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. 

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.

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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Fitness Coach Irv Hyppolite Speaks on Health in the Black Community, ‘The Inner U’ Fitness Boot Camp, His Project with New Balance and More.

You don’t hear people speak about health and fitness often in the black community. As of lately, we hear a lot of conversations about uplifting and empowering black entrepreneurs and black businesses but not so much about the health aspect. Although the conversation itself is rare, it doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or a topic to shy away from. Health, in general, is an issue for many cultures and has been for decades and fitness coach/motivational speaker Irv Hyppolite is using this as the driving force behind his passion.

I had the chance to catch up with Irv to talk about his fitness upbringing, his views on health in the black community, how he started The Inner U boot camp, his link up with New Balance and much more in our interview below.

How did you to get into fitness and being an instructor?

Well, when I was 18/19 I started to take working out seriously. I knew pretty early on that people treat you better, and respect you differently when you show that you respect yourself enough to be the best version of you… as far as being an instructor/fitness coach, I hired a trainer(now my mentor) to get me ready for arena football and working with him for a summer made realize how incredible one’s mind has to be to change someone else mentally and physically, so I wanted to learn the craft and he taught me how to do it.

2 – What were some of your main sources of inspiration to get into fitness?

Terrell Owens ( I know that’s weird) but I grew up watching how he took care of his body and worked out harder than any other player on his team. I aspired to be that unapologetic and driven lol. Also, my uncle..he had weights in his basement all my life and was the most driven person I’ve ever met but and then got hit with type 2 diabetes … I do this for him.

3 – In your opinion, do you think that fitness is a cultural lifestyle? In other words, why do you think black communities lack good health?

Good question, I think it is a cultural lifestyle but I think we don’t give it the respect it deserves, we could dig into the system of how they (barely )educate black communities on health, the Popeyes on every corner, or even how the media target’s minorities but on the surface level… I think the lack of good health comes from us not seeing a fair representation of healthy eating, the gym being a 365 and not just a vacation-ready thing. After Billy Blanks, we got Shawn T, and neither of them did anything then who else?

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4 – How would you describe the state of black health in today’s world?

It’s on the right track but still far from the zenith. Right now it’s so gimmicky that you have to really dig to find quality information in it. Also, POC didn’t give health/fitness the attention it needed till Instagram and hashtags made it trendy then vanity kicked in. 10 years ago you would look at me funny for carrying a gallon of water with my book bag… now people understand “YOU NEED WATER” lo. Also, it’s also not popular in media outlets that are NOT fitness related, yet it’s a lifestyle and you still see a lot of blogs/sites with that section who don’t cover fitness enough.

5 – You started a workout boot camp called The Inner U. How did you go about starting that? What was that creative process like?

That’s my baby lol, I started inner U back in 2016. The goal was to create a space for POC, that made working out fun and affordable, while addressing cultural issues, and celebrating empowerment… it’s bigger than me at this point,

6 – Aside from getting people in shape, what are some of your main goals when it comes to The Inner U?

Great question, it’s impact has helped so many people with their weight goals but more-so mentally. We’ve  donated money to charities, hold clothing drives, touch on social topics, and even celebrate things like women’s history month, stress awareness month, and etc. the main goal for me is to provide something that people will take home after those 60mins, a new lease on life that can’t be erased with space or time.

7 – You pride your boot camps on mixing fitness, hip-hop, and culture into one. Explain what that means.

Yea, so I craft the hip-hop playlist to fit the class, whether it’s a women’s only playlist, black history month playlist or even a Houston playlist during the time they were hit with a devastating hurricane. All these things are part of us and it shows that while we’re working out there’s a bigger picture here and we’re going to do our part to honor that.

8 – Social media plays a huge role in helping market and advertise a brand. How else does a fitness instructor get their name out there to help contribute to their brand but to also show the legitimacy of your brand?

Make people happy lol. Word of mouth is the biggest factor for me. If you create a product that has morals, stands for something, and shows promise in the success rate of people who come getting in the best shape of their lives, you can move the needle because people want to share that experience with others, and who doesn’t want to be in better shape? It’s almost a no-brainer. The class is sold out 85% of the time, and it’s new faces every week… that means people are getting the message across.

9 – You recently teamed up with New Balance on a project. How did you link up with the brand and what is the project based on?

S/o to the guys at New Balance, a rep from NB reached out to me and asked me if I would be interested in working with them on a winter series project. She was familiar with my work and felt that a partnership would make sense. The project is basically a signed deal to bring Inner U Bootcamp to the flagship store seasonally and free of charge for y’all. They gave me the space to create and control the narrative of my brand while aligning with me to give the public the ultimate New Balance x Inner U experience.

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10 – What are some of your personal goals and/or aspirations for fitness? For the black community?

My goals are to make sure every month I give back to “us.” I have a platform and I believe, big or small, it means nothing if you’re not changing the lives of people with it, you’re not doing enough. I aspire to create “generational HEALTH” and that basically means create a better today so we can give our kids these gems and they can pass it on to their kids after. That’s how we beat obesity, diabetes, and all the other complications we’re leading the league in.

11 – What’s next for Irv Hyppolite for the second quarter of 2018?  

A lot lol. We want to test out The Inner U in a couple other cities, start production on my online training program, and release a couple more pieces from my apparel line “DCSR”…. and that’s just the top layer.

Amanda ‘ThatDancer’ Barona Speaks on Family Inspirations, Her First Photo Shoot, Working with Fabolous, Touring with Rae Sremmurd, and More.

I love being able to connect with people who have a passion for visuals because it’s intriguing to hear what they see through their lens. Visual content has become a vital piece of our lives and being able to provide your following with a story through every photo is a great talent. Amanda Barona, also known as ThatDancer, is by far one of the most requested photographers in Florida. She has photographed some of music’s top acts such as Gucci Mane, DJ Khaled, Travis Scott, Tyler, the Creator, Post Malone and the list goes on. Although her lens has shot pretty much everyone you can think of, Amanda has become famously known for shooting and traveling with music duo Rae Sremmurd.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 7.56.01 PMI had the chance to chop it up with Amanda and we talked about her come up in the Miami scene, her first-ever photo shoot, how she managed to connect with Fab and Rae Sremmurd, the things that keep her motivated and more.

1 – How did you get into photography?

It began when I started going to concerts around 8th grade. Until this day I have boxes of Kodak Disposable cameras that I never got developed from concerts I went to. I was probably in Section 432, Row 13, Seat trashcan and was still taking pics of what looked like ants onstage lol. When MySpace popped off, I really got into it and my best friend gave me her Digi Cam on my 17th bday and I took it seriously from there.

2 – What was your main source of inspiration that got you into photography?

