Slick Woods and The Complicated Cost of Defying Beauty Standards

Slick Woods Fenty Beauty Ad

Slick Woods Fenty Beauty Ad

By Christina Hammond

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” – Malcolm X

Rihanna recently debuted her new Savage X Fenty collection during New York Fashion Week (NYFW) where she showcased her lingerie line using women of all colors and sizes. While the focus should be on how she is using her platform by giving Black women a chance to be a part of something we are historically overlooked for, a lot of attention has lead to unwarranted debates via social media about the beauty of her muse Slick Woods.

Slick Woods Rihanna Fenty Beauty 1

Slick Woods Rihanna Fenty Beauty 1

Men (and women) are engaging in an open dialogue about a woman who not only is beautiful, but a woman who walked the runway while in labor. Did you know according to studies, Black mothers face significantly higher maternal mortality risk due to stress and “the system not valuing the lives of Black women equally to White women.” (Renee Montagne, NPR News, 2017)? Meanwhile, the concern of our Black men on twitter is what she looks like, rather than praising her hard work and perseverance in the industry.

Slick Woods Rihanna Fenty Beauty 2

Slick Woods Rihanna Fenty Beauty 2

It is for this very reason, Black women find it extremely difficult to be comfortable in our own skin.  People within the Black community combined with society’s overall beauty standards have conditioned us to openly disrespect Black queens by publicly calling us ugly and not valuing what we contribute to the universe. You would think the same men we uplift, pray for, sacrifice for, and fight for against the masses when they are being killed off would do the same for us, instead of giving the world more of a reason to continue to disrespect us. The world is already twice as hard on Black and brown women, where are the Black men willing to stand on the frontline for us?

According to the Washington Post the percentage of women of color to walk the runway during NYFW in the mid-90’s was pretty close to 0% (Robin Givhan, 2016). Instead of our community uplifting the women such as Slick Woods who have broken that barrier, we continue to bash her “unconventional” looks by downright calling her ugly and unworthy of being the face of one of the number one beauty lines in the world (Fenty Beauty). What is an unconventional look? Has mass media really programmed us to believe that plastic surgery enhancements and “exotic” features are the definitions of beauty? We continue to shame those who love their natural bodies, and embrace their flaws, especially us Black women. The fact that we have more discussions about the standard of beauty over the fact that Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs (Forbes, 2017) in the U.S. continues to prove that Black women are under appreciated and the need for self-love, self-care and self-appreciation amongst ourselves as women is important.

No matter how strong we are as women, the truth is we rely on our Black men to support us, especially emotionally. Instead of making a mockery of these discussions, I challenge you to call your bro out when he’s openly displaying signs ignorance towards us Black queens. It is the responsibility of men to keep each other accountable, because we as women are tired of nagging and having to defend ourselves against the world, let alone the men in our own culture.  There are so many platforms and mediums that men have access to and have created to start the necessary conversation. Don’t be afraid to be “that guy” who stands up to talk about these issues on social media, in your group chats, on your podcasts, or even at your guy’s night. While beauty is subjective, to ever engage in negative conversation publicly about the beauty of a woman is unacceptable. As our Black mamas say “keep it cute or put it on mute.” Have your preference, but always exalt us Black women by any means necessary.

Slick Woods continues to be the epitome of black girl magic and rise above the standards not only that society sets, but what our own people have set. Her defiance of what society believes is beautiful makes her an even more powerful force in the industry. Continue to slay on Slick for ALL of the Black queens out there. WE have your back, and hopefully moving forward our Black men will too.

Christina Hammond (Nina) is the author of #1 Best-Selling Amazon Book "Do It For The Gram: A Quick Caption Guide For the Millennial Woman" ,  and serves as a creative strategist to several talent and brands in the entertainment industry, with a specialty in events.

Netflix’s Maiya Norton on The Strong Black Lead and Why Bringing Black Voices To The Table Matters

Maiya Norton is not famous outside of her collective of supportive friends and family and those of us fortunate to know her. She steps into spaces with a bright smile and you know that this is someone who is for the tribe, someone who keeps her roots in mind as she steps through the world of digital media. She’s a Marketing Manager at Netflix, she was part of the iconic visuals that announced Netflix’s efforts to uplift black creatives with the striking campaign that highlighted all of the amazing black talent that has graced their halls over the years. The photo of over 40 familiar faces standing on a Brooklyn stoop with unapologetic gazes and the knowledge of their community’s greatness. 

Digital content strategist and freelance writer Ashley Simpochatted with Maiya about her journey through the ranks of publishing and digital media - a path that is not only familiar to Ashley but other Creatives as well.

Intro and Interview by Ashley Simpo

Maiya Norton Netflix

Maiya Norton Netflix

Maiya started out in print media after studying print journalism in college. “I studied Journalism in college - print journalism specifically which makes me sound like a dinosaur. I wanted to do something entertainment related. That’s what interested me and excited me.” Working in print at its decline taught Maiya a few things about diversity. She noticed the difference in treatment between her white colleagues and herself. She notices that black faces were very few and far between in an environment that she calls “elitist”.

“When you have white folks hiring and in all of the positions of bringing in new people, they’re often dipping into their own networks which tends to look like them. It perpetuates the cycle of a lack of diversity.” Maiya skipped around a bit, working at publications like INStyle Magazine, People, Lucky and Entertainment Weekly. She was there to grind, but noticed the low pay was often a reflection of white privilege. “I applied for an assistant position and was told the salary for an EA was $24,000 in New York,” she laughed, “A lot of these girls - their salary was essentially spending money.” When mommy and daddy are footing the survival bill, salary expectations tend to plummet across the board. In spaces where the typical employee won’t be bothered to ask for more and is there solely for the experience, those who are there to also pay bills tend to suffer. And those people are usually the ones of color.

For many Black creatives, the shift happened as the rise in digital media reigned in a new era of content. Disruption became the name of the game and print just wasn’t cutting it anymore. For Maiya, this was her moment to seize new opportunities. “I had an editor that was very digitally savvy and very social media savvy. She knew we needed to ramp up on everything - Twitter, doing Facebook chats with everybody and I started to perk up around social media at that point.” Being able to predict the change in times and go where innovation was leading the industry was a move that bode well for Maiya. She eventually made the hard choice to exit the print publishing world and start at the bottom again by working at creative agencies. “I had been in print for 6 years so I’ve already been down this path in my career. I didn’t think I was qualified for a job at the same level so I was trying to apply for community management roles and entry level roles.” At the agency level, Maiya was able to hone her craft and gain a lot of experience in a compact amount of time. She was also able to meet someone who provided an in at Netflix. Another Black woman, a previous client at Laundry Service - the creative agency Maiya worked for at the time - had taken a job with Netflix. “She went to Netflix and we had remained in contact. She basically called me and asked if I was interested in joining the team she was putting together.” The rest, was history.

At a large organization like Netflix, with seemingly endless resources and a giant budget for experimentation, people of color are able to thrive. There is a culture of - not just diversity - but inclusion. “I heard it described this way once: diversity is bringing someone to a dance. Inclusion is bringing them onto the dance floor,” Maiya said. It is that exact philosophy that breeds spaces which actually encourage people of all backgrounds to be part of the collective conversation. When the Strong Black Lead community started back in December, Maiya was not officially hired to work on the projects, she was simply invited to sit at the table and provide her input and perspective. Without such a collaborative approach to creativity, the project may not have had such a powerful impact in stimulating conversation the way that it did. In June, an iconic image hit the scene provoking discussion and buzz all over the web.

What happens when Black voices are given the space and opportunity to create in an otherwise white space? Images of Viola Davis, Spike Lee, Rev Run and Danielle Brooks champion the idea that our stories matter and our icons who interpret them on screen are deserving of wide-reaching praise. Maiya Norton recalled what it was like to be a part of the shoot that day on a soundstage in Los Angeles. “I was assigned to wrangle the ‘Dear White People” cast and it was so much work but it was rewarding because it was this genuine celebration of blackness. It was kind of magical.”

[video clip]

It’s what happens when positive Black influences gather in any space - a BBQ, a day party, a discussion panel. What happens when people of various background give honor to a unified Black experience. What happens when the white gatekeepers of media remember that they cannot create anything for the masses without inviting representatives of our culture to the conversation. Maiya fondly remembers a busy day running around set, sitting in an editing bay and watching the entire cast that day rally around Caleb McLaughlin of Stranger Things, who was tasked with the only speaking role and who’s adolescent timidity for such a job was sitting heavily on his mind. “Lena Waithe put her hands on his shoulders and said, ‘you got this!’. When he nailed it, we all cheered. All this support for this young black boy.”

But the moment of the day, the pièce de ré·sis·tance that brought it all back full circle for everyone there was when legendary actor Alfre Woodard broke out into uncontrollable song. “Alfre Woodard, everybody’s auntie. She led everyone in singing ‘Lift Every Voice’ out of nowhere and everyone started singing. It gave all of us goosebumps. This elder and this moment of fellowship. It was black as fuck and beautiful and uniquely us. It was just us.”

Knowing your worth is not something people of color have been told to investigate nearly as much as they should. Especially not in a professional environment built on elitist prep-school connections and trust fund safety nets to cushion the blow of establishing a budding career. Maiya’s journey is not unique, but it is one that reminds us how important it is to exist in spaces that allow us freedom of thought. Whether that is a giant beast like Netflix or a small start-up, we have to remember what our ideas can foster in the world and how important our stories are to tell and hear.

Maiya Norton is a creative storyteller, music curator and marketing professional working and living in Los Angeles. To follow her story, find her on Instagram at @maiyanorton or go to her website: http://www.maiyanorton.com/

Tiffany Dufu On Overcoming Challenges In The Publishing Industry

Sponsored by Tiffany Dufu, Creative Assets designed by Kareracter Creative Studio exclusively for #blkcreatives It doesn't matter what level you're at in your career, new experiences and opportunities will always clear the way for growth. Tiffany Dufua catalyst-at-large in the world of women’s leadership, doesn't shy away from that process. As a new author (of Drop the Ball, a memoir and manifesto that shows women how to cultivate the single skill they really need in order to thrive), Tiffany is celebrating her book anniversary by sharing the challenges she's faced in the publishing industry and how embracing herself and her community, helped her overcome them.

Happy Anniversary to you, as Drop The Ball will be celebrating its first birthday (on Feb 14th). You've built an incredible career around advancing the lives of women and girls. Why was it important for you to bring this particular story to life?

Tiffany: Women's leadership is incredibly important to me. The biggest reason why we struggle with innovating solutions to some of our toughest problems, things like disparities in access to education and healthcare, global warming, or a criminal justice system that isn't just, is because we don't have diverse people sitting around the most powerful decision making tables. I've been trying to inspire and equip women to pursue their ambition. But women kept telling me that one of the reasons they couldn't be the CEO at work was because they were already the CEO at home. It was just too much. They also kept asking me how I was personally managing it all. I felt I owed them an answer and that it was my responsibility to support them in creating lives they were passionate about.

One box that the publishing industry seems to put Black creatives in, is that we all have to create from a space that's just about race and identity but we have SO much more to share. How did you push back against this narrative and how would you advise others to do the same?

Tiffany: I pushed back by recognizing this racist narrative is profitable and proving to the industry that there's an alternative narrative that can also make money. It's good business for publishers to market black authors to black women because college educated black women read more books in any format than any other demographic. We have a lot of book buying power. But I didn't want to be put in a box. I felt that Drop the Ball had a message that would appeal to all women. So I was explicit about positioning the book in the broadest way possible so that it would appeal to more consumers.

Tiffany Dufu #blkcreatives Drop The Ball

Tiffany Dufu #blkcreatives Drop The Ball

For example, I ensured the BISAC codes reflected how I wanted Drop the Ball to be categorized. They included Business & Economics, Women, Autobiography, Social Science, and Marriage & Family. As an avid book buyer, I was sensitive to the fact that regardless of the subject, books by black authors are too often relegated to the African American section. I personally love this section, but the average white woman isn't walking into Barnes & Noble and heading there. So we assigned BISAC codes that guaranteed Drop the Ball would be placed in the business section alongside titles like Lean In. I've loved all of Ava Duvernay's films, but I'm most excited about A Wrinkle In Time because its success will be the biggest push back to the narrative that black people can't tell stories that aren't just about being black. And the most convincing evidence will be the dollar signs at the box office.

