artist profile

Melvina Young

Senior Writer

With a background in academia, Melvina Young never imagined she would write cards for a living.

After moving to Kansas City and looking for a job where she could go home at night and say, “I have done no harm,” Melvina landed at Hallmark, where she enjoys helping people connect on an
emotional level.

“Mahogany stands for authentic emotional expression. Not just culturally relevant but emotionally true.”

Hometown: “Lepanto, Arkansas. There’s no reason for anyone to know the place. It was one of those little towns right off a county highway you were either going to or driving by.”

First job: “Chopping cotton at age eight. I got demoted to water girl on my first day.”

Currently cued on her mp3 player: “I like a pretty eclectic mix. Right now, you’d find Alabama Shakes, Nina Simone, Stromae and Kendrick Lamar. But I really like to dance so there’s also dancehall and other club music.”

All-time favorite film: “I can’t just pick one. But I would say A Soldier’s Story about a contingent of Black soldiers in World War II, and Hair from the seventies.

I also grew up really attached to films like Sounder and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, because there were so few African Americans in movies at the time. Recently, I saw a brilliant Lebanese film called Where Do We Go Now?

Favorite place to be on a Saturday afternoon: “Recovering from a Zumba® or strength-training class.”

What inspires her creativity: “Just understanding people’s experiences and their emotional needs and desires fuels my creativity here more than anything. I start from the person and what they’re living through.”

If there’s a young woman who needs to tell the man in her life something, I want to know what that is. Then I try and figure out how to say it a little more artfully than she would be able to but still at a level that feels like she would actually say it.”

One thing she never does: “I never stand still when I could be dancing. I don’t understand people who are able to stand still when there’s good music bumping.”

Pivotal moment in life: “For a long time, I thought I would be happily childless. But having my daughter opened up whole new dimensions of love that I had not known about or would not have been able to experience in the way that I have without her.

I helped raise my much younger brother, so I thought I knew what parenting was about. But it’s a whole different thing to have someone entirely dependent on you and to want to be an imprint on that person.”

What Mahogany stands for: “It stands for authentic emotional expression. Not just culturally relevant but emotionally true.”

Who she pictures when writing cards: “Usually my family. For example, if I’m writing about romantic love, I picture my spouse. It’s a category where I find a lot of hope. There’s nothing like that little secret world of two people, who are only about each other and everything else gets shut out.”

Biggest fear: “The development of a world, where our children can’t live safely and justly. In my mind there’s no excuse for a hungry child, someone standing on a corner without a home, or people going bankrupt because they’re supporting a loved one who’s suffering from an illness.”

Hardest thing about writing: “Always wanting to get it right. You can really block yourself as a writer if you’re writing but things aren’t flowing the way they are in your mind. As a Hallmark writer, I can really stop myself up by wondering if what I’m writing for people is real enough.”

How she knows when her work is good: “When I put it on the paper, and it sings back to me, and I can recognize myself or someone else human in it.”