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!

Erin A. Simon Speaks on Effective Marketing and Advertising, Content/Creative Strategizing, The Evolution of Social Media and More.

There are a variety of things that go into building up your brand but being able to effectively market and advertise it to the masses is crucial. In today’s world, being a smart strategist plays a huge role in how you draw people into not only who you are as a person but to whatever your brand/product is. Not to mention, the importance of visual representation has become much more of a challenge for brands due to the rapid evolution of social media. Erin A. Simon knows a thing or two about content strategizing and growing a vast audience for your brand through your social media presence. After putting the time in for companies like REVOLT TV and Cycle, Erin has been able to build a strong following of people who turn to her for tips and tricks on how to properly introduce themselves and their brands to the world.

Erin opened up about the importance of marketing and advertising, being an effective content strategist, living in a world where content can sometimes be overly saturated and a lot more in our interview below.

1 – What inspired you growing up that made you want to get into the entertainment industry?

Honestly, growing up I never aspired to work in the entertainment industry haha it just naturally happened that way. I was a big science kid so I wanted to work as a Physical Therapist, Psychologist or Forensic Pathologist. I was always interested in how the human body works and how people think and etc. But, once I created my website called boxofmess.com at the age of 16, that path completely changed. I had a platform that allowed me to talk about sports, music, interview athletes and celebs. What started as a hobby eventually grew to a platform that had over a million unique visitors and over a million YouTube video views. From there I continued working in the sports industry until my mentors told me to move more over to music for various reasons, so I did. Now, I’ve found a way to be in both music and sports, which is exciting but unexpected back when I was growing up. That’s the great thing about life, things that are meant to happen just happen and I’m glad it happened this way. And even still, my career is changing, I went from being a journalist to now a content developer. This new adjustment has allowed me to exercise both my creativity and strategy/business side.

So, growing up, I was just lucky to have two parents who believed in me and helped support me in any way. Those two in addition to my family inspired me to chase after my dreams, wherever it would take me. And I so happen to end up in the entertainment industry!

2 – Was being a part of this industry something you were striving for throughout your time spent in school?

I never really strived to work in the entertainment industry, I strived to be one of the greatest in content development and creation. For me personally, I saw the ability to cross over into any industry as the most valuable asset that anyone could have. No matter where you go, you are doing great work. Personally, I felt that aiming for a goal within my self will always have a positive outcome, no matter where I was.

Building my morals, values, self-confidence, skill-sets, problem-solving skills and more within myself has helped me to maneuver within this industry. I think doing this first helped me avoid any negative temptations that come with this industry and also to handle any and all expectations.

It’s great working in this industry, I’ve met so many wonderful people, mentors and have worked on some great projects. But, I think striving to be a better person at the end of the day will always positively surpass the drive to work in any industry.

3 – Aside from the music part of your life, you’re also a huge sports fanatic. Which one of these do you enjoy covering or talking about more? Why?

I enjoy covering both, I think ultimately it is about the stories. Each person has a unique story, angle, experience that could shed some light on things. Since I was a kid, I was always fascinated by the way people think, play, work, live life, tell their stories and more. So, having the chance to do that in both fields is wonderful! Music and sports have always been great passions so I don’t think I would ever just pick one. There are so many connecting factors between music and sports, so in some form, they often have similarities. Goes back to that saying, rappers want to be athletes and athletes want to be rappers. And it’s fairly true haha but that’s because sports and hip-hop or black culture have always been interconnected in various forms. And not just that, people of all walks of life come together for both music events and sports events, so to see how similar the music and sports industry are has been very interesting and has definitely made it a greater experience covering both. So, at the end of the day, I love talking about both! Just don’t talk crap about my Eagles though lol kidding I don’t care if you do, go ask my Giants and Cowboys friends.

4 – You’ve always been someone who constantly talks about proper marketing and advertising a brand/service and also execution. What are some major factors that contribute to successful marketing and/or advertising?Great content. But, the content is only king with quality, context, and distribution. I think people may not see that ultimately content is anything in audio, video, written or visual form. Developing the most effective content to market yourself is important and necessary. I’ve helped to create content for media platforms, for NBA players, for small businesses and at the end of the day all of them are looking, seeking and needing content. Now, as a creative strategist, I can’t speak to all forms of advertising and etc, but at the end of the day, some major factors are context, quality, and distribution.

