Journalism Student Featured in Toyota Commercial with BlackDoctor.Org

By East L. Dockery / 07/17/2023 College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Journalism and Mass Communication English

From left, director Alex Fridge films N.C. A&T students Amarys Edwards, Rachel James and Jamie Hickman II on campus for a commercial featuring James and the 2023 Toyota Prius.

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (July 17, 2023) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University student Rachel James has been recognized by BlackDoctor.Org (BDO) and Toyota for paving her own path.

James is a rising senior from Detroit studying multimedia journalism. James stood out to BlackDoctor.Org as a candidate for its Wellness on the Yard platform, which HBCU students created for HBCU students to introduce healthy lifestyle habits that can help them succeed on campus and in life.

“We put out a flyer looking for students to be involved as writers, journalists, just creatives in general,” said Jade Curtis, executive editor at BDO. “And while we had a lot of amazing candidates, Rachel’s story about her having a TV show on campus and all the other things that she does, we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, we should feature you in our Toyota spot.’”

Every year BDO conducts a five-part video series with Toyota to raise awareness about health and wellness in the Black community. This year, BDO wanted to reach HBCU students specifically and James was the perfect match.

“I think when you just meet someone who is extraordinary, they just kind of have a certain factor to them, the way that they speak … passion just kind of comes out of them,” Curtis said. “They naturally stand out and they just have a certain aura about them and she had it.”

“I was super excited,” James said. “I was telling everyone, my family, friends, ‘Toyota is going to do a commercial on me!’”

The video has already surpassed 1 million views on Facebook and can be seen on BDO’s social media platforms.

“We wanted to highlight her as an HBCU student and at the same time highlight the 2023 new version of the Toyota Prius,” said Alex Fridge, creative director at A&D Media Group Inc. “There were a lot of parallels between her entrepreneurial spirit and the car’s features. Visually we wanted to tailor the story with what she has been able to do and what the car can do.”

James has always had a passion for film and production. At N.C. A&T, she has used the resources within the journalism program to showcase her passions and those of her fellow students with her show, “The Real Spill.”

“The Real Spill: Ayantee Edition is an informal news show about campus tea and events for students to connect with and get information about things that’s going on,” James said.

In James’ commercial feature, she states a goal to pitch a story to the television manager of A&T’s journalism department because she wants to leave a legacy on campus.

“When she came to me with ‘The Real Spill’ in the 2022 fall semester, I said, ‘Put it in writing,’” said Ed Moye, A&T’s TV studio director and multimedia production technical coordinator for department, housed in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. “’Give me an idea of what it is you what to do, give me some references, and have your crew ready.’

“I think a day or so later, she sent a well-formed, complete document that had her goals and visions on it and the people she wanted to work with and it hasn’t stopped since.”

“The Real Spill” has been able to help students gain experience in entertainment, news and interpersonal communication as well as video production, editing, writing and reporting.

“Rachel has been tremendous in directing people, leading people and having a vision and sharing that vision,” Moye said. “People have been able to take it and keep ‘The Real Spill’ going based on the vision that she’s created.”

James’ goals are to become a successful Black producer and director for films, movies, and TV shows, working for companies such as Monkeypaw Productions, Netflix, Hulu and Max.

“When I first saw it, I cried,” she said of the commercial. “It definitely brought me to tears because this is really me. I’m actually creating a difference that people recognize me for.

“That was one of the goals I had coming to A&T that I was going to leave a legacy. I was definitely filled with happiness and I feel so blessed that I was able be in a real-life commercial.”

Media Contact Information: eldockery@ncat.edu

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