Brand Strategy Firm Working to Expand the Horizons of Inclusion, Equity and Community. 

Welcome to Maestra, a Black women-owned firm inspired by Alice Walker's description of Zora Neale Hurston's work as a Maestrapiece, "the feminine perspective or part of the structure, whether in stone or fancy, without which the entire edifice is a lie."

As creators, strategists, and innovators — De’Ara Balenger & Stacie Gillian founded maestra with the intention of building community and amplifying stories that are typically untold, undersold, or marginalized.

— Our Expertise

  • Partnership & Stakeholder Strategy
  • Event Programming & Curation
  • Mission & Social Impact Strategy
  • Strategic Equity Analysis
  • Executive Training & Positioning
  • Public Relations & Communications
  • Crisis Management

Our clients and partners range from film & media, entertainment, fashion and hospitality to non-profit organizations, government entities, telecommunications, finance and everything in between

Our Team

De'Ara Balenger

De’Ara Balenger is co-founder of Maestra. She leads Maestra’s social impact and public engagement work.

De’Ara works with brands, media companies and institutions to bring culture to cause. Her particular areas of expertise are social impact, racial equity, gender equality, cultural production and crisis management. She has extensive experience in directing and accelerating mission driven work. De’Ara works with high profile leaders across industries on designing how to do business with an anti-racist lens, while bringing everyone to the table to do the work with empathy, trust and an adherence to the greater vision- an America where every person can live to their fullest potential.

As an attorney she spent over a decade in public service, working primarily for Secretary Clinton. She was the Director of Engagement for Secretary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Prior to this De’Ara served as a rule of law advisor and senior advisor to Cheryl Mills at the U.S. Department of State, where she worked on the humanitarian response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the Congressional inquiry into the tragedy in Benghazi and criminal justice reform work in Bangladesh, Liberia, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Macedonia, Kenya and Costa Rica.

De’Ara is a stakeholder in the activism and women’s movement space and was a National Organizer for monumental Women’s March on Washington in 2016 and named a 2017 Glamour Woman of the Year for her role in the Women’s March. She also serves as Board Co-Chair for the Lower Eastside Girls Club.

Stacie Gillian

Stacie Gillian is co-founder of Maestra. Stacie leads Maestra’s brand strategy work where she partners with clients to create purpose driven campaigns and initiatives. Stacie’s expertise spans communications and media placement, event programming, audience development, and social media strategy.
Over the last 15 years, Stacie has paired her commitment to positive social impact with her passion for visual storytelling to develop some of the world’s leading brands.

Her previous clients include Vogue, MasterCard, Amazon Fashion, Oscar de la Renta, IMG, James de Givenchy, Etihad Airways, Washington DC Department of Corrections, International Cannabis and Cannabinoid Institute, and The National Theater. Stacie focuses on harnessing each organization’s distinct DNA to build a stronger brand narratives, refine messaging and tone, and identify and develop appropriate brand alliances.

Celine DeCarlo

Celine DeCarlo leads strategy and innovation at Maestra. She works with organizations and brands on how to scale and implement renewed commitments to sustainability and equity. For Mara Homan, a privately owned apparel company based in New York. Celine built a department focused on social impact, engagement and community organizing, while supporting the company and the industry’s shift towards more sustainable practices.

Prior to this, Celine spent over a decade in media, last serving as global senior executive for CNN International, where she worked with a network of clients developing tailored communication and business development strategies for companies across diverse industries such as travel and tourism, finance, government, telecommunications, oil and gas, real estate and economic development. Celine also initiated, negotiated, and secured multi-million dollar, multi-year, strategic partnerships, using market insights to develop client-focused solutions for partners from both public and private sectors looking to expandtheir international awareness and exposure.

Celine sits on the Board of the Women’s Prison Association, the Corporate Executive Council of Custom Collaborative, and the Advisory Council of the social enterprise program the New Standard Institute. She co-founded the New York Fashion Workforce Development Coalition and Women in Sustainable Business Coalition.

Jordan Vaughn

Jordan Vaughn heads Maestra’s partnership strategy. Prior to Maestra, Jordan served as Deputy Chief Growth Officer for The Future Project – an education non-profit based in New York, where he led marketing, fundraising and community engagement.

In 2016, Vaughn joined Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign as her African American Finance Director. At the campaign’s end, he returned to the DNC overseeing all constituency (LatinX, AfAm, Women, et al) fundraising. Prior to this, Jordan worked at the Messina Group, where he spent two years managing key portfolios, coordinating day-to-day operations and growing the team under the CEO, Jim Messina. He then went on to the Democratic National Committee, where he served as the African American Leadership Council Finance Director - programming 30+ events with President Obama and his administration. Jordan got his start in national politics in 2012, when he joined the Obama-Biden campaign as a field operative. 

Over the course of Vaughn’s 6-year tenure in fundraising, he has raised $60M+for progressive organizations and individuals. His work now focuses on working with partners around audience engagement, brand development, changemaker outreach and strategic initiatives.

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