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10 questions with filmmaker Malena Cunningham Anderson (ABJ ’80)

This post was contributed by Bridgette Burton (AB ’11, ABJ ’11, MPA ’17), marketing & communications chair, Black Alumni Leadership Council.

Where are you from? Born in Laurens, S.C., but grew up in Gray Court, S.C.

What made you decide to come to school at the University of Georgia? I followed my father, Odell Cunningham (BBA ’72), who was an older student when he graduated from UGA in 1972.

Anderson on her high school graduation day with her father who is also a Georgia alumnus

What was your major? Journalism with an emphasis on public relations

What was your most memorable college experience? There are many but pledging Zeta Psi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority was the best!

Where do you live now? Atlanta

Where do you work and what do you do? I founded my own production company Newslady Productions last year. I’ve reinvented myself utilizing my journalism skills, and I’m a documentary filmmaker. My first film, “Little Music Manchild: The Malik Kofi Story” won Best Documentary at the BronzeLens Film Festival in 2017.

However, I spent 23 years working in television news as a reporter and anchor. I started my career working behind the scenes at CNN; I worked as a reporter in Lexington, Kentucky, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Savannah. I also worked in Birmingham, where I won two Emmy Awards for reporting and was part of the six o’clock news team that won an Emmy for Best Newscast. In 2004, I left TV News and founded Strategic Media Relations, a media consulting firm that I ran until 2014.

What advice would you give to graduating seniors and recent graduates? Don’t just search for a job. Instead, look for opportunities to learn and grow in your career so that you can be an owner or employer. We need more African American students to recognize the power in being the person who writes the checks, not just someone who waits to get a check.

Anderson with fellow award-winning journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault

What is the most important lesson you learned in college? I learned that it’s important to network and get involved in campus organizations. This helps prepare you to work and collaborate with others. The more you get to know people on campus, and the more they know you, the more they can serve as connections when you begin your career.

Malena (second from left) with friends on graduation day.

What do you know for sure? What I know for sure is that no one will ever ask ‘What was your GPA?’ Grades matter, but being a reliable, hardworking professional, who also makes a difference and goes the extra mile on the job and in the community is more impactful.

Is there anything else that you would like for people to know? I’m extremely proud to be a second generation African American graduate of UGA. Go DAWGS!

Alumnus Spotlight: Joey Shonka (BS ’05)

Joey Shonka (BS ’05), a long distance hiker and mountaineer, is trying to become the first person to traverse the entire Andes mountain range on foot. He has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking, which refers to the three major U.S. long distance hiking trails: the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Joey has written the following books about his experiences hiking each of these trails.

“The Darkness in the Light” (about the AT)

“An American Nomad” (about the PCT)

“A Strong West Wind” (about the CDT)

In July 2013, Joey began his attempt to create the first unbroken chain of footsteps across the continent of South America. He started his trek at Cape Froward, the southernmost point on the mainland of South America. As part of his current journey, he has already hiked nearly 5,000 kilometers, crossed parts of the world’s third-largest glacier network and summited seven of the highest peaks in the Americas. Joey checks in via a location tracker on his website to keep family, friends and fans updated. Recently, he was spotted near the Rio Vilcanota in Peru. Joey plans to culminate his hike in Columbia, political unrest permitting, around March 2016.

Learn more about Joey and follow his adventures around the world here.

Alumna Spotlight: Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08)

BellamyAlumna Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08) is one of the newest members of the 11Alive Atlanta team. A native Atlantan, Jennifer graduated from UGA with a degree in broadcast news and a minor in Spanish. Her career began in Macon, Georgia, where she worked for 13WMAZ as a reporter, producer, and fill-in anchor. She then joined News19 in Columbia, South Carolina, as a general assignment and political reporter. Jennifer was later promoted to weekend anchor.

Earlier this year, Jennifer was recognized by the 2015 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for Outstanding Local Television Investigative Reporting as a part of the News19 team. She also received a South Carolina Broadcasters Association STAR award for her coverage of South Carolina’s Department of Social Services.

11Alive is home to many Georgia alumni and the UGA Alumni Association is thrilled to see another graduate join its ranks. Congratulations, Jennifer!

UGA alumni named to Atlanta Magazine’s Best of Atlanta 2014

Atlanta Magazine’s Best of Atlanta is self-described as Atlanta’s annual roundup of “everything spectacular, exceptional, riveting, entertaining, stylish, and delicious.” Several UGA alumni were named to the 2014 list as exceptional Atlanta businesses. Read on to learn more about these businesses and the outstanding individuals that run them.

Men’s Prep Shop: Onward Reserve

TJ Callaway (BBA ’07)

Founded in Athens in 2011, Onward Reserve, a men’s gifts, apparel and home goods retailer with an online store and locations in Athens, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C, was cofounded by UGA alumnus and former 40 Under 40 honoree TJ Callaway (BBA ’07). Most recently, Onward Reserve was named to the Bulldog 100 Class of 2015. To learn more about Onward Reserve, click here.