My siblings. I’m the oldest of 3. My sister is the baby, I purposely f*ck up in life so I can tell her “Yea don’t do that it was a failure” lol. My brother is a leukemia survivor, however, the cancer paralyzed him at 13/14? and sh*t was never the same. He’s now 26. His life changed and he no longer was able to be my partner in crime. So it’s like I started to live on the edge and run everywhere in order to show him the world he may never see. I have a habit of sometimes even recording full shows because I know he’d wanna see it, but he always thinks he’s a burden being in a wheelchair. I use my eyes to work a lens so he can have eyes, basically.

3 – What was the first ever shoot you’ve done?

It was probably my friends or fellow dancers. I was a hip-hop dancer in ’07. So I use to shoot myself, make my own comp cards and headshots. I told people all the time I took my own photos but they didn’t believe me. Power of the self-timer and running lol. I was also working in a portrait studio so I shot family portraits for like 4 years outta high school. It’s a blur lol.

But my first “Major shoot”? HA. It’s a tie between T-Pain or Yung Berg. I was an assistant to T-Pain so he opened the door for me way back in 2008. Pain was always letting me shoot when he was in town. Yung Berg contacted me to shoot his artist on his label and it was the worst business EVER. The story of Berg is the one I warn shooters about. He showed me that not all business is GOOD BIZ. No matter who the client is; famous or not. Long story short, I was still fairly new at shooting but he hired me to shoot an ALBUM cover for him and never got paid. I was jobless at the time so the money was important. I learned quickly the importance of contracts since we didn’t sign one. He pretended to be cool and was playing games about payment for months. Then when I’d ask about it he began to be unprofessional and go as far as disrespecting me. I told him off and never looked back. He’ll always have an ugly soul to me. The only thing I got from that was experience and to never ever let someone disrespect me and my art.

4 – Miami has grown a lot as far as emerging creatives. What did you during your come to get your work noticed?Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.02.33 PM

I think what helped me get noticed was being supportive. I was just hitting these concerts and always being front row to the point where these artists would legit recognize me when they came to town. Sometimes I had my camera sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I paid $300 to get a good seat, sometimes I bought a crappy seat and pretend like I was looking for my mom lol. But they saw the dedication I had for the music. Once I learned how to finesse and made some plugs, it was natural for me to get where I needed with my camera. Until this day I freak out when sneaking my camera in despite how long I’ve been doing it lol. But I tell everyone it’s not about the comp shows cause until this day I still buy concert tickets, I’m still flying myself out to catch festivals when people would assume I’m getting paid for it. Nope! It’s all a work in progress to be a household name.

5 – At what point did you realize your visuals were getting solid recognition?

When I was getting escorted to Big Sean’s photo pit some fans were yelling my name, complimenting my work, asking for photos and advice all while the show was on lol. Also recently, I went to a Waffle House incognito and the cook came out and legit said: “you’re thatdancer?” I died Lol. But, it was awesome to see my own city was starting to notice me. When I go to introduce myself to other artists and they say my name before I can introduce myself, that’s the best shit ever too.

6 – When did your first big break come to do your first established photoshoot or shoot an event?

Hmm trying to remember cause I go to way too many shows. 😩 I can’t even recall, unfortunately. I was always tryna find a way to make bread off shoots. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t had my break yet. I have so much more to prove. Someone who caught me off guard was probably Fab. I was already attending his show but a Ciroc rep asked me to shadow him and help. So I did. That same night Fab posted 36 images of mine on Instagram, that blew my mind that someone truly liked and saw my vision. That was one of the happiest days I had honestly. I kept screaming like Khaled “Another One?!?”

7- You’ve established yourself as a legit photographer in the state of Florida and it seems like you’re the go-to for a lot of different acts. How did you manage to build your connection with people like Rae Sremmurd and Fabolous?

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That’s my goal lol. My sis once said “Whenever an artist lands in Miami it’s a NO FLY ZONE for all shooters” lol. I was always a Rae Sremmurd fan. I saw them perform at Revolt Music Conference in like 2014. I snuck my camera in and was front row for their show. The energy they presented was another level. The boys and Mike Will were reposting my images but I didn’t get credit. I ended up seeing them at a club a week later, ran up to their section, opened their IG and yelled: “I took this photo!!” Jxmmi immediately grabbed my phone, took a snap, and I was like “we’re best friends now” lol Well it was like I spoke it into fruition cause I continued hitting up their shows. One event they had I had DM’d Jxm and he actually noticed it. He thought my IG was a fake celeb photo Page lol. When he spotted me in the crowd, he handed me the blunt and let me know he knew who I was. We later found out when I was on tour with them that he was tryna link with me for work but didn’t know how. We both clicked and it’s super hard to find that genuine chemistry while working nowadays. So it was gods plan really lol. He saw my hustle. I never asked for his contact I would just show up to their events ready to work.

My story wit Fab goes back to the previous question. I was always just at these shows. I like to call myself a candid shooter. I hate the posing stuff. He loves candids and genuine moments. I feel like I’m able to capture it without them feeling the pressure of my shutter. I’m quiet too. I just like to do my job and go. I use to be super intimidated by Fab. Cause he’s a legend to me. Never would I have thought I’d know him. Sometimes I don’t pay attention cause I’m like “oh you were talking to me?” Lmao. It took maybe a year to really connect. Learning how he moves, how he likes to be shot, etc.. But it took time and work. He taught me ALOT about shooting and business. A lot.

8 – Aside from Fab and Rae Sremmurd, what other acts have you been able to connect with and shoot on a regular basis?

T-Pain hired me as his personal assistant in 2011? He was the first person to help me get out my moms house and experience life outside of Florida. The day he hired me my first gig was South Africa on Christmas. Epic. He was there before everyone and is still around. I have a great relationship with Justin Combs, Mack Wilds, Dave East. Hell… a lot of New Yorkers love me lmao. Um… Zoey Dollaz for sure and a ton of artists team members.

9 – What do you prefer as a photographer – photoshoots or event shooting? Why?

I guess event shooting, I love colorful lights, the screaming fans, mosh pits, energy, the rush, the work behind putting a show on, and not knowing what your gonna exactly get. I love candids so I’m able to be as candid as possible compared to telling someone how to pose. Just thinking of that reminds me of Napoleon Dynamites’ Uncle Rico 😂

10 – What were some of your struggles coming up in this industry? What are some things that you’re currently struggling with although you’ve already positioned yourself as a legit creative?

It’s sad to say but I still battle with the issue that I am a female in a male-dominated game. Some people think it’s a joke when this is literally how I’m able to pay bills. I don’t care too much about being in the “know” – I just wanna be able to shoot freely and spread the art. But men get intimidated easily when I’m around. I struggle daily with DOUBT. Doubting myself or feeling like I’m not good enough. Sounds terrible but I’m very hard on myself.

11 – At this current moment, what keeps you motivated to keep shooting?

The hopes of being able to travel the world.

And these grey hairs I got on my head lol

12 – You’ve done so many different shoots and have shot so many different concerts and events. What would you say was the best photography experience for you? Why? What did you learn from it?

