Your lack of inclusion in a marginalized group may mean that you don’t know what it’s like to be them but it certainly doesn’t prohibit your awareness of the problem and potential to help rectify the situation. Berry English is one of the most successful professionals in present day and this Executive Director of Content Development at Condé Nast, has used his talent on a number of projects which spotlight extraordinary women and their achievements. Working behind the scenes to illuminate a variety of women who redefine success in their chosen fields, Berry English demonstrates his superior skill partnered with an awareness of today’s social climate. As companies become increasingly aware that their customer base is looking for stories no longer defined as they were in the past, they turn to innovative and exciting creators like Berry to manifest this content. The varied productions presented here exhibit Berry’s finely honed ability to connect with the public in a way that is entertaining, educating, and inspiring. Partnered with some of the biggest companies and media outlets in the world, they confirm the positive power of the medium.
Recently at Conde Nast, Berry created the video series “21 and Under Do You” with Puma and Teen Vogue. This production features women who are cultivating and realizing powerful change while still at a very young age. Hosted by style icon Cara Delevigne (named model of the year twice at the British Fashion Awards, Victoria’s Secret Model, and an actress in such films as the Oscar Nominated Suicide Squad), known for her commitment to spotlighting the accomplishments of other inspiring women, the series features US Olympian Maame Biney, activist Deja Foxx, designer Tia Adeola, and UK Labour Party Member Lily Madigan. Relating the important stories of these women’s lives in just a few minutes each was an immense challenge but two decades of honing his craft at companies like the BBC (where he worked on the hit series Strictly Come Dancing as well as others) has given Berry an instinctual ability to see the story arc immediately. The entire process must be carefully planned out and adhered to but that doesn’t negate thrilling moments as Berry confides, “Shoot day is my favourite day because everything is in the moment and you have no choice but to be incredibly present. Things invariably go awry and so you have to think on your feet, problem solving in the moment. Shoot days are long but there’s a huge sense of camaraderie in the brilliant people you surround yourself with. There’s always so much happening at every point of the day, that when you finish the shoot and you know you have some great footage; there’s no better feeling.” With four to eight million monthly visitors, the Teen Vogue website communicated these motivational stories of young women to a massive online audience.
The work Berry did at Condé Nast creating the “Taking 5” series for Adidas, brought greater focus to women in sports and the obstacles they’ve overcome to excel in their respective fields. Intended to communicate how the competitive triumph on the field is simply another representation of the commitment these female athletes have applied to many situations, “Taking 5” creates a conduit to inform and motivate present and future generations. World champion skater Nora Vasconcellos, WNBA star Liz Cambage, Peloton instructor Ally Love, and others demonstrate that their spirit and willingness to redefine their own situation is a means for growth. Berry and his team structured the episodes in the series around a very personal interview style, the comfortability of which establishes a relaxed and intimate rapport between interviewee and the viewer. Surprising moments in the series unearth information which dispels the notion that these women have simply been born into greatness. Berry confirms, “Liz Cambage, who we just profiled for Taking 5, communicated a story that is very inspiring. Growing up, she was bullied for being different. She had to develop ways of dealing with that and learn to stand up for herself and those around her who were also being disrespected. I hope stories like this inspire people. I hope they see that you don’t have to fit into the “one-size-fits-all” societal norms pushed on them by the media and that it’s perfectly ok to be different, in fact, it’s great.”
When an institution like Estee Lauder launches the reformulation of its Advanced Night Repair Serum, they turned to Berry English for fresh and engaging content. The moment was amplified by the fact that the world found itself deep in the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. The intent was positive and relatable storytelling that would appeal to a more diverse audience than ever. Grammy, SAG, and image award nominated actress Danielle Brooks (best known for the Primetime Emmy Award Winning Series Orange is the New Black) was enlisted by Berry and the team. Embracing the state of the world rather than ignoring it, Berry created two films starring Danielle which highlighted the new normal of digital social interaction as well as the ability to take advantage of some self-care via the Advanced Night Repair Serum. These charming videos were displayed to the delight of Vogue’s 14 million unique digital viewers.
When questioned about how he came to be the person at the helm of delivering these productions which are so female focused and resonate so profoundly with an audience, Berry expounds, “Of course I can’t tell you what it’s like to be a woman but I can, if I’m allowed to, try and tell their story in a way that feels respectful and true. Whether I’m interviewing athletes, members of the public, or a celebrity, I first find relatable common ground. Finding this common ground helps to build a relationship, this creates more of a relaxed atmosphere on set, this allows that person to feel more comfortable with me. I also surround myself with amazing people. You are genuinely only as good as the people around you and fortunately I am surrounded by the best people in the business. When it comes to series like ‘Taking 5’ as we’re telling the stories of women, it was important for me to bring in a female director; a director who understands the tone of the series and is passionate about the subject. The same went for Estée Lauder. The tone of the film was playful and relatable so I wanted to find a female director to work with Danielle Brooks; a director who had worked with big named celebrity talent and who’s portfolio of work was in line with the type of film we were trying to achieve. I would stay very close to the project throughout the process leaning on my expertise in storytelling to help craft and guide the narrative.” These comments give insight to why Berry English has experienced such tremendous success. He understands the importance of a story whether it is delivered with gravitas or levity. Those who work with Berry English are familiar with his ethos of finding shared common ground and his work testifies to this.
Published by Pooja Agarwal