Was there anything that surprised you throughout this process? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Tiffany: Because I was so hell bent on ensuring Drop the Ball appealed broadly, I refused to appear on the cover. But once the book was released, it became clear that sales were closely correlated with my public appearances and interviews. The cover wasn't selling the book. I was. We often spend a lot of time trying to find the best marketing tools and strategies, but what I learned was that I am my own best marketing tool for my creative work. My editor had to sit me down to explain that I really needed to appear on the paperback. A new jacket was designed that will be released soon.

Tiffany Dufu #blkcreatives Drop The Ball

Tiffany Dufu #blkcreatives Drop The Ball

In your book, you share how you've relied on your community and network of support to adjust. How did your community show up for you throughout the publishing process?

Tiffany: I'm just the cumulative investment of other people. I could tell you a million ways my village showed up, but I have to give a special shout out to the black women came through in a big way. They talked me off ledges during the writing process when I doubted myself and got scared I wouldn't be able to deliver a manuscript to my editor worthy of the advance. They hosted book events for me in major cities, they hired me to speak at their companies and purchased multiple copies of Drop the Ball for their audiences. One of my friends, Keli Goff, wrote a fierce review of Drop the Ball on the day it was released. It went viral and made my book fly. Then there were my Delta Sorors that showed up at every public event just to tell me they had bought multiple copies and to give me a hug.

Every time I think about all of the love I received I want to cry all over again. Drop the Ball was a bestseller because of some serious #BlackGirlMagic.

We all know that publishing a book is no easy undertaking. What would you recommend as the first practical step that someone should take when looking to publish their book?

Tiffany: Write every day. Find an agent that will fight for you. Interview authors. Know that your voice is important and your words are needed to help change the world.

Tiffany Dufu Drop The Ball

Tiffany Dufu Drop The Ball

If you haven't already, grab your copy of Drop The Ball here.

[Exclusive] Support The Culture: The Story Of Write On The Doc

I was about seven or eight years old when I spent one afternoon helping my grandma clean up the upstairs attic bedroom. As in many of our families, grandma’s house was the place to come and stay until you got on your feet, and my older brother was the latest to have moved in and moved out. What started off as a chore turned into me discovering magazines with Biggie and Puff Daddy on the covers. What is this? I wondered. I had heard him listening to their music but didn’t know that there were actually stories written about them. I flipped through those pages, already realizing that I was holding something that was special. The very first time I picked up a copy of VIBE Magazine, my life changed and if you were a kid who grew up during the early 90s, I’m sure you have a similar story.

Hip-Hop Archivist Syreeta Gates is on a mission to make sure that those stories don’t just get told, they get preserved. Write On: The Legend of Hip-Hop Ink Slingers tells the stories of the journalists (Elliott Wilson and Danyel Smith, Kierna Mayo, Datwon Thomas, Joan Morgan, Michael Gonzales, Mimi Valdez, just to name a few!) behind this epic era didn’t just shape a culture - it defined it.

For every person who's still got issue of VIBE, XXL, The Source, Honey, King, Word-Up!, Right On!, etc stashed away at their mama's house, Syreeta has created and directed a documentary that’s for you. We’ll let her tell you the story.

Interview by Melissa Kimble

MK: Write On: The Legend of Hip-Hop Ink Slingers is a documentary about journalists that influenced Hip-Hop culture. Why the focus on writers? Who did you make this documentary for?

Syreeta: I decided to focus on this topic because it never been done and I was actually confused as to why. These writers were the ones that not only curated the story but they created the language for how we interact with hip-hop culture. It was also a personal story for me as I was the editor-in-chief of an online hip-hop publication and then I realized that I didn't know any hip-hop journalists. So I went to the Googles and Google couldn't even help me solve my problem because their work wasn’t online specifically in the eighties, nineties and early two thousands. So I decided to create the change I wanted to see in the world and that's how we got Write On!

Write-On-The-Doc-VIBE-Snoop-Dogg

Write-On-The-Doc-VIBE-Snoop-Dogg

MK: You've interviewed 30 plus writers for this project and they all have stories and legendary careers. How did you manage to nail them down and also get them to share their stories?

Syreeta: Last fall we have interview 34 writers in a few different states and we have about 20 or so more to go. How it happened is a whole 'nother story that I might share during this documentary process so that people can really understand what happens when you keep your word in your mouth. I nailed them down by keeping them in my conversation so when I found out who these hip-hop journalists were, I did more research and I started following them on Twitter and on Instagram. I tried to read as much on these writers as possible. I'm a Kinesthetics learner so I had to physically do something with the information that I was getting. I think I've always been transparent with the writers, like this is my first documentary, this is my age, this is what I've learned so far but it's a lot that I don't know. I think them knowing me and my commitment to always put the writers on is why they said yes and I'm grateful!

MK: Write On involves so many different moving pieces and parts. What do you think was the most challenging part about working on this project and how did you overcome it?

Syreeta: The most challenging part has been not knowing the process of getting a film done. This is my first film - but certainly not my last - there's a lot of stuff that I didn't know. I'm thankful to YouTube and I'm thankful for filmmakers that I follow on Instagram (Twitter shout out to Ava Duvernay one time!) and the countless other filmmakers who share their story online. I’m also grateful to the many people that my friends connected me to throughout this process. Their insight has been so valuable. There has been many challenges throughout this process but when you are committed to greatness you have to do what you need to do to make it happen.

[Tweet ""When you are committed to greatness you have to do what you need to do to make it happen." #writeonthedoc"]

MK: Not only do you have this doc, but you’ve also balanced this project with Stay Hungry and The Gates Preserve. How do you keep yourself on task and focused on a daily basis?

Syreeta: Building a team is everything and so The Gates Preserve is the Hub. It’s a multimedia experience company committed to archiving and preserving and hip-hop in such a way that it last forever. So there is no way that I could take on such a large endeavor without a team. I always use the phrase #teamUS and for me it’s a verb so, every project weather STAY HUNGRY or this doc or whatever is next, it needs to be in alignment with the commitment. So every project that’s created must have a team! Though I’m the visionary for the doc we have Kathy Landoli who is the Screenwriter, Herman Jean-Noel who's the Director of Photography and a host of other people who not only said yes but have put in time and work to make this happen. The same for STAY HUNGRY - we have a team of people internally shout out to Kat Delva who runs the ship and Executive Chef Airis Johnson who keep the wheels turning. But we have chefs and production teams and other people who say yes. More importantly than them saying yes they have receipts that are in alignment with them getting the work done. So collectively we're just out here making history. I will always talk about the team. I live in a world in which Everybody Eats B! In terms of keeping focused and being on task this was the first year that I've planned out the whole year. That alone was a game-changer! So I'm clear of what I can and can’t commit to  based on what has been created. I love Post-It notes and I have some apps on my phone that supports me with knowing what the day, week, month and year looks like.

MK: What excites you the most about this documentary coming to life?

Syreeta: Acknowledging the writers and sharing their stories! Knowing that some young person in some small town in any city in America and or abroad can watch this and make the decision to become a writer because they know that the power is in the pen. They are now clear that there is power in the word as soon as they write it down that's it. Also I'm high key hype about the world knowing a lot of untold stories in hip-hop. *Rubs hands like Birdman*

MK: This project also seems like it was a huge undertaking and sometimes, even when we're creating something we love, we can get overwhelmed. How did you find (and continue to find) joy throughout this process?

Syreeta: This is a phenomenal question. I've been overwhelmed have had so much anxiety and have been uncertain about this project possibly more than any project to date. But what supports me find joy is always remembering my purpose. My boy Kleaver Cruz has a project called #TheBlackJoyProject I go there when I need that boost, I go to Yaba Blay’s #ProfessionalBlackGirl when I need to be reminded how lit I am. I wanted people to know these writers like how I've known them. I'm clear that I have a team that supports me as a human. They are committed to my joy my happiness my growth as a person and I think when you have those type of people around you it's much easier to go through the s*** that you can't control.  

MK: We know you must have a ton but what are some of your favorite stories from this project? Was there anything that you learned that really surprised you?

Syreeta: Oh my gosh there are so many stories - I learned so much. It was just crazy - it's like going through this project has been like going through undergraduate program or putting yourself through your own school. All the things surprised me! Like imagine you’re a hip-hopin shorty rock and then you get the context for your favorite artist. It’s mind blowing! You're going to have to wait till the documentary comes out to find out all the goodies!

Write On: The Legend of Hip-Hop Ink Slingers Kickstarter is now LIVE. Support the culture.

Meet Momo Pixel, The Creator of The 'Hair Nah' Video Game

I wish I would have known that I was going to have this idea so that I could have launched it as an app from bat. It took us almost 10 months to make this and we still didn’t have enough time to do the app. I was able to do this during work. But I still had to work. So I would be on about five other assignments while making the game. I just wish I could have had a solve for that in the beginning because once we really got going, it wasn’t really a possibility...although it is now!

Even among the political pollution that is clouding our Twitter feed, somehow, someway, Black creativity still manages to prevail and rise to the top. And it’s an amazing and brilliant and refreshing and a prevalent reminder that no matter how much we absorb from this crazy world, we can still produce some good. Momo Pixel moved to Portland and got tired of women putting their hands in her hair so she channeled that irritation into creativity and culturally relevant entertainment. Read on to find out her story behind the game, Hair Nah. (Yes, the title speaks for itself.)

Interview by Melissa Kimble

Tell us about your journey. What skills and experiences led you to create Hair Nah!?

I was a weird art nerd growing up and I wanted to find others like me. So I went to art school. I attended to SCAD Savannah College of Art and Design. There, I just bounced from major to major, trying to find my way but I was interested in everything and I still am. I graduated after learning television production, writing, graphics, and fashion but my degree says visual communications. Lmao! After college I got an internship working at Leo Burnett. My first commercial was for Nintendo. I was a copywriter then. But I was pumped! Because clearly I like video games. Then I ended up leaving the company. I went to Atlanta and started my own art show called Momoland. I moved to New York and was chilling there being an artist. Then I got the call from Wieden+Kennedy. They wanted to see if I wanted to try being a creative for the summer. And well, here I am. But the pixel designing and aesthetic is separate. I started doing that while in college, making pixel accessories. Then while at WK I really got into designing digitally. So Hair Nah is like my first big digital pixel project.

While this your creation, I noticed that your game is credited as being supported by On She Goes, a digital travel platform that helps women of color travel more confidently, more adventurously, and more often. Can you explain your partnership/relationship and how you support each other?

Yea! So OSG is another passion project that WK helped launch. They are really into doing diversity initiatives and things that are good. So OSG was one. And when I was working on the game I had a lot of meetings with them and that is how it became a travel game. I was like oh this is a dope spin on it, let’s do it. They also just helped me and supported me when I was designing and working on the game. Plus they have contacts and I had none. So getting the word out, they were dope with that. Although, that tweet seemed to do. (at press time, that tweet has garnered 27K retweets and 51K likes.) That’s still so crazy to me.

Momo-Pixel-Hair-Nah-Game-#blkcreatives-Interview

Momo-Pixel-Hair-Nah-Game-#blkcreatives-Interview

What are some things that you learned about yourself or about your work during this process of creating Hair Nah!?

