When CJ and Mecca Harris grew tired of scrolling through emojis that didn’t represent them, the mom-daughter duo did what trailblazers do: They created the damn thing themselves. Enter Urban Anna Mae, a diverse and colorful collection of emoji that combines Japanese anime with urban flair. “We’re leading the charge in true diversity among emoji,” says Bronx-born CJ, who resides in New Jersey. “It’s not just about skin tones, it’s about diverse cultures, backgrounds and most of all inclusiveness.”
True to that, members of the Urban Anna Mae Squad include Kohko (Jamaican/Chinese), (Dominque (Puerto Rican), La La (Trans), Jaaya (Indian), Londyn (Nigerian/British), Naeema (Sudanese Muslim) and Mecca (African American), inspired by the real Mecca, a college sophomore at Bryn Mawr.
While Mecca is busy hittin’ the books, we caught up with CJ to get all up in her business a little bit:
Give us the skinny on you in three sentences:
I’m a former athlete who hails from the Bronx. I started my career in PR and then transitioned into television. I’ve worked for HBO, BET and now I’m at NBC.
Three best words to describe yourself:
Driven, compassionate, foodie
What have you learned from working with your daughter, Mecca?
Her generation is so much smarter than mine. Mecca is incredibly insightful and has such a solid grasp of the world and how people of color move in it.
Favorite UAM emoji and why:
I love Londyn. She’s all about throwing a rock at the machine. Revolution is in her blood.
What’s been the greatest challenge in this?
Mecca is in college so she can only devote so much time to UAM as her job is getting good grades. So I’m a one-woman show! Think about all the departments that make up a company. Well, I’m every department!
What’s been the greatest joy?
The greatest joy is realizing that we actually pulled this off! I also love watching the way faces light up when they scroll through the characters and see emojis that not only look like them but sound like them, too!
Will you include male characters down the line?
Yes, we eventually want to expand the brand to include an app geared towards young men of color. The brothers want to be down, too!
What’s one thing you do that keeps you sane?
I start every morning by meditating and listening to gospel music. I’ve also learned to surrender. I can’t control everything and I’ve stop trying.
What does #blackgirlmagic mean to you?
It means being able to pull off what some may have considered impossible. Everything we touch turns to gold.
Favorite cartoon growing up:
Bugs Bunny hands down, in my footie pajamas with a bowl of Apple Jacks.
How long has your hair been natural?
Wow…nearly 30 years. I locked my hair in 1990.
Favorite hair product for moisture:
Music. Who or what are you feeling right now?
Funny, I’m a huge music lover, but what I’m feeling right now is a podcast called Still Processing from the NY Times. So smart, so funny, so woke.
Last movie you saw:
I just saw A Wrinkle in Time. I’m all about showing sista girl love.
One thing you do to keep yourself healthy?
I drink Green Vibrance every day. I swear by it. I’m in the gym 2-3 times a week which includes a Pilates class. And I also don’t put worry on me before worry gets to me. In other words, I don’t stress.
What’s on the horizon for UAM?
The next iteration of Urban Anna Mae will be a digital game or an animated series. We are currently exploring both avenues. Eventually, we want UAM to become a Black version of Disney: anime, merchandising and licensing the characters is the goal.