DJ Miss Milan Speaks on How She Got Her Start, How to Properly Build Your Name as a DJ, The Key Factors of a Great DJ, Her Current DJ Inspirations and Much More.

We are all aware that being a DJ is one of the most interesting but yet difficult jobs in the music industry. It’s not easy staying on top of music daily and learning how to put that knowledge into a performance setting. Also, being able to learn the fundamentals of DJ’ing such as captivating transitions is another challenge many face. I’ve seen tons of different DJ’s do their job effortlessly and DJ Miss Milan is one of the people who is currently helping lead the pack.

Over the years, people have watched Milan up her stock by continuously dedicating herself to her craft day in and day out. She has DJ’d events with AudioMack, Variety Magazine, Charlemagne Tha God’s TV show Uncommon Sense and more. She has also been feature in publications such as Paper Magazine and Def Pen.

I had the chance to catch up with the talented disc jockey to talk about how she got started in the DJ business, what made her want to be a part of this industry, what makes a great DJ, some of her struggles and more in our full interview below.

1 – What got you into DJ’ing? 

The love for music and how it can and has literally changed and helped shape my life. Music is therapeutic for me so after I gave up on my dreams of becoming a singer, I was looking for other outlets to express myself and I came across the art of being a DJ.

2 – Being a DJ obviously means you have a love for music. Was that always the case for you growing up?

Absolutely!!! I was singing, dancing, writing my own songs, creating videos with my moms’ camcorder at the time, you know the VHS type mad old school lol. Not to mention my family being from the Caribbean, I was exposed to different sounds and genres early on in my life. I believe my mom to while pregnant with me would play music through headphones on her tummy, so yea my love for music has always been present.

3– When were you able to get your first set of DJ equipment?

I was bartending at the time between Hooters and Grand Lux when I first said I wanted to DJ three years ago and just literally saved up my tips to buy my own Numark turntables and some model mixer that I’m sure was trash and the sold it to me but because I was so eager to have my own I spent about $700 on that alone. Now I have my own official set-up and it made me interested in production.

4 – Did you always see yourself pursuing this as a career? In other words, did you see this as something long-term or did you look at it as a hobby?

At first, it was a hobby. An expensive hobby lol. I was paying for lessons in the very beginning but once I gained the confidence and felt like this is what I was meant to do, it turned into my passion project where now I have a purpose.

5 – What was the first DJ gig you got? How did it happen?

Very first gigs you do get for me at least was baby showers and family functions for little to no money but I was eager and excited to play and didn’t care about the money. My first big break was at Starlets the strip club where I had to DJ for the first time and I don’t think people realize there are different forms of DJ’ing, especially in a strip club because it’s all about making the girls dance so the money could be spent. Thank God they were shaking all ass during my set lol from there I said yea I’m going to do this for real.

6 – The road to recognition as far as being a DJ is a bit more different than most creative professions. How were you able to build your name up and get the looks you deserved?

By educating myself on the craft first, focusing on my lane and truly being a genuine person in this business, people be fake nice to you to use you then leave when you have nothing else to offer. Everything I received is deserved because I put in the work and give it back to those who support me all while inspiring others to follow their dreams.

7 – In your opinion, what are some key factors that make a great DJ?

Musical knowledge, transitions/mixing, feeding off of the crowd but at the same time giving them your energy to feel and just having fun where you don’t look at the same DJ on your line up as competition because that’s an issue with these events sometimes is the DJs being on the same bill and wanting to have the hottest set. I believe in working together for the greater of every and anything.

8 What are some things you struggled with in regards to building your name and craft?

I would have to say as far as my craft goes, really it’s just finding the source of inspiration to be creative and do things and overthinking sometimes can and will affect that. As far as building my name I sincerely don’t worry about that because people see and know the work is real.

9 – You’ve DJ’d a ton of different events over the years. Which would you say was your favorite event to DJ? Why?

I haven’t reached that point to have a favorite because I believe all of my events mean something special to me, whether they are 5, 500 or 5000 people in a crowd I’m always grateful and glad to share a piece of me with people who see me DJ.

10 – Are there any DJ’s out there, whether established or upcoming, that you really admire?

Omg yes! I would be cliche to say the legends I am inspired by like Mister Cee & Kid Capri but up & coming definitely Ernzworld, DJ Saige, Genius in HD, Gab Soul and many others that I’m watching doing their damn thing and I’m just happy to see them as inspirations.

11 – Social media is crucial in building any name or brand. Although DJ’s offer a different type of service than most, how do you think a rising DJ should go about utilizing social media in order to get their looks?

Conduct your business/page to cater to your audience or the audience you envision yourself having. Don’t follow anyone else’s formula just do you and show your best self possible. Also, don’t be a spam page that’s gross.

12 – As a DJ, what has been the most important piece of advice anyone has given you?

Well, I have two. One DJ told me I should change my name from “Miss Milan” because it was whack and doesn’t really have a ring to it and the same day I was told by someone else to have confidence in who you are and what you bring to the table. That being said I didn’t listen to that DJ and had confidence in myself to go with my name and brand it and here we have DJ Miss Milan!

13 – What can DJ Miss Milan fans expect from you in this second half of 2018?

Fans sound weird lol I like “supporters” better but what they can expect from me is what they been receiving but now on a bigger scale so stay tuned.

Jay Holz Speaks on Music Management and Public Relations, How He Got into Journalism, Expanding His Positive Vibe Ent. Brand, and Much More.

The behind the scenes aspect of the music industry is one business that helps mold an individual for bigger and better things. If you are able to maneuver and finesse the way one should in regards to building up a great contact list as well as gaining as much knowledge as possible, you’ll be setting yourself up for success in the long run when it comes to any future endeavors. Also, just having a basic understanding of how the industry works is always a huge plus. I met Jay Holz about a year ago during a panel series and his name was one that constantly came up on my social media when it came to music related topics and inside stories related to the industry.

Jay formerly held a position as the Managing Editor for Karen Civil’s website but recently parted ways with them to focus on his own brand, Positive Vibe Ent., a management, marketing and PR company structured to help emerging artists.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Jay to talk about Positive Vibe Ent., the main goal for expanding the brand, his take on journalism and what he considers a good PR person and music manager. Check out our full interview below.

1 – What inspired you to be a part of the music industry?

Ever since I was a young kid, I always looked up to entertainers and athletes and I think it just stuck with me my whole life. By the time I was ready to graduate high school and go to college, a lot of rappers were coming up through the Internet and you could start to see how all of the success was happening. I watched people like Will Dzombak (Wiz’s manager) and Quentin Cuff (Mac Miller’s business partner) be so important to Wiz and Mac’s success that I thought, ‘Shit, I can do this too!’

2 – How did you get involved in the industry?

It all started in 2009/2010 when I met my brother Malik Ferraud (@MalikFerraud). At the time, he was going by the rap name Money and he and his old crew had a song called “B4LT1M0RE” that was really popular in the city. I instantly became a fan and started reaching out to him. We met in Ocean City, MD in the summer of 2010 and we connected right away. We put in work! From there, I started to network with a ton of different people in the industry and the rest is kind of history. Malik and I are still working together till this day, as well as our other day 1 homies Donate Benjamin (@TaysWorld410) and Charlie Peacher (@CharliePeacher).

3 – I know you previously worked as the Managing Editor for Karen Civil’s website. What made you want to get into journalism? Was that something you always wanted to do?

To keep it 100 with you….I never had a true passion for journalism. I just knew that if I could get some type of job/position in the industry, I could eventually build up a nice network and get back to my management/PR roots, which was always my long-term goal. That being said, once I got into the journalism game, I started to really love it. In 2012, my good friend Sermon gave me a chance of a lifetime and allowed me to start writing for his site — with literally 0 experience. A year later, after Sermon taught me a bunch of stuff, I landed a job with HipHop-N-More, thanks to the blog gawd Navjosh. He turned me into a blog monster. Then of course in 2014, I started working for Karen Civil as a contributor. A year later, I was the managing editor for the site and serving as her number 2. We did some amazing things together. Forever appreciative of her allowing me to grow and accomplish some bucket list items of mine. Major shout out to Niki McGloster for believing in me, and to my team Shawn Grant, Ayanna Sinclair, Alley Olivier, Lindsey India, Keith Reid-Cleveland, Kia Imani, Lupe Llerenas, Travis Grier, Michelle Locke, Pennie, Micia and anyone else I forgot.

4 – You’re currently running your own business, Positive Vibe Ent, which is a management and PR company. What inspired you to launch this business?

They say it’s not as fun working for someone else, so I decided to work for me! After I quit my job with the Baltimore Orioles in 2016 (thank god I did that, by the way), I was ready to start a company and get back to managing and doing PR/marketing full time. Wallah, Positive Vibe Entertainment was born. I owe a big thanks to Malik and Dontae for coming up with the idea/concept behind PV a long time ago. And I give myself thanks for bringing it to life.

5 – What is Positive Vibe Ent’s main objective?

Our main goal is to help launch careers for our clients and spread positive energy to the world in the process. The nuts and bolts of our business are Management, PR, Marketing, and Consulting, however, I want PV to grow into its own platform that promotes positivity every day. We’ll be creating empowering content via our website and social media accounts, releasing thoughtful merchandise, hosting events, and much further down the line. I gotta get my baby off the ground before we can take over. We will though!

6 – In your opinion, what do you think makes a good PR person? What do you think makes a good music manager?

Consistency, timeliness and the willingness to do whatever for your clients. That goes for both PR and management. Being a good PR person entails having great networking and communication skills, and always being up-to-date on the trends of whatever industry you’re doing PR in. As for management, you have to have an enormous amount of patience, great negotiation skills, confidence and most importantly, the ability to see the bigger picture.

7 – You’re also the road manager for rising act Tate Kobang. How did you land that position?

That’s my dawg! Shout out to Tate and shout out to our big homie Shawn Caesar. Shawn runs DTLR + DTLR Radio and at the beginning of 2017, he started working closely with Tate. They were gearing up to drop Tate’s mixtape Silent Waves (hosted by DJ Flow) around that time and they wanted to bring me on to do PR for it. From there, Tate, Shawn and I got extremely close and I started doing more than just PR for Tate. As we were all progressing and making moves, we realized he needed a day-to-day road manager and it just made sense for me to take that role. To be honest, though, I don’t look at Tate as a “client”. That’s my brother and I’ll go to war for him.