I’d say I learned that if something is meant to happen for you, it will. I had this idea and I was really excited about it and my job helped me put it out. Which is crazy. So that was a lesson I learned because this game is now out in the world, and ya know it could not have been. Also I AM DOPE ASF lol. I mean I knew that but sometimes we are really hard on ourselves. Often times I feel like I’m not doing enough. I haven’t created enough. I’m lazy. But working on this game, I was like Momo, you got the work ethic of a starving lion, I’m with it. (LOL) So I really learned that I am good and very determined when it comes to my work. I am adamant about colors and aesthetic and that will never go away. Plus I learned how to be quicker with designing. That’s always good.

hair-nah-game-#blkcreatives-interview

hair-nah-game-#blkcreatives-interview

You cite your move to Portland as being inspiration behind creating this game. Where did you move from and how did you handle this transition?

I moved to Portland from New York. So when I say it was a culture shock - it was a CULTURE SHOCK! I went from loud laughs, arguments, and clothes. To quiet. Nothing. Absence of it all. I think when you first move it's all new and I like newness. So I was like, let’s see. But then that wore off and I missed seeing a diverse group of people. I missed being able to stand on the street and talk however with a friend. I missed the noise and art. I missed the food. I missed everything but the stress and brokenness. Cause New York, will have you stressed and broke and those two things are enough for me to chill in Portland…at least for a few years.

I’m listening to “I Was More” as I work on this interview. Can you tell us about the story behind the music on your Soundcloud page?

Momo Pixel #blkcreatives Hair Nah Creator

Momo Pixel #blkcreatives Hair Nah Creator

Oh yea! I love music and love to make it. I grew up on Sting, Stevie Wonder, Sade, Anita Baker. It’s just been a part of my life. And I was a child singer growing up. Performing in shows and all that. So yea, I make music. Sometimes I produce too when I can’t find the sound I’m looking for. I’d say my style is: if Jill Scott made electronic chill music. Currently I’m working on a music video for “Push” that shall drop in the near future. But thank you so much for listening!

How can our community support you in your next steps? Give us, at least, two practical things to do, one being a way in which we can monetarily support you.

Haha, well follow me! That way you will know when Hair Nah becomes an app and you’ll know about my other endeavors. I am always creating. So follow me! But of course money always helps. I started a Patreon recently, I’m still trying to figure it out. Momo Pixel on everything.

Play the Hair Nah game for yourself here and follow Momo on Twitter!

Chassidy Jade on The Mane Event, Surprises In The Industry and What Working Since 15 Has Taught Her

I was a rough kid who had been through a lot so could never express myself. This saved me, for real. I'm exposed to many different things; good, crazy and beautiful. It's definitely made me more cultured and forced me to meet people, see places, and experience things I could never imagine. I don't come from a rich family so I'm truly blessed!

Chassidy-Jade-The-Mane-Event

Chassidy-Jade-The-Mane-Event

On 10.17, BET’s The Mane Event took over the Internet. While it’s easy to become captivated with the fan fare around the union of Radric and Keyshia Ka'oir Davis, this story is a reminder that productions are team efforts with individuals who are committed to telling our stories. Enter Chassidy Jade, a professional who’s been working since the age of 15. The Palm Beach, FL, Memphis raised, editor, writer, and creative director is on a mission to produce high quality and diverse independent projects.

Chassidy’s career runs the gamut of high profile media companies such as HBO, BET, We TV, Apple Music, NBC, Warner Brothers, and more. Born a military brat, she was exposed to diverse ways of life, sparking her creative plug. While finding many creative outlets with an elder sister who studied ballet, the two were criticized for not fitting the “black stereotype” by their peers and denied opportunities for being African-­‐American in predominantly white environments. This is something that stuck with Jade and influenced her rebellious spirit and feminist attitude

“We’re taught to relate, not to think for ourselves so that it’s easy to find comfort in boxes that fit a specific character. Once you step outside that character, you become human.”

Serving as the TV special’s Segment Editor/Producer, Chassidy shares her journey in television production within the entertainment industry, how she lands her jobs and what surprised her the most while working on The Mane Event.

Chassidy-Jade-The-Mane-Event-2

Chassidy-Jade-The-Mane-Event-2

Have you always wanted to work in TV production? Tell us about your journey and what led you to work on this special.

Well I've been working in production professionally (as in getting a real check from real companies lol) for about 7 years now but I started when I was 15. I've always been a creative and interested in entertainment, I was just never sure what role I would play. When fully indulge into production in high school, I was sold with living behind the scenes -- where the magic really happens.

I've worked on many productions so this job came like any other: a referral & a good demo reel. I've worked with BET for a few projects. I guess this project stood out because it's something my generation is genuinely interested in. Gucci Mane is one of the biggest soundtracks of our adolescence. It's not often I get projects that hit home.

What lessons did you learn - personally or professionally - from working on this project? Was there anything that surprised you?

I was surprised at how friendly the crew was. On Big productions like these egos & politics can turn these into a competition game but everyone was super supportive of one another and all about getting the job done. Definitely my top 3 crews to work with!

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Working in the entertainment industry, even with all of its highs, is a tough process. How have you learned to embrace the challenges?

This industry is very tough and behind the camera is even harder. The biggest challenges I face are respect and security. I'm always the youngest, the only female, and black who's actually in the field. They're not a lot diversity with editors, camera operators, lighting techs, etc. I always get this surprise look when I walk in the room. I constantly have to prove myself to Senior Editors who've been doing this for 20+ years but it's life. I've learned to not internalize that and just do great work so that nothing else about me matters.

As far as security, I'm a full-time freelancer so they are no guaranteed check every two weeks. I've been blessed to have consistent contracts but it gets tough. A lot people think "oh she's work on big shows so she's balling"....it's NOT that simple shawty lol. I do what I have to do to get by - even if that means taking work outside the industry.

For those who want to do similar work, what's one step they can take today to kick off their journey?

I've been hustling for a longgggg time, this did not happen overnight. My thing is this: if you don't do what you're striving for every single day, you don't want it. It's like if you want to lose weight you need to exercise & eat right everyday. I edit everyday, I write everyday, I watch lame tutorials and round tables everyday. You have to fully indulge yourself into your craft and do whatever it takes to get out there. Research local production companies and show up, LITERALLY, if that's what it takes! No excuses.

[Tweet ""You have to indulge yourself into your craft and do whatever it takes to get out there." - @CrownMeRoyalXO"]

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What's next for you? What can our community do to support you in your next big step or milestone?

While I'm working on building my own company Crown Me Royal Labs. I would love to start producing my own original content, branding visuals for creatives/small business, and live shows. Be sure to checkout my website at crownmeroyallabs.com to see a few things we've done so far and follow me at @crownmeroyalxo & @crownmeroyallabs!

Brandon Caldwell On The Value Of A Team During Tragedy + A Hurricane Harvey Relief Show To Support

One of the things that we love about the cult classic of Martin, is that underneath all of the comedy, Martin was about the community. Throughout the show's run, Martin always found a way to give back and whether it was with Outkast to save a local theater or participating in career day, he always enlisted the help of his friends. Here at #blkcreatives, that spirit is something we strive to embody on a daily basis - serving our communities.

A few weeks ago, a few of our friends in Houston launched #HoustonCreativesCare in response to the tragedy and have put together the 'We Are Houston Harvey' a relief show brought to you by music and culture site, Day & A Dream. Ahead of the show this Saturday, we spoke with Brandon Caldwell, the Founder & Editor-In-Chief of Day & A Dream about working under pressure and in the wake of tragedy, empathy, and why working as a team isn't just necessary, it's vital to our existence.

Interview by Melissa Kimble

 

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"We had to watch the national media try to portray this storm as something that it wasn’t. People asked 'Well, why didn’t they evacuate?' and it made my blood boil because I don’t think people understand the logicistal layout of Houston and I don’t think they truly get that you can’t ask 6 1/2 million people to hop on three freeways to get away from a massive storm. Secondly, this wasn’t your normal wind driven storm. This was a storm that pulled up - I’m gonna use a lot of Houston vernacular here - on 4s, on candy paint and decided to swang, left and right at two miles per hour until everybody felt it. This is a storm that caused once-in-800-years type flooding. It’s one of those things you can’t necessarily prepare yourself for even if you say you’re prepared for everything. With that tragedy, you want to deny that it happened but you also want to pull yourself up to that point where you’re like you know what ‘I gotta do something'. Tragedy galvanizes us in a way that  I wish we felt on a daily basis. But I feel like we only do that work when it affects us directly. The strangest part is that people get so wired to what they feel, to the point where their empathy levels are low, like they can’t see the pain and suffering in another man because they can’t walk in their shoes. But a storm like this, you understand everybody."

MK: In a matter of days, you and your team put together a relief show with over twenty plus artists. How did you do it?

BC: During the midst of the storm, I was in contact with one of the fine people over at Warehouse Live, one of the preeminent venues in the city in regards to concerts and events. We were both displaced due to the storm - she was in Los Angeles, I was in Atlanta. I always had the idea that if I were to ever put on a concert or a do a show with Day & A Dream, that it would be for charity, it would be giving back. Everybody puts on shows but to be honest, Day & A Dream has always been a brand of service. Because our tagline is 'music, reviews, and culture'. The culture aspect has been so big for us in these last eight years of operation that even as the idea of a blog goes by the wayside, there are still people who faithfully read, share and believe.

The woman that works for Warehouse is one of those people who faithfully believes and that’s how the ball got rolling. I pitched the idea that had been in our group chat that we established #HoustonCreativesCares, to start picking out donation locations for families and helpout. Once that idea kicked off, we started asking musicians we knew in the city. Doing this for so long, you build up those relationships. We’ve built up these relationships to where people immediately responded back. Once it was all said and done, we had about 20-22 names. It then became [working on] the logistical part of talking to Warehouse, and the general manager and making sure everyone was okay with the venue space. Due to the storms and relief efforts led by the Hive Society, one of the best nonprofits we have in the city, it turned into a staging center for relief efforts. Warehouse Live has helped so many people in this city and in this way, due to the charity efforts, they’ve helped these charities affected by this storm - it’s a beautiful thing to take in.

It feels like something that’s been siting there for a minute but the seeds have always been there. I’d be remised if I didn’t thank these people. I’ve been friends with a lot of these people from #HoustinCreativesCares. I couldn’t have done anything without them. I’m quite thankful for them.

MK: Why do you think it was important for you all to do this as a team? Everyone involved has their own thing, it cold have been easy for one person to takeover. 

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BC: We were all affected by this storm. I had a friend of mine, Cecilia who’s set to get married next month and there were fears that her wedding would be impacted by storm. I have a friend, Monica Jones, who’s a bonafide superwoman in the flesh, and she’s done so much and her Born Identity Project has helped foster so much growth. And Kelsey McDaniel, I’ve watched her just grow into this very opinionated, very sharp and talented being and she branched out earlier this year. The fact that I’ve had a strong relationship with these women and their entities, it’s basically like family. If you’re not gonna work well with family, you’re not gonna work well with anyone. That’s why I think it was important to keep this all in the family and we used the resources we had and developed to put this together.

[Tweet "If you’re not gonna work well w/ family, you’re not gonna work well w/ anyone. - @_brandoc #blkcreatives"]

MK: You mentioned that this is something that you’ve been wanting to do for a minute. It made me think about how tragedy pushes us into taking action. Why do you think that is?

BC: Tragedy pushes us in ways that we don’t know. Tragedy is the bottom. You’re allowed to wallow in your sadness, wallow in your pain but no one is going to let you sit there. And the thing about this tragedy, it’s a color-less tragedy. There’s a phrase being tossed around in sports media in regards to athletes using their voice for social issues. But when you have a natural disaster a moment where everyone perspective is staying, there’s no longer they endured that, You’re affected by it in some way. You may not feel it immediately, but you feel it.

MK: For those who want to help Houston in the coming months, what’s the best way to offer the city constant support?

BC: The best way to do that is monetary. Not to the Red Cross, you don’t know where your money is going with the Red Cross. To be honest, the Red Cross is like giving to a bill collector. Over time, people are going to have the little things that they need in terms of clothes and toiletries and things like that but it’s not gonna keep people’s lights on. We’re gonna have to put these people back to work. We’re gonna have to show out to on all angles. I know there are a lot of people on the ground here are making their donations loud and clear, they’re making donations to help people get back on their feet. They’re making sure that for the people who’ve lost everything. If you give people the means and resources to build their lives back up, they’ll do it. In terms of awareness, you just need to realize that these storms happen. Hurricane season is hurricane season. You can’t lose sight of the fact that What happened in Houston can’t happen here - no, Miami could also endure a massive hurricane with Irma. There’s a storm right now ravaging the Caribbean.

