Mashawnta Armstrong, Designer & Publisher of MASH Magazine
High School: Cass Technical High School
College: University of Michigan
Hood: Detroit – West Side
How she’s making her mark on the city of Detroit:
I publish the upcoming MASH Magazine, its purpose is to make a positive impact on the people of Detroit, by presenting to them a glossy package of pages that reflect who they are in hopes of a rippling effect of city pride that will begin to reshape our city’s landscape.
Instead of selling the day-dream and identification through glossed editorial content of elsewheres, always deemed more exotic than possibly accessible at the cost of readers’ relation to their own home turf, MASH will bolster confidence, and hijack the commoditizing means of the magazine that will address the structurally, and economically blemished City of Detroit.
It’s a magazine that is honest about the city’s condition of economic aging, while offering a positive self-projecting view that sells back the image of Detroit to Detroiters. Pride will exude through this magazine. MASH celebrates modernity and the parallels between beauty, fashion, design, architecture and urbanism. It is a campaign for urban beautification and personal awareness. It aims to introduce design disciplines to and of underrepresented communities, while celebrating a multicultural editorial aesthetic.
On another level of impact, MASH magazine has opened a lot of doors to my peer creatives that have dreams and desires to be high fashion models, fashion editors, creative directors, published journalists and photographers. Through this journey I’ve discovered that what I love about the magazine business, outside of its glossy pages of all things fabulous, is that there is a sense of pride and ownership from the publisher to its contributors. There isn’t hours of mindless contribution going into a project that everyone is not proud of once the product is on the streets. So there is reciprocity of pride in this business.
I also teach and coordinate a summer exploration program (ArcStart) geared towards high school students to pursue degrees in architecture at the University of Michigan. I would consider myself a Visionary Urbanist and through this magazine I want to begin a reconstructive moment in the way we value the physical entities of the city of Detroit–starting with how we dress and value our bodies, our homes, streetscapes and city.
On how she accomplished her goals:
A seed was planted during my thesis year pursing a master’s in architecture at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture in 2008. I made my advisors aware that my thesis would be what I pursued for the rest of my life – that this wouldn’t be a project that I worked on for a year, documented for my portfolio and trashed later. I knew that I was passionate about many things; beauty, fashion, architecture, the issues of abandonment, structural dilapidation and the housing foreclosure crisis going on in my hometown – but I was also very confused on how to incorporate all of these things into a single architectural design project.
After a week of trying to figure it out, daringly I decided to design and propose a magazine instead of your traditional architectural thesis project. I absolutely love magazines to a point that I’ve studied them (I own hundreds) and cherish them because they are palpable snap shots of the zeitgeist of present aesthetic.
By January of 2010, I had organized my first photo shoot, began to be resourceful by utilizing all the amazing talent that surrounded me and it’s been snowball effect since then. The people that I wanted and needed to meet just fell right in my lap.
On why she chooses to stay in Detroit:
My father, whom my younger sister and I live with on the west side of Detroit, is my number one supporter, my collaborating set designer for my fashion editorials and my editor-in-chief when it comes to things that I need constructive criticism on pertaining to the magazine. He’s a seasoned artist and I really value his opinion in artistic and creative direction.
Instead of fleeing I decided to take my fate in my own hands and be that creative individual I am to create opportunity for myself, while creating opportunities for others – we all know this formula – but many would rather work hard in another state to make a stranger’s dreams come true. One of my favorite tweets from Vogue magazine’s editor in chief Ann Wintour is, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
On her favorite things about Detroit:
My favorite thing about the city isn’t a certain place, landmark, or experience but the fact that there is so much land development and retrofitting opportunity – but I hope that these opportunities “land” in the right hands. There is a curse and a blessing in what happened to Detroit. There is always a positive that meets the pole of the negative and what goes down must come up again. The anticipation of what is to become of Detroit pains me as I plan to help with this effort in rebuilding our city through the pages of MASH magazine and as a design professional.
On what she wishes you knew about Detroit:
I wish that people knew that Detroit has a huge creative and artistic population that is bursting at the seams. There are those creatives that are pursuing their goals by just being who they are as songwriters, musicians, fashion bloggers by just loving what they do and in return bringing shine to the city.
And, then there are many of us with new ideas on how we can use our creative energy to make a change – by doing something like starting a magazine, opening a clothing store, or a bakery as a catalyst for a resurgence of community. The young hip and educated that are staying here and were meant to be here are making a difference. We are positive people, and understand that what comes out of your mouth about your city resonates into the world and is a reflection of you.
On future plans:
My plans for the magazine is to make it a decentralized national/international monthly periodical – educating a wider urban audience on the power of design to apply to their communities – while maintaining a MASH Detroit quarterly. Of course with each issue of the MASH monthly we will maintain our headquarters in the city, source talent from within the city and there will be a section dedicated to the positive happenings in Detroit – what better way to change the way the world views Detroit than that?
Outside of the magazine I would like to also venture into real-estate and development to continue my practice of design – it’s only fitting that I do that, right? I’m currently designing a line of makeup/cosmetics, tools, bags, cases, furniture and accessories for the professional makeup artist and fashion stylist –amongst juggling a major institutional design job at the moment – I’m very busy but the future is looking really bright.
Mashawnta’s words of wisdom:
1. Find your passion. Pursuing your passions and within it finding your purpose, equals bliss.
2. Design and create the lifestyle that you want to live. You don’t have to have every single thing in your design expressed in detail, because plans always change. Just see the end result in mind and take one step after another towards it. If it’s truly your passion that has met your purpose then there shouldn’t be a struggle in your efforts – everything will flow.
3. Surround yourself with like-minded people and be careful about sharing your endeavors with everyone that you meet because there is always someone that has something negative to say –but learn how to differentiate that from constructive criticism. Let them wait find out what you were doing when they read about it on IAmYoungDetroit.com.
4. Usually everything you need to make it happen is already in your reach staring you right in your face. You just have to clear your head, eliminate all fear and doubt, and connect the dots.
- MASH Magazine
- U of M Taubman College of Architecture
- U of M ArcStart program for High School Students