8 – What struggles did you face and/or still going through as you make your way through this industry?

The oversaturation makes it tough to break through and a lot of the corny/goofy behavior from the industry as of late makes it hard to stay motivated sometimes. That being said, my dreams and goals are sky high, so whenever I have that down moment, I just think about why I’m doing this in the first place, and then I quickly snap out of it. Positive Vibe, ya dig?

9 – What are you currently using as your source of inspiration?

My clients, my city, my family. Everything around me inspires me. Seeing different parts of the country and the world, meeting different people, etc. If you allow yourself to, you can find inspiration almost anywhere.

10 – What type of advice would you give to the aspiring business owner, publicist, and music manager?

Never ever give up. Remove the words, “can’t” and “won’t” from your vocabulary. Always remember your “why” and your purpose in life. And the biggest piece of advice that I give to every single person I meet is to make happiness your number 1 priority. There is not one thing more important in this world than finding happiness and peace. Make that your top goal every day, and you can’t possibly lose.

11 – What’s next for Jay Holz for the second half of 2018? What can we expect from Positive Vibe Ent as well as the acts you’re managing?

I have some exciting things I’m working on for the rest of the year. One of which is another showcase in Baltimore to follow up my one from last year. I’ll be launching PV’s website very very soon. You’re going to see a bunch of great content, partnerships and overall excitement from the likes of Da Kid Gowie, Tate Kobang, Young Money Yawn, Malik Ferraud, Charlie Peacher, Dontae Benjamin, Tracksmith, my Swisher Sweets family and much more. Most importantly, you can expect a boatload of positive energy for as long as I’m breathing.

Music Manager and Digital Consultant Jonathan Wigfall Speaks on Industry Inspirations, Managing Emerging Artist Mir Fontane, Upcoming Made in America Festival, Tips for the Aspiring Music Manager and More.

Being a part of the music industry in any form is always difficult. The business itself is extremely cutthroat and at most times can be more than unforgiving. Although the industry is nowhere near what it used to be, being able to have a clear understanding of all the aspects from the front end, as well as the back end, is beneficial for all parties involved. Putting the musician aside, the manager of an artist/artists acts as the head honcho. Ultimately, the manager is the guy/girl that makes sure everything about the artist and the business side of the artist is fully intact. Jonathan Wigfall, South Jersey native and Syracuse University grad, has been a part of the music industry for a long time but started managing about 5-6 years ago. Although he and his team faced multiple challenges during their come up, every bit of the journey has been worth it because his artist, Mir Fontane, continues to shine and capture hearts and ears all over the country.

Getting ready to embark on a brand new tour as well as a secured slot in the upcoming Made in America Festival, Jonathan has shown what hard work, patience, dedication, and persistence can take you when you put your all into your passion. He and his team have done exceptionally well by Mir and the strategic work is paying off.

I had the chance to speak with Jon about his music industry inspirations, why he decided to get into management and what he saw in Mir Fontane as an artist, the upcoming More Macaroni Tour, Made in America Festival, tips for the aspiring music manager and more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into the music industry?

At first, I started off as a rapper myself. This was in like late high school and I only got into rap cause I needed a form of expression. I had got jumped, I didn’t really have anybody in my corner. A lot of my friends abandoned me because of the people involved in the situation and it was kind of crazy. I really loved music and I had all of this pinned up aggression so I needed a way to express myself. I had went on to college and I started making a transition into journalism cause I liked writing at the time. I do some blogging now. I then made a transition from rapping and being a journalist to public relations. When I made that switch I realized that I wanted to be behind the scenes a little more. I told my story in rap within like a year. I put out some music and everyone that I personally felt needed to hear it heard it. I was just ready to try something else. Now, I’m in public relations about to go into my sophomore year of college and I come back home that summer after my freshman year and I started thinking to myself maybe I can be a manager. Although I said that to myself I had to also figure out who can I manage. In about 2012, Mir really stood out in like the South Jersey and Philadelphia areas. I felt like I wanted to work with someone from my hometown cause we really didn’t have much representation in anything. I reached out to him but he was hesitant because I wasn’t really in Camden cause I was in Syracuse and I use to rap and I was making these different things happen. But, we had a few good talks and then the rest is history.   

2 – What inspired you to be a part of the music industry?

I think at that time I was inspired by a variety of people. I was inspired by people like Kid Cudi as well as a lot of YouTube guys. I started seeing a lot of guys bubble on YouTube who was just grinding and figuring it out, you know. People Like DYME-A-DUZIN. These type of people were really going hard on YouTube and creating a name for themselves. A lot of these people were obviously out here making music as well but it was also that work ethic and that “I’m doing this all by myself” mentality. DYME-A-DUZIN is an example, Timothy DeLaGhetto is another. People like that inspired me because it seemed as if it was a one-man show.

3 – In your opinion, what are some of the pros and cons of working behind the music scenes as opposed to being the musician?

Well, I think this depends on the person. For me, it’s not really getting the credit which leaves a big question mark over things that you may have done or didn’t do. So, I think the one con is often times you just may not get your credit. Sometimes people just aren’t aware of the involvement that you actually have in a project. That can even apply to things on the public relations side. I think that’s the con. Perhaps the only con I can think about. The pro for me, I didn’t really want the spotlight. I didn’t get in this to be in the spotlight. Granted I’m about to be 25 but it’s just about having that self-awareness. It’s just an understanding that I had to figure out by basically saying that I’m not tripping. There’s money to be made on either side and perhaps even more money playing the behind the scenes role. My thing is I like to help others. This business can be very stressful but being behind the scenes is less pressure at times.

4 – How exactly does being a music manager work? In other words, what are your specific duties when it comes to managing an artist?

I think communication is always number one. I’m also a digital marketing consultant for a lot of artists outside of Mir. So for me, it’s always communication. I think that’s the main thing. But it can also vary. It’s everything from the business to, often times, the personal. And it also depends on where the artist it career wise. To put things into perspective, I had a meeting with an artist that I’m considering managing and he’s been a recording artist for about three to four years. We talked about getting an LLC. He wanted to figure out a way to actually monetize his music. Often times, it’s me trying to figure out what makes the most sense financially. How we could make more money and lower our spending. and that right there is a very small part of it. It’s also being able to help out with their social media. For Mir, he has an assistant that fills when needed but it’s really helping the artist in all aspects – finances, social media, acting as a liaison for him and our stakeholders, public relations, and so forth. I’m the day to day manager which means I am constantly focused on scheduling and making things as organized as possible but also making sure our team knows what’s going on.

5 – What did you see in Mir as an artist and what do you think he saw in you as a manager?

At the time when we linked up, he was rapping his ass off. He had a certain hunger in his voice, a certain pain that I think he still has this day. His talent was just so undeniable. He really stood out and he was dropping some crazy freestyles. I constantly saw that pain and hunger and also saw someone creating that narrative for Camden that no one has ever done before. And this was six years ago. It was really a no-brainer for me. For Mir, I think he saw I was from Camden so I wasn’t a stranger, I did have some things going on because I did have some music industry knowledge, I had the connections, I was trying to make the best of myself by going to college – we both looked at each other and knew neither one of us were where we wanted to be but at the end of the day we belong here. We both knew we could make some crazy things happen within five years. We knew we were both hungry, both of us have some talent and this could be a great situation if we continue to apply ourselves.

6 – At one point did you realize you Mir was getting the recognition he deserves as an artist? When was that breakout point?

It definitely wasn’t an overnight thing. Things really didn’t start kicking off until I graduated because what I realized is that Mir really needed someone that was hands on. Between 2012 and 2015, a lot of the friends that he had in his corner that I was trying to help because I wanted them to help him advance in his career, they disappeared. They felt like things weren’t happening fast enough. Once I graduated, I began to learn the business more, I engulfed myself in the Philadelphia scene and I could really feel the energy in the area because at that time we really didn’t have anybody. Me being four hours away really began to hinder the process but once I came back we just started really grinding. Things really started to pop off and to be honest with you, he kind of marked the beginning of his career when he dropped a song called “Wanni Wag” which was a song about Dejuan Wagner who dropped 100 points in a basketball game and then went on to play for Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s kind of like a local hero. The song is with a guy name Ish Williams. They performed that song everywhere and the crowd would go crazy. It was honestly one of the first regional hits. We would throw shows and the momentum was always crazy. It opened up a lot of doors which lead to the remix with Mike Zombie. We really started to connect south Jersey in a way that it hadn’t been in a way before. By like 2016 and 2017, I started to connect a lot of these dots but that was definitely a time that things started to pop off for Mir. That 2016 run with “Wanni Wag” and then “Down by the River” which charted on the U.S. and Global Spotify out of nowhere was crazy. Labels began to reach out and that year pretty much helped lay the foundation down for where we are now.

7 – Are there any particular struggles that you’ve faced as a manager, in particular helping Mir Fontane with his career?

Yeah, definitely. Early on we were just brainstorming on how we can bring this a bit further. I think the main struggles for us were financial things. Us trying to find out how we can be entrepreneurs, make some bread and really invest that back into what we’re doing. Obviously, it takes money to make money, right? Especially in the music business. It took us awhile early on. We all knew Mir was really talented and when people hear him they love him but the hardest task was getting people to hear him. We were really trying to navigate the industry and making this transition of entertainment vs. talent and really just trying to get in where we fit in. To add on to that, we had to figure out how to tell a story about a boy coming from a place that people have heard of but really haven’t. We were able to leverage the Philly music scene and platforms to help make him bigger artist but we never branded him as Philly act. We made sure it was always Camden and South Jersey. That was a battle itself but it was a pro because once he started creating traction, South Jersey and New Jersey as w whole got behind him because this area really hadn’t had anyone.

8 – What was going through your mind the moment you and Mir secured yourselves for the Made In America bill?

You know what, Veli who is Mir’s road manager, set it up as a goal for us maybe about three months ago. We really try to attack the goals that we set but we knew we had to do certain things. We knew we had to develop a stronger relationship with Live Nation. They’re obviously a strong influence as far as the Philly music scene. Veli, who acts as both Mir’s road manager as well as having a long history of booking acts himself and just being on that side of the game as well, we made it our strong effort to establish a better relationship with Live Nation. We not only wanted to show them that people are watching us but we can continuously outdo ourselves. We’ve had Mir on tour but I think the big thing that led to Made in America was the sold-out show Mir did at The Foundry which was roughly 450-500 people in Philadelphia. I think that was May 4th. The show was on a Friday, the Made in America offer came in that following Monday. We knew that we had to sell that show out. We knew that it had to be impressive and we had to do something different. and we did for lack of a better word.