I want people to be empathic towards the common man. Imagine being in a city where you’re homeless and you have to deal with this storm. Where do you go? You can’t run to a house or a shelter - there’s privilege even there. I just want people to be open about what they’re going through because being closed during a time like this, is not gonna help anybody.

Get your tickets to the We Are Houston Relief Show HERE and if you can't attend, show your support by sharing the tweet below!

[Tweet "#WeAreHouston, powered by #HoustonCreativesCare. All $$ will be donated to those affected by Harvey."]

 

Up Close & Personal with Tank and the Bangas

Their magic illuminates on stage.

Explosively alluring with seemingly off-the-cuff riffs and impromptu interactions, Tank and the Bangas exude a kinetic energy that is big, vibrant and full of story.

It's eclectic and soulful.  Funky and jazzy. R&B influenced by a flirtatious rendezvous with Hip-hop. It's the essence of #Bangaville and leaves you with no choice but to free yourself and vibe out.

Tarriona "Tank"  Ball delivers poetry over experiential instrumentation that explores human excursions of self-love, adventure, acceptance and roller coaster relationships. The second line big band nature of their performance invites you to get comfortable in their NOLA stomping grounds through sound. Their bodies feel the rhythm and react accordingly. It’s in the way Tank and Angelika “Jelly” Joseph  steal quick glances at one another to make a deeper connection while boasting their vocal talents and dance grooves. It’s those rock-n-roll moments sparked by Albert, who struts expertise on the flute and saxophone,  that bring the crew together in the middle of the stage and further shows the authenticity in their gifts.

They are family. Vulnerability allowed. Spontaneity is a treasured treat.

Behind the music lies the journey. Since their NPR Tiny Desk Concert appearance, life has been a whirlwind of back-to-back tour dates and mounds of love all over the world. Now, we invite you into SPACE, where the band hit the stage in front of a sold out crowd and welcomed us to capture “the light between their wings”  for a day.

In this mini-doc created exclusively by Two Dope Productions for #blkcreatives, watch Tank and the Bangas float to the rhythm of life.  - LaToya Cross

Production Notes:

Shot by:  Chan C. Smith (@blkfilmsmith), Jovan Landry (@jlesliemonique)

Edited by: Chan C. Smith

Produced + Interviewed by: LaToya Cross (@ToizStory)

Follow Tank and the Bangas - IG: @tankandthebangas | Twitter: @TankandDaBangas

Joi-Marie Mckenzie On Fortitude, Expectations, and Keeping Priorities In Check

Unfortunately there's no one size fits all answer. Still, the relationships, romantic or otherwise, that give you peace and not chaos; that fill you up and not drain you;  that fortify and don't undermine -- those are the relationships that we should pursue.

As the author of The Engagement Game, we believe that the accomplished media maven Joi-Marie McKenzie is just getting started. She was a guest for our June #blkcreatives Twitter chat on ‘Love, Lust & Creativity’, read on to find out why.

For many Creatives, it’s a struggle to balance their love life with work. What are some key things we should keep in mind when allocating our time?


If you want a fulfilling love life, you have to pursue it with the same optimism, passion and vigor as you do with your creative work in order for them to succeed. A lot of people get frustrated with their dating life but they're the same ones complaining they're no good men or women out there. Change your expectations, and it'll change your return.

Summertime is prime time for distractions in love. Is it possible to stay focused? If so, how?


Summer can be a prime time for distractions, or it can be a prime time for opportunities! Allow yourself the time to explore those so-called "distractions."
There's tons of strategies to prioritize your social life and your work life. I use my calendar -- synced to every device -- religiously. Not only blocking off times to write since I'm an author, but also blocking out times for dates along with activities with friends and family.
And the most important thing is that I treat both -- work and play -- as sacred. Neither is more special than the other; they're both priorities.


Let me give you an example: I had just finished interviewing Ava Duvernay about the latest season of "Queen Sugar." As I'm walking out, she invites me to this private dinner being held afterward for select press.
With a tilt of her head and slight disappointment in her voice she asked, "So you're not coming to the dinner?"


Seriously, who would say no to that?!?! It's Ava Duvernay!!!!


But I knew I had a date with my boyfriend. And although he wouldn't care if I bailed -- because hello! It's Ava Duvernay -- I treated our time together as important.
So I told Ava, "I'm sorry but I have a dinner with my boyfriend planned."
She looked at me and said, "Oh yeah, girl. You have to go to that."
Because as creatives we all understand the importance of working hard, but playing just as hard.

Top Tweets Of The Night

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Bonus Reads + Listens (Keep The Conversation Using the hashtag #blkcreatives)

[Guest Post] The Untapped Potential of Marlon Wayans

It doesn't matter how long you've been in your respective industry, there's always room to evolve. OPUS Mag writer Myke Davis takes a look at what's in store for one of the Wayans' brightest stars.

As we all know, the Wayans took spoof movies to another level at one point, from I'm Gonna Get You Sucka, Don't Be a Menace to Scary Movie 1 & 2, and Keenan Ivory Wayans was the mastermind of it all and he's a certified legend for that. However, let's talk about one in particular by the name of Marlon.

We first saw Marlon introduced to us in Mo Money alongside his brother Damon Wayans, and the more I go back and watch Mo Money, for his first starring role Marlon held his own, he was funny and serious. After appearing on various episodes of the classic variety/sketch comedy TV series In Living Color, Marlon was a co-star in Above The Rim, he was running with a basketball street crew with legends like 2pac and Wood Harris while being friends with Duane Martin. Above The Rim is classic and one of the best sports movies ever made, I would put it in the top 5 basketball films, Marlon's role was just about the same as it was in Mo Money except he was a little bit more on the comedic side til shit got serious and he got fed up with 2pac's shit at the end then shot and killed him in his own club.

After Above The Rim, Marlon and his brother Shawn created and starred in The Wayans Bros tv show, I dont care man, I liked the Wayans Bros, they had some funny episodes and for them to stay on with 5 seasons for 4 years was good for them but season 5 needed a better finale episode; it just ended with a episode with Roy Jones Jr in it. When the tv show ends, another classic by the name of Don't Be A Menace happens, that movie is still wild soon as you turn it on, The 6th Man and Senseless also adds to Marlon's filmography, The 6th Man was underrated to me, this showed Marlon at a series tone when his brother (played by Kadeem Hardison) dies on the basketball court of a heart attack. 6th Man rarely comes on tv anymore and if it does it'll be airing on Showtime. Requiem For a Dream was Marlon's most darkest role to date, the films depicts on 4 different type of drug addictions from the characters, if you haven't seen this movie, please do watch it, it's unreal.

This is what makes Marlon have some sort of range in Hollywood and the potential he could live up to, we know about the classics Scary Movie 1 & 2, Dungeons and Dragons, and the Ladykillers which was a different role and I kind of liked the movie, we know about the rest of the spoof films Marlon has did throughout the years like A Haunted House and 50 Shades Of Black. As the 2nd most talented in the Wayans he should definitely take on some serious roles in the future, for example, picture Marlon in an Quentin Tarantino film, Tarantino sometimes goes "outside the box" with his casting, remember Chris Tucker in Jackie Brown? He was only in the film for 5 minutes but he was one of the highlights, and that was Tucker in serious mode other than what we seen from him in Friday and Money Talks at that time. There's no question Marlon can pull something like that off. There's video footage on YouTube of him auditioning for the Richard Pryor biopic, he can do action as we seen him in G.I. Joe and drama like The 6th Man, his tv show titled Marlon airing real soon on NBC is going to be interesting to watch. It looks like My Wife and Kids but I'm going to check it out.

Marlon has plenty of time left to expand his range in Hollywood, why not? He clearly has the talent to write, produce and direct any film he gets the chance to. Also, there's nothing wrong with the comedic route; you see Damon Wayans is progressing very well with the Lethal Weapon show, but it's time for Marlon to get more exposure and creative on the big screen. Marlon knows it and us film fans know it too, we'll see what he has in store next.


Hennypalooza Founders On Breaking Stereotypes, Bread (With Friends) And Creating Outside Of The System

NOTE: This Saturday, October 7th Hennypalooza is headed back to Chicago at Portage Theater! Click here to buy your tickets or visit: http://www.hennypalooza.com/tickets

As a culture, the idea of throwing parties together, is nothing new. Getting together, having fun, dancing, and playing the perfect combination of songs is in our DNA. What has evolved however, is the ability to turn that skill into a strategic force - simultaneously having fun while cultivating a sustainable business. We've met with the founders of Trap Karaoke and Chicago's Party Noire, now we had the opportunity to meet with the creators of the insanely popular Hennypalooza.

During their Chicago stop, Kameron McCullough, Nile "Lowkey" Ivey and Kazeem Famuyide, chopped it up with us backstage, to talk turning friendship into funds, playing the endgame and why their party is bigger than just Hennessy.

Intro + Interview by Melissa Kimble

Edited by Toya Cross

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"We pride ourselves on friendships, we pride ourselves on relationships between everybody. And everybody has a different relationship within the group to where it's solid across the board. Even if it's not Hennypalooza Day, or week or whatever, we're still talking, we're still building, we're still figuring out life as it happens and we have our group chats, we have our group texts in the morning. It's just a natural friendship." - Lowkey

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MK: There's a lot of different traveling parties. What do you feel  makes Hennypalooza stand out and how do you ensure that level of quality as you travel from city to city?

Kam: I think what separates Hennypalooza from most events is the team of people. I feel like - I'm bias because they're my friends - but we have the cream of the crop [when it comes to]talent from Lowkey as a host to Christylezz, another host; Austin Millz and Meka as DJs;  Ravie B as our photographer; Peeje on our visuals; we have Karl who does our video, and these people are all just really good at what they do. And I think the camaraderie of the Hennypalooza team is what makes this thing so special and allows us to go to 20 different places in a year and not kill each other.

Kaz: "Sometimes..."

Kam: There has been times lol but honestly it's the team, it's been built so organically. There are a lot of other touring events which are brand sponsored and things of that nature which, no knock to them, but I think as a consumer, and as creatives, people can see the authenticity of what Hennypalooza is, it's really no frills.

I think that's what really separates us.

Kaz: My guy Rory, who's here, says all the time, that if Hennypalooza were to end tomorrow we'd still all be best friends, we'll all be homies and shit. And I think that people see that. That's why we can go to a Chicago - a city we've never done before - and sell it out before we even get here because they see the videos, they see the recaps, they click on the hashtag and see how people feel about the event and see that it's just good vibes all the time. It's never any negative things that's happened there. There's never been any fights. From Joe Schmoe to the biggest celebrities have come to this party and have had a good time, have had great things to say about it. I think that all of this stems from us as  a crew, it really exudes friendship and that good energy and that positive energy every time we come out to another city.

Low: Because we're such a tight knit group, any bad things that may have happened or if we're off our game in one city or if we're not in communication, it comes from us. We'll say it to each other before outsiders can say it to us and I think because of that our game is sharpened. We've learned a lot from each other and being on the road. We've learned a lot from different cities. We're just constantly learning and evolving.

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MK: I think it's interesting, that there's so many people out there now e trying to make parties or situations happen and it just doesn't work. You would definitely say that the energy that you all have internally reflects and it attracts more of that energy.

Low: We're just adding a spoke to the wheel. We're not re-inventing anything. We're not trying to kill anybody's spirit. This is fun and we love doing it. We learn as we grow.

MK: At what  point did you decide to turn this into a business?

