A Chat With A Creative Superwoman, That Is Savanna Small
She’s not just reaching for the stars – but the whole damn galaxy!
Trying to catch her for a quick chat between shoots, Savanna is a true multi-creative woman. If she is not modeling or acting in films or Anne-Marie’s music video, she is video commissioning for clients and her own projects.
Self-taught, she began her career as a model at just 18, after being sick and tired of working a restrictive 9-5 desk job. Since then, she has modeled for Pretty Little Thing, The Body Shop, a luxury brand Missoni, as well as being photographed by none other than Nick Night.
The London-based creative has been working in the industry for nearly 6 years, continuously striving to push herself and be better. Yet her career aspirations didn’t stop there.
Inspired by the BLM movement and triggered by lack of diversity and whitewashing in the creative industries, Savanna decided to take matters into her own hands. Along with her business partner, Tyler Wright, they are starting a 360 creative agency and talent management company – RAGGA. We had a quick chat with Savanna to find out what makes tick and how she deals with the pressures of creativity.
Okay, so tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, my name's Savanna and I'm from London. I'm a model, actress and I'm just starting to take care of some business from behind the scenes.
What made you want to start a career in the creative industries?
When I was working 9 to 5 job, I was being controlled on what to do and when to do it. I felt very limited and so restricted. If you ask me, my family, my friends, one thing I don't do is be restrictive. It made me really have to think outside the box of what I could do that was gonna serve me and make me happy. I said to my mom, I don't want to do anything that makes me unhappy. The 'nine to five' life was making me very unhappy.
What made you want to be working particularly in video production and commission?
It wanted to learn. I wanted to push myself. I mean, I've always kind of had those necessary attributes to oversee something - I wanted to push my creativity. With modelling, I was always someone else's muse, and I wanted to be behind the scenes where I could actually have a say in what was being done and to exercise that creative part of my brain.
So, you said you've previously modelled and acted. Is that something you want to push away from?
I love it. I don't want to ever stop modelling; I don't want to ever stop acting as long as it's right for me and it's on brand. I think that's really important to me right now is my brand identity, because I think it's been quite scattered. If things are right for me, I'm gonna do it. I can't turn down some of the money but I definitely want to exercise the creativity. I also love business. I have such a business savvy mind, and I want a hone in on that too.
How has your creativity influenced your identity (and vice versa)?
I'd like to start with the 'vice versa'. So, my identity definitely influences my creativity because it was like I was always loud, ambitious person and I wasn't allowed to be that in these [office] spaces. And when I found my friendship group, I found that I could be just that and they pushed me even more so that definitely influenced my creativity - allowed me to be crazy.
And then my identity influencing my creativity was always in these last races, and it was like, "Oh, I can do this!". In a normal job you're not allowed to do more than one thing, you've got to be this specific type of person. But when I told my friends about an idea, they really supported me. They said, "yeah, you have the personality do it!" and so it kind of just added together with whatever made me money and whether I was happy doing - sometimes working for free, just came together like that.
How have certain moments in your life shaped the way you create?
I'm a massive ideas person, I've always been an ideas person. I always have these ideas that I think are bigger than me and I have to think about how to make them happen, walk backwards.
I would have those eureka moments in my life where I'm like, "I want to do this". Okay, how do I make that happen? It's a natural progression as well as evaluating your goals. I started as a model, but I know that my personality is so much bigger than a model. I'm not just this pretty face. I am genuinely a good person and nice and, you know, funny to be around and loud and boisterous. So, I started thinking, "how do I show people this? How do I get this out to the world?" which honestly, I'm still figuring out to this day.
Has reflecting on your creative process revealed some unknown truths about your life?
Oh, 100%! I remember working at Premiere Inn (big up Premiere Inn) and thinking - I want to be this person, I want to do this, I want to travel. And I literally wrote a graph of all of the things that I wanted to do in my life. I didn't look at it for like three years, and when I did, I've ticked off loads of things on it. I wanted to work in Africa. and I literally just did that. It made me realize how important it is for me to write things down. I need to be able to see these things, and then work towards them step by step.