9 – How does it feel as a manager to know you’ve had something to do with helping your artist secure a slot on the same bill as Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, Meek Mill, Miguel, 6lack, and others.

It’s a great feeling, man. This is the type of opportunity that we’ve always wanted. We’ve been looking at different Made in America flyers every year and we always felt like we should’ve been on it but everything happens for a reason. I feel like Mir is going to have a great career because one, things have never been handed and two, it’s such a gradual piece of work that he’s building. It’s constantly going up because it’s happening with time and I feel like it’s supposed to. I think there’s a time in 2016 things just started to pop off and we were all so hype. We had Sway in the Morning and Vibe Magazine coming along for a premiere for one of his more popular songs which was “Space Jam.” Then, entering into 2017 us getting into a situation with 300, Mir was kind of numb. I believe he became numb to his accomplishments and good things happening. A lot of it was coming fast and we couldn’t really live in the moment. We had to keep pushing forward so we kind of got numb to certain things. But then you fast forward to now and we land something we Made in America, that’s like wow. It’s really hard to be numb to that. You really have to enjoy and celebrate accomplishments like those because it’s one of the biggest platforms that an artist can have.

10 – Talk a little bit about the upcoming More Macaroni Tour?

We had to set up our own tour honestly. We just grind it out and make sure we can keep him on the road as much as possible every year. We’re just making sure that we’re constantly attacking his top cities and trying to be as tangible as possible because that’s what it takes.

11 – What tips and advice do you have for upcoming aspiring music managers in the world? What do you want them to learn from this interview?

You’re not going to learn everything within a few months or even a year. I would say remain persistent, especially as a new manager. There are so many things that you need to figure out as far as what you can offer. What type of artist do you have? I think you just have to remain persistent because there’s going to be a lot of forces that are against you and a lot of hurdles you’re going to have and based off that, it’s going to be really easy to feel down. It’s going to feel like a constant uphill battle. But, I think just remaining persistent and surrounding yourself with the right team of people to help you make the best decisions is important. Also, setting goals and successfully and aggressively attaining them. I think that’s really the key. I think a lot of times managers waste a lot of time focusing on the wrong platforms for their artist or whatever the case may be and they’re not aggressively aiming for the right thing. We honestly didn’t have a long list of goals for 2018. We were just like “Yo, we need to make him a bigger artist.” Made in America was on that very short list. We just went and tried to figure out how we could make it happen. If the goal was to establish a better relationship with XYZ, we would sit and make phone calls and figure out whatever the next step was to make things happen.

12 – What’s next for you for the second half of 2018? Secondly, aside from the big MIA performance in September, what else can we expect from Mir Fontane for the second half of 2018?

I’m really trying to elevate my own brand. I have the Liajon LLC which is the digital marketing but I really want to take it a step further and create my own content. Definitely be on the lookout for that. I’ll be creating a lot of more content for this year. Mir has some really dope records in the tuck and we’re in talks with some labels. You can really just expect some more fire in the future. We’ve been in the studio with a lot of different artists including Fetty Wap. It’s really an exciting time if you’re a Mir Fontane fan. 

Cris Speaks On Music and Journalism Inspirations, Creating Her ‘RnBae Collective’ Artist Showcase, Starting the RnBae Record Label, Tips for the Emerging Event Producer and More.

The sound of music is constantly changing before our eyes. New genres as well we sub-genres are being created every day but along with that, we are now living in the age where genres are being combined and certain sounds are beginning to intertwine. One particular genre of music that is constantly taking on a new sound is R&B. The traditional sound of R&B is no more but the great thing about it is that emerging R&B artists are starting to engage with other sounds from trap, hip-hop, soul, pop and more to create the new sounds we are currently hearing today. Cris, a Virginia native now living in Miami, has used this newfound sound to her advantage and began to showcase this on her well-known artist showcase which has spread through multiple cities country-wide. The young creative also took what she knew about R&B music and launched her very own record label which is meant to help mentor and manage rising R&B acts.

I had the chance to catch up with Cris to talk about her popular R&B function, why she decided to start the record label, how she got into event production, working with rising R&B acts and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into event production?

Event production was never my mind. I didn’t really care to produce events and I actually talked a lot of shit about it in the past because the ones I went to were so shitty. After pretty much restarting my life in Miami from moving from VA in 2014, I started working with Yes Julz as a content manager. There, I was required to lend a helping hand with all of the parties and activations we did. After leaving, I started my own brand, RnBae Collective which is was Miami’s best artist showcase in 2017 named by Miami New Times.

2 – How did you get into music journalism?

I actually majored in English/ Journalism. It was my minor was my Mass Communication. I started a blog in 2013 named after a radio show I had with my friends called Da Decipher. It was pretty much Rap Genius before they went on to video. The blog deciphered rap lyrics from mainstream and local artists. I interviewed a lot of Miami rappers/singers at the time. From there, I applied to freelance at my local weekly, Miami New Times in 2015. From there, I wrote for Yes Julz, Vashtie, and HypeBae.

3 – What were some of your main inspirations to get involved in both music writing and event production?

With music writing, I felt like artists weren’t represented well. I saw a lot of backlash from artists having their words twisted in interviews or the entire story not being told. I wanted to create the liaison between the artist’s music and the audience allowing them to tell their truths. As far a event production, my main fuel in anything is seeing someone do a shitty job with something and feeling I can do better, or giving a platform to someone who doesn’t have one. Here I am 🙂

4 – In regards to event production, what was the first event you either threw yourself or were a part of helping put together? Did this particular event catch people the way you thought it would?

My first event was with RnBae Collective. I was doing PR for a local artist, Aleicia Nicole and realized there was no outlet for R&B singers. They were often thrown under the bus, put early on during rap shows, or used as an intermission so no one paid attention. She deserved better. At the time, her manager and I created RnBae, a platform for her to showcase her music. We did a small line up of three artists and an all R&B DJ set. I honestly didn’t expect anyone to come. I just wanted to give Aleicia a stage. Sure enough, people showed up. Not a lot, but it was a good attentive crowd and that’s what I wanted. We had a few vendors, I hosted along with a friend. Here’s the recap to it: https://www.rnbae.com/rnbae-showcase-may-2016/ In all, I did this whole event behind my employer, Yes Julz’s back. At the time, we were planning the 1am vibes party tour, a partnership with Puma and New Music Mondays was a hit, so there wasn’t much time to focus on team passion projects. Planned and had the event and didn’t even tell her. To say she was pissed after is, to say the least.

R&B is not dead. It transformed into this @rnbaecollective 💜 📹: @lizzmatic

A post shared by Cris (@crisdacat) on

 

5 – You created a party called R&Bae. Explain how you came up with that?

Ha, I actually answered that 🙂 But, RnBae Collective is its official legal name. It’s also a showcase, I haven’t had the pleasure of really throwing a party yet, but I’m planning on it this year.

6 – In your opinion, what makes a great event?

The experience makes a great event. How people feel walking through the door, maneuvering through the venue, enjoying the drinks, music, and atmosphere. You know you had a great event when you see the IG and facebook photos after.

7 – You also just launched R&Bae Records. Talk a little bit about that.\

RnBae Records is currently a passion project of mine. Right now, we have an R&B duo, BluLine, who I also manage, signed under the label and we’re currently creating new music. Next year, I want to officially give it more attention and sign and create with more artists.

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8 – What inspired you to create the record label and running with the same name as the event?

The label is a reflection of the talent we book. All of R&B. While R&B music has changed from the 80s to today, we now celebrate all of its sub-genres. Like trap&B, neo-soul, pop-infused, alternative R&B. This is what the label will represent. R&B is not dead, it transformed into “this”

9 – What type of influence do you want the record label to have on emerging artists in Florida, especially those who work behind the scenes? Secondly, are you only going to focus on Florida based artists?

The label will give resources to artists who don’t have to create. Recording, mixing, mastering, content creation, PR services etc. All of that is under my wing along with a few partners. And no, R&B is everywhere.

10 – In your opinion, how would explain the effectiveness of social media when it comes to the businesses you’re involved in?

In reality, social media makes everything look good, but word of mouth is where businesses stick. Yeah, our social media accounts look amazing, thanks to our manager Esther, but in all, people find out about RnBae Collective by friends, artists, radio, labels, blogs etc. Having a good business rapport to me, is more effective than social media because nowadays everything is smoke and mirrors.

11 – With everything that you currently have on your plate when do you find time to do your journalism work? Has event curation and owning a label make it easier to write?

I’m a passionate writer. A passionate anything really. When something sparks my interest, It flows out easily. Since the label is still in its passion project stages, i don’t name it as my inspo to write, but actually sitting down and spending time with the artists gives me that drive.

12 – What type of advice would you give to those who are looking to get into event curation? What about starting a record label?

Have a purpose. Anyone can throw a party. The last thing a city needs is another pointless party. Have a theme or a goal you’re trying to reach and execute. You will feel more fulfilled seeing people enjoy the experience rather than wasted in the bathroom.

13 – What’s next for Cristina, her team and the RnBae movement?

This year, we’re planning our first party, our first out of state show(s) and working hard to shed light on BluLine, the artists we manage. Every year, we take on a new venture. Last year, we completed a year of 12 monthly showcases along with throwing our first concert with Kyle Dion. This year, we’re working on moving towards the artist development stages which will end us next year with a full-fledged label.

ChriStylezz Speaks on How He Got Started in Event Hosting, The Effectiveness of Social Media, The D’usse Palooza Family, What’s Keeping Him Motivated and More.

There are many words, phrases, and titles that have been getting tossed around very loosely the last couple of years and I’m more than positive I’m not the only person who thought it was weird. Words like “curator” and “vibes” were not words that people were using but ever since the major shift in how our culture is perceived as well as the major shift in how social media has changed the world and the way we view things, some people have created a whole new wave while others just continue to just ride that wave. More specifically, professions like an event host was not a “bread and butter” grind that many thought would make a lot of people rich and/or famous but in 2018, the event host is the new face of any party and/or function. Much like the DJ, today’s event host has the full-on responsibility of carrying the party and making sure that the entire ship runs as smoothly as possible while also doing little things to keep the attendees in tune and more importantly, keeping them entertained. I’ve come across a lot of event hosts but the name ChriStylezz has become synonymous with fun, entertainment and good times.

