Today, I read a posting on the statistics of race within the tech industry (http://newsone.com/nation/tjstarr/is-technology-racist). For an industry talked about as being the one area where everyone can make a mark, it clearly shows that this seems to be a fallacy. It did, however, make me reflect on my experiences in the design & publishing industry. There was one man in my experience who truly believed in diversity and put his money and mouth to it. That was George Mavety.
I worked at Mavety Media Group pretty much right out of college and grew there for five years. George Mavety was the owner of this publishing house. Now, MMG was not your mainstream publisher but rather it was an adult publishing house. Yes, that’s right. Porn, erotica, dirty mags, all those things running in your head. Despite all the preconceived notions one might have about working at an adult shop, it was very much the opposite. George Mavety ran his business as what it was—a business. The offices were loft-styled right in the middle of Soho. Entering the lobby, you’d have no clue what Mavety Media Group was all about. Even walking down the halls after being buzzed in, you’d still have no clue. It looked very much like most magazine publishers until you hit the art, editorial and circulation departments. Here’s where you actually saw the magazines and instantly knew this wasn’t People magazine.
What also made it starkly different from mainstream publishers was the fact that the employees were a virtual rainbow coalition. Black, White, Latino, Asian, Male, Female, Straight, Gay, Old, Young and so on. George Mavety wasn’t concerned about staffing his business with people who looked like him but rather with people who worked like him. This man was serious about what he did and wanted folks under his roof with that same mentality. He supported us all, he was generous, he was concerned about our problems and was a remarkable human being. As normal, some folks don’t have the fondness for George Mavety as I do but that’s what makes our experiences all so unique. With me, George Mavety was the first employer I had who truly lived by these words: all men (and women) are equal.
I started work there as an Assistant Art Director and was promoted to Art Director of four monthly titles two years later when my AD stepped down. He recommended me for the position but the final say was George’s. Naturally, I was nervous as all hell since here I am at 24 years old being considered to run four of his best-selling magazines. That all disappeared once I entered his office. He had this jovial, light-hearted nature that just settled you. We talked about the responsibility of the job, what my thoughts on it were, where I see taking the magazines and so on. Without missing a heartbeat, he shook my hand and told me I’ll do a fine job. Just like that I was now the Art Director. It blew my mind. He had complete faith in what I could do for his business. That bolstered my whole spirit and I dove into my new position with much enthusiasm and drive.
I stayed at Mavety Media for five years at which time I felt I couldn’t do much more with the titles. When it came time to tell George that I was moving on, I was unsure how he would respond. The move wasn’t because I was unhappy or unsatisfied with the company but rather I just hit my creative end. In true Mavety form, he agreed that it was time for me to expand my creative career and that he appreciated all that I did with his magazines. He told me that he knew that I’d be doing great things in design from the first time I worked at the company. He was nothing but supportive extending his help even after leaving Mavety Media. The recommendation letter he graciously gave me just humbled me. His kind, supportive and encouraging words really helped make my first true work experience so incredibly wonderful.
George Mavety passed in 2000. His funeral was packed with so many people and just like his beliefs, it was filled with this wonderful mosaic of folks that he touched.
For diversity to truly work in society, the people who are in control must want to believe in the benefits of diversity and put that faith into actual action otherwise the status quo will remain the same—even with the token representation some industries do to deflect warranted criticisms. Rest in peace, George.