Yeah, massively man! I definitely have suffered from depression. And so, being stuck again [during the pandemic], it's very much like hurdles in getting to this place of your career, but then still needing to pay your bills. So, you still need to hold something down. It’s about realizing that it's a step by step process. I actually saw a post today that references this ‘zero to 100’ thing. It's not real. It's more like zero to 10, 10 to 20, 20 to 30. And you just take your time. So how do I do that? Okay, let me intern with someone. It's really not a rush. It's taking your time and doing the work that goes behind it. If I need to assist someone, even at my age doing what I've done and being fairly successful - that's okay! Let me let my go of my ego, step back and actually go in to assist. That's how I ended up commissioning. I assisted someone and helped them manage the label and commission videos for other artists. And then I was like, man, I can do this on my own. Now let me put the feelers out and see what I can do and I've ended up commissioning some amazing work since.
What is it that gets your creative juices flowing?
For me, it is massively being around my friends and just speaking about what we all would like to do because one idea spins and then the next. I love that scene. But also, landscapes. If I'm on a hill, it's a quiet time where I can just think introspectively. That for me gets my juices flowing. Every time I go away, I try and hike or being on a boat and not talk. I don't want to talk to anyone in these moments. I just need to be with myself and really still. Also, meditation because it sometimes has the opposite effect. I try and meditate and my mind actually speeds up and I have all of these amazing ideas and I end up just writing them down. Another one for me is when I'm thinking of an idea, it just snowballs into another idea of another idea and another. So, there's all different ways that ended up helping me create and think about my creativeness.
Meditating. That's really interesting.
Yeah, be quiet in your mind. But especially when I meditate in landscapes is like double whammy. It's like, whoa.
For me, it's getting things out of my mind on paper. I read a good book, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, about the organized mind which massively talks about writing things down and the importance of tangible things in your brain, and then being able to manifest them. It changed my life. Connie Constance, my best friend, who sat with me one night, and literally made me read that book. And that's what made me quit [Premier Inn]. That's what made me realize that you can manifest things that you want to manifest.
And what about creating drains you the most and how do you deal with it and overcome it?
It's draining when the ideas or projects are bigger than yourself and you know that you need more hands. Say for example, when I have an idea, but I don't have the budget or I don't have the help that I need, and I don't have the confidence to pitch. That's what drains me about being creative or the creative process. At first, it's like, "Oh, this idea is so amazing!", but then I have to hone in and it’s the putting it all together that is draining for me.
Also, being around people that don't understand. I was told so many times that I'd never be able to be a model. You'll never be able to fund it or have a life. My parents didn't really understand the want of me to go and do that. They would say’ “you need something more secure”. Being around those people that just don't get it, which is not their fault necessarily, has always been very draining for me.
I tend to just take myself straight out, but if I can't I will argue my case as best as possible, which is draining in itself. I tend to find inspiration from other creatives and say, "it is possible because that person showed me it's possible". And that's how I recharge myself and remind myself it is very possible to do these things. There's nothing out of my limits and I'm shooting for - leaving the stars - just pure galaxy!
And what, or who, are your biggest inspirations?
My friends, man. What my friends are doing is so much more inspiring compared to these big artists, as we're from very similar socio-economic backgrounds. Also, when someone fights for a cause, that reels me up and I've got fire in my belly. It's not just about creativeness, it's not just about fashion. For me, it's about so much more - like what change can I make when I get to this place? And what influence do I have?
What is it that you’re up to right now?
Well, me and my business partner, Tyler Wright, have just launched our own 360 creative agency and talent company, called RAGGA. We’ve always felt like the outsiders of the industry – like we were not good enough. It feels like the industry is fairly whitewashed and we wanted to make things way more diverse and open to all. We have some amazing stuff coming, some pretty big projects. It’s very exciting!
Would like to say as a nice few last words to the people watching?
I think obviously it's a hard, hard time right now. And I think if you have the capacity to love on someone, love on them like give back. Whether that's monetary or whether that's just in energy or support. And if you're someone that's going through something I say reach out. I think those exchanges right now are so important, especially with a pandemic, and the Black Lives Matter movement, and so much more. So, I just think, if you can give in any way right now, please do it.
Big love to everyone, man. Keep doin' whatcha doin'!
Photography by Viktoria Bielawa