Kam: The light kinda went off for me in 2013. Two years in, but we're still doing it, making a little bit of change. That's when I started to realized the force that this thing was and  I always say, "Who better to do business with than the people you break bread with regularly." Which has made it easier, especially for the tough times, it makes it a lot easier to get through, for me, just kind of seeing what we were doing at that scale in New York City. And it's like, if we can really hone in on this in New York and make it this big thing, we can do it anywhere. Why not build out this structure?

And now people have jobs and roles and things they can own - which again, I feel like it happened organically as well, so when business started flowing into 2014- 2016 and into now, I think that it's proof that you can not only do business with your friends but [you can do]  incredible business with your friends. You can make a shit ton of money together.  It also spun us off into different opportunities. So for me, the light went off when we were doing Tammany Hall, and from there we did the Wick N Well in Brooklyn and we brought in like 1800 kids. We jumped from 600 (in attendance) to 1800 and I was like, "okay we got something." I think that's always been the story of Hennypalooza - we kind of look at each other in these moments and go "Did this really happen? Did we really do this?" And that feeling never gets old.

Kaz: We definitely have one of those moments every show, where we just look at each other and we're like "How long are we gonna keep doing this shit?" My own pessimistic nature, I'm always like "We're gonna plateau at some point" and then something always happens that takes it to another level. I just think, to speak on your point about people who've tried to, for a lack of better term, "copy" what we do, the reason why they're probably not as successful as we are, is because it started organically. A lot of people don't like doing the groundwork. A lot of people want to get to the NBA without playing high school or college hoop first. We took the small steps to get where we are - this didn't happen overnight. On top of that, we didn't just meet each other overnight. Between all of us, there's probably a combined, 10 to 15 years worth of friendship here. There's a lot of things that probably wouldn't fly if you were just doing business with somebody instead of that's your friend.  There's a different level of care that you take when you're not just doing business, these are your homies, this is family. It's cool to see that you've influenced a lot of what people do, in terms of business and the way people party or whatever, but at the same time, there's only one Hennypalooza.

[Tweet "People want to get to the NBA w/o playing high school or college hoop first." - @RealLifeKaz"]

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MK: I keep going back to this concept of you all being friends first and then it morphing into more, especially with Black people -- a lot of us come from backgrounds or environments where it's like 'crabs in a barrel'. You're definitely dispelling a lot of myths in terms of Black people, Black men, Black Creatives (#blkcreatives) working together.

Kam: I think to your point, to dispelling the myth, I've always been a believer in team. I always feel like we can do more together than we can a part. As Black people, we're conditioned to believe the opposite, that we have to compete - that if you're doing something eerily similar to what I'm doing, than I gotta get you out the way. But it's like no, maybe you're doing something eerily similar but maybe you're doing it better or maybe there's something I can add to it and we can go get more and I feel like this has proven that theory to me over and over.

[Tweet "I always feel like we can do more together than we can a part. - @KoolestKidOut for #blkcreatives"]

As we continue to grow, you'll continue to see more of that because as a community, we need more of that. We need more collaboration, we need partnership, we need mentors. We need all of that stuff because we don't have it. I always say, Black people are the strongest people but we have the weakest community. I think with us, being friends, it just makes it so much better.

MK: Do you think you're building a community with Hennypalooza?

Kam: Absolutely 100%. Obviously it's more than a party at this point, if it was just a party we would have fizzled out years ago. I feel like it's this community of folks who are about something, we're not all in publishing, we're not all into sports or entertainment but we are about something - and that's progression. So you create a community in the sense of' ‘I'm not jealous of your success - your success inspires me to do more' and that's like healthy competition. That's the community that we have and it's spreading - not just with Blacks, but Latinos, Whites as well, because for a Hennessy Driven party, we have a pretty diverse crowd. (Editor's Note: We all agreed that Hennessy brings people together, click to tweet the quote below if you agree.)

We do have a community of folks because it's the new generation of, you can be your your own boss within another structure - you can create your life, basically and you can create your own story. And that's what I feel like the Hennypalooza community is about.

MK: What do you all hope that people take away from Hennypalooza, outside of the Hennessy?

Kaz: It's weird, earlier this year, I remember when we went to Miami, [we realized] this is the first Hennypalooza that we would have without a Black president. And, it was weird, because when we started it, it was like, we didn't think anything of it. But once we went to Miami, you could feel like, it's really weird out here right now and we still have to be an outlet for people to come and have positive times especially when it's like a Black owned business with the exception of Ben and Rory. When people are on the outside looking in at Hennypalooza, they see a group of positive, young Black faces. I think it's super important for us to continue that. We know that you're gonna come have a good time, we know that you're gonna get drunk, you're gonna party but on top of that what I want people to take out of Hennypalooza personally, is that, you can still see positive Black influencers that can create something enjoyable for people that's not negative. There's so many stereotypes with Black men doing business, we've been breaking that a lot. We want to continue that. That's at the top of our list. And you get your money's worth - we're doing good business with you.

Low: I want people to take away that you can create with your peers and not always be in competition with your peers. We work in a very competitive industry, all of us, and it's built off of competition, it's built off of numbers and stats and I don’t want people to come to this party and look at their peer and feel like "I gotta do better than them", no you can do better with them. It's just that much of a good time. And you can create on your own, you don't have to go into the system and follow the system - you can break the mold. He quit his job (points to Kam), I quit my job, he has his job (points to Kaz) but we still do this because not only is it a lot of fun, it also makes us a shit ton of money. So one day, hopefully, we can pass it along to our peers or to our children, or whatever the case may be. We're just looking for legacy.

[Tweet "You can create w/ your peers + not always be in competition w/ your peers. - @LowKeyUHTN"]

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Kam: I think that it just shows what's possible and how powerful Black people really are. Too often, we try to truncate and not really use our power and I feel like in this case, we're using it for good. Back to the community point, it's showing people that it's possible and it's tangible for us - you can see that. We need to see that. It's not on the level on seeing a Barack in office but it's like, yo, if I put my mind to it, I can do it. We need that constantly in our communities. And I feel like we've been fortunate enough to do it together - this is a longevity game. This is a business that we want to pass to our children. It's humbling to me to get here and sit with my two friends, who are also my business partners - that's powerful. With us, we're just constantly aspiring to be that next generation of people who change culture - the next Steve Stoute, the next Puffy, the next Jay times 10 - that's what we're in it for. Legacy. History. That's the thing we want to do and if we keep doing it this way, the level is only going to increase.

Follow Hennypalooza to find out when the squad is coming to YOUR City: Website - Twitter - Instagram

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Drew On Drawing Inspiration From History, Going Beyond The Hype and Honoring The Truth In Ourselves

In 1955, when the death of Emmett Till occurred, it was the Black owned publication created by the late great John H. Johnson, JET Magazine, that shared the open casket pictures of his funeral. An incredibly bold statement for that time period, JET fulfilled the responsibility that all of Creatives have: to share our stories and ultimately, our truths, no matter how ugly it is. Drew of Enstrumental is on a similar mission to carry the torch, making sure we never forget those that have come before us.

The Founder and Creative Engineer reveals the story behind his film project ‘The Revenge of Emmett Till’, the power of timing and connection, and upholding a cause that's bigger than you.

Interview by Melissa Kimble

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I would see brands that were putting out Malcolm X tees, and I’m like come on, you don’t know anything about Malcolm X. I grew up on that. That was my hero,” Drew shares about the birth of his clothing company, Enstrumental.  “When Jay-Z started wearing the Che Guevara shirt I would ask people who is Che Guevara and they would be like ‘I don’t know’. So you’re doing it for the hype. I saw different brands doing that and I’m like no y’all perpetrating and fronting on the culture. That’s what made me put out the brand.”

It’s no secret that how we grow up, plays an intricate part in our development. not just as professionals but as Creatives. During a time where social media amplifies our distractions, it’s becoming harder to stay in your own lane while others are profiting off of gimmicks and get-rich quick schemes. For the Chicago native, his upbringing has been key to maintaining his authenticity and focus. Sustaining those key elements has allowed him to create a brand that speaks to our past, just as much as it does our present and our future.

When I put out the ‘Chicago Police killed Fred Hampton’ shirt, I wasn’t doing that to get some cool points. That’s coming from a family where my uncles were Panthers and growing up under that element. I came from that. So if I put Rosa Parks and Mayor Harold Washington on a shirt, I’m doing that to honor the ancestors. So that’s me and because it’s me it’s natural to put it on a tee.

And like many of us who create products and release it out to the world, Drew had to accept that everything we make is not for everybody.

I do that knowing that only a certain segment of the population is going to get it from a mental aspect and then that transfers to them saying, ok I’m going to consume this product. I know I have certain tees that only a certain customer is going to get. When I started the brand, one of the phraseologies that I learned is “For the rebels”. A rebel is not someone who just is rebellious all the time or rebellious against everything, just their nature is rebellious in a sense. I wanted to create tees for that. So if you felt-- you felt it. And that’s how I feel now. If you feel it, you feel it and if you don’t you don’t. I don’t try to do a tee for shock value.

Pulling from a different breed of influences, Enstrumental was born June 2006. Since then, Drew has created conversation starters that push our history to the forefront. From the minute you begin to have your own discussion with him, you begin to see just how his commitment to his mission forces you to come to terms with your truth. It’s that raw energy that captivates you and leads you to his film project “The Revenge Of Emmett Till”.

MK: Can you tell me how that project came about? As Creatives we often wrestle with is turning ideas into action. If you can think about the key things that you had to do to actually get it done --- what are they?

Drew: I was working on a series called “The Assassination of Assassination”. It was supposed to be four parts [MLK, JFK, Emmett Till, Malcolm X]. “The Assassination of Assassination” series was speaking to, from a revolutionary aspect, as it relates to the struggle for freedom and what not. Particularly as it relates to being a minority, you need to be more proactive as opposed to reactive because often times we’re too reactive. So injustice often times becomes the victor. When you look throughout the course of history you have injustice and the synonyms there of, a lot of times it takes that for certain triumphs or for individuals to overcome certain things. So it’s like ok, let’s be more proactive. Don’t wait until something kicks off, the proverbial S-H-I-T hits the roof to kick something off. You understand what I’m saying? And from a historical standpoint, that has happened far too many times. The series was called “The Assassination of Assassination” so it’s kind of like get them before they get you.

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With Emmett Till we wanted to switch it up and make the imagery similar to a blaxploitation film. At two in the morning, one night with Hebru Brently, we were coming up with the concept and he was like look “You remember JD’s Revenge? You remember Shaft and how the posters looked?” He pulled it up on his phone and he said ok this is how we are going to do it. We’re going to show him kind of getting some get back and revenge. The concept of revenge is just a metaphor for the visible and invisible fight for injustice. We did that in 2010. 2013, my sister works at a library in Summit, IL (Emmett’s people were from Chicago but moved to Summit and Hargrove,IL). Emmett’s two cousins walk in - Wheeler Parker, who is a pastor at a church out there, and Simeon Wright a second cousin of Emmett Till. She said you’ll never guess who walked into the library--Emmett Till’s cousin. 2013, I go to the church to interview them. I found out he was the cousin that was laying in the bed with Emmett when he got snatched up. He gave us the entire story. We had that and I told Hebru, I want a larger painting of “The Revenge of Emmett Till”. I had the original 8 ½ x 11 sketch that he did. We said you know, what we can work out a little 8 minute video story to mix in the time lapse as the cousin is talking about the story. I thought, let me put my spin on it--so the Hebru painting time lapse, with the interview, with my own story - my people having a similar migration story as Emmett Till and his people. My grandparents being the first blacks on the block in Englewood (in Chicago) and they ended up having to move- they moved the year after Emmett Till left. They had the same migration story from Mississippi to the north that a lot of Blacks can tell you. So that’s kind of the concept on how the film came about. It was a shirt, then once I met the cousin it turned into the painting, then towards the final product.

MK: It kind of just took a life of its own after awhile.