5 – For those who aren’t fully aware, what exactly is a content/creative strategist?Creative Strategists are ambidextrous thinkers who utilize both strategic skill sets (research, consumer insights, data, critical thinking, etc) and creative skill sets (content creation, art/design, concepting, writing, video editing, journalism, etc) to develop the most effective content that will assist their clients or company to reach a specific audience, achieve a certain ROI or even to get a certain amount of views per month.

We come in all shapes and sizes and can specialize in different fields, like myself, I focus more on content development within media but, I’ve also worked with others who are creative strategists in advertising. It’s a wonderful role and more companies are starting to seek individuals like this. This year I plan on doing workshops in various cities teaching fundamentals of creative strategy + content development to hopefully get more people interested in jobs like this.

6 – In your opinion, what is a good content strategist?A great content strategist is someone who is able to both thrive and succeed off of success and failure when it comes to content. Content creation takes time, research and effort. With the changing times of social media and platforms having to adapt constantly, the best content strategist are those who are able to analyze the changes, understand their audience and develop an effective concept based on the information that they have in hand.They are someone who isn’t afraid to go against the grain and try something new or far out there when some companies say no. They are able to effectively be strategic and creative simultaneously and last but not least, they are able to work in a collective group. Some of the best creative strategists, content strategists, and strategists, in general, have been those who’ve been able to work with others and work with people who are smarter than them in another field. You never want to be the smartest person in the room, always strive to be around others who are smarter than you in other fields so that you learn more. The knowledge you get will only strengthen your ability to be a better strategist.

7 – How important has digital content/creative strategics gotten over the last few years based on the evolution of social media?It’s become extremely important especially since the first line of defense or action is social media for most companies. People consume content in different forms and mediums such as podcasts are still being explored. Everyone craves content and looks at content all day since it’s easily accessible thanks to cell phones. The need and importance for content, ownership of data and distribution is going to become greater. More importantly, those who develop platforms that allow other content creators to easily create are going to win even more. Strategies for content will continue to adapt but will always be implemented. People and businesses are starting to understand that content and strategy/business go hand-in-hand. No longer can you keep them separated, they must work together. And now we are seeing a shift where creators are becoming the powerful influencers and they are the ones that are creating effective content not only for themselves but developing platforms for others to create content and for businesses.

8 – What would you say are the pros and cons of being a content strategist? Secondly, how do you keep online content relevant in a world where everything is fleeting so rapidly?

Pro: You create content

Con: You’re surrounded by content all the time

Haha I know that sounds weird but as a content strategist, you get to create content, amazing content that people could see for days, weeks, months, years or a lifetime. But, the downside is you are constantly looking at content all the time. So, it can sometimes be overwhelming and you need a break from social media and other platforms. But, every day is exciting and seeing updates for social media and etc is always a pleasing challenge.

9 – You’ve worked for some pretty reputable sites such as REVOLT and you also had a hand in creating content for Hypefresh Magazine. Now, you’re over at Cycle. At this stage of your career, how are you constantly inspiring yourself to be better than you were before as far as strategizing what your audience likes to see?Actually, I’m no longer at Cycle. However, right now I’m building up a podcast that I co-founded with my friend Brandon and also working on some other opportunities. But, I continue to inspire myself by looking at things that others may not think is important to content development but it is. I look at art, I watch the Discovery Channel, I read literature, I find inspiration in all different forms and things in life. I think opening your mind and expanding it beyond what you know or think you know is important for growth. It helps you understand so many different audiences when you jump into their world and learn from people in their world. So, I strive to be better and become better by doing this and exploring different communities. We may think we know what our audiences want but how do we really know if we don’t interact and engage with them? or even ask them! So, making myself step out of my comfort zone, talking to people, and exploring different cultures and readings has inspired me to become better.

