REEL WOMEN: Virtue Worldwide GCD, Nari Kim

(REEL WOMAN: Nari Kim)

For nearly 20 years, Nari Kim has been telling stories and building brands in a way that evokes a feeling, a real connection that will last beyond the first brief touchpoint. Now, she is doing it for Austin-based Virtue Worldwide.

She has worked across global campaigns for brands like Adidas, McDonald’s and Canada Goose and more niche market campaigns for brands like Belvedere Vodka, RoC Skincare and Queen V.

Creating simple, beautiful and honest ideas and solutions, her work has been featured far and wide, from digital billboard take-overs in Times Square to posters all around the Olympic Games in Rio, and 3D holograms in the streets of Beijing.

Nari is a great collaborator and champion of building relationships based on honesty, trust and openness. She is also a mentor and coach, uplifting BIPOC talent into the advertising industry through programs like MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Internship Program), where she started her career as a MAIP intern herself.

Let’s meet Nari!

What’s your origin story?

My parents immigrated to Canada from South Korea and had to start their lives from scratch, running a corner bodega, working long hours while raising three kids. Then we moved to the US and they had to restart for the second time.

So I’ve learned the value of hard work for sure, to never give up on your goals, that if there’s a will, there’s a way. But my parents also really instilled a sense of play and exploration, which still impacts what I do every day as a creative professional.

How did you get into Advertising?

I always loved art and creativity and used to tape-record radio commercials and rip out print ads I liked. But I also loved psychology and learning why people are the way they are or how they think. So I pursued becoming a psychiatrist, not knowing that Advertising was an actual thing until a college friend told me about it.

So my junior year I switched majors, then after graduating went to NYC for an internship and the rest is history!

Who were your mentors?

There were so many over the years. The ones I looked up to the most were my Creative Directors who were women or Asian. They were still pretty rare back then in my field, so it was inspiring to see that I could one day be in their shoes. I also learned a lot from them about leadership, how you can be empathetic and humble yet still strong and empowering.

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While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

In 2018, I worked on a campaign for Belvedere Vodka in collaboration with the musical artist, Janelle Monáe. Both Janelle and the brand wanted to create a meaningful project that aligned with both their beliefs, and Janelle was already passionate about promoting female talent with her Fem The Future movement.

That year was also when Natalie Portman famously called out the “all-male director nominees” while presenting the award at the Golden Globes. And the Oscars weren’t doing a better job at it either. So on Oscar weekend, we launched a project called “A Beautiful Future”, where we gave four talented female directors a simple brief: Show the world what a beautiful future looks like to you.

Turns out, when you promote diverse storytellers, you get amazing diverse stories. It was an idea that my partner and I came up with that was personal to us as women, that also perfectly aligned with what Janelle and the brand believed in, so it was pretty fulfilling to have everything come together for the greater purpose of sharing more voices and more perspectives.

What drives you to create?

I like to create an emotion. Whether it’s for others or for myself, making something out of nothing and then seeing how that can affect someone in a positive way is very fulfilling. Whether it’s making a tasty dinner from scraps in the fridge, or coming up with a global campaign from just one nugget of an idea…I’m grateful to be able to offer something new to the world however small or big it may be.

What shows are doing the best job of portraying strong women on TV?

Rather than “strong”, I like how the show “Hacks” shows the realness behind a woman who is perceived as “strong”. Whether you’re already successful or still figuring it out, you don’t have to be perfect or be a strong woman all the time. Strong women make mistakes too and learn and grow.

Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour. Name a famous woman you would like to attend each function with.

Coffee: Miranda July. Her brain is so fascinating and quirky that even just a coffee break with her would turn into something totally amazing.
Lunch: Julia Child. Would be so fun to make our lunch together!
Happy Hour: Gillian Anderson. I’ve had a girl-crush on her since The X-Files and I want to know all of David Duchonvy’s dirty little secrets.

What is the biggest challenge to women in your industry?

Having it all. I love that more and more women are in leadership roles in what was once a very male-dominated industry. But despite that progress, there still is a lot of expectation for women to be the one to set aside their careers or make more compromises than men when it comes to choosing between family and career choices.

And maybe some of that is self-inflicted, but I hope that mindset from within and from the outside continues to change for the generations of women to come.

What is your kryptonite?


How has having the superpower helped you?

I don’t know if being a woman is a superpower because we’re just naturally awesome human beings haha. I’m just being who I am and doing things the way I do it, not necessarily because I’m a woman – but perhaps because of my experiences as a woman in this world, there are nuances in how I am as a mentor, coworker, manager that have helped me be better at it.

I do my best to create work relationships that are rooted in open communication, collaborating, and being empathetic, creating an environment that brings out the best in each other.

When you’re not creating, what do you do in your off time?

Running is my meditation and stress release. I also love to watch indie films, try out new recipes or non-recipes, and recently have been getting back into drawing little creatures.

Predict your future! Where are you in 5 years?

Chilling out on the patio of the house that my husband and I designed and will have finally finished building, looking out at the beautiful view with an adult beverage in my hand.

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