Hands down the European Tour I did with Rae Sremmurd. I learned from one of the best tour managers (shout out to Tony) how to move and survive the fast bus life lol. We had an incredible team 360 all around. From Security (Zeekeyy + Cor) to the all the boys who I consider family now (G-Lo, Shane, JaySremm, Max, Swae and Jxm, of course Migo!) The shows were during the day, night, in and outdoors, all different light settings. I had to move quickly and adjust with barely any sleep, all the while keeping up with the boys. It’s not as easy as you think lol. I also learned to never put my camera down and to be ready for every moment. Jxm’s 100k chain was taken during a crowdsurf and due to my trigger finger, I caught frame by frame the moment and was able to help. Alongside Max’s visuals. If I wasn’t on point that could have been a huge problem. But that’s the sremmlife way lol.

13 – As a photographer, what was the biggest piece of advice anyone has given you?

To be honest, I don’t have a piece of advice that sticks out. I remember thinking the other day I wanted to ask Fab that to see what he says but I just remember certain comments and go by my story to keep pushing. I literally speak a lot of stuff into existence. Remain true and you’re never too good to practice or learn.

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14 – If you could choose one person or event to shoot, who or what would that be?

Corny as it may be, it’d be a dream to shoot or meet Justin Timberlake. I’d say Childish Gambino but I know I’m a make it happen this year. A lot of people I wanted to shoot I made happen. It’s more so about traveling now. Who I meet or work with along the way is just the cherry on top.

15 – What can your fans expect from you in the second quarter of 2018?

Hopefully a tour! I’m praying and working. If not, I’m hoping to really kick off a shooters club to help other photographers out.

But I def plan on trying to get out more and shoot more than ever. I wanna be able to say I traveled the world before its too late.

Julius Stukes Jr. Speaks on Being Multi-Talented, Current Creative Inspirations, His Series ‘Hello, White People’, The Growth of Visual Content and More.

Having a variety of different talents can be a handful and time-consuming. When you combine that with the fast pace social media era it feels like you’re constantly working and trying to find another way to entice your following. Sometimes it’s not as fun as it seems but Julius has been able to make it work and as always, he is keeping his fans intrigued and entertained. It seems like there’s nothing he can’t do. From podcasting to acting to directing to even creating widespread memes, Mr. Stukes is solidifying his name in pretty much any lane he can maneuver himself into.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Julius to talk about his creative inspirations, the success of his viral memes, his newly launched Hello, White People series, and much more in our interview below.

1 – You wear a lot of hats such as comedian, photographer, film editor, director, podcaster, actor and so on. What inspired you to be this creative?

I get bored. I love challenging myself to do different things I see as fun and interesting. I also love having power and I believe that the more power you have as a creative, the more you are valued as a creative.

2 – How did you get your start in the industry?

I did everything for free. People love free. I started out shooting live events and music videos for my best friend, ReQ Cartier, but then I fell into a depression because I didn’t like my work so I stopped. I then started creating graphics, picked photography back up, started hosting events, creating events and so on and so on.

3 – Did you always see yourself being multi-talented and having your hand in everything?

NOPE. I left NYC to attend college, Shaw University, in Raleigh, NC to pursue a degree in Education. Even when I was a photographer in school, I only saw photography as my only talent.

4 – You do involve yourself in a lot so I know it’s probably hard to focus on one thing. Which one of your talents are you looking to expand for this year?

I would love to expand my writing. Everybody knows me as the guy for visuals, events, and memes. I have a fear being boxed in.

5 – I know it may be hard for people to focus on the brand of Julius being that it’s so extensive. How would you explain the brand?

Fun and for the people.

6 – You recently started a series called Hello, White People. How did you manage to come up with that?

White people have been embarrassing us black folk on TV since the beginning of the thought of TV. I want to fix that. My goal is to embarrass every white person in America and then the world, while they do my job for me. They created blackface; I have created Hello, White People.

7 – You’re about to start a new series in May called Rappity Rap Raps. Without giving too much away, explain what the basics of this series is about?

Rappers showing off.

8 – In your opinion, why do you think visual content has become so important today?

People love seeing things, more than hearing about it. To see it is to believe it. Listening to your favorite rapper give an interview is cool, but seeing them on a visual screen is even cooler. That is why The Breakfast Club is doing so well.

 

9 – What is your creative process like when putting together a new series or shooting something like your previous 31 Days of Appreciation series? In other words, what’s that initial first step?

Everyone is different. Me? I thrive off of recreating things from white folk, but I add seasoning to it. I come up with a title while doing the graphics and then I use my resources. I learned a lot of the cultural appropriators. To be as rich as the enemy, you must learn from the enemy.

10 – A lot of the memes that you created went viral on social media and we still see people using them today. Which meme went viral first and which one is your personal favorite?

The meme of me in the grey sweatsuit with my hands on my hips went viral first. It was very funny because prior to it going viral, I had that pic for a year. I have a favorite but it will be released later this year. I don’t want to say too much.

11 – In a world where visual content is constantly flowing, how do you manage to stay inspired? Where are you currently drawing your inspiration from?

I am inspired by Elvis, Gucci, Urban Outfitters, Kardashians, Miley Cyrus, White gays and other white folk/organizations that have stolen from my culture. The difference between me and them? I add seasoning to it, with my own original style. The real inspiration comes from Jameer Pond, Cleverly Chloe, Combat Jack, DJ Miss Milan, Issa Rae, Junae Brown and much more!

12 – You mentioned the part of your brand that you’ll be expanding for 2018 but which one these talents do you actually enjoy doing the most. Why?

Every year is different. Last year, I loved creating events and hosting them. This year, I love producing content. It’s a big power thrill. I love power. “Unlimited power” – Emperor  Palpatine.

13 – What were some struggles or obstacles you had to overcome to really get your name out there as this multi-talented person?

People believing in me and giving me a chance. Nobody wanted to work with me or give me a chance. Even to this day. People would know who I am but not what I do. They would say “I am proud of you” and “keep grinding”. They don’t even know what I do. They can SMD (I’ll keep it PG). That “keep grinding” sh*t is annoying.

14 – You’ve been a part of so many different projects. Which one would you say is your favorite? Why? What did you learn from it?

So far this year, it’s been #ReekRants. I have an opportunity to give someone a platform. Someone not popular and someone not named me. My net worth lies in my network. People would rather move up the ladder with a big name rather the person who supports you. I hate them *insert very bad word*.

15 – What’s the biggest piece of advice anyone has given to you about life or your craft?

“It’s bigger than you”

16 – Any big plans for 2018?

Not be depressed.

 

 

Christian Royce Speaks on Photography/Videography Inspirations, Working and Touring with Dej Loaf, The Launch of His New Brand ‘JETLAG’D’ and More.

