What began as a summer project for 22-year-old Maacah Davis gave birth to an innovative first for the city of Birmingham—a fashion magazine.
Davis is the sole creator and creative director of belladonna, a Birmingham-based fashion publication that is published independently and printed quarterly. The magazine aims to diversify fashion photography and fashion publishing by casting models who represent a broad range of the cultural and physical spectrum.
The magazine was not planned, Davis said.
“I didn’t have any expectations when I started belladonna. I just dove into it. It was just a summer creative outlet,” she said. “I was able to stumble into it and just throw myself in it so completely because, in my mind, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m starting a company.’ It was a matter of knowing that I wanted to do this, so whatever is in my way, I need to figure it out, but I’m not scared of it. If it needs to get done, it just needs to get done.”
Being an entrepreneur and new to the magazine world can be a double-edged sword, said Davis, who was born in Cameroon and raised among three West African countries before settling in the U.S. She’s been in Birmingham for more than 10 years and attended the Alabama School of Fine Arts.
“There are equal parts optimism and trepidation, because we are at the vanguard of technological evolution—without some of the economic opportunities our parents might have had, so being a millennial is maintaining your sanity in times of uncertainty,” she said. “My inexperience offers a series of learning opportunities so, while it’ll always be a challenge, it is never a hindrance.”
There also are challenges being the sole proprietor, Davis said.
“The most difficult thing is not really me trying to accomplish anything, it’s mostly trying to find people who are on the same wavelength, who have schedules, who will actually do what they say they’re going to do,” she said. “It’s difficult to get people to say yes to things, and it’s difficult to publish every quarter. That’s why you need the right community of connections. That’s what I needed when I was getting started, and that’s the creative resource I want to provide for the arts community in Birmingham.”
Davis said she’s really good at connecting people who have creative and personal chemistry.
“I get people hired,” she said. “People who work with me get access to people who want to hire them. I get emails from people saying ‘I got hired because of the work I did with belladonna.’ I want to continue to see that happen, but on a much larger scale.”
Asked the biggest reward of her work, Davis said, is “getting to connect people and getting to make beautiful things with beautiful people.”
Davis has a message for other aspiring entrepreneurs: “Just do it. If something looks like it’s going to be a no, figure out why, so that the next time it can be a yes.”