to the ACLU to support immigrant rights.

NYC x NikeByYou designed by Rich Tu

In addition to his podcast, Rich is inspiring diversity through co-founding the grant COLORFUL: A Prelude to Young Guns 19. In partnership with The One Club, the pair created COLORFUL as a grant for young BIPOC creatives, offering US$3,000 to the successful candidate. The no-strings-attached grant was made possible due to a contribution from Russell’s Reserve. Young creatives of color can apply for the grant free of charge to promote equity and inclusivity for early-stage BIPOC creatives in historically white spaces. Those interested have until April 12, 2021, to submit their application.

In celebration of the 2020 MTV VMAs, Rich and colleague Antonia Baker created a first-of-its-kind public art installation at the Atlantic Avenue terminal at Barclays Center in New York City. The art exhibit showcased the work of eight NYC-based BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists, filling the bustling terminal with sensational artistic pieces that served to both honor and inspire.

MTV VMAs exhibit at Barclays Center in New York City

The Change the Creative Industry Needs to See

As his career continues to progress, Rich’s goal is to widen the aperture to be inclusive of all global citizens and bring validity to each artist despite their culture, ethnicity, or race.

The lack of diversity in the industry limits the amount of creativity that any given team can unlock. It results in homogenous creations with limited ideas, perspectives, and capabilities. Rich’s push to raise awareness, even in the backdrop of recent anti-Asian attacks, is paving the path for a brighter and more equal tomorrow.

In conjunction with the lack of representation in the creative industry is income inequality. Higher paying positions in the arts – such as the positions Rich has held throughout his career – are seldom given to members of ethnic descent. In advocating against such findings, Rich is pressuring the industry to take responsibility for such disparities.

When asked if the barriers he faced as a first-generation immigrant at all deterred his aspirations, Rich Tu responded that “Being a first-generation immigrant was a blessing and a curse. Do you have enough grit in your bones? Can you overcome your circumstances to achieve your dreams?” Rich continued that he had a very clear north star that guided him through his trials and tribulations, which is pushing him to create change within the creative community.

Rich’s dedication, passion, and perseverance have made unbeatable strides in the creative industry. By remaining diligent and consistently spreading information and awareness, Rich has created opportunities for other BIPOC creatives who dream of expanding their career in a buzzing industry with ample room to grow.

Rich Tu provides an exemplary case study of the progression that can come when one individual fails to accept the status quo. As he persists in his mission, it is without question that his waves of impact will continue to be felt throughout the creative industry.

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