It takes a lot of work to be a photographer, videographer, and/or director. Not only can it be it be extremely time consuming but you also have to have an amazing eye for capturing moments. Although every photographer, videographer, and/or director have their own way of capturing moments, the quality of the visual has to have a distinct meaning behind it. Like the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Using his family, work ethic, and a strong connection to one of music’s dopest acts as his inspiration, Christian Royce has been able to expand his talents in the visual department and grow his name to become one of the best-emerging visualizers in the tri-state area.

I caught up with Christian to talk about his grind in becoming one of the best at what he does, the pros and cons of being in the industry, connecting and traveling with Dej Loaf, the launch of his new company and more.

1 – How did you get into doing photography/videography?

I got into photography and videography at a very young age because of my grandfather. He taught me the ins and outs of cameras and how to work them. Ever since then I combined my love of photography and videography with my love for music and it’s been history ever since.

2 – Growing up, what did you use as your source of inspiration?

My source of inspiration comes from my father. He always seemed to make something out of nothing. Growing up and seeing that showed me that anything we want in life is obtainable and nothing is impossible. I took that lesson and used it in my creative process, I feel any vision a creative has can come to fruition through hard work and self-discipline.

3 – At what point did you realize that doing photography/videography is something you wanted to pursue?

I always knew from the first time I picked up a camera it would be a hobby of mine for the rest of my life. But it was my freshman year of college at Central Connecticut State University that I realized I wanted it to be more than just a hobby. I met somebody who I would call a mentor named Anthony Valentine and he basically told me “if your going to do something then do it, but just don’t do it because you like it. Do it to be the best that ever did it.” From that point on I started taking my craft very seriously and come my sophomore year I dropped out of college to pursue my career as a director and videographer.

4 – What was the first paid photography/videography gig you did?

My first paid job was in high school I’ll never forget it. I made $150 for a music video. To me at the time, it was the best thing ever. Now, I’m making fairly way more but to always think that’s where I started always humbles me and makes me thankful for the road I’ve taken to get to where I am now.

5 – I did an interview with Brea Simone recently. She mentioned that getting ahead of the curve on social media is was helped her get her name out there despite the misconception of Connecticut. What was your strategy in the early stages of building your name?

I always felt like people connect better with someone’s work when they can connect to the person as an individual. So I made sure I always showed my personality through social media because when people see the real you, it builds their interest and makes somebody that more excited to want to see the work you put out.

6 – For someone like yourself who constantly has to provide visual content, did you think it was challenging to stay ahead of the photography curve as far as emerging photographers in the tri-state?

To be honest, I always believed in quality over quantity. So I never felt the need to flood my page with any kind of content to make sure I posted every day. I more so made sure I was at the right events capturing the right people and giving people something to look at that they wouldn’t necessarily see every day.

7 – In your opinion, what are some pros and cons of doing photography? What about directing and videography?

When it comes to photography the only con I can say is that when you’re upcoming, if you haven’t built your name up or you don’t have a relationship with the person your working with it’s sometimes hard to receive credit on your own work. As for videography and directing it’s easier to get your credit but sometimes depending on the work you produce or the field you are in, it is harder to get jobs.

8 – Over the course of 2017 you did a lot of traveling and catching shots of everyone and everything while on the road. One person that comes to mind is Def Loaf. How did that link up happen?

So I met Dej Loaf at an event in Connecticut called HOT JAM, hosted by our local radio station Hot 93.7. I was there working with a very talented artist named ANoyd who was an opener that day for the concert and I had noticed Dej did not have a cameraman. So, me being the outgoing person I am haha I just went up to her road manager showed him some of my work and was like do you mind if I shoot a recap video for Dej Loaf, and he said: “yeah go for it.” So after the show, I went home edited her recap video and sent it in that night. Then about 2 weeks later they asked me to film her in NYC at a genius event, remind you all of this was last minute but when u want something in life you gotta go get it because life waits on no one. But all I can say is I went to NYC did my thing and then next thing I know I’m catching flights state to state traveling in sprinters day to day doing what I love and getting paid for it.

9 – What was the experience like of being on the road and traveling with a mainstream artist?

The experience at first is definitely surreal, it’s a different lifestyle something I wish everyone could experience at some point in their lives.  It’s very fast pace but relaxed at the same time, you really don’t have to worry about much and the vibes are amazing. I tend to stay to myself even on the road because I hate the spotlight but it almost seems like you have a small portion of the world in the palm of your hands. The only thing is that it does get very tiring with the traveling and all but it’s worth it for sure.

10 – You recently launched your media platform, Jet Lag’d. You stated on your Instagram post that you came up with the name because you travel and work a lot. Explain some of the basics of the brand. What are you looking to achieve with it?

I’m not gonna really go into detail on my brand JETLAG’D just because I’m still building it up, but I eventually want to be able to break new musical artist and other creatives through this platform and build a team of dope visionaries around it. I also want to provide dope content all done in house by the JETLAG’D team.

11 – You’ve done so much over the course of the last 12 months. Which project and/or person did you enjoy working with the most? What did you learn from it?

Dej has really played a huge role in my life as far as showing me how the industry works. But I’ve also been working with a lot of upcoming artist like Leeky Bandz, Rayla, Deeno Ape, Trauma, David Lee and others, and they are my favorite to work with. I know a lot of people would love to work with a mainstream artist but being able to work with an upcoming artist who you truly believe in and help them build their brand and image is one of the best feelings I could ever feel.

12 – What’s next for Christian Royce?

The world will have to wait and see! Just be ready and know I won’t disappoint.

Esther-Lauren Speaks on Growing Up in Paris, The Creative Process Behind Her Babes in Color Clothing Line, Entrepreneurship and More.

Building your name from the ground up is difficult. Starting your own brand and sticking with it is even more of a challenging task. There are a few traits that play a role in accomplishing both but one of the main traits is consistency. Esther-Lauren is the epitome of someone who embodies the word consistent. With a Parisian background as well as immigrant parents, Esther was able to find her passion in fashion design as well as styling. The young creative used social media as a way to build a foundation for herself and since then has created all things women love such as clothing, accessories, shoes and more.

I had the chance to catch up with Esther-Lauren to talk about her design and styling world, life growing up in Paris, the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur and more.

1 – What was the experience like growing up in Paris, one of the capitals of the fashion industry?

I moved here when I was still young but my mother’s Parisian sense of style definitely followed me into America. Her old wardrobe influences a lot of what I wear. Berets, blazer, pressed button downs and slicked ponytails with minimal makeup was her go to look. On a normal basis, that’s what you’ll most likely find me wearing.

2 – With Paris contributing to your love for fashion, what else would you say added to those inspirations growing up?

I didn’t grow up in the best neighborhood so I would say my style growing up was a mix between urban and European influences. I would throw on bright colors and chunky jewelry with cardigans and ballet flats. I loved taking whatever was trendy at the time and adding my own twist to it.

3 – When did you realize you wanted to be a stylist?

