We come across new social media “tastemakers” or “influencers” all the time, especially today due to the constant increase in people choosing to freelance and/or create their own work. Although a lot of “tastemakers” don’t necessarily deem themselves as such, it creates an interesting buzz around who they are personally which also helps draw attention to what they do creatively. Behind your funniest sport hot take via social media or commentary on the newest fashion and music is Cory Townes, a Philidelphia native who has become one of the trailblazers for millennial influencers.
Over the years, Cory has written for EBONY Magazine, The Undefeated, Vibe Magazine and Fader just to name a few. He has used and continues to use his journalistic ability to connect with his audience but he also utilizes his social media handles to give scathing hot takes on things that connect our culture the most. “If others believe in the things I “promote,” that’s a dope feeling and one I don’t take for granted, cause it can all be gone in an instant,” Cory said.
I caught up with Mr. Townes to discuss his journalism inspirations, why he decided to get into writing, how he landed his first major writing gig, finding his own voice within his writing, being a tastemaker or influencer and more in our full interview below.
1 – What inspired you to get into journalism?
I always found myself being good at writing, even as a kid back in school. My mother was a teacher, and she realized early that it was a skill of mine, and would tell me to explore it further as I got older. I always felt like I had a unique perspective when it came to topics I was interested in, sports, music, pop culture, etc. So when the opportunity came to write my thoughts for people to actually read, I took it.
2 – One thing I noticed from your website is a statement that says “Writing found me, I haven’t let go.” What exactly does that mean?
Well like I said, I never thought I’d be a writer. My mother had to push me into it, and there weren’t many opportunities to work as a contributor for a lot of these publications and websites back during this time (2010-2011) unless you had an in there. And me still being based in Philly, I didn’t have those connections yet. I was more focused on becoming an on-camera talent, interviewing various artists whenever they came to town for shows or on tours, and I had started making a name for myself doing that. So writing professionally definitely came as a serendipitous moment for me, being at the right place at the right time, and once I had that first opportunity, I didn’t take it lightly and I knocked it out of the park.
3 – One thing about writing that a lot of people struggle with is finding their voice. Was there anything that helped you find your own voice?
If I could say anything, it was just being myself. I write how I speak if not clearer because it allows me the opportunity to actually see what it is I’m saying. I think that everyone has their own distinct writing voice as long as they channel their own sense of self. It definitely helped me separate from others.
4 – You’re not only a writer but you’ve become somewhat of a social media “figure” for today’s culture in regards to music, fashion, and sports. In your opinion, how has social media and today’s cultural climate help bring all of these things together?
It’s funny because I come from that period of millennials that remember what the world was like before the internet and what it’s like now, especially with the boom of social media over the last 10 years. I think social media has done a great job of elevating my voice and my work. If no other site shares my work, I know that I can be my biggest voice in letting the world know what I’ve done. Social media has been one of my best tools, but it’s important to have that balance between IRL and URL.
5 – All of your work expands through so many spectrums. Not to mention you’ve done work for so many platforms. Do you remember the first opportunity you got to put publish your writing on a major publication? How did that feel?
I could never forget it. I met my dude Mike Yi, then an Editor at Vibe Magazine, at a dinner during the first Made In America weekend. We talked, kicked it, I told him what I was trying to do at the time and that was it. About four or five months later, Mike called me about a DJ competition that Red Bull was throwing in Philly and that he didn’t have a writer to cover it, and he asked would I be interested in it? It wasn’t paid, but I had a fire room at this 4-star hotel downtown, and I had to attend the event as well as interview the judges, legendary DJs Atrak, Z-Trip and DJ Jazzy Jeff, who’s also my father. Mike didn’t know that Jeff was my dad and when I told him, he freaked out, but it was the first time that I interviewed my father, which was a really dope, almost full-circle moment. A couple weeks later, I got my first byline, and it was one of the proudest moments in my life.
6 – You’ve consistently used your social media presence to grow and build your audience on what’s hip and current. What are your thoughts on the term “tastemaker?” Would you consider yourself a tastemaker?
Eh, I think the label ‘tastemaker’ is one that’s been thrown around a bit, to be honest. I think that we’ve reached a point at this current time in this current space where aspiring creatives are calling themselves titles and labels that normally would be bestowed upon them by their peers, and tastemaker is definitely one of them, lol. For me, if someone calls me that, I’m humbled by it, only because I only co-sign and vouch for things that I like, whether it’s music, fashion, etc. If others believe in the things I “promote,” that’s a dope feeling and one I don’t take for granted, cause it can all be gone in an instant.
7 – Amongst all of the things you’re currently doing, you’ve been one of the faces at the forefront of a lot of what Cassius does. How did get involved with that platform?
A mentor of mine, Kierna Mayo, reached out to me to join the launch team for CASSIUS. I had worked under her during my time at EBONY Magazine, and I can say she was one of my first real teachers in writing and journalism, which are not the same thing, in my opinion. She helped me refine my pen, look at stories from various perspectives and just tighten up overall. So when she hit me up asking to man the Entertainment department for this new site she was spearheading, I jumped at the chance. I currently work with the platform on a talent basis doing on-camera work, and I’m interested to see what CASSIUS does in the new year.
8 – Out of all of the projects and events you’ve been a part of, is there one that stands out to you or has helped you more in your career path? If so, which was it?
I’d say just moving to New York. For me, I felt I reached a glass ceiling in Philly with the creative work I was doing, and I wanted to be a big fish in the biggest pond out. So moving to Philly took a lot of blind faith on my end, as I’d never made a move that big before, both literally and figuratively. I worked at an advertising agency which gave me the terms of basically a two-week contract, so I knew that if I left for New York, there was no option of moving back home for me, that’s how I looked at it. And I haven’t left New York since.
9 – As a current writer and an important person with a voice, what type of advice would you give to the aspiring writer?
Find your voice. That’s why the publication wants you to write for them, for your voice. Don’t worry about finding that hard-hitting line or anything, let the subject flow through your voice and perspective and you’ll be straight. Oh yeah, and keep your foot on these editors’ necks when it comes to getting paid if you’re working freelance. They owe you, be on them to pay up. Forget being “nice” or “cool,” Nah, you deserve to get your checks so get them.
10 – What advice was given to you in regards to your profession or life in general?
Man, I’d say try to find balance in life. Don’t fly too high with your achievements and don’t sink too low with your failures. Try to remain as even keel as you can, but also use your experiences as guides in life on what to (and not to) do.
11 – What projects can we expect from Cory Townes in 2019?
I’m just looking for growth, overall. Being in front of a larger platform, being paid for my hobbies I do for free and just elevating myself as a whole. I aim to continue to do things that I actually enjoy and inspire me creatively and breaking down barriers for myself daily.