By using his energy, outgoing personality, comedic humor amongst other things, ChriStylezz has shown how one can emerge from hosting parties for his alma mater, Old Westbury to becoming one of the most highly recommended hosts out there. But, in doing so, emphasizing the fact that you can do it just by being yourself 100% of the time. From hosting Palooza parties alongside acts like Nipsey Hussle, YG, Wale, Swizz Beatz, Chance The Rapper, Cam’ron, Ja Rule and more, the young phenom continues to embody what it means to work hard, work smart, and dedicate yourself by constantly learning and growing your passion.

I had the chance to talk to ChriStylezz about his hosting come up, why he decided to get into event hosting, his popular Trappin Anonymous Podcast, working with the D’usse Palooza family, his current motivational factors and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get started in event hosting?

Well, with the hosting it started off through my fraternity. I had my own PR company when I was college as well. The first thing I told people when I crossed was I was going to travel. I told them I was gonna get up, go out and meet people. I wanted to network. I wanted to see what was really good out here. I wanted to know my network. I wanted to know who else was in the fraternity that I could bounce ideas off of and just make shit happen. That was the first thing I did and from there I was just road tripping. I remember calling this dude I was like “Yo, my name is Chris. I just crossed over at Old Westbury. I’m coming to your campus and I want to see if this frat is what everybody says it is.” He was telling me not to worry about it. I never met this kid a day in my life. Some chick was telling me that this dude was running the campus. This dude didn’t know me from a hole in the wall and he just embraced me. We went out and we was just kicking it. From there we came up with this lil event where we would go up and down the east coast and just throw events and host them. We was the Kappas shimmying in the parties. I was telling him we gotta do more. We can’t just be the Kappas shimmying, I wanted a tangible talent. We had DJ’s and promoters and all these people built around us but what is it that we do? I had asked a DJ at one of our events like “Yo, you think I could fuck with this mic shit real quick?” He was like yeah. He checked the levels and shit and told me I could feel it out and see if I like it. When I was talking to the crowd they was responding and I was like “Oh, shit!”

2 – It seems like you’ve always had a knack for making people laugh. I thought you were a social media personality. Do you consider yourself that as well?

I always been the kind of dude that walked in the room and by the time I left everybody was like “Yo, who was that kid?” I’ve always been that guy. My personality has always been that electric when it came to entering different rooms. I actually want to do comedy one day. I wanna get on a fucking stage and tell jokes. I wanna do that before I die. I’ve always been this type of charismatic person, you know. I never considered myself like “Instagram” funny. I’m in-person funny. Like, if you’re around me I can definitely make you laugh. I don’t know if I can sit there and create skits and shit all day long. That’s not really where my knack is. Not to limit myself and say I can’t but I don’t know if that’s what I want to do. I’m more about cultivating my talent and craft as an event host and just finding a space within that. But, I’ve always been lively. I’ve always had mad jokes. I was the kid that was cutting niggas ass and getting niggas in they feelings. I was mad problematic. I always knew how to get under people skin and always knew what to say. It just translates well on social media. I wouldn’t even consider myself a social media personality per say just because it’s not something I work at. When funny things come up I might post that or if I get a funny idea I may post that.

3 – In your opinion, what makes a great event host?

Originality, man. Just being able to be innovative. Being able to capture the crowd and capture the moments that don’t seem typical or things that people aren’t expecting. Being able to do those things are what make a great host. Pretty much not sticking to the script and not doing a bunch of shit that you see everybody else do. To me, there was no formula of how to be a host. It was just a formula of how to be Chris. So, I’ve always been me on that stage and me being me just translated well on the stage. I’m really that hype person and that dancing person. I think that’s the best part of it because it doesn’t look like I’m trying or forcing it. It doesn’t look like I’m trying to be in a space where i don’t belong. Having those ways to be you and still stick to the job, still make people laugh and have fun, interacting with the crowd and so on. All of those things are intertwined.

4 – I remember listening to your podcast Trappin Anonymous when you first introduced it. The inspiration behind it seems pretty evident but talk about that a little bit. What made you want to showcase these stories?

Well, Trappin Anonymous is like my baby. That’s my life’s work. Trapping Anonymous is just gonna live on forever because it’s just good work. It’s very natural. It’s very hands on. It’s at the very ground level of the culture. It’s not a bunch of celebrities on there. It’s not about me seeing if I could get a wild moment out of somebody else. This is just someone’s story coming from everyday people. Everyone has a story. This is me getting their story and having those conversations. To be honest, people are interesting and at some point, everyone wants to tell some part of their story. I don’t care who you are. I was kind of forced into this space to create something that was my own. I didn’t just want to be the Palooza host or just the guy dancing on stage. I wanted to be known for something else that I can create. I’m a creative. I create shit. That’s always been me. Just the circle that I’m around, it’s like a hub for talent. We got people that do video, people that take great pictures, we got people that are on tv, one doing radio and so on. It’s like what else do you do my man? So, I had to create something more. They say you hang around 8 millionaires you’ll be the 9th one because by mistake my ambition is gonna rub off on you. That drive and that want to become better is gonna rub off on you and that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t even know if I wanted to host anymore. I just wanted to become more and become better. But, I’ve always been fascinated with the underworld. I love scam, I love crime, I love people stealing and shit. I’m fascinated with people who live or have lived that type of lifestyle.

5 – The podcast world seems somewhat competitive cause everyone is doing one. Why do you believe Trappin Anonymous received the recognition and high praise that it did upon the launch of it?

It’s something that no one has ever done within the podcast world. It’s like people are doing some of the same things like current events, hip-hop media, some talk about other topics like relationships and sex and a bunch of shit. Everyone has a podcast. Trappin Anonymous is episodic. It’s not like every week you’re gonna get a new episode. It’s like this is gonna come out and when it does it’s gonna be very different and very fresh. It was intended to be something that you’ve never heard before. At first, people were like they were gonna listen to it cause the idea was so fire and then it turned into oh shit, this is actually good. It’s starting conversations and it’s becoming something more. The mystery of it was dope but then to top it off the content was actually good. 200,000 to 300,000 plays later it’s something that people can always come back to.

6 – You use social media as your own personal playground. Multiple photos and videos of you have gone viral. In your opinion, why do you think it’s important for one to utilize social media to build their brand?

Well, first things first it’s me being me. Like I said before, when I’m creating content or when I post shit it’s not like “Yo, I’m a do this skit and post it on social media.” All of this shit you see is really my life. I don’t be at parties like “Hey, let’s dance and post it on social media to see how many likes we can get.” People are catching me in real life moments and I think that’s why those things go viral. It’s pure fun and it feels good. When people look at me or think about me, I want them to feel that good time or good vibe. It’s the same thing as hosting. I’m not reading off of a script. I’m being me. You’ll like me for it, you’ll love me for it or you’ll hate me for it but where you are with it, it’s fine. But, at the core of it, this is ChriStylezz. This is who I am. On social media people just eat it up. People wanna laugh and have a good time. It’s super important for my personal brand cause I wanna do shows, I want people to book me and do other things. The more attention that I can get the more room that I have to do those creative things.

Why did y'all do this to me?!?! 😭😭😭 #christylezzwiththedancemoves #christylezz

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7 – It’s safe to say that at this point a lot of people know you from the Paloozas. But, how did you manage to get link up with Kam?

Well, here’s the thing with Kam… I don’t know if it was more about what he saw in me or him trying to get me to see something within myself. He said “Yo, you’re saying you can do this, that and this. You’re saying you want to transform this, that and this. Come to me with a plan and verbalize it. If it’s in the capacity for me to do it then I’ll do whatever in my power to make it happen. If I can’t then I can’t.” Then, I came to him with a plan. It just happens that we were able to execute it well but it was like, it was very honest conversation that we would always have. I remember one of the Henny Palooza’s I was suppose to be hosting and I was like “Ight, when’s my turn. Let me get on” He’s telling me five more minutes and he got me. Five minutes pass. I’m asking if it’s my time yet. He keep telling me he got me. It got to the point where I didn’t even feel I was getting on and I’m sitting there like yo, what the fuck. We had a conversation but at the end of the day, what you gonna do? You gotta earn your space, bro. You gotta earn that light, bro. There are so many people are out there and I can’t even remember they names. You know why? Cause they not here, bro. I say that to say it’s not about what he seen in me. I had to see it in myself. I had to get there but I still had to carve a path once I got there. It wasn’t just like “Ok, here it is.” When i got the point of ok, here it is… that’s when the real work began. I had to really find that fire within me so that I can create a lane within this on my own. Kam was just like “Ight, I opened the door. Go ahead.” Shit felt like post-grad like “Ok, here’s the real world.” haha.

8 – You guys have done so many parties in other cities, states and even islands. In your opinion, what makes a great event? Secondly, how does one stand out amongst a group of amazing talents such as the D’usse Palooza family?

What makes a good event really comes down to what makes a good host. It’s really the originality, bro. It’s bringing something fresh and new. It’s challenging the norm. You really gotta go against that. Take D’usse Palooza for example. We eliminated the V.I.P. You can’t go in there and have a bottle. you can’t go in there and have a section. You can’t go in there and feel like you’re above anyone else. You gotta go in there and feel like you’re on the same level as everyone else. That went against party culture in the city. The city is known for the bottles, the sections, the lights and all that shit. The dressing up and the heels and all that shit. People come through in sweats, jeans, sneakers on some hanging out shit. It completely went against the grain. Why was Trappin Anonymous so big? Cause it talked about those things. It challenged what podcasts really were at that time. There was no real storytelling. It was just banter. But again, a great event is something that challenges the norm. The DJ is the most important part to any party. They carry it out and make sure the music is good and the party is flowing. That has to be coupled with the good idea. Now, you see these themed parties and you see these people are doing this type of party which is great cause they’re trying to find their way in the mix as well. But, there’s gonna come a time when this becomes the saturated place. Then, people are going to have to find something else. People are always going to be forced to challenge the norm and create. As for me standing out in my family, it comes to me being the best at what I do. To me, it’s not hard because this is like a place where only the best survive. I’m not here by mistake or here to be someone else. I think Karl is the best videographer in the city. I think Peej makes the best graphics and flyers. I think Ravie B takes the best pictures. I humbly believe that these people are the best in the business. They way you stay afloat is by constantly reinventing yourself and becoming better. I be up there DJ’ing sometimes. I’m pushing the envelop. I’m learning new crafts that I didn’t even know I would have the skills to cultivate. You gotta stay hungry, bro. You gotta always know that you could never get to a point where you can just stop and become lazy or creating or pushing the envelop.