To be honest, I never had any intention of being a stylist. I would just post pictures of my outfits on Instagram and people kept messaging me style questions. I would offer free advice all the time to strangers that would ask me for help putting together an outfit. People started offering me money to style them and that’s when I decided to offer it as an official service.

4 – Aside from doing stylist work, you also design your own clothing. What made you want to get into design?

I started designing clothing when I was about 5 years old. I was bored with my dolls’ clothes so I would make my own pieces for them. For as long as I can remember I always told my parents I wanted to be either a doctor or fashion designer. Like most immigrant parents, they supported the healthcare route which is why I wasn’t able to develop my skills until recently.

5 – What was the very first piece you ever designed? What was the inspiration behind creating it?

The first major piece I ever designed was an outfit for myself to wear at the African Student Union fashion show at Stony Brook University. I needed to wear an African print outfit, but I wanted to incorporate elements of modern day styles to it. I combined African fabric with a solid color fabric and magic was created. Till this day, people still ask me to make them that dress.

6 – Which profession do you enjoy more, design or styling? Why?

Design. I get a high from creating and wearing my own pieces. I love making clothes that fit me perfectly and compliment my features. I hope to get to a place where I can design full time.

7 – Social media has contributed to a lot of your success as far as building your name and brand. In your opinion, how important has social media become for entrepreneurs such as yourself?

Social media is super important. When people tell me they have a business, blog, podcast, or anything similar but aren’t on social media I automatically think they aren’t serious about their work. Social media provides a free platform to reach people from all over the world every single day. It also puts a face to your business which makes people feel more secure in giving you their money.

8 – What are some pros and cons of being an entrepreneur?

Let’s start with the bad news. The work is a lot and not always rewarding. You’ll put so much into something that you’re sure will blow up in one day and it doesn’t. I’ve sacrificed sleep, friendships, time, and so much money to create my own brand. If I told you how much I spent on Babes in Color alone your jaw would drop. It’s also frustrating because sometimes the people you call family and friends are supportive up until it’s time to actually buy something. That can make be super discouraging. The pros make it all worth it. It feels good being your own boss and being completely involved and hands on. I’ve always had a rebellious attitude so working for myself is a dream. Seeing people wear your clothes never gets old. I get so many questions from young girls about how to start your own business and brand that it makes me want to cry. I love having the knowledge to help other women accomplish their goals.

9 – You recently launched your own clothing and shoe line called Babes in Color. What inspirations did you use to put the line together? What was the creative process like?

My inspiration was black women. I wanted a line that represented us. My logo designer and I met at an event and bonded over the fact that there aren’t enough cartoon images of authentic, natural black women. I wanted the face of my brand to be a black girl with kinky hair available in several different shades so all black women could feel included. If you follow me on Instagram then you know I’m a huge fan of color so I wanted my brand to be as bright and colorful as my everyday style is.

10 – Fashion designers and stylist constantly get inspirations based on a wide variety of things when it comes to either designing a piece or putting together an outfit for someone. Where do you currently get your inspirations from?

Color. I love color. You’ll rarely see me in black. I start by figuring out what color I feel like wearing and work around that. Monochromatic looks have been my thing lately. I just love slaying one color from head to toe. I’m also really inspired by fabrics. If I feel like being sexy then my piece will probably be made of satin. If I’m in the mood to be edgy I’m picking up leather for sure. If I’m the mood to be girly then fur and super soft cotton are my go to. I try to work with the mood of the person I am styling but I also love pushing people out of their comfort zone.

11 – You pride yourself on being a black woman in a world where women aren’t getting as much credit as they deserve. In your opinion, why do you think that is?

Black women are the prototype. We are pop culture. The amount of things we have influenced is impeccable. I will never be ashamed of being on the creator side of creativity. I’m proud. Our ability to make lemonade out of the lemons life constantly hands us is my favorite thing about us. I’m so glad to be entering a position where I can potentially make life easier for other black women.

12 – From the designer side, what would you say is your biggest goal you’re looking to achieve? What is the biggest goal for styling?

My biggest goal for my brand is to be in a position to help others, particularly women of color. As my brand grows I want to hire more women of color and give back to charities that help women of color. Everything I do is for women of color. I want to use my position to elevate all of us. As for styling, I would love an opportunity to work with a celebrity or style a magazine shoot or music video.

13 – Who in the fashion industry now, designer or stylist, do you admire? Why?

I get this question a lot and the truth is I’m more inspired by other bloggers and influencers than I am by major designers. I find a lot of their content to be more refreshing and inspiring. I also have noticed that at times they end influencing the content of a lot of major brands. Some of my favorite influencers and stylists are Kahlana Barfield Brown, Ann Wynn, Alaia Ryan and Kelsey Ashley. I keep up with these girls daily and they definitely influence my style.

14 – What are some key tips for those living the entrepreneur life?

Be patient. I am still learning this. Good things take time. I struggle a lot with patience and my desire to rush things has gotten me in trouble more than once. I would also say don’t be afraid to spend money. I think a lot of people get scared about spending a lot of money on the business if they aren’t sure when they’ll get it back. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself how can you ask others to invest in you? You have to spend money to make money.

15 – What big plans does Esther-Lauren have for 2018?

I have some new designs coming out for Babes in Color which I’m really excited about. I’m also expanding the charity aspect of my brand to help as many people as possible. A portion of the proceeds from Babes will go to various women’s shelters in NYC but I still feel like I can be doing more. That’s all I can share for now but I will say stay tuned for some big surprises.

Brea Simone Speaks on the Event Production Industry, The Rising Culture of Connecticut, Creating ‘Now You Know Entertainment’, and More.

There are so many young creatives in the world today and with the overflow of content, it’s hard sometimes to gage in on just one. But, when you recognize that “one” who is actually putting in the work day in and day out, you constantly await their next move. Also, we live in a society where everyone is proud to shout out their stomping grounds and hometown. When most feared to say where they were from, Brea Simone stepped up and let her following know that the emerging culture of Connecticut will not go unrecognized. Combining an outrageous work ethic, love for music and event planning as well as a solid rolodex of connections, Brea took her name and her brand to new heights. Not only has she put the pieces together for herself but she’s also lent a hand in helping out some of Connecticut’s hottest musical talents, up and coming entrepreneurs and visual creatives.

I caught up with Brea to talk about her upbringing in the event and music industry, the misconception of Connecticut, expanding on her talents, Now You Know Entertainment and more.

1 – How did you end up in the music/event industry?

I’ve had a love for music since I was little. I was fortunate enough to grow up on many different genres from my mom and my father. My mom was more of my R&B, Jazz, Hip-Hop influence while my dad contributed to my love of Rap, Rock, Pop, and Freestyle. I’ve always been a helper so I would go on twitter at times and tell people to send me their music. I liked being the girl in school that knew of the new artist before everyone else. Coming home from school and going on nothing but hip-hop blogs to see who’s new and who dropped mixtapes. I always wanted people to go to my MySpace page and ask what song was featured because they liked it lol! There was even this site called Tagged back in the day. I used to want badges from people with the music symbol. Even though it was dumb, I appreciated people that appreciated my ear for dope sh*t. When I was in college I worked as an intern for an Africana Center. I ended up putting together a poetry night and had some local performers share their talents. I packed out the room for the first event I ever did and from there, the rest is history.

