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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Armstead

Culture Spotlight Featuring TONI Branson

Toni Branson is a Fashion Designer who founded Style is Freedom; a TOMBOI Lifestyle Brand. A brand created for the LGBTQ women’s community to infuse a positive image of androgynous women in genderless clothing as a means to promote self-worth, esteem and positive identity among those who identify with the non-traditional and gender non-binary aesthetic.

Branson is also an Independent Filmmaker currently living in Brooklyn New York. A graduate of the New York Film Academy Producing Program in 2008, Toni began her career shortly there after directing music videos and short films.

Branson’s work has been highlighted in multiple LGBTQ centered magazines, the Philadelphia International Film Festival and the San Diego Black Film Festival.

Most recently, Toni released a live action television pilot for young audiences,, LAVENDER BLUES TV. She has also completed and released her latest Short Film OCEAN GROWN PT. 1.

Branson holds a B.A in Communications from Robert Morris University.

Tell us about your experience at the Hip Hop Film Festival.

My experience with the Hip Hop Film Festival has been great. It was very refreshing to be networking and learning from folks who look like me and can relate to my story. I was very excited to see so many black women in the festival and as executives participating in the events. The support was awesome and overall I learned a lot and truly felt like this was an experience that will help me take my career to the next level.

Why are stories from the culture important?

Stories from the culture are important because our culture shapes and moves the world forward. We are the button. Therefore our stories should be at the forefront of popular culture being told by us. We are the only culture who doesn't always get to tell their own stories. So we have to be aggressive, creating our own content and keep the culture authentic.

What projects are you working on now?

I currently have the 2nd Episode of my Live Action Television Show for Babies and Toddlers in Post-Production, preparing for release in the fall. I also have a Feature Film Script and TV Series I'm looking to pitch to production companies and streaming services.

Why do you think the Harlem Film House and Hip Hop Film Festival are important?

The Hip-Hop Festival & Harlem Film House are important because they focus on the stories from the black experience that our culture yearns for. Giving young filmmakers a vision for what they can accomplish and a platform to let our work be seen. Showing us what it takes to be an indie filmmaker while giving us tools to be successful and putting us on to valuable learning experiences you don't get at every festival.

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