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9 – From all the parties that the team has done, is there one that comes to mind that didn’t turn out the way you guys thought it would? Which party would you say was the best? Why?

Of course, bro. There are some parties that have happened where I say to myself this shit was terrible or a bunch of things that could’ve been done better. Maybe more planning. Just a ton of shit. There are times where we’ve sat around after the party was over and said to one another “This shit was not it.” But, with every party, we’re constantly reminded of why we’re in the space that we’re in. Then, you’ll have these great moments like the party in L.A. or the one in NYC when we’re all just like wow, we can do this shit forever. I know niggas be watching like “Damn when these niggas gonna fail?” I probably would feel the same way. But, we not here by mistake, bro. This shit wasn’t no lotto ticket. We are literally the best at what we do. This is the only space for us.

10 – In your opinion, why do you think D’usse Palooza has become so important to the party/event space in today’s culture?

Every era has that “thing.” Our parents had like The Tunnel, you hear Funk Flex and Mister Cee and Clark Kent talk about all the time. Like, every era had something that people would be like “yo, this is the shit!” You think about Elks, Empire and so on. Every era has that thing and as of now, we’re blessed to be that thing for our era. Not to mention, every party feels new. We stay on our toes and we try to think of ways to make it better, you know. And sometimes simplicity is just it. It’s not about going all out for no reason. It’s mostly about keeping it right where it’s at for a good time, bro. Niggas ain’t in there tryna fight or shoot the shit up. You can’t put a price on that I don’t care how much the ticket cost. It’s just a really good time. Everybody coming through to vibe. It really was a social media event. It’s probably one of the only parties you’ve seen grow over time because of social media.

11 – I’ve been following you for a while and over the years you’ve gotten better and better at your craft. What keeps you motivated to keep going?

Well, one is the team. Just watching the team and watching everybody win makes you want to win. Also, becoming content. Not wanting more. The feeling of not wanting to do something extraordinary. The idea of more, more, more creates a very unhappy place because now that more becomes your validation. That more becomes you saying “I’m gonna be happy when x,y,z happens.” That pretty much suggests that you’re not happy now and we can’t have that. So, now we’re putting pressure on ourselves to constantly create and constantly do this, that and the third and we’re sad. But then it always turns out to be like “Yo, when I get this I’m a be good.” No, because when you finally get that, it’s going to be something else that you gotta get. That’s part of the problem. For me, it’s like if that “if” never happens or that “when” never comes, what happens now? That something that you place validation over your happiness for now consoles whether you’re happy or not. What if you never reach that point? What if takes 2-3 years? So, now you gotta live depressed cause you wasn’t able to reach that? Nah. What we gotta do is learn how to be happy through growth and we gonna enjoy that space that we’re in right now. We gonna celebrate those wins right now. Then, we gonna continue to get to it. But, we’re not gonna focus on or put all of our emphasis on where we gotta be because that can’t continue to control our emotions and our present state.

12 – What’s the biggest piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

Don’t care. My first show at Old Westbury. I asked the guy backstage who was hosting before me like “how do you do this shit?!” Public speaking is already trash. That shit is mad scary. He dead ass told me like “yo, Stylezz you can’t care.” I said what? He said “you can’t care, bro.” Now, I’m thinking if I trip and I run backstage I’m a laughing stock but if I trip and say some shit like “yo, what the hell is wrong with these floors? Somebody come fix this shit” it becomes a joke. I am in control the entire time. I’m so worried about whatever everybody else is thinking that I’m unable to do whatI’m called here to do. Why am I caring? People don’t even care that much. As much as everybody think they got haters and people hating, people don’t give a damn. Something gonna happen to you, the timeline gonna talk about it for a couple hours and then something gonna happen to somebody else, bro. How can I let your opinion control everything that I’m doing? How? How can I do that to myself? I don’t care bro. When you see me post stuff it’s because I watched it 50 times and I laughed 50 times because i think it’s funny. I think it’s hilarious. People probably sit up there like this nigga is corny. Bro, it’s not about you. People will love you for it though because they’re honestly afraid to be themselves. I just don’t care, bro.

13 – What’s next for ChriStylezz? What can your fans expect from you for 2018?

We talking equity now. We talking more ownership. Whether that’s living, events and so on. You can’t just pay me to be a host anymore. How can I get equity in your event? You can’t just give me a check to go do something. How can I become a part of whatever it is you’re doing and see the money that you’re making? That’s the mind-boggling thing. I’m not gonna keep doing this and hosting and you got people DJ’ing events… the real question is how much money are you making to where you can pay out this amount of money? You would never ever go back to that side of the business. So, now we’re talking about making money off the backend and the front end. We need both bags. It’s creating more content but aligning myself with bigger platforms so we can make shit bigger and reach more people. We still staying on top of the content we’re putting out and building up the social media. Still hosting, doing the most’n and just enjoying myself bro. I’m just gonna continue to have fun in the space that I’ve earned and busted my ass for.

Billboard’s Associate Editor Bianca Gracie Speaks on Writing Inspirations, What Makes A Great Music Journalist, Landing Her Position at Billboard, Tips for the Emerging Journalist and More.

Being a journalist or just a writer in general is difficult at times because it’s not easy providing exciting news or any type of content for your audience. Writing is a challenging profession and despite having to be grammatically trained to put a full length article together based on opening statements, transitions, supporting details and such, just being able to find your own voice and display that within words is a challenge on its own. Some writers have a hard time adjusting to this but the ones who find that voice are normally the ones who end up exceeding all expectations within the writing space. Bianca Gracie didn’t only find her voice throughout her years of writing and creating digital content but is now displaying that voice and talent on the biggest music platform in the world – Billboard.

I had the chance to catch up with Bianca to take about her come up in journalism, her journalistic inspirations, her struggles with deadlines, how she landed her Associate Editor position over at Billboard and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into journalism?

Well, I’ve always loved writing and reading books since I was a kid, and I later began to write poetry in high school and college. Some of it got published but I knew I couldn’t make a living off poems. So I picked up a journalism minor in college to see if I’d like it, and that’s when my passion for it really blossomed. My program required students to take two six-month internships before graduating, and one of my internships was for a pop website called Idolator. This was back in 2013. That was my first taste of the music industry and I was able to not only work on my writing but to interview people as well. I kept that connection once my internship was finished, and the rest is history!

2 – What would you say was your main source of inspiration to get into music journalism?

Not many people know this, but I actually wanted to work in fashion. But after a few internships and freelance jobs, I realized that industry was too fickle for me. I always loved music — specifically dancehall and pop — and I grew up with a lot of DJs in my family, which I’d say was my biggest inspiration. So the passion for it was always there. I kind of had a wake-up call after leaving the fashion world and was like, “Hey, why don’t I try this music thing out?”

3 – When did you realize that music journalism was something you could actually make a career out of?

That lightbulb moment occurred once I got the internship at Idolator, and I continued to work with them afterward as a freelancer and later as their editorial assistant for two years. At the time, I thought it was incredible that the people around me had a career that could also be so much fun.

4 – Do you remember the first article you did that contributed to your come up?

Man, I have to go back to the archives for this one! Many people who follow my work are aware of my love for ‘90s and ‘00s nostalgia and I began crafting that niche really early. I remember writing long-form articles for the 10th anniversary of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and the 15th anniversary of TLC’s Fanmail. Social media wasn’t as wildly significant at the time, but those kinds of articles received a lot of love from the right people — the fans and other industry folks. I think they helped prove that I could be a beast in the writing game if I really wanted to! [laughs]

5 – In your opinion, aside from being a music connoisseur, what else makes a great writer/music journalist?

One of the biggest parts of the music industry are the fanbases, so for me, it’s always been important for me to keep my ear close to what they’re listening and thinking. It’s also key to read beyond your own work. You can learn so much from other journalists both through their writing and also making direct connections with them. Honestly, just reading in general: the newspaper, song lyrics, music history books, essays from professors…everything.

6 – You’ve done a lot of different types of writing so far but which type of article do you prefer – interviews, op-ed’s, daily news articles? Why?

I love to talk my shit in think pieces here and there, but interviews will forever have my heart. There’s something really special about forming a connection with an artist, record executive or composer — whether it’s just for 15 minutes or an hour. I’ve realized it’s become somewhat of my mission to help tell people’s stories in a genuine way, and interviews are the perfect way to do so.

7 – Talk to us a little bit about your Billboard come up. How did you manage to land a position there as the Associate Editor?

Connections, connections, connections!! I cannot stress enough how important it is to network and maintain a relationship with industry colleagues you meet along the way. So the reason I got my previous job at Fuse is because a fellow writer knew of my work through Twitter and later emailed me about a position there (he was the managing editor at the time). Fast forward two years later, and that same editor (who moved to Billboard a little after I began working at Fuse) hit me up about a Billboard offer about three months ago. If I never kept in contact with him throughout all these years and kept him up to date with my career goals, I don’t think I would’ve gotten this associate editor job so quickly. I’m super thankful.

8 – Working in publication there are always deadlines for an article to go up. Yoh Phillips, a popular music writer that I’m sure you know said “Don’t die for the deadline” in one of his interviews. What are your thoughts on deadlines and the pressures of putting a piece out that’s probably not 100%? Have you ever put something out that you felt was sub-par?

Ughhhh deadlines are the worst! They are very necessary to keep you on top of your game, especially now that I work for a print magazine. But man they can often be a major headache. Deadlines used to give me a lot of anxiety since I love to procrastinate (I still do honestly haha), but I’ve learned to handle my time. But there’s definitely been long-form articles and breaking news stories that I’ve rushed because I was too close to the deadline, so I said “fuck it,” published it and hoped for the best!

9 – There are so many good writers and journalists out there who are putting out great content daily. Aside from the fact that you write for one of the most prominent music platforms in the country, how do you maintain your originality and voice in your writing?

