By Feiyu Su
Visitors to the “Womanish” exhibit this fall in downtown Chicago entered the five-story experience through a 1950s-style diner, awash in music of the era. There was more to the show than met the eye, however. The setting nodded less to some mythical good-old-days America and more to the early days of the sexual revolution.
The exhibit was the work of Mizzou alumna Danyelle Gray, BA, BS BA ’14, and her sister, Dionna. More than 20,000 visitors explored “Womanish” during its run in fall 2020.
“Womanish” offered women from all backgrounds a safe place to connect and explore the experiences unique to women — such as the censorship of women’s bodies and social stigmas.
“I’m dedicated to women empowerment because the strong women in my life shaped me to who I am today,” said Danyelle. “I’ve always kind of felt like I was supposed to do more.”
Danyelle attributes her love for events marketing to her involvement at Mizzou. “I was involved in a lot of organizations,” she said. “And that kind of helped me to where I am in my career today.”
During her freshman year at Mizzou, Danyelle became an event coordinator for the Department of Student Activities. She got paid to organize large-scale events, such as concerts with Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Big Sean and Jhené Aiko and a fashion show with Angela Simmons.
Getting involved in the process opened her eyes to event planning. “I just love every aspect of it,” Danyelle said.
In addition to her position at the Department of Student Activities, Danyelle was also involved in Black student organizations like the Black Business Student Association and iGuide.
“It helped me get that experience and still have that kind of connectivity to my culture and my people,” she said. “There are definitely ways to still feel at home in places where people don’t look like you. You kind of have to seek those out.”
She was grateful that Mizzou offered students a lot of different cultural places. “Like the [Gaines/Oldham] Black Cultural Center — that was like a second home for a lot of people of color,” Danyelle said.
Six years after graduation, Danyelle encourages current students to utilize the activities and organizations on campus to find out what they really want to do and who they really are.
When Danyelle looks back to her time at Mizzou, she says, “They give you that full 360 experience that you want.”