Drew: Yeah, so remember 2013, we did the painting. It costs money to do films and I didn’t have the money and at the time to do a film. So June of 2015, somebody hit me and said you know the 60th anniversary of Emmett Till is coming up--because he was killed August 28,1955 in Money, MS. I was like, oh no we got  to finish it. I called Hebru, I called Lupe, called the directors who filmed in 2013 and said we got to finish this. We did a trailer back in 2013 but I just didn’t have funds at the time to funnel to the movie. I decided that I was just going to use my own money to pay for this, to get it done. A lot of film is editing, we had a lot of footage we had brought and I gained a whole lot of respect for the editing process.

MK: In between these different moments over time, how did you continue the momentum to carry out your project?

It’s one thing to have ideas, it’s another thing to have the means. What’s more crucial than both of those elements: how then do I execute this? A lot of people have the money or the idea but don’t know how to execute it. Do you have the will? Do you have the level of enthusiasm and diligence that it takes to actually bring the project to fruition?

I just saw it as - from a legacy standpoint, I need to do this project. I did it as a task to myself and really just paying homage to the ancestors. A lot of people don’t know the story. I wanted to talk about the revenge concept but I break down the story of what actually happened. I wanted to get the story out there.

With Emmett Till, yeah he died, we know that, we saw it in Jet Magazine, we saw his picture. But who was Emmett though? He was a boy that like to joke, liked to play, stuttered, whistled at a white woman, died--but who was he? What came as a result of the killing of Emmett Till - the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act. December 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott which King and the individuals who are essential or crucial to that development and action - which we could never recreate today because Negroes ain't that unified-- but all that was sparked by the outrage from Emmett Till. This is how a tragedy became triumph and that’s why it’s called “The Revenge of Emmett Till”.

MK: How do you stay content and patient during that process?

Drew: I’ll be honest, it’s been a few times I wanted to shut the brand down because you do want to make money at the end of the day. Money shouldn’t be the goal if you will --- but in order to stay afloat and continue to produce. You want to continue to put out a dope product which sells and you want to make a profit-- so you can go from month-to-month to year-to-year. Me, you know I’m content in knowing that one I’ve been able to develop mainly through some good products. I’ve had some good collaborations (Little Brother, Lupe). and the celebrity attachments the- Robert Glaspers and DJ Premieres and things of that nature-- so through that and relationships with stores -- I’ve been able to develop a nice database of customers.

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Now when I do put out a product and I disseminate that via email that will lead to certain sales. And because I have a lot of  customers that really like what I do, that really is the driving force behind keeping me going. Because a couple times, I’m like you know what, people just don't get it. And I’m not sitting on my high horse saying people should get it. As far as my mindset and what I like I know a lot of people are not really into that. It’s just too much frontin going on. What keeps me going is just being myself and having that nice core of customer support, where I know once I put out something they will really feel it.

MK: One thing that I really appreciate about your work, is that constant integration of culture and history, but then also community. How do you build those relationships and partnerships while maintaining them?

Drew: Well a lot of people who I’ve collaborated with I knew before, some of these relationships I already had, so coming into the t-shirt game I liked the art of collaboration. I just think in life you need good friends that can spread your message, share your work. and vice versa. And I think that will help to elevate everyone’s mission and sales.

To follow Drew + the movement, follow Enstrumental on Instagram.

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Anthony Frasier on The Best Investment You'll Ever Make

Out of all the DIY, build your dream resources available, very few people give it to you straight. Anthony Frasier is one of those people. His clear, simple approach to tackling success makes you feel like you're getting insight from one of your closest friends. As one of the founders of  wildly popular resource for entrepreneurs The Phat Startup, Anthony is on a mission to give you the tools you need to execute, build tech startups, and online businesses. Here's part 1 of our amazing conversation from last year. (Interview and Introduction by Melissa Kimble)

I just love creating. I like the idea of somebody enjoying something I made. It’s something about that, that’s always excited me. At the end of the day, that’s what drove my entrepreneur spirit really is creativity. I am a creative person. I think that some people are driven by a lot of other things, which is cool like most people are driven by money, which is cool. But to me I just like to create and when you have that passion to create, you always put out a product that people can appreciate. 

Melissa Kimble: Why do you think it’s important to go after the opportunities that scare you? Because nobody likes to confront their fears head on. 

Anthony Frazier:Those are usually the ones that are worth it. It’s the moments where your life changes. I can’t think of a moment in my life that scared me, and it didn’t change my life. This TED talk that I did completely changed my life. When I first flew out to Silicon Valley, I was by myself, I had never been that far away from home. Just far away from Jersey in general, for a long period of time. So I was scared but it changed my life. You know, any time that I’ve done something I was frightened by, it changed my life. We have to embrace it and change the narrative because sometimes fear can cause a person to turn around. When I get scared, I just push down on the gas even further. It should be that way. Change the narrative. If you want to change your life, you have to confront your fears.

Click To Tweet "If you want to change your life, you have to confront your fears." - @AnthonyFrasier #blkcreatives"

MK:So you're a big believer in investing in yourself. Have you always followed that piece of advice or did it take you time to work up to it?

AF:It took me time. Holy shit, it took way too much time. But, everything happens for a reason. Personal development, the concept of personal development hasn’t ringed true with me until maybe the last two years of my life. That’s when I started to realize that what you put into yourself, you actually put back into everything else. So if you’re not taking care of you then you’re not taking care of business, you’re not taking care of family, you’re not taking care of money, you’re not taking care of nothing else. You come first – taking care of yourself and making sure that you’re knowledgeable and making sure that you’re healthy and making sure that you’re spiritual and making sure that you’re emotionally intact.

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All of those things are very important and if you don’t handle that you’re going to suck at business, you’re going to suck at making money, you’re going to suck at raising your kids and taking care of family and being a good daughter, brother, husband, wife, etc. Your attitude is going to stink all the time. You’re not going to be happy. You’re not going to handle failure well. You’re not going to know how to react in certain situations. People won't want to be around you because your energy is messed up. All of these things happen when you don’t take care of you. When you take care of yourself, the world opens up to you. You start having more ideas. You start being more creative. You start to attract more opportunities. People want to be around you. Things just start to happen.

Click To Tweet "When you take care of you, the world opens up." - @AnthonyFrasier #blkcreatives

MK:You've also had ventures before The Phat Startup, so as you transitioned from venture to venture and collaboration what are some key things that you kept with you as you've grown as a creative, as a professional creative?

AF: One of the biggest lessons to me – which has been more of a business lesson – is ‘don’t reinvent the wheel, put rims on it’. That’s my favorite quote. I created that quote. I was sitting on my grandmother’s porch one day, and I just seen this car go by and I started thinking about ideas. Ideas are like wheels, and wheels have been around forever. You don’t have to reinvent it – you just have to make it work better and make more people attracted to it.

Amazon is the rims to bookstores. I take that approach in business all the time, it's the greatest thought process that I’ve ever kept. Another one is to think A to B and not A to Z. When people think about issues and problems, they lose their cool and start thinking about the end goal all the time. Of course, I keep Z on my mind, but I gotta think about C and D. There are steps to getting where you want to go in life, and while I do believe in luck and miracles happening, it's not promised. You’re more likely to get lucky when you’re grinding so you might as well go A, B, C, D, etc.

Go through the steps that are necessary to get there and have patience. And the third one I would say, and it’s so hard because there’s so many lessons, but if I had to pick the third one – there’s a quote…from Jim Rohn and it says ‘work harder on yourself, than you do on your job’. That’s a lesson on personal development and investing in yourself.

MK:Now that's pretty powerful. I just want to go back to the second point that you made too about keeping an end goal in mind, but also working A to B and B to C because when you're a creative we tend to overthink and overanalyze things that cause us to completely like I do it all the time. 

AF:There’s another quote that I came up with too. I think I tweeted this one time, but I said ‘a creative person’s mind is a gift and a curse’. It’s a curse because there are times you think too much. You got plenty of ideas. You got too many things to do. Too many ways to go about doing it. And so much you want to do. But it’s a gift when it works for you, it’s the dopest thing ever.

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MK:Yeah, definitely and so Julian Mitchell, said a quote one time via The Bizz Plan that stuck out to me: If you're on mission than you should expect cool things to happen and you should expect great things to happen. What are some great things that have happened to you on your journey that you did not expect?

AF: Everything. A friend of mine asked, how does The Phat Startup get press? We had just gotten profiled by the USA Today and it was a really good look, right? So she was like how did you get press? Do you have somebody emailing the newspapers all the time, things like that? And I was like no, we just do us. But for some reason, that’s hard for people to fathom. Results are the best advertising. Throughout my life especially since I became an entrepreneur, I never had a greedy goal. I never had a self-centered mission. I always wanted to do this because I wanted to have fun, I wanted to create something that I think will change the world in some way. I read a quote one time that said ‘if you could make something that reaches a 100,000 people, you’ve changed the world’. When I heard that quote that energized me. It put a battery on my back. I was going to build something that reached 100,000 people. And I did.

I got a job at a startup and that surprised me because I didn’t have a college degree at the time. I was like look I’m going to send out my resume and do interviews until somebody hires me, and somebody did, and I was thoroughly surprised. When that company failed I pitched my idea about a Foursquare for video games to an investor, and he put money behind it. I was thoroughly surprised. I saw Wayne Sutton talking about “Hey we are doing a new accelerator, the first tech accelerator for people of color in Silicon Valley. It’s the last day to apply” I applied and two weeks later I get a call. I was thoroughly surprised. When they called me they’re like “Hey, in order to be in this program, you have to opt in to be filmed by CNN because they’re doing a documentary called, “Black in America” and I was thoroughly surprised. You get the pattern here. I never get into it because I want to get this thing that is so great. I get into it because I just didn’t want to sleep on my mom’s couch no more. So over time, I’ve learned not to be surprised. I’ve learned to just expect.

Connect with Anthony - Website - Twitter - Instagram -

Tracy G on the Anatomy of Inner Peace, Building Up your Arsenal, and Being A Student of Life

Even though technology is moving faster, digital is getting bigger, and social media is becoming life, Generation Y has the benefit of remembering the pre-Internet days well enough to know that there's still work to be done in real life. We also have the pleasure of finding that delicate balance between digital disruption and detachment. Luckily for us, we have highly intuitive, light seeking, dope vibe carrying leaders like Tracy G.

The on-air edutainer from Sway In The Morning breaks down her journey to radio, empowering women to be just as spiritual as they are sexual, and going beyond your comfort zone to really make an impact.

Interview by Melissa Kimble

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"So it's a very very zig zaggy tale - it's not linear at all," Tracy G shares about her journey to becoming part of the on-air team for the popular SiriusXM staple, Sway In The Morning. "People have this perception of success just from looking at Instagram or whatever form of social media and it just seems like you go from A to B but there are SO many different stops in between, you know what I mean? But people aren't just gonna Instagram all of the detours you have to take some times."

Even over the phone, her energy is massive and contagious in the most positive and exciting way possible. It commands attention and flourishes without boundaries.

Dedicated to journalism and with writing being her first love, Tracy started her career journey interning at VIBE and quickly moved up the ranks. Early on, she valued connecting energies, going beyond the persona of celebrities, and getting down to the nucleus of who they are and not who we think they are and she learned that her golden ticket laid in her interview skills. Once the journalism industry shifted to the digital forefront, the media maven had her eyes set on her next conquest and the idea of radio entered her mind.

It was strange that I thought radio, because there's something slightly narcisstic about that to me, she reveals. When you're a journalist, you are not in the story - you're writing the story. On radio you're very very much a part of the story, you are a factor, you are an element, and you can not be ignored. And I was like do my words hold enough value to be worthy of a microphone?

So like many of us who embark on new adventures, she sought out those who knew her best for more insight.

I literally sent a text message  to a bunch of friends. I did radio in college but I had a little too much fun to see it as a career. I asked them, if ya'll could pick my long road in the world of careers what would it be? Everyone said radio/television.

With people - when it comes to networking - they're always looking beyond their reach and then feel like they have so many miles ahead in front of them between their goal and where they are. But if you just look at the resources around you, you won't miss anything.