2 – Your name/brand has grown a solid reputation throughout the years. Being that you’re from Connecticut and there’s this misperception of Connecticut out there, was it hard to get your name to the masses?

I was fortunate enough to be on platforms like Twitter and Instagram before people really gravitated towards it. It definitely helped me with getting my brand out to the masses. When I initially started I really had no end game like, “okay Brea, you have to get a following on social media.” It just kind of happened with things like #FollowFriday on Twitter and just meeting new people all over. I was shy. My twitter gave me a voice to be myself and interact with people. Then once people found out I was from CT I grabbed their attention more because they 99% of the time knew nothing about it. So I used that to my benefit as much as possible.

3 – Although CT is apart of the tristate, why do you think it gets such a bad reputation as far as new talent goes?

I think what makes it hard for CT is that we are between two major cities, New York and Boston. It’s easy to overlook because we don’t really have anything appealing for tourist to come to see. We don’t have a professional team for basketball or football. We mainly have UCONN and the Casinos. There’s nothing driving individuals to be like, “let’s go to CT today!” And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it just means people here just have to work 10x harder. I will say I appreciate it because it’s not oversaturated here. People move to the big cities where people are there already trying to make a name for themselves so there’s more competition when you are an outsider. I truly think the CT market is a blessing because of that. No one is coming here to step on toes of the people already creating. That goes for all the smaller, overlooked states. I think if more people got into that mindset, CT would be grateful and thankful and start focusing more on the right things.

4 – You seem to have taken on the title of “Connector of Dots” and have had that title for some time now. What is it about connecting people together that makes you love what you do?

I’m naturally a helper. I put people before myself. And I don’t do it to get recognition from others. I do it because I feel good when someone else is happy. That’s really what it is about to me. If I know that I helped someone achieve something, whether I get the “thank you!” or not… regardless, I know I’m doing what I was put on this earth to do. Some people may think its foolish but I live by what energy you put out into the world, is what you get back tenfold. You may talk down on me behind closed doors and I may know about it, but if something comes my way as an opportunity for someone, I put those feelings aside and focus on the business. That’s just the nature of my title and I live by that.

5 – You’re a woman of a lot of talents and wear a lot of different hats. What exactly is the brand of Brea Simone?

The brand of Brea Simone is an experience. Your brand is built off what you have people walk away with after being exposed to it. I want people to walk away informed if I do a panel. I want people to walk away with a contact if I do a networking event. I want people to walk away saying, “wow, I had an amazing time” after leaving one of my parties or events. I want people to come across dope new talent if I bring attention to it. It’s not a half-assed effort. It’s really hard work and dedication. I want people to feel that. Your brand speaks for you. What you bring to the table as a team or individual speaks to the masses for you. So I want people to walk away happy and satisfied with anything Brea Simone is involved in. And I understand I can’t make everyone happy. That’s a given. But I know if 9 out of 10 people are happy, they will either come back to the next thing or go to their friends and tell them about me. Word of mouth is a powerful
thing. Perception is also a powerful thing. I think since I’ve realized that early I’ve been able to build a brand that will have longevity not only in Connecticut but in other areas as well.

6 – Which one of your talents do you think have helped your career the most? Which one are you going to be investing more into this year?

I think one of the greatest things about me is my ability to connect with many different
individuals all over. I think it’s important to have an extremely diverse Rolodex of contacts. And I don’t mean diverse in regards to just ethnic backgrounds. I mean it in regards to the kind of talent people have, the different skill set one can offer, different people in random locations and more. You never know, you might be stranded in Arizona one day and remember a kid you met at a show in NY who runs all of Phoenix and you followed them on IG. All it takes is that one memory, that one great impression to keep a connection worth years to come. I plan on expanding my network to many different areas. I don’t want to stick to typical locations. I want to reach more.

7 – How has the evolution of social media impacted your career?

Social media has helped my career a lot. People used to refer to me on my college campus as the twitter famous girl because a lot of people did not have a high amount of following in my state like I did lol. Social media has allowed me to connect with people I never thought I would be able to hold a conversation with. I’ve met many great people and established an amazing network off being online. It’s truly amazing when I sit back and reflect on it. I think now little things like IG changing up their posting has messed up a lot of influencers and creative from running their personal brands/businesses on the platform. I’ve recently stopped posting as much on IG. I thought I read that they are switching back and if that is the case I know myself and many other peers of mine will be happy lol. I think for me, yes obviously, me being a woman is an advantage. I can use the fact that I have pictures up on my IG to then message individuals on IG about business and they have a face to match the message. Rather than just sending an email. People get emails all day. If I can make a connection over a social media platform I would
rather do that any day. Social media has allowed me to shoot my shot and make the winning shot at the buzzer. I love it. I can’t wait to continue to evolve with it.

8 – You just launched your brand, Now You Know Entertainment. Elaborate on that.

Now You Know is my baaaby! I started the idea in January of 2017. When I first came up with the name, I just wanted to do artist showcases. Originally it was going to be once a month, then I changed it to quarterly. I then realized I didn’t have the budget to bring an artist from OT to Connecticut every 3 months so it was back to the drawing board. I did an artist showcase in the 1st quarter and then did a panel in the 2nd quarter. The 3rd I took a break because I needed to prepare for A3C where I had moderate a panel and the 4th quarter I ended up doing networking events. I realized that the platform could be a lot bigger than I initially thought it could be. The possibilities were endless with what I wanted my audience to know. My panel was the ultimate thing that ended up showing that to me. So many people came out and just spoke to me once the event
commenced letting me know where they traveled from and how happy they were that I put together the event. That’s when I realized I had something special I needed to keep going with.

9 – In correlation with connecting the dots and bringing people together, what intrigues you about throwing an event?

I love everything in regards to planning an event. I get a rush off of the process. It’s like a high for me. I love brainstorming the idea, calling venues, making contracts, doing the walkthrough, setting up and executing. People may think I’m crazy but I even love it more when little f*ck ups happen and I have to fix it really fast without anyone at the event knowing. For example, on my way to my NYK Panel, I got a flat tire. No one in the event knew it happened until after the event was over and I told people. It’s all about keeping your composure and knowing what to do when things like that happen.

10 – In your opinion, do you feel women in this industry get the credit that they deserve?

Nah, I don’t think they do. But I’m starting to see a lot more women are getting credit as of late and I’m happy for that!!! I think that women always have to try 10x harder. And if you’re a black woman in the industry, that doubles. I hope it can change though. I truly believe women run the world. Women are the brains and masterminds behind a lot of amazing things. Your favorite artist or creator might have a strong team of men behind them but there’s probably really one woman who is solidifying a lot of the decisions behind the individual. But people would never know. I hope that can change in the future.