Sommelier: Steven Grubbs

Steven Grubbs (AB ’00)

Steven Grubbs (AB ’00) is the man behind the excellent wine selections at Hugh Acheson’s Empire State South and Five & Ten restaurants. As wine director for both restaurants, Grubbs’ expertise is the reason why Five & Ten was a semifinalist for Outstanding Wine Service at the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards.

All-Around Animal Health Care: Briarcliff Animal Clinic

Dr. Elizabeth Busch (BS ’01, DVM ’04) and Dr. Peter Muller (DVM ’84)

It’s comforting to know that the medical team that gives your kitten booster shots is also available if curiosity leads him into harm’s way. Briarcliff Animal Clinic, founded in 1958, operates three clinics and a 24-hour emergency hospital and offers specialty surgery services like laparoscopy and orthopedics. The team at Briarcliff Animal Clinic boasts an impressive list of UGA alumni:

  • Peter Muller (DVM ’84)
  • Elizabeth Busch (BS ’01, DVM ’04)
  • Sandy Hedge (DVM ’72)
  • Mandy Reeve (DVM ’79)
  • Andrea Powell (BSA ’03)
  • Shannon Turner (DVM ’08)
  • Clay Phillips (BSA ’07, DVM ’12)
  • Shannon Day (DVM ’13)
  • Siomara Acevedo (BSA ’03, DVM ’09)

To learn more about Briarcliff Animal Clinic, click here.

Alumna Spotlight: Antonina Lerch (MFA ’06)

You’ve most likely seen Antonina Lerch’s (MFA ’06) work on TV. No, she’s not an actress, but the Belarus native is one of Hollywood’s leading costumers. Her designs have been featured on “Dexter” and “Mad Men” and the film “Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian.”

UGA Alumni Association communications intern Bernadette Green ’15 had the opportunity to catch up with this outstanding alumna. Read below to find out more about Antonina’s impressive career.

How did you get into costuming?

I grew up in Belarus. Out of financial necessity, my mom taught me to sew and repair my own clothes. As an undergraduate at Brenau University, I realized I could leverage my skills and aim for a career in costuming. One of my professors at Brenau, Janet Smith Morley, encouraged me to work in the music, theater and dance departments. With her help, I got a job at the Gainesville Theater Alliance. I furthered my training in costume design and technology at UGA’s graduate school. After completing the program, I landed a job in Los Angeles.

How did your time at UGA prepare you for your career?

At UGA, I was exposed to everything that relates to theater: costume, lighting and scene design, as well as directing and makeup. UGA offered me enormous resources, which helped develop my costuming and research skills. The library and research facilities are world-class. UGA’s Hargrett Library contains more than 6,000 original costume design renderings from Broadway shows and more. My major professor, Sylvia J. Hillyard Pannell, encouraged and facilitated my efforts to get internships, and I interned with the Georgia Museum of Art, Alliance TheaterSeaside Music Theater and Perpetual Motion Films.

What advice do you have for others wanting to get into costuming and fasion design?

You need to meet as many people as possible who are in the business. Connections can be made through internships, professors, or even reaching out directly to people in the industry. Persistence is important. Keep trying and don’t be discouraged by rejection. Determination is viewed favorably and not seen as a sign of weakness. Do as many internships as you can. Be flexible about specializing, as there are many careers within the costume world: fabric artists, agers, dyers, costume illustrators, patternmakers, supervisors, etc.

What is your favorite part of your job? And what is your favorite memory so far from your career?

My favorite part of my job is building bespoke (custom-made) costumes. This requires expertise in a vast number of costume-building techniques, which can be complicated. You need to build multi-dimensional forms, make complex mathematical calculations and understand the chemical properties of all fabrics. It is incredibly challenging and rewarding to build bespoke costumes that are functional and beautiful. My favorite memory of my career was working on Joss Whedon’s show, Dollhouse. Joss and his team were incredibly nice, professional and respectful.

What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career so far?

Due to the project-to-project nature of the entertainment business, it is very difficult to maintain a stable career as a costumer. My greatest accomplishment thus far has been continuously securing work on great productions with great people.

You currently spend your time between Los Angeles and Tokyo. What is your favorite part of working internationally?

My favorite part is meeting interesting people in my field and learning new techniques from local artists, costumers, designers and manufacturers. I find Japanese artistry and craftsmanship superb, very intricate and incredibly unique. I met a world-renowned Japanese artist, Noriko Endo, who developed a unique quilting technique called Confetti Naturescapes. I met Seiji Naito, a fifth generation craftsman who makes traditional Japanese sandals called Zori. I visited Seiren Corporation’s state-of-the-art clothing production facility, which embraces all elements of manufacturing including research, fiber and fabric production, printing, pattern making, cutting and building.

Do you have a favorite memory or experience from your time at UGA?

My favorite memory at UGA was spending time in my small office on the third floor of the Drama Building. It was at the very end of the long corridor next to the fire exit. I spent many hours doing my research or other homework there, and would prop the fire exit door that led outside to breathe some fresh air and listen to the birds in the huge trees outside. It was my favorite place on campus – I loved being there.