[Tweet "If you just look at the resources around you, you won't miss anything. - @itstracyg"]

Sometimes people are asking for a dollar and there are four quarters on the floor.  After a period of constantly checking in with her network, she was introduced to key players that put her in front of Music Industry Legend, Sway.

For radio, it's very much about chemistry so he was looking first for people he already knew. So I wasn't his number one option. But other people didn't work out so I guess he was like 'alright fuck it, let me see who this Tracy girl is.'  I auditioned. And I got it. A year and a half later, here we are.

MK:Since then I'm sure a lot has changed in that past year and half, even in growth, are there any key lessons you've learned in this time period while you've been at Sway In the morning?

TG: I've learned to be responsible for your own energy. Radio is a very different type of gig. If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, you could essentially get your entire day's work done with your headphones on. But [in radio] there is no spend the entire day with your headphones on. We're all in a small studio, so the energy is so palpable, if anyone is feeling off it's like a fucking virus that will spread. You will learn very very quickly that you have sole control over your freaking attitude, of your energy, of it all and if you really focus on that it will evaporate and you can flip the switch and move it into a different direction. It saves me a lot of bad days. But sometimes, I'm a Scorpio I'm a woman, sometimes I wake up and feel moody but I can't come in with that. There's no place for it. Plus how is that going to register on air? I'm the one that's supposed to break a part everyone else's moodiness. What the hell am I doing being a goddamn Grinch at 8am?

The other thing - it sounds cliche but it's true - you can't judge a book by its cover. The great thing about Sway's show is that he is very much about the soul, and not about exploiting anyone and really giving you the core of who a person is. So some folks you might think are one dimensional, but they're not. We really like to peel back the layers because everyone has layers. And even if you don't fuck with somebody, because that person has layers you can find a layer that you do like. There's always something that you can find that you like about that person and zero in on it and all of a sudden everything else will fade into the distance - once you're really REALLY in the present moment. Which means if you're in the present, you don't even know who this person is. At all. Versus if you've got one foot in the past, one foot in the present, and your past is all of these ideas you think this person is and you bring in all of these viruses in these interviews. I learned to take that artist, whoever is sitting in that chair and take them for what they are right in that moment.

I'm always trying to bring out the best side of someone.

MK:I've been playing She's Beauty and The Beast Nonstop. I know you have such a big passion for personal development, how was this movement born?

TG:Just like you said, I'm a humongous personal development junkie. That is really my shit. I have this insatiable curiosity as to what brings peace to others. I don't care what type of religion it is, what type of strange morning practice it is, something that you eat, what you don't eat, whatever it is I just want to figure out the anatomy of inner peace. I'm always wiling to try. As we continue with our lives, as long as your lungs are pumping in and pumping out air, we're gonna be experiencing things that we never saw coming and you might need another antidote for it because the ones you already got may not work for that particular situation. I'm just trying to make sure my arsenal is nice and full, so I can handle whatever.

I had already been listening to affirmations before that I found on YouTube. I love YouTube so much because that's how I would find life coaches. I used to have a lot of anxiety and sometimes you can't depend on humans to be there for you. Not because they don't want to be there for you, but because your friends have jobs, sometimes they're fucking their boyfriends, sometimes you're friends are napping, etc. People are doing things where they are not by their phones - contrary to popular belief - and they cannot be there to change your state of mind. So what are YOU gonna do?

I would just put how I was feeling or how I wanted to feel into YouTube and just find some things that I would rock out on that I could just replay as many times as I need to so I could penetrate my deepest self. The ones that I found, as much as I love them, they just sounded like this white woman wtih long silver hair, sitting indian style on a mountain top with incense floating in the wind. It's not really a main stream type of deal. It's not something that's easily digestible to millennials. One day I was listening to Joel Osteen and in the middle of his sermon he was like 'I want ya'll to write down your affirmations'. I said 'You know what? I'm gonna write down my affirmations, I'm gonna get very very freakin' specific'.

There was a point I listened to more audio books than albums - maybe now it's equal since I got both Kendrick and Cole - but I was like 'I listen to so many people, I wonder what would it be like if I listened to myself?' So with the Pursuit of Self-Love, a lot of those affirmations are ones that I wrote for me and I had some ones that were very specific to what I wanted to achieve and I recorded it and I started listening to them in the morning and I loved it. Whenever I was just feeling my spirit was being caged, I would just reach for it. It was my little go-to pick me up.

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One day I was in the office in the hallway where they have all these public computers and I thought I was playing it from my headphones but it was really blasting from the speakers! I had no idea why all these people were looking at me - of course I don't find this out until it's done. I rarely feel embarrassed. I'm a really silly and transparent person so there's not a lot of gotcha moments that come my way but I felt embarrassed, I wanted to cry. And it was SO weird. And I was like I need to dissect this because that type of embarrassment, the specific level has some shame. I think it was because at that moment, I felt so different and so ostracized. And I was like, you know what? fuck that shit! The reason why people are looking at me like this is because they had never heard anything like that. Generally what people do with something that's new is that they set it to the side until they figure out how to categorize it. People aren't necessarily open to newness, they're more so closed off. And I was like alright, it's my job to make this mainstream.

This stigma behind affirmations or personal development - which I feel like we're at a high point of it in general - [I need] to make sure it's not there because our subconsciouses are SO fertile. And you don't have to be a depressed person but you have days where this random voice in your head is just telling you the worst things over and over again. Even if you say you're not someone who does affirmations - guess what buddy? Hell yeah, you are. We all say things to ourselves inside of our skulls whether it's a to-do list or you just caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. If you have the wrong things playing on repeat?! Repetition is the mother of learning.

[Tweet "Repetition is the mother of learning - @itstracyg"]

If you ain't got the right fuel in your car - you could have the illest freaking car in all the land - if you ain't got the right fuel, and your gas tank is on E, where are you really going? As you get older, people are just more unavailable because we have lives. So it's like, who do you go to? And that was that. Going back to us being multi-layered, just because you're spiritual doesn't mean you're granola. Just because you're sexual, doesn't mean you don't love Jesus Christ. We have layers! I got baptized in November, I still curse - not saying that's a good thing -  but my point is there's many branches to our trees. And I know that there's a woman that wants to quench her spiritual needs just as much as she wants to quench her sexual needs and I just wanted to find the middle ground. Use my voice for good.

It's crazy, when I was younger my favorite thing to do when I was a kid was to read out loud. I would be like in a classroom - you know how everyone gets a paragraph to read? I would pray 'please give me the biggest paragraph'. I was just into the theater of the mind, so it's interesting that I'm doing it now. I basically just wanted to be that voice for women whenever they need it to drown out the other voice that can be a little bitchy.

MK:Everybody that I share it (#shesbeautyandthebeast) with is like 'Where did you get this from? We need this!' We don't get to see people who look like us - who are talking about self awareness and development. For those who are not really in tune yet with who they are or what they want to become how do you think they can get started?

TG: You are the company you keep. They always say that you shouldn't be the smartest person in the room but sometimes we don't have access to that intelligent, exclusive room with all the great beings of the universe. But guess what? You can in a sense, mimic that environment by listening to the right podcasts. I love podcasts so much because I get to basically ease drop on the greatest conversations happening with people that are not on my speed dial right now and hear as many opinions as possible.

For women in particular I think Gabrielle Berstein is a great person to begin with. She's super awesome and cool, she's been on Oprah and she has a lot of really dope affirmations and guided meditations. Shameless Maya is another really dope chick, she's a YouTuber. Women Who Run With The Wolves (By Clarissa Pinkola) is like the lost scriptures to a chick's soul. That is SO deep and necessary and even if you are polished up real bright and you feel like you're a pristine example of what it is to be a woman, I'm telling you this will make you levitate. That's the next step. That is required reading if you have a freaking vagina. And I think also, Jocye Meyers. I love Joyce Myers is who really got me to get baptized - even though I'm a Christian, I feel like life was easier for me once I really gave myself to God and stopped acting like I could do everything my damn self.

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A lot of times when people think about spirituality or religion, they feel like it's just this one on one thing. But, there's a difference between talent and skill. Talent you are born with but a lot of people waste talent because they do not flip it into a skill. So my point is, you cannot be a scientist you may have this natural knack for science but you are not become a scientist without some teachers, without some schooling, without some aide, without some direction.

You don't have to mess with everyone in totality but if something is working for a lot of people you better go and explore and figure out why this is working. If you think Oprah is corny and you just don't wanna do it, well honey if you're life is crumbling what are you providing that could top Oprah's diff philosophies on life? Go check it out and explore. No one's making you sign a blood contract because you Google around or you pick up a book or you go to a service or you go to a guided meditation. be open minded. I think yoga is awesome as well. Tony Robbins is amazing, The Art of Charm is a great podcast. Really just going beyond. LifeHacker.com that's all about personal development. Get a notebook that's specifically for your studies. We have to learn to treat the rest of our lives like school. Because we stop.

[Tweet "We have to learn to treat the rest of our lives like school. - @itstracyg"]

We want to learn how to do something but then we just feel like  if it don't come to us then we're not going to learn it. Or if the right person just doesn't happen to mention it conversation then it's never gonna reach our ears. Be proactive, tell yourself you're gonna spend an hour a day researching what interests you and keep a notebook and write it out. There are studies that that say we are six times more likely to soak in information when we write it down and it also helps for re-referencing.

Also, just be careful, you can find time to listen to all these things by just being conscious of when you listen to music all the time. For instance, when you're on the train. Instead of spending an hour on the train listing to Rae Schemmard, maybe listen to them for fifteen minutes but then spend the rest of the 45 min listening to something that's gonna actually elevate you. That's bona contribute to your better self. while you're taking break, like when you're eating your lunch. I would never binge watch a show but for myself, I can't do it because it makes me feel way too guilty because when I watch a show it has my full attention and I can't get anything done. But with podcasts you can get so much done! You can do your laundry, you can go out and have all your errands x'ed off your to-do list while you're listening to this awesome information. Do it for yourself. The universe isn't just gonna perform magic tricks for us all day, you have to work in collaborating with the universe.

[Tweet "The universe isn't just gonna perform magic tricks for us all day, you have to work. - @itstracyg"]

Just like when you were in school and you did all the work and someone just tried to come and take the credit, you'd be like no! So it's like you have to get the fuel and then you have to put in the movement. I have videos that go along with the vision boards featuring my best friend Guerdley Cajus who's a phenomenal choreographer dancing in it because really subtly she symbolizes the movement we have to put behind these affirmations. Not just listening to them everyday but adding wheels to them or else, what's the point? When we listen to music, it makes us want to dance. When you had Beyonce's album, it made you want to go and get yourself a husband. You listen to Rihanna a lot of times, you might wanna have a one night stand. So if you're gonna listen to affirmations and not do anything it's like huh? I know you want to do something. That's the part. You have to have a hand or else you're just a robot. And you're the type of robot whose batteries don't work.

MK: What's something you want to learn in the very near future?

TG: I'd love to continue to learn from as many people as possible. I'm being very serious about that. I do have really intelligent people around me, especially women who are just fearless and autonomous and go-getters - which is a blessing. But we can always get caught in a comfort zone. And the pot of gold resides outside of your comfort zone. Above all I'd like to become skilled at the art of patience and disciplining myself better before bed and at sunrise so as to gain more balance in life.

Listen to Tracy's latest audio vision board, Compariholics Anonymous below!

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P.S. Looking for new podcasts to listen to? Here's six by #blkcreatives that are entertaining AND empowering! Also, you can watch the video for Tracy's first audio vision board HERE.

::CONNECT with Tracy G:: She's Beauty and The Beast Site – Twitter – Instagram –Facebook - SoundCloud

Janel Martinez On Trusting Your Gut

I believe in passion. I believe in commitment. I believe in highlighting those who are breaking down yesterday + today’s barriers in order to create a new future. I believe in innovation. I believe in creativity. I believe in you. This is your platform. Meet Janel Martinez, a NYC multimedia journalist which Cosmo for Latinas Named one of 11 Latinas to Follow on Twitter as the Founder of Ain’t I Latina?, an online destination created by an Afro-Latina for Afro-Latinas. In Part 2 of her MYCC interview (here's part one) Janel talks about building a community online, building mutually beneficial relationships, and trusting her gut (it's bigger than Olivia Pope). Introduction and Interview by Melissa Kimble.