10 – There have been multiple debates about people calling themselves content creators, journalists, digital strategists, etc. Social media has created this thin line between all of these and people are beginning to box everyone in as “bloggers.” What are your thoughts on that?I think naturally the worlds have come together as one. There isn’t this sort of “elitist” or “exclusive” level as much as it was before when it came to journalism, content creation and etc. We’ve moved away from traditionalism and have moved into a place where anyone can become the next best thing because of these more easily accessible platforms. And I do think that anyone can call themselves a content creator because everyone creates content, but there are certain titles that come with a lot of experience, degrees, and knowledge that shouldn’t be used so freely if you do not have any of those.

This thin line has caused problems though, it confuses some people in knowing, for example, the difference between a personality and journalist. We see this issue often even on ESPN. There is a difference and especially in how someone covers a story or industry and sometimes someone can be both. However, social media shouldn’t be viewed as the definite truth of everything. There are people on that platform who have no titles on there but are some of the greatest at what they do. I think those titles just help people identify those within a community to either engage, work with, and etc. But ultimately, the work speaks for itself and should always speak for itself. And that ultimately determines someone’s title. Don’t call yourself a digital strategist if your work doesn’t back that up, don’t call yourself a content developer if you haven’t developed content for a company, a brand and etc for a few years and simply put it for specific motives. Because at the end of the day, if you aren’t what you are, you will get called out for it and ultimately social media is just social media, simply one view or example of ourselves, nothing more and nothing less.

11 – Tell me a little bit more about the Grass Routes Podcast. How did that come about?

Grass Routes Podcast was created when Brandon “killabh” Hall and I met in an Executive MBA program at Rutgers University. What started as a fun project has expanded into something unique and great. We are able to tell our stories and showcase other people’s stories, which is something that I’ve always been interested in. We’ve accomplished some great things, going viral twice, building a core fanbase, and even having our episode placed on every major music website. I’ve never explored the world of podcasts in terms of content development so this is definitely a new territory and challenge for me but also very exciting! We have personal and collective goals for this podcast and I hope others enjoy it and are a part of our grassroots.

12 – What is the rest of your 2018 looking like? Should your fan base be expecting anything special?

For the rest of 2018, I have plans to work with several brands and create great content! I’ll be doing content development + creative strategy workshops in both Philadelphia and New York City soon and plan on working with a few professional athletes within the NBA, boxing world and more. So, you’ll see a lot more diverse content coming from me this year.

Brianni Taylor Speaks on Event Curation, Pros and Cons of Being an Event/Creative Producer, Tips for Creating the Successful Event and More.

Putting together the perfect event isn’t as easy as people may think it is. There are so many different elements and pieces that go into creating an outstanding function and who better to speak on it than one of the best party creators, Brianni Taylor. Brianni, also known to her fans as Brianni T., has been apart of the event production space for quite some time. The young creative has been and still is putting together some of New York’s best art-inspired parties and as of recently, took one of her gatherings to the other side of the country.

I spoke with Brianni about her come up in the event production world, her first ever event, creating social media engagement, her dream collaboration and more in our interview below.

1 – What made you want to get into creating events?

In 2010, my first semester in college, I took a Fashion Show Production class. We produced the school’s biggest event that year. The class brainstormed ideas for a fashion show theme. Luckily, mine was picked. We conceptualized the show, we picked the type of promotion and executed the marketing using guerilla marketing tactics, we held model castings and runway walking boot camp classes, we held fittings and created outfits… there was nothing that we did not do. I loved every bit of it because it felt so fulfilling to see something I’ve worked so hard on come to life and have so many people give great feedback.

2 – What was the first ever event you put together? Were you nervous about it?

The first event I produced solely under Brianni T. Presents was Makeup & Mimosas. It is so different now from what it used to be. The first Makeup & Mimosas was more of a seminar where the makeup artist, Ashley Sophia, showed everyone how to create certain makeup looks on a budget. I was so nervous I could not sleep the night before.

3 – What are the pros and cons of creating an event?