I think because I work for Billboard, there are obviously more eyes on my writing. So I have no choice to stand out. But that doesn’t mean for me to shell out against the grain hot takes just for the hell of it. I’ve always been confident in the way I write, especially since I love nostalgia so much. That right there is my voice, and it’s only gotten stronger. So I use that to my advantage and stick to my quirky thoughts on certain artists and genres, and that hasn’t really failed me yet.

10 – Who are some of the journalists you currently admire? Why?

Wow, there’s so many! A few of my favorites who I think are killing the game are Eve Barlow, Anne Donahue, Yoh Phillips, Craig Jenkins, Da’Shan Smith, Gary Suarez, David Marchese, Ivie Ani, Sharine Taylor…my list goes on! I respect writers who stay true to their voice and don’t stray away from their point of view to float alongside bandwagonists. These guys always bring a fresh perspective to the hot topics in music, some of which are funny, scathing or just an educated read. It definitely inspires me!

11 – What are some tips you would give to the new blogger, aspiring music writer and/or music journalist?

My main advice would be to never forget why you got into this industry in the first place. So many people will try to break you down or attempt to poach your ideas, especially if you’re a double-minority like myself: a Black woman. But your passion and drive will win in the end and is proof that you’re good enough to stick around. Because this industry definitely isn’t always pretty! Please don’t let these listening events and free happy hours or dinners from record labels that you see on popular influencers’ social media fool you. It’s a lot of hard work and long hours. But if your heart is truly in this, then it’ll give you the fuel to stay determined.

12 – What are some tips that have been given to you by your peers in regards to your career?

I was very shy at the beginning of my career, especially when I had to meet celebrities in person. But I’ve learned from my peers to stay professional and to not be afraid to go the extra mile or ask that tough question that you know others won’t. I’ve also been taught to not get too comfortable and to always challenge yourself to become a better writer. That’s helped me to not get caught up in the hype and glitz of the industry, and it’s kept me driven. This is a job, after all.

13 – What can we expect from Bianca Gracie for the rest of 2018?

My goal this year is to publish even more thoughtful, witty profiles and op-eds, so you can look out for that. And I’ve spoken to some really awesome people thus far, so you never know what interview I have up my sleeve next!

Chef Nakai Speaks on Culinary Inspirations, Her Creative Cooking Process, How Food Relates to Culture and Expression, Advice for the Emerging Chef and More.

So, it’s evident that there are multiple areas that contribute to our culture and our everyday well being. We can sit and have conversations all day about music, fashion, media, entertainment, travel and so on but the one area that we all love and enjoy having discussions about is food. Aside from the obvious fact that we need food to survive, every second of the day someone on social media is posting a photo of their plate of deliciousness whether it be homemade or somewhere at a restaurant. It’s no secret that we’re all foodies in some shape, way or form and just how fashion design and creating music takes a certain type of expressive action, so does food. In this particular case, we’re not talking about the savory steak or chicken. We are talking about the sweet brownies, cakes, and cookies!

Chef Nakai, the Brooklyn based pastry chef started her culinary career back in high school and hasn’t taken her foot off the gas pedal since. Using her skill set and her unique sense of creativity to her advantage, the young innovator continues to flourish as a pastry teacher while simultaneously working on her brand.

I had the chance to catch up with Chef Nakai to talk about her culinary inspirations, why she gravitated towards cooking, her creative process when piecing together a dish, her forthcoming events and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get involved in culinary?

I got my start with culinary when I started high school. I went to Food and Finance High School. Getting my start in the industry that early did a lot for my career, skills, and confidence.

2 – What inspired you to be a chef?

I gained an interest in culinary from watching the Food Network with my mom in middle school. She has her own passion for baking and I’d watch her write down recipes from shows like Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, buy the ingredients, and try them out at home. From that point on, I started testing the waters myself. The first thing I’d ever made from scratch was a lemon cheesecake. I had to be about 12 or 13 years old asking my mom to buy a pre-made graham cracker crust from the grocery store so that I could come home and make the filling from scratch. Today, I wouldn’t even glance at a pre-made crust, but back then I thought I was top notch!

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3 – What was the first dish you ever made that started grabbing people’s attention that you really can cook?

In my freshman year of college I would go out on a whim and make items that weren’t necessarily a part of our curriculum and they’d come out successful. For instance, I was very interested in classic French pastries, so I tried making Macarons and a Soufflé. Both items have a reputation for being very technical and difficult to perfect, but they came out successful for me. From that point on I’d realized that I grabbed my Chef instructor’s attention because he’d come to me and ask for my opinion on dessert ideas and flavor pairings that he had in mind. I also noticed that my classmates would come to me and ask me for tips on how to perfect macarons when they made it themselves.

4 – Out of all of the industries you could’ve been a part of why do you think you gravitated towards culinary, pastry cooking in particular?

As I get older I realize that I gravitate towards things that are practical and get to the point. A lot of kitchens have the mindset of “okay throw on your chef coat and let’s see what you can do”. Not only that but there’s something so rewarding about taking a dish from the stage of it being an idea or sketch and developing it to the stage of someone consuming it and giving you compliments and feedback.

I think I made the decision to commit 100% to the culinary world when I was choosing the college that I wanted to attend. When I started searching for colleges to attend, I realized that the Culinary based Colleges didn’t care much for SAT and ACT scores, and one school, in particular, would give me the opportunity to jump straight into the kitchen, have all food industry based classes (no liberal arts) and have a degree in two years. By that time in High School, I had already gained my Food Handler’s License and ServSafe Certificate, so it just made sense to dive even more into Culinary.

As for why I chose Pastry, I think that there’s a certain type of art skill and “je ne sais quoi” that can be expressed through pastry as opposed to savory dishes. When it comes to the art of designing plated desserts, just think about how excited you get when you’ve had a great dinner and then finish it off with an amazing dessert. As a Pastry Chef, I see a lot of opportunity in that time slot to give a guest an amazing experience.

5 – How do you come up with the ideas for some of your creations? For example, ideas like your Pink Starburst Strawberry cake or your Honey Comb Honey Jack cake?

I honestly just keep my eyes and ears open to what people are talking about and I explore how I can incorporate it into food. We all know that the Pink Starburst is equivalent to the blue candy in a pack of Scooby Snacks. It’s just the best one, hands down. I knew I wanted a Strawberry Cake on my menu, but instead of going with a traditional flavor like a Strawberries & Cream Cake, I developed the idea until I could be proud of what I was presenting to my audience. If you notice, I don’t have any Red Velvet cakes on my menu at the moment, but I brought out the flavor in Macaron form for my Mother’s Day sale. When creating my Honey Comb Honey Jack cake, I wanted to channel the demand for the Hennessy flavored cakes that we see, but in my own way. 

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6 – On average, how long does it normally take you to “perfect” a creation? In other words, what steps do you take in order to make a creation of yours just the way you want it, both taste and presentation wise.

With my creative process, it can sometimes take me a while to settle on a new dessert idea. My first step is deciding what direction I want to go in, then I do a good ol’ Google and Instagram search to see if my ideas are on the radar and if so how they’ve been done. From there I sit back and brainstorm how I can be different and incorporate my brand of allowing colors to pop, designing original flavors/flavor pairings, and making eating dessert an experience. I personally love that I give my customers the experience of eating brand new flavors in the same way that you would eat a Push Pop Icee as a kid.

7 – In your opinion, do you believe that food, being a chef, in particular, resonates with our culture as heavily as things like music and fashion do? Why or why not?

I think that food resonates within our culture just as heavily as music and fashion because they are all forms of expression. Within each of these industries, you can tell when people view it as a hustle and when they view it as an art.

8 – I noticed from your website that you’ve taught some classes on pastry cooking. Why do you think it’s important to give back to those aspiring to be pastry chefs or just a chef in general? Are you teaching any forthcoming classes?

I think its super important to show aspiring chefs up close that they can achieve all of the things that they have in their mind. My most recent class was the most rewarding because I was invited to teach at my high school where I got my own early start. We had conversations during the class about my journey and I explained to my students that they can maneuver the industry to work in their favor and that they don’t have to spend years and years in kitchens that don’t pay well just to receive proper recognition.

Right now I’m focusing more on the catering aspect of my business, but I’m exploring the possibility of doing baking classes with the youth at a few day camps this summer.

9 – You’re going to be a guest speaking at an upcoming event happening in June. Talk a little bit about that.

An organization called She Will Mentoring reached out to me to be apart of a panel discussion called Making HERStory. The intention is for students of all ages to hear 5 panelists speak on our unique professional journeys. This panel is a little special to me because all 5 panelists are making ourselves available to keep in contact and become mentors to the students way after the event. I’m excited because this is an opportunity to provide someone with a role model and guidance. I want to push myself to be a role model or mentor overall just as a Black Woman coming up in our communities, even if it has nothing to do with Pastry or the Food industry as a whole.

10 – How do you view food? Secondly, how do you want people to view your food?

Food is an experience. It’s a piece of art that satisfies with its appearance, scent, aromas, textures, and taste. I want people to always feel like they got an experience with me that they couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

11 – In regards to your profession, what has been the biggest piece of advice anyone has given you?

Be ready for opportunities when they come. This resonates with me in the same way as hearing “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready” growing up. I think its extremely important to be established in some way when you step into certain rooms. It’s a little easier to navigate and secure opportunities when you can show a person all of the work that you’ve done and easily prove that endorsing you will be a reflection of their good judgment.

12 – What piece of advice would you give to the emerging pastry chef?

I would tell any emerging Pastry Chef to learn about all the areas of pastry. The comfort food, Grandma’s recipes, baking trends, food blogging, catering, the classic arts of the French Pastry Chefs, even the Japanese influence on desserts. When I was just starting out, all the only vision I had in my mind was to work in bakeries, gain skill and either compete or be on a show at the Food Network. I’ve gained so much knowledge and inspiration since then. There’s still a lot to be uncovered in our field and we have the great opportunity to still be groundbreakers and be considered special because this field isn’t one that’s been oversaturated.

13 – What other moves can we expect from Chef Nakai as we move into the second half of 2018?