MK: There's never not a need for these types of platforms (multicultural) to be created. Have you learned anything new about your niche or audience since starting the site?

Janel: I did research before I launched my site and I came up with one or two sites that were in the same lane. But I didn't realize there was such a community around being Afro Latino or Afro Latina online until I launched my site. I feel like that every site that was similar, or orgs with founders that were in this space came out after I launched the site. So for me, I think what was beautiful about it was that I created a community. Yes, it's a community that I think exists in real life but not a community that's portrayed in mainstream media. For me, I think the blogspere has a strong community as a whole, one where we learn from each other. For me I didn't realize how strong this niche of a niche was until I launched my site. It's been great for me in a sense that we share resources, we feature one another, we speak at each other's events etc.

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I learned that blogging is not as simple as one might think. As a "traditional journalist" I think often times blogging is seen as simple and easy, I think that's kind of the perception among traditional media. Of course there are bloggers that are doing it for whatever reason and then there are those bloggers that are really honing in on the craft, doing a damn good job at it. And of course, I was familiar with that to a certain degree but as someone that came from that [traditional media] background, for me blogging hasn't been the easiest. You have to be consistent -- that's something I'm still working on. You can't cut corners, it's a serious thing. And for me, it's something that I'm still trying to perfect as far as when I roll out pieces and how to make sure your content stands out among the thousands of pieces that are coming out. One thing that I will say that Ain't I Latina does that is consistent and speaks to our audience is that we highlight every day women. We really ask them about their careers, who they identify with, who they look up to and that's something I know I've always wanted to read about. So to bring well written pieces on other Afro Latinas has been what separates us from other sites out there.

MK: You've been fortunate enough serve in different capacities, whether it's with Black Enterprise, 2020Shift, freelance writer, or NewMe, what have been the key things that you've had to constantly remind yourself of as you make these different transitions?

Janel: One thing that I've really had to make sure of is to remain humble and remain hungry. I think sometimes with the day and age we live in, having so many opportunities, I think we can be portrayed as extremely into ourselves, not grateful, and extremely entitled. But one thing that I've noticed in each position that I've worked in, is that you can have a position and one day and be out of it the next day. And not to say that I've experienced losing a job but I've seen it first hand in each position I've been in. Remaining humble and hungry is something that's followed me throughout my career. Once you feel like 'You're good' that's a step towards losing it. That hunger to always want to learn, that hunger to always want to do your best, that hunger to just be the best, it really keeps people sharp and ready for the next professional or even personal growth that you're supposed to experience. You have to be humble at the end of the day. I've come across those who feel really entitled. You gotta work for yours. We would love to get paid every time, even in the early stages -- who wouldn't want to graduate and get paid well? I don't believe that hard work is never rewarded. I think we sometimes we want to have it instantly and that's not always feasible. Hard work always gets rewarded at the right time.

MK: That's important to remember. We're living in a time where instant gratification. It's so easy for us that we often forget that even with all of the technology, nothing still beats a really great attitude and a great work ethic. Because you've had so many different opportunities -- obviously relationships are key to your profession, our profession, and our industry. What are some of the key things creatives should keep in mind when building mutually beneficial relationships?

Janel: A lot of it is who you know vs what you know. I think of course you have to be on your stuff and perfecting your craft always but that's one thing I learned early on  - it's who you know. I don't like the term networking because it's a one way street. I'm all about relationship building. That's a term that I whole heatedly embrace and that I really feel like being who are creative should be invested in. It's about a relationship. We have to have levels of communication so it's not just a one off situation. Anytime I do something for someone, I never expect anything back in turn. It should never be expected that you're going to get something back. Relationship building, when you have a good relationship with somebody it transcends "I put you on to this opportunity" for me we can have a basic conversation and I learn something from you and that's that. It's just genuinely creating and building relationships. That's for anyone entering into any profession - it's about relationship building - it's not about what so and so can do for me. I'm seeing a lot of folks that hang out with certain people just because of the certain opps that could come along with it but they're not happy. That's fake. That's not authentic. I think with mutually beneficial relationships it has to be authentic, it can't be forced, it has to be real. And I think that's what's going to separate a lot of relationships from being acquaintances or less than that.

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MK: The site is doing really well. How do you determine what the next direction for you will be?

Janel: I've been thinking recently about what's next. I think I have patience but I can be a little impatient to a certain degree. Recently I've been hash tagging on Instagram a lot of stuff with #respectthejourney as really a reminder to myself. You are living in this moment at this time going through what you're going through for a reason. Dwelling too far in the past is wasted time and thinking too far in the future is just making things complicated. Take the lessons that are being learned in that moment and let it lead you to the next opportunity or the next thing. Thus far, what has determined what's next for me was when I felt that feeling of something more needs to happen. I'm big on feelings. That's how I judge people's characters. For some reason, since I was younger, this gut feeling that I get has never led me astray. When I think about making that transition from Black Enterprise to freelancing, I had a feeling on a certain day and I started thinking and praying and meditating and it came to the realization that I was read for the change. And I think now with anything that I do, I'll know from that feeling. We as humans we have the habit of suppressing feelings and we know what that feeling is but we'll tell ourselves not to worry about it. But really it's our internal, our bodies telling us to listen or else you're gonna just bring yourself down a road you don't need to go. That's just my thing - to really make sure I can decipher what it is through the noise. I think that's going to lead me to what's next for me. I don't know what it is but I do know and I do trust that when the opportunity to do something else comes or whatever's next, I'll get that feeling.

In case you missed it, read Part 1 of Janel's interview here. Connect with Janel on Twitter and visit Ain’t I Latina on Twitter – Facebook – Instagram.

LOVE this interview? Spread the love using the links below or share on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook how you determine your next direction or read this blog to dig deeper into what you want or learn how to manifest your dreams.

 

Janel Martinez: The Power of Investing In Yourself

I believe in passion. I believe in commitment. I believe in highlighting those who are breaking down yesterday + today’s barriers in order to create a new future. I believe in innovation. I believe in creativity. I believe in you. This is your platform. Meet Janel Martinez, a NYC multimedia journalist which Cosmo for Latinas Named one of 11 Latinas to Follow on Twitter as the Founder of Ain't I Latina?, an online destination created by an Afro-Latina for Afro-Latinas. In Part 1 of her MYCC interview Janel talks about taking risks, prioritizing her wants, and investing in her own worth. Introduction and Interview by Melissa Kimble.

 

What inspires you to create?

JM: I think I draw a lot of creativity and inspiration to create from my day to day and lived experience. The craft I'm in is writing and particularly journalism, which I think can sometimes not be seen as free flowing and creative as maybe creative writing or something like that, but I definitely like to use and tap into what's happening around me. Something that I read in the news or a show that I've watched or a book that I'm reading for me -- it's just about being in tune with my environment and what I'm going through.

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You've previously served as the Technology Editor at Black Enterprise. What was that experience like and what were the key take aways from it?

JM: I started at Black Enterprise as a content producer/assistant in 2010, right after graduation. Fortunately, at that point I dedicated a lot of time to perfecting my craft - writing, researching, and interviewing and it afforded me the opportunity to rise in rank. Later on down the line there was an opening for technology editor across all platforms and that was my last position when I was there. Honestly, those three years were the biggest learning experience professionally in my entire life. Journalism is something that I have always been drawn to and wanted to learn different ways to hone into the craft. To be thrown into that, it was such a great experience because that's where I saw a lot of professional growth as a writer. One thing I noticed - I think this was across newsrooms and outlets the country - is that you don't have the luxury of writing a piece and passing it on to someone else nowadays. You have to be a one stop shop, you have to know how to write, you have to know how to edit, socialize your pieces, you have to know how to research, in some cases going out in the field and reporting, etc. You know have to know how to do all that. And for me editing was one of those things that I swore I would never do and it got to a point at Black Enterprise where I had to edit. And at first I was like 'oh my gosh what am I gonna do' but I had to step up to the plate and I even saw growth in that area. And two, working with people who were a lot older than me. Not referring to just the staff but also freelance writers. There were some freelance writers who were the same age as my parents or a lot more seasoned in the game than I was and to have to edit their pieces, for me that was a big deal. For me that was a big deal because I had to take on that role as editor. That was one example of growth professionally and stepping up to the plate and learning what comes with being a journalist today. And also on the branding end, socializing my pieces and really delving into technology. For me, I had an interest in tech but never saw myself as a technology editor and really with social media they allowed me to brand myself further in that lane. And it got to the point - and I think we all get into that point- it got to 'okay, what's next?'. I had a great, great ride at Black Enterprise I learned so much. I wouldn't be the journalist, the professional, the person I am today if I hadn't had that experience. But I got to the point where I was like "what's next?" I was ready for a greater challenge, I was ready to see if I could make it on my own. Having the brand behind me that was great - a lot of people would know you because you worked for a certain publication - but to then transition into a more freelance role and working with different companies, you're kind of free floating. Some one like me who still views themselves as young in my career, one thing that I kept saying to myself in the midst of making this decision was 'Am I going to get the same opportunities that I've had because I no longer have this company behind me?' On a daily basis this kept popping into my head and it was really getting to me. But I said let's see how this is gonna work.

I would say that now I can see I can do it without a big name behind me because I think I did the work. And in line with personal branding, I've been able to brand myself as someone that covers technology and entrepreneurship. Realizing the value of my personal brand, that's something that was instilled with me at Black Enterprise that has helped me with opportunities and positions that I secure today.

MK: There are some incidents where someone will start off in a freelance role and then transition into a company. You went in the opposite direction. You started off with a big brand and decided to break off on your own. What made you decide to take that risk? Maybe on the outside looking in it may not seem as a big risk but anytime you're making a transition from one plane to another, there's a risk involved. What made you say 'I have to make this move now?'

JM: It's a few things. Once I turned 24, then 25, I really embraced challenges. I want to constantly grow as a person and professional in my career. Again, I think I had amazing opps there but it got to the point where I wanted to try out new things professionally. I wanted to dedicate time to contribute to different publications or sites or organizations. One thing that I think accelerated my decision to step down from that position was that I launched my site Ain't I Latina. Even though it's a blog and a site that I had just launched Dec 4 2014, I see the growth or the potential that it has. And I started realizing that dedicating myself to a month pub and a daily site in addition to my own site - not that I couldn't do it all because people do it all the time - I just knew that I wanted to dedicate more time to my site.

MK: You have to know your limits, too. Just because someone else can do it doesn't mean it's something that you can to do.

JM: That's true and that's what the case was with me. I knew that I wanted to dedicate more time for my blog and try new things out. I'm in the tech entrepreneurship space; I know people need help with content. It went from not knowing exactly what was happening next to opportunities just popping up all over the place which just further confirmed everything for me. I always say this: I think it's so important for millenials and young professionals to know their worth and know their value. When you're young in your career and you work with some corporations and businesses, even though we have a lot of power, in a traditional workspace you're still seen as the youngest person in the company. It doesn't matter how great your work is, you're still always be seen the youngest person - at least from what I've seen. And I know from myself, from other millennials that I've spoken to that sometimes that it can be reflected in your pay, in your treatment. It gets to the point where you know what your limits are, you know what exactly what it want, and you know that it's time time to move on. And for me I think I got to the point where in addition to wanting to explore my options and opportunities, I knew that if I wanted to get what I was worth, I had to make that move. You have to know your worth.

Read Part 2 of Janel's Interview. Connect with Janel on Twitter and visit Ain't I Latina on Twitter - Facebook - Instagram.

Janel was recently apart of some amazing Women's History Month festivities. Need more reasons to invest in yourself? Here's one.