Let’s start with cons, from my personal experience with creating and producing events. The part I hate the most is not being able to secure strategic partnerships OR coming across a company that would be a great match. But, the deadline for sponsorship requests has passed. The highlights of producing/creating events are seeing everything I’ve worked so hard for come to life. I love seeing people enjoy themselves! A lot of people come to my events alone and meet new people, which is what it’s all about to me.

4 – The last few major events you had were related to visual art. Have you always been into visual artwork or was it more so something that made sense for the event you had in mind?

It’s so weird… for months before I curated the first TLOP Exhibit, I was saying “I want to
coordinate an art exhibit”. I had some ideas on what I wanted to do, but it was not music
related. Once Kanye West released The Life Of Pablo, I knew right away that I wanted to curate a Kanye West-inspired exhibit. Naturally, my other favorite musicians, Drake and Rihanna, were to follow.

5 – Not only do you create events and do things behind the scenes but you also host a lot of your own events. Would you prefer to work behind the scenes of the event or hosting? Why?

I actually don’t host my own events. I HATE being a “face” to anything because I am such a behind the scenes person. I usually have Taqee Bond host my events (haha). I am very
comfortable playing the backend roles as long as I get my just due.

6 – You’re responsible for creating a lot of social engagement in order to gain a crowd of people to attend your events. In your opinion, what do you think are some important things that help increase someone’s chances of throwing a successful event? 

That’s a great question which I am still learning the answer to. For ME, it has been knowing WHO my audience was, knowing what they like to talk about, knowing the right time to engage with them online and just creating a natural conversation which basically turns into free promotion. What companies now call “Twitter Chats” is something I’ve been doing for a while. It’s just another form of effective marketing. This doesn’t work for everyone because their support base might not be on Twitter. They need to find which platform works BEST for them and create content and conversations to really get people interested.

7 – What are the steps you take in thinking of a new event to produce?

I usually think of an event I would like to attend or what types of events I haven’t seen OR ones that I have encountered but want to reconstruct them to make them original. From there, I see if I am super passionate about the project and if it’s sticking with me I move forward and execute. There have been multiple ideas I’ve dropped to the side because I did not feel super excited about it and my promise to myself was while I am still in 100% control of my events production company, I will only work on projects that make me happy and fulfilled. To me, there’s nothing worse than working tirelessly on something that you really have no interest in.

8 – It seems like you’re taking your events to new heights. You recently did a Kanye
West-inspired exhibit in L.A. How does it feel to know that you can take your events to a different city and still receive the same positive reaction from people?

It was a really gratifying experience. I was humbled, I was proud of myself and I really
enjoyed myself, which I usually never do because I am so busy. In LA the vibes were MUCH different. Whenever the guests had to leave, they left with no problem. No one really knew me so it wasn’t 101 people stopping me to talk or with issues. I was able to check out all of the art, watch people enjoy themselves and I got to eat…which I NEVER do :-). I was happy but I know whenever I go back to LA I have to be even better.

9 – If you can choose one person in the entertainment or art industry to collaborate with as far as an art exhibit event goes who would that person be? Why?

HMMMMM [me thinking]… If it’s in regards to curating another exhibit with an artist I haven’t used before, I would have so much fun with a Cam’ron exhibit. I imagine everyone attending wearing all pink outfits, taking fly pictures, rapping “Suck It Or Not” or “Horse & Carriage” (haha). I would also be super interested in piecing together an art exhibit with Jay-Z. Who doesn’t want to work with him? Lastly, my dream is to go to New Orleans and produce an exhibit with artwork of Hot Boyz, No Limit and all of the hottest musicians from N.O. I’d die.

10 – What else can the people expect from you for the rest 2018? Do you have any events coming up soon?

April 28th, I will be bringing the Glow In The Dark TLOP Exhibit back to NYC. It was highly requested and I feel like my exhibits have evolved so much since the first exhibit and I want to do Kanye right in NYC. I POTENTIALLY will be heading to Chicago with the Glow In The Dark exhibit. It’s still in the air. I will be planning other events but they will be tied to my other business Van Kleur, which is a co-working space for women of color. We have so many big plans to engage with the large community that are black, brown, and yellow women. I am overly joyous about this project. It is my little baby and in my heart I know it’s going to be huge. Stay tuned ❤