Mark your calendars for July 21st. I’m teaming up with 2 Savory chefs and 1 other Pastry chef to bring a comfortable evening of fine dining. Our goal is to showcase our professional kitchen skills in an affluent and cultured, yet comfortable experience. We’re spending the evening celebrating fellowship, food, culture and the natural finesse that we bring to our industry as Black Chefs. We’ll be designing and serving 5 courses with the compliments of an open bar. We’ll also have “Litty Bags” available for purchase, these include two gourmet THC infused pastries by myself and my fellow Pastry chef and possibly upcoming merch by yours truly. Keep an eye out on www.chef-nakai.com, Tickets and more information will be available soon.

Clarissa Forde Speaks on Her Fashion Inspirations, The Growth of Her Rising Brand TMM.Life, How She Got Into Fashion Styling and More.

Streetwear is something that’s continuing to dominate the fashion world everyday. With so many brands that are currently flourishing all at once, it’s hard to ignore the fact that these brands are popping up all over the place. Not to mention a lot of these streetwear and/or contemporary brands are beginning to collaborate with high fashion labels which ultimately helps expand their name even wider. As someone who knows a bit about fashion, whether full streetwear or contemporary, I’ve yet to come across a woman who knows more about it than Clarissa Forde a.k.a The Mixed Mannequin. Using her unique sense of style and extensive knowledge in both streetwear and high fashion, Clarissa has been able to build up a brand and an audience that not only consists of today’s hypebeasts but also those who appreciate the evolution of one of the biggest growing businesses in the world.

I had the opportunity to chop it with with Clarissa and she talked about her inspirations, why she decided to get involved in fashion, her reason behind becoming a stylist, her TMM.Life brand and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get involved in streetwear fashion?

Honestly, I’ve always been a lover of streetwear fashion but in 2014 I found a new type of love for it. I started interning at a showroom that carried some of my fave well-known streetwear brands like Crooks & Castles, Married To The Mob, Hellz Bellz and there I was able to see a different side of the streetwear world. Sales wasn’t for me but I think I respected the game a little more after seeing how hard people worked behind the scenes.

2 – What was your inspiration for getting into fashion?

I got into fashion because I think about it 24/7. I wake up and think about it, work and think about it, and before I knock out guess what I’m doing? I couldn’t ignore that. My love for fashion runs so deep that I can’t imagine myself working in any other industry.

3 – You’re a woman “who can do both” as social media would say. Which one do you enjoy more – heels or sneakers? Why?

Between heels and sneakers, sneakers will always win for me. I do love both but I’m all about feeling comfortable and I feel so much better when I don’t have to worry about my feet hurting haha. Plus, sneakers go with everything for me. I could throw kicks on with a dress and feel as good as I would with heels!

4 – What was it about streetwear fashion that attracted you?

I think it was the “swagginess” that comes with it. The dudes into streetwear are usually super fly and the ladies into it are super dope. I love that. Fly people excite me. I needed in on all the fun

5 – As someone who has a great sense of style, how would you rate your personal style?

Between 1-10 I would rate my personal style as a 10. Not because I think I’m the flyest, but because I know my style is my own. I put things together based on mood and for that, I have to give myself a pat on the back. I don’t look at what everybody else is rocking, I always do my own thing.

6 – What’s your favorite streetwear brand currently? Why?

This is a hard question, honestly. Because streetwear isn’t how streetwear used to be. Now the lines are blurred between streetwear and high fashion and there’s a new middle lane with high streetwear. I have to say Visionary Society is my favorite brand right now. My homie Dio puts out heat after heat and does it on his own time whenever he feels like it’s time to drop some ish. Every piece is better than the last and I can’t think of any brand that’s killing it like that!

7 – Talk a little bit about your brand, TMM.Life.

TMM.Life is my own little world created just for TomboyChic women. It is a place where dope women could get their outfit inspiration and learn about other dope TomboyChic women on TomboyChic Thursdays. I’m definitely taking it to the next level in a few months and I can’t say much yet, but just know things are about to get crazy!

8 – What was the inspiration behind creating TomBoy Chic, TomBoy Chic Thursdays and highlighting women in the streetwear culture?

I created TomboyChic Thursday because I felt like we weren’t getting enough shine. I feel like a lot of women look and dress a certain way nowadays and I wanted to highlight the ladies that still kill it in kicks. I wanted to remind the ladies that dress like me that it’s still okay to be a tomboy regardless of what’s “in”. You don’t have to dress like Kim K to be cool or attractive. I also created it because I love supporting other women. If you’re fly and doing something amazing with your life, you deserve to be recognized and celebrated!

9 – You’re also a stylist. How did you get involved in that?

The more I think about it, the more I realize the early signs. I was styling before I even knew what that was. My dad has been letting me pick out his ties for work since I was old enough to talk. I really just jumped into it. I started planning my own shoots and picking up internships whenever I could.

10 – Do you have any favorite styling moments? If so, which project was it?

 My favorite styling moment was meeting well-known stylist Katie Mossman and helping with a recent shoot with major lingerie company La Senza. I’m an intern under her studio and meeting her first time while on set for a major styling job was the coolest feeling ever.

11 – In your opinion, how has social media impacted your career path?

 I think social media made it easier for me to find other women like me. That helps with curating the posts that go up on TMM.Life and figuring out who I should interview next.

12 – What advice would you give to the aspiring fashionista and/or aspiring stylist?

Be true to yourself. Always. If fashion is truly your passion and you live and breathe it, listen to your heart. A lot of people don’t think fashion is a real industry to really work in but they are totally wrong! There is definitely a lane for you and if you love it go for it! I would also say pick up internships! It’ll help you figure out which lane is right for you.

13 – What valuable piece of advice was given to you in regards to your craft?

I was told that if I do what I truly love to do, I will never feel like I’m working. That really stuck with me. That was life-changing advice.

14 – What’s next for Clarissa Forde and The Mixed Mannequin brand?

Bigger and better things! More shoots, more features, a few events maybe haha. Just know more dope stuff is on the way this year!

Brittany “YB” Brand Speaks on Working with Dave East and Joe Budden, Teaming Up With the Grass Route Podcast Team, Overcoming Her Industry Obstacles and More.

With the visual aspect of our culture constantly evolving and getting better, I find it fascinating to speak with different people who are involved in that profession and grab their perspective from behind the lens. From doing small photoshoots to growing a brand that has become synonymous with working with the like’s of Joe Budden and Dave East, Brittany “YB” Brand continues to showcase how great she is from behind the camera.

I caught up with Brittany to talk about her inspirations, her camera work, how she was able to link up with Joe Budden and Dave East, her recent team up with Grass Route’s Podcast and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into doing photography and videography work?

There was always a camera around when I was growing up because my family loved taking pictures. In middle school, I joined the yearbook committee and when I turned 16 I saved my money to buy my first “professional” camera. Once I got to high school I started taking pictures at the football games and other sporting events, creating these pretty cool collages for my friends and teammates. As far as getting into it professionally was the summer of 2015. So much was going on in my life at that time, I’ll never forget sitting in my car outside of my boyfriend’s house feeling like everything was just going downhill. I received a DM from a Video Director who wrote me with interest in collaborating together. He gave me a call, and that next week I was at my first video shoot.

2 – What was the inspiration for you to get behind the camera?

My dad was definitely my inspiration to get behind the camera early on. Most recently I didn’t get my 2nd camera until last year. My first camera was stolen in 2014, so I didn’t pick up a camera again until 2017. Before that, I literally upgraded my iPhone to the 7 Plus just because the camera quality was insane for a smartphone. I started shooting videos on my phone, like the French Montana and A Boogie Concert at LIU, or even the Mary J Blige concert I attended at Foxwoods Casino. When I posted the videos on Instagram, people couldn’t believe it was shot on an iPhone. The only reason why I bought a camera was because after attending a few video shoots, and being apart of the production process, I found a love for editing. After becoming the companies main editor, I got comfortable working with quality footage from the same director each shoot. Until it was time for me to work with other directors and videographers, where I didn’t always like their style of shooting quite as much. It was difficult finding someone who could capture visuals the way I liked it, which kind of forced me to get behind the camera and learn how to do it myself. The first visual I ever captured on my own was a pool party I was invited to at Irv Gotti’s house. He had a few of his artist there, and they were playing their music, so I just started shooting. Then I got some dope moments of everyone getting hype to Meek Mill – The Intro. I put the clip on Instagram, and Irv reposted it. That was pretty dope.

3 – Which one of your professions do you enjoy more – doing photography or videography? Why?

I enjoy videography more. I’m pretty much involved in the entire process, from directing to shooting and then editing in post-production. Editing could be time-consuming but it’s actually my favorite part of a production. Being able to piece a story together, where it’s appealing to the eye and ear is not as easy as it seems. I like my work to always look clean, simple, but impactful. If you notice, my fonts are always pretty basic, I don’t use much effects and filters, because I love the organic feeling of visuals as if it was a reality. I love for everything to look cinematic, and as long as I have quality visuals and quality audio, I feel like I can piece together anything. I realized I loved videography more when I started editing wedding videos. It literally feels like you’re creating a fairytale for Disney. With weddings, I learned the importance of audio, whether it be using sound bites or instrumentals, but audio plays a big role in getting that feeling.

4 – In your opinion, why do you believe visuals, whether still shots or video, have become so important today?

In my opinion, visuals have become so important today because of how the dynamic of media has changed, and the power of social media. These companies are creating visual content for their audience because people absorb it better than they do with words. Most people’s attention spans are a lot shorter now of days, and there are many studies that prove the human brain processes information faster when it’s delivered visually. Speaking for myself, I remember information a lot more when there’s a video attached, or some form of visual presentation, whether it’s a graphic, animation, etc. It allows you to get creative with your marketing, and I definitely believe it’s become the most important form of communication.

5 – You’ve done so many different types of visual work from music videos, sporting events, recap videos, podcasts and so on. What would you say was your favorite moment to cover? Why?

My favorite moment to cover would have to have been the video production for Dave East- Type of Time (The first release). There are so many other great moments that happened in my career, but nothing in comparison to this project. Literally a day I could never forget. At that time, I was apart of a production team. We would always talk about an upcoming artist coming out of New York, and just by listening to their music we would casually create our own video treatments. Dave was one of my favorite underground artists, so of course, I wanted my team to shoot a video for him. I wish I could go into full detail about this whole story, but I’d literally be here all night and still miss a few parts. Long story short that shoot was a real team effort. From the location scouting to my partner Crash getting the Jeep, me getting a whole bunch of dirt bikes to come out the day after a blizzard in Harlem. It was an epic moment for me, it was the transition into my career where I learned how to wear multiple hats at once, and to know I was apart of the beginning middle and end to a project made me wanna do this for a living. We shot this video on a Sunday, I handed in the final edit that Tuesday, and it was released on XXL that Wednesday. That’s a 2-day turnaround, which seemed crazy at the time based on how the whole situation played out. All in all, that’s the type of worth ethic I want to bring to the table no matter what the project is. That was definitely my favorite moment.