11 – What does the new wave of entrepreneurs, musicians, creatives, etc from Connecticut look like? You’ve lent a hand in helping a lot of people from CT so what up and comers are you working with now?

Connecticut is so versatile. I don’t think you can put one sound, one look, one vibe or feel to the state as a whole. I think that’s why I love it so much. People aren’t afraid to be themselves here. I think we’re trying to take the nightlife back. A lot of the clubs have shut down so venues are slim to none in the city. A lot of places also don’t want to be involved in hip-hop things anymore. And I’m sure that’s universal. But right now, it’s hitting CT hard and all at once. I think the creators here are determined. They are resilient. They want their voice to be heard. They want to make a mark and get CT the attention it deserves. The musicians are hard working. The promoters are savvy. The hosts are becoming more creative. And the list goes on.

12 – You’ve had the pleasure of collaborating and working with some dope individuals. What has been your favorite project thus far? Why?

Devin Cobbs is the most phenomenal person I have been able to work with. He’s such a great friend and really opens doors for anyone he deems worthy and I’m just so fortunate and blessed to be one of those individuals he gave a shot as well. From my first 40oz bounce in CT back in 2016 to working side by side with him last year at the Meadows festival…I’ve learned so much from him and I can’t thank him enough. He took a chance on me. He spoke on my panel as his first panel event. I was so happy when he said yes. Just because he’s shared so much knowledge with me, I knew he could change people’s lives in that room when he spoke about his journey. I think the most fun I had working with Devin was the 40oz Hamburger Helper event. The vibe was just good, he trusted me to set up on my own, run around and then once all the hectic things calmed down we got to enjoy the event. That’s what it’s about. Getting your responsibilities settled, keeping the sponsor happy and just having fun.

13 – If you could think of one person to collaborate on a party/project with, who would that person be? Why?

I’d love to do something with DussePalooza. That whole team is full of rockstars. They all have their own talents at the end of the day but they really come together to throw a GREAT party for people. It’s not just a party either. It’s an experience. From Peeje’s graphics, to Raven’s photos, to Karl’s recaps, to Chris and Low’s hosting… it is just phenomenal. Kam is amazing and has a wonderful soul. Kaz is awesome and so full of happiness. It would be an honor to work with them one day. *Super fangirl mode*
14 – What can we expect from Brea for the rest of 2018?

Growth. I expect failure as well. I can’t grow if I don’t fail. People may not see it and that’s fine. But when people do see my final product of my vision, I hope they will know it took me a lot to get there. I’m not sure what God has planned for me for the rest of the year but I’m ready. That’s all that really matters to me. I’ve been blessed enough to make it this far. I’m just fortunate enough to wake up and do what I love every day.

Cleverly Chloe Speaks on the Importance of Building a Social Presence, The Creation of ‘Clever in the City’ and the ‘Clever Coins’ Podcast, Her New Lane as a Creative Director and More.

In most cases, it’s hard to focus on multiple things at one time. When you’re busy focusing on one aspect of your life and trying to perfect it, you completely neglect another part and/or a particular craft. It’s rare when you can find the connection or similarities in the different dreams you’re pursuing and tie them together but that’s exactly what Chloe did. The young creative from the Bronx took everything that she knew best and used them to her advantage to build a foundation based on things she was talented in. Using her inspirations from her childhood to then building her own inspirations as life continued on, Chloe constructed a large following from the ground up based on her talents as a podcast host, short films/webs series actor, social media personality, event host, and so on.

I was able to catch up with Chloe in our interview below to talk about her life inspirations, what pushes her to constantly be creative, the importance of building a presence for yourself on social media, her strong connection to Dinner Land Network and more.

1 – When did you have that realization that you wanted to be a creator?

If I’m being honest, I can’t say I ever had the eureka moment where I woke up and decided; hey this is what I want to do. It sort of developed over time. Being a creative takes time. You have to try your hand at so many different things to figure out what it is you’re good at. For me, I’m talented or I’m blessed enough to say that I am talented in multiple areas and I was able to find a way to meld all the things that I love together.

2 – Coming up, what was your sense of inspiration for your creativity?

My mother was very creative. She was a collector of things. She collected magazines with so many timeless black women. I grew up with looking at them on the covers. I saw black faces constantly. I saw women in power, women in the theater, tv, dance and more. My mother was a big reason in me finding out and discovering all of my talents as she rolled me into the dance theater of Harlem at the age of three to study ballet, modern and Jazz until I was 16 years old.  She recorded every television award show from MTV VMAs, the Billboard Awards, and the AMA’s. I also watched the NAACP Image Awards, the Essence Awards, and the Source Awards. She was a big film buff. I watched black and white film at a young age. I knew every actress and every actor from the 19050s up until the 1990s. I was able to sit and watch every televised music award show there was. We would even record them. I was engulfed in entertainment and I think that fueled my desire and my passion to want to further express myself.

I was a child model. I was going to acting auditions and go-sees. I was a very talented child but I was a timid child until I grew older. I was able to release my creativity and it was a great expression for me. I was also a sketcher. I could design and draw. I knew how to do so many things and I just wanted to be able to do them all at once.

3 – When did you get your first shot at showcasing your creativity to the public?

That’s so hard to say. I think for those who’ve known me intimately, they could tell you that I’ve always been creative. From being a child in school, I was expressing myself through acting or design. I could make clothes as well but I guess to the public it would be through my blog, cleverlychloe.Tumblr.com. That’s where a lot of people saw that I was a talented writer and it wasn’t just about being obnoxious on social media.

I wrote an article that summarized the latest episode (at the time) of Tax Season from my friend, Taxstone, featuring my friends Ravie B. and the late Combat Jack. In the episode, Combat challenged the music and hip-hop industry as well as the personalities. We wanted the large platforms to do better as far as pushing the culture forward and the things we’ve done for the culture lately. I think that grabbed a lot of peoples attention who didn’t think I had much to say.

4 – You invest a lot of time into social media but it’s all apart of your image and your brand. In your opinion, how important do you think social media is for young creatives? How important is it for emerging brands?

If it wasn’t for social media, Cleverly Chloe and the brand wouldn’t exist. It sounds cliché to say but I think social media gets a bad rap. You can literally use multiple free platforms to make money and get your voice or message heard. I think people have to be smart about how they use their platform. If you have 1,000 followers that means you have a network to reach 1,000 people. Don’t waste it.

Repetition is key. Symbolism is key. Alliteration and being redundant is key when it comes to building your brand notoriety. A lot of people remember me and it’s not because of my face but because of my name, it’s easy to remember. I did that on purpose. Everything  I do has a purpose. I’ve never just jumped into something because I was afraid to miss an opportunity. My social media brand is a reflection of that.

5 – Was there any particular moment that you can remember where you noticed that your name and what you do began to catch on to people? How did that moment feel?

