Test scores and a high GPA weren’t required.
An essay wasn’t necessary.
A two-minute video of herself chatting about her love for art, painting and drawing was all Devon Woodrum needed to catch the attention of the Taco Bell Foundation and enter the company’s nationwide “Live Mas Scholarship” competition. She set up her art portfolio and talked about her classes and art. The former Charleston resident wasn’t expecting anything to come of it.
In addition to a $5,000 scholarship that covered the remaining balance on her associate’s degree, Woodrum later earned bonus opportunities thanks to that video for Taco Bell. In fact, if you like tacos or Taco Bell, you’ve probably seen some of her work, even if you didn’t realize it at the time — it’s been shown to taco fans nationwide.
Opportunity was something she didn’t find much in school.
She made the decision to drop out of high school in 2011. She had transferred from George Washington High School to Capital High School. Her grades improved after transferring, she said, but she still wasn’t happy with where she was.
“I didn’t really have a lot of opportunities for [art],” she said. “I felt like I wasn’t pursuing the career I wanted. I just wish there were more opportunities for the arts.”
When she dropped out, she spent her days doing what she loved — painting.
She got her GED, enrolled at West Virginia State University and later moved to Wilmington, North Carolina where she attends Cape Fear Community College. She’s done well at the college, she said.
“I’m in Phi Theta Kappa honor society and maintained an overall 3.7 GPA,” she said.
She’s earning a transferable degree in fine arts and anticipates graduating in 2018. After that, she sees herself attending school at the Rhode Island School of Design or the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Until then, she’s building her resume, adding to that portfolio and giving back to the scholarship fund that is helping her achieve her dreams.
The Taco Bell contribution just makes those dreams a bit closer to reality.
To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Doritos Locos Taco, Taco Bell held a contest for Live Mas Scholars to design the holster for the tacos. A design submitted by Woodrum was one of three that won.
The contest was a way to promote the Live Mas Scholarship during the company’s Feed a Dream campaign. From March 23 to April 8 this year, 10 cents from every Doritos Locos Taco sold went toward the Live Mas Scholarship fund. The winning designs were on the holsters during this time.
“I was stunned,” Woodrum said.
In addition to her artwork being displayed in Taco Bells across the country, Woodrum and eight other Live Mas scholarship recipients were flown to Chicago for the 2017 Live Mas Scholarship Workshop.
“We brainstormed the concept for the recent Taco Bell commercial promoting the Feed A Dream ad and the Live Mas Scholarship,” she said.
After the workshop, a short clip that featured Woodrum and her artwork was broadcast during the 2017 NBA All-Star game as part of a Taco Bell commercial promoting the scholarship.
This March, Taco Bell flew Woodrum to Scottsdale, Arizona. She painted live at Taco Bell’s 2017 Franchisee Forum.
“I donated a 3-by-4-foot acrylic painting of my Doritos Locos Taco holster design and it auctioned for $10,000,” she said.
Her original drawing was also auctioned off for an additional $4,000, raising a total of $14,000 dollars for the Live Mas Scholarship.
Her holster design was used as a backdrop for the stage at South by Southwest’s “Feed the Beat” event in Austin, Texas, in March.
“Before this experience with Taco Bell, my dreams of being an artist seemed so far out of reach,” she said. “There are a ton of ‘what ifs’ that come with wanting to be a professional artist. Like, ‘What if I don’t get a job after an expensive degree?’ ‘What if I have to turn to something besides art to feed myself or to buy more art supplies?’ ”
Now that she has some professional work experience with a major company, she has confidence that if she keeps working hard, she can be the artist she wants to be.
“I was already a fan of Taco Bell,” she said. “But I love them more now.”
Reach Anna Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-4881 or follow @byannataylor on Twitter.