6 – What are some of the challenges or obstacles that you’ve faced being that you’re a woman so involved in this industry?

I’ve seen both sides of how women can be treated in this industry, but I think in a predominantly male environment your going to experience a lot more challenges than you’d intend. Whether it be your age, gender, ethnicity, etc. As long as you stay true to yourself, and remain focused on what you want to achieve, your work ethic will speak for itself. Through all the obstacles I’ve faced, I never let it hold me back from reaching my full potential.

7 – Being that there aren’t too many women out there that do what you do, have you ever had any moments of self-doubt or fear? How were able to overcome that?

The more I accomplish the more I get over my self- doubt and fear. I never want to be in an atmosphere where I feel like I don’t belong there, or my voice isn’t being heard. I learned to only work on projects I’m passionate about, rather than chasing a check. I overcome doubt and fear by keeping positive people around me, and people that keep it 100% real with me.

8 – You recently teamed up with Brandon “Killa BH” Hall and Erin Simon to join their Grass Route Podcast team. How did that happen?

It’s funny how that happened. I always say I kind of just speak things into existence. I had tuned into one of their episodes on YouTube, and when I watch content I always think of what could be added to the production. Those are things I often think to myself. I was familiar with Brandon “Killah BH” from his skits on Joe Budden: Mood Muzik projects, and from seeing him perform at his shows. I had the pleasure of attending 2 of Joe’s concerts at B.B. Kings in NYC where I formally met Brandon. Fast forward to now we both followed each other on Instagram and I had just posted my promotion video for my video production. In hindsight, He and Erin were looking for a videographer to join their podcast, so when he sent me a message inquiring business, it was a no-brainer for me. Within the next few days, I began shooting their podcast. I met Erin that first day, along with a few other team members and everyone was super cool, and pretty much made me “Apart of the Family” (which is one of their sayings for the brand) right away. As soon as they posted it on their Instagram that I had joined the team, everyone was texting me congratulating me like wow that’s a big move. Erin’s name was definitely brought up a lot in terms of good business, and just being an all around good person. I knew I made the right decision.

9 – Aside from the fact that you’re a videographer and photographer, you’re also a graphic designer. It is a visual aspect but \what made you get into that?

Graphic design is actually where it all started. Like in 2001, my sister had brought home her first computer from college. It was the first few times I used the computer by myself and she would open up paint for me. I was literally always creating graphics on Windows Paint. Where eventually as I grew older, and I’m literally growing with the internet; I started researching everything on google. My sister would always make her own cd’s, so as a teen I was always on Limewire downloading music and I noticed there was an option to download software. I started downloading programs like Corel paint shop pro and eventually photoshop. In 2007, when MySpace was super popular, that was really my first hustle. Creating myspace layouts for my friends and teaching myself HTML coding. It was pretty cool, I was literally creating a couple of pages a day. My friends would give me their account information, and I would set up their myspace layout. Most of my friends were doing music and rapping, so I started creating their mixtape covers. After graduating high school, and not getting accepted into any of the art schools I applied for, I pretty much got discouraged. I started working more and I didn’t have much time for my art. Until the popularity of Tumblr and Instagram. As that platform grew, I started showcasing my art again, and I would always create my own covers for new music releases hoping the artist would pick it up or repost it. There have been times that it happened. So graphic design was pretty much my introduction to music, video, and photography. Now I just combine it all together.

10 – What is one talent of yours that you want to expand on or at least give a bit more attention to this year?

I wanna give more attention to my photography. I feel like I have a good eye for capturing moments, but I’d love for my pictures to look more professional in quality, and that just comes with investing in more equipment. Right now I’ve just been building as a videographer, so the equipment I use for videos is not typically the same camera/equipment I would use for photography. So I’m definitely going to start investing in that side more.

11 – What valuable piece of advice have you received based on your craft?

A valuable piece of advice I have received was from Misa Hylton. We were meeting at Starbucks to go over a project we are now currently working on together called “The Secret Fashion Project”. As we spoke, and I told her a lil bit about myself she was telling me how she sees so much of herself in me. I mean, when she said that, we are talking about Misa Hylton. Automatically I’m like I can’t wait to tell my sisters. Cause they are the only reason I would know who she is, and the era she grew up in. A lot of her early success came from being at the right place at the right time, and that’s how I feel about a lot of the projects I had the opportunity of being involved in. She told me, it’s not about just being at the right place at the right time, you have to be the right person. And that stuck with me since that day. From then on, at any moment I feel self-doubt, I remind myself I’m where I am because I belong here.

12 – If you could shoot any type of visual piece with anybody you can think of who would that be? Why?

I think it would have to be Spike Lee. Most of my favorite movies are directed by him; Crooklyn, Do The Right Thing, He Got Game … like I can go on and on, and these are all independent films. Before I even got into film he was just such an inspiration to me. One of my favorite pair of Jordan’s from my collection are the Spiz-ike’s, and growing up as a Knicks Fan always seeing him sitting courtside, it’s just like HE IS NEW YORK. I would take pictures with my hat raised and the glasses just like he did (I know corny, but who hasn’t done that lol). I just think he’s the perfect representation of being successful and Black in this film industry because, to be honest, we don’t get enough credit. So I’d love to be apart of a project he directs, or even an interview. I mean I literally just had a dream about him the other day, so I already think something is going to happen soon. I feel it.

13 – What’s next for Brittany Brand for 2018?

I’ve already done the unthinkable, so I can’t imagine what’s next for me in 2018. I never even thought I’d be in the position I am in today. I’ve transformed from a graphic designer to a film editor, to a director, and to a videographer. I literally can’t imagine what’s next, but I know whatever it is it won’t be a disappointment.

D’ana of COVL Speaks on the Growth of Her Brand, The Rapid Evolution of Visual and Digital Content, Her Upcoming Project with Essence Festival and More.

I appreciate how the concept of an artist can range from a variety of different fields. I’m also a huge fan of the direction that the world is shifting to which is focusing more on visual and digital aesthetics whether it be social media, website related content or elsewhere. D’ana of COVL is one of the incredible forces out there that’s contributing to the growth and overall expansion of digital creation.

COVL, which stands for Collections + Volumes, is the graphic illustration company that D’ana started back in 2012. Using the brand as her foundation, D’ana of COVL has taken her storytelling abilities to new heights by working with brands such as the New York Times, Corona, Champs Sports, Agenda Show and many more.

I had the opportunity to chat with D’ana of COVL and she name dropped her biggest digital inspiration, the longest project she’s ever worked on, making COVL a tangible brand and what’s to come for the future.

1 – How did you get started in digital design?

I always owe my start in digital design to the power of suggestion. Without someone suggesting that maybe I was in the wrong industry, I probably would’ve never tried.

2 – What would you say your source of inspiration was?

When I stumbled across Hattie Stewart something clicked and suddenly it all made sense.

3 – What was the first ever digital piece you created?

Man, off the top of my head, I illustrated over a photo of me. And, I wasn’t even using PS back then. I was using Pixelmator so imagine that!

4 – Do you remember that first digital design you created that helped contribute to your come up? What was it?

I don’t. Which is a shame yet at the time I wasn’t going so fast that I can imagine whatever piece it was still holds true to who I am today.

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5 – What is your creative process like? In other words, take us through the first step of creating a design to the final step.

My process is simple… well, at least for me. I always start with a color scheme because it sets the tone/mood of what I’ll create. Then, I’ll play around with shapes and patterns until it feels right, even if the piece never sees the light of day.

6 – It’s evident that depending on the coloring, the number of layers and the piece itself that some designs will take longer than others. Time-wise, what was the longest piece you’ve ever done?

A project once took me an entire week because it consisted of 72 illustrations and a custom alphabet. The campaign I’m currently working on takes the cake. It’s a month long project and it’s definitely keeping me on my toes.

7 – What is it about adding color that you think makes your designs stand out?

Color has always been my form of therapy, so it all comes from a very open and vulnerable place. It was never intended for it to be consumed by others yet over time it has positively impacted others which in return positively impacts me.

8 – It’s been said that some of the best creative minds see colors when they’re in the process of creating. Do you find this relatable?

Color is everything. It’s what connects us to many things from what we eat to what we wear. Some minds embrace this fully and others are too naive to understand it’s full potential.

9 – The world of digital is growing and thriving every day. In your opinion, how important has creating digital content become?

I identify myself as a digital artist. I’ve allowed myself to encompass any medium that thrives within the digital space. I’ve never underestimated its importance because it rules everything around me. It’s how I connect with new and familiar faces, it’s a portal for me to take such a mere idea and execute it on a level I could never fathom had this era never existed. Reaching a mass audience without having to overexert your resources still mind boggles me yet it’s exciting as hell.

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10 – You’ve been given the amazing opportunity to create a piece for this year’s Essence Festival. How did that happen?

Someone once told me, “Build it and they will come” and that has been my mantra ever since then. I am always putting COLV first and by doing so, I live in a world where I can unapologetically be myself and fortunately, that has led me to opportunities with brands that appreciate that.

11 – Speak a little bit more about your upcoming COVL x HERSPAWN editorial project.

Simple: we just wanted to have fun and create. Sometimes you just need to play dress up and flex those creative wings.

12 – Talk more about the COVL brand. Are you only putting your focus on digital creation or are you looking to spread yourself out into other lanes? If so, what are those lanes?

This year I’m all about challenging the current facets of COVL and introducing it into the physical realm. That’s all I can say for now : )

13 – You’ve managed to be apart of a lot of dope collaborative projects. Which one would you say was your favorite project? Why?

I try not to play favoritism because it subconsciously puts a constraint on my future endeavors. So to be real, I still don’t have a favorite project. They all have equally contributed towards my growth, happiness, and love for design which is a win-win, right?

14 – What else can your fans expect from you for 2018 and beyond?

Becoming more present, more tangible experience, and more COVL magic!

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