Oh yes, I remember that moment all too well. I think it was after Clever in the City was featured in REVOLT as one of the top five web series to look out for in 2017. I was exceedingly humbled and after that article, I started seeing projects for work that I had inspired which is humbling and flattering. But, you definitely take notice of what you do and how it affects or inspires people.

After that, I was being asked my opinion on things and that even started after my website and my blog took off. I saw that people cared about my opinion. That’s an honor and also an incredibly heavy weight to bear because now you have to be careful. It’s about what you say and how you say it to people because now you’re trying not to offend anyone. Your main goal is to inspire people to want to do better.  It can be a little overwhelming.

6 – In a world where content is constantly flowing, it’s hard to sometimes create an idea that belongs to you? Where do you currently pull your inspiration from? Has it become difficult for you and your team to brainstorm ideas?

I love classic sh*t. In my new lane as a creative director and a person who is trying to produce original visual content, my job to research things as well as put a new spin on what our generation finds appealing. I know my main purpose so my direction is always clear. To promote and inspire new talent to the masses, that’s always my goal.

I pull inspiration from old movies or books that I’ve read. I also get inspired by New York itself. My web series is dedicated to my city where I’m from. There’s a lot of inspiration to pull from. Even walking around and seeing people, I’m a studier of human nature and consumer behavior. I’ve pulled from everything which probably hurts me more than it does help me because I’m somewhat of a perfectionist. I don’t want to put out anything that sub-par. But, I get a lot of inspiration just from everyday life.

7 – You’re the creator of two well-known platforms. One being Clever in the City and the other being Cleverly Coins the podcast. What was the process of putting these two ideas together?

This was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in creating a project that I knew made sense. Clever in the City is obviously inspired by Sex and the City. I have always felt connected to the characters on there as young women going through life. Now, being a creative working in New York and living here I can relate to so much. I wanted to do a unique spin in which I was able to showcase my friends in the industry that I work with that are also doing the same thing as me. It’s very tough to be a creative here and I wanted to showcase the people that were successful and how you can be when you really stick to it. I also wanted to show how influential the city is to that culture.

I literally isolate myself from people while creating. I delved into all the seasons of Sex and the City and watched every episode. So, every episode of Clever has infusions of that series just to kinda tieback a correlation.

The Clever Coins podcast was great fun to do because I have a history of podcasting and people wanted to hear me again. I also wanted to extend the conversations from each episode so they came together quite seamlessly. I had a lot of fun involving everyone that I’ve had for the first season and it was just such a magical moment that I hope to be able to re-create in the future.

8 – You played in a web series called Appropriate Culture. How did you manage to get into that? For those who don’t know, what was the series based on?

So, the great thing about Appropriate Culture is that it’s written, directed and stars its creator, Julian Stephen. One day Julian called me and told me he had a script and he wrote a character with me in mind and asked if I would be willing to read the script and see if I would be interested in joining the project. Above all, I was flattered but I was a little hesitant. I wasn’t sure how ready I was to get back into acting. It had been a while but I knew I needed to start. I read the script and I thought it was really funny, really smart and knew there weren’t that many young black comedies. I felt that we could do something really unique and different. The rest is pretty much history.

The show is based on two brothers living in New York trying to figure out and balance dating friendships. They have a dad who gives them all sorts of crazy advice but it really showcases how young people have to adapt into young adulting. As cliché as that may sound, Julian did a great job with picking a diverse enough cast to where everyone can bring something different, watch the show, and recognize somebody in a character that they see.

9 – How did you link up with Dinner Land?

When my manager and I first got together, she asked me what I wanted to do and I mentioned that I wanted to relaunch a web series. She asked if I knew of any production people are videographers and I told her no. She immediately thought of Dinner Land. We already knew them from working with Taxstone and Combat Jack. I was familiar with their production value and some of their contact and I was interested in seeing if they would be able to bring this vision I had to life. We had a sit down with Shake, the producer of my web series, and the rest is history. We were able to really create a great synergy and he really helped me in bringing Clever in the City to fruition.

10 – I recently interviewed Yan, one of your colleagues from Dinner Land. She shed a lot of light on the brand as a whole. In your opinion, why do you think Dinner Land has become so important to our culture and to the emerging creative?

It’s quality over quantity over there. They don’t just take on any assignment just say they did it. They actually want to see unique ideas push the forefront. I am so humbled and appreciative that they took a chance on Clever because I knew I wasn’t trying to waste anyone’s time with bullsh*t content. Doing safe sh*t is easy but it’s also boring and Dinner Land is willing to go outside the lines if it means producing original work that has value. I love Dinner!

11 – With everything that you’ve involved yourself in throughout the last few years, what do you think the most important and memorable moment was? How did that moment help contribute to who you are today?

I don’t think I can chuck it up to just one moment. I had so much fun in 2017. I experienced extreme highs and extreme lows from hosting in front of thousands of people and coming out of my acting shell again and being on the web series in front of the camera. There’s so much that pushes me. I think to be able to force myself out of my comfort zone as far as entertaining. that’s what I love. I love to live in those moments. I think we are often chasing that high and I’m blessed enough to be able to experience multiple highs.

12 – Who are some women in the industry that you admire? Why?

I have a great circle and network of women that I get to watch and that I respect. From my friend Raven a.k.a. Ravie B. to Nina Parker. There is another friend of mine by the name of Bridget Kelly and Karen Civil has been a constant inspiration for me. Women in film and television like Shonda Rimes, Mara Brock Akil and Lena White. I have seen my friend Scottie Beam do amazing things these past few months since leaving Hot 97. I look at my friends and my support system around me. I have so many women that I watch. Gia Peppers is another one who I think is awesome. Yara Shahidi I think is the voice of the black women in the generation coming behind me and I can’t wait to see what she does in the future. There are so many people that I constantly watch and I can’t wait to work with them.

13 – As a woman working in this industry, what has been the most important piece of advice given to you that you still live by today?

I remember once, Combat and I were driving in his car and I told him I was hesitant on wanting to do too many things too soon and I might want to take my time with doing some things. He told me; “Chloe, go after that shit now! You’re only young once. You’re talented, you’re smart, you got the drive do it now before it’s too late because there’s always going to be somebody behind you trying to do it better.”  He was always helpful and constantly inspiring me. whenever I felt down he told me so many inspirational things. He believed in me so much. I’ll remember everything he ever told me. But, it definitely will help me in not being afraid to release my projects and my work.

14 – What’s next for Chloe and her team? What can your fans expect from you in 2018?  

More Clever in the City and more Clever Coins podcast. I’m going to be helping with other peoples projects right now and doing a lot as far as creative direction. You’ll be seeing my name in credits if you pay attention.  I’m looking to grow as an actor and on-camera personality.  I’m trying to delve into multiple arenas so right now I’m perfecting my craft during this hibernation mode.  However, I’m looking to emerge for spring and summer 2018 on top!