As a native New Yorker, how does the city inspire you?
It wasn’t until I left New York and came back that I realized how much I had taken for granted about the city as well as its influence on everything I do. From the experiences the city offers to the people we get to encounter, New York is really the epicenter of everything great. I am an extension of it. It’s the backdrop for my webseries, Clever In The City, because the characters on shows like Sex and the City were living a life in my hometown that I didn’t understand until I was older.
You mentioned the people of New York being one of the city’s many gems. So much of making it in entertainment, and life in general, is about who you know. What are your golden rules for navigating New York’s social scene with networking goals in mind?
Always be genuine, remain humble and understand that your reputation precedes you. I know the last piece sounds cliche. However, it’s very true because there is one degree of separation here. While you cannot control the narrative all the time, you can be the same person always and thus control what people know to be an indisputable fact. I’ve worked to make sure that even if I’m not liked as a person, that I’m respected for my work and work ethic. You should want to be known for those things before drama or anything else.
What has been your journey from writing to being in front of the camera and producing visual content?
Well, I started out in front of the camera as a child model and actor, but it was too intimidating. The gift of pen was handed down to me from my mom, who is a writer. Transitioning into blogging about hip hop was natural because I could tie together my loves of writing and music. I started my blog, cleverlychloe.tumblr.com, in 2011 while still in Providence. I was eager to move back to New York because I knew so many people who I wanted to use my platform to promote. With some encouragement from my friend Ravie B, I set out to build my base before even having a stand-alone website by covering endless showcases and consistently reviewing mixtapes to give underground artists shine in a different way. At the time, everything was pay for play and artists just wanted someone who genuinely rocked with their music to push it. I then joined Word of Mouth Radio with my boys Q. Shepard and Taqee Bond. We had great conversations with guests including Combat Jack, Elliott Wilson and Taxstone. I was also was co-creator of The iN-House and we would put on day parties with performances from artists like Mack Wilds, Manolo Rose and Casanova. I then felt like I needed more. The opportunity to develop my own webseries on Dinnerland, Clever In The City, presented itself and the podcast, Clever Coins, was born from that. I’ve accomplished more that I thought I would and that makes me happy. But the pressure is on to create more content and opportunities for others.
Why did you decide to create a podcast based off your webseries?
The cool thing about Clever In The City is that you see guests in a hot pocket form in around ten minutes or less. However, people were saying the wanted more and asking for longer episodes. I did not want to budge there, but I knew it was great that the demand existed. I had also been told that people really enjoyed me in an audio format going back to Word of Mouth. The podcast was created to give what you can’t get from the show. It’s the extended, candid conversation you want to have after watching an episode. And there are continuities between the two formats to tie it all together.
What is your advice to content creators to ensure that their work stands out in a saturated landscape?
Take the templates but be original and build your own. Do not copy what others have done for a fast buck. You’ll quickly find out that what looks effortless was not easy and why most creatives are broke after using our day jobs to fund our dreams. Your goal as a creative is to innovate and challenge your audience’s mind. When you think you’ve hit the ceiling in those realms, push yourself to keep going.
Circling back your roots in hip hop writing, what is a lesson you took away from being in a male dominated space?
Before clickbait became a real thing, I thought of creative titles that made sure readers knew the topic of the article but also made them feel like the piece may take them elsewhere. Whereas men act like they are completely logical, we all think with emotion as humans. As a woman, I had an edge over male writers in regards to tapping into that emotion. My lane has always been correlating current events to moments that evoke feelings of nostalgia for a generation that was raised by hip hop. That allowed me to touch my readers despite my core support base being male.
You are among those of us who balance a 9-5 with creative endeavors. How do you do it?
You have to prioritize what you want. I’m the type of person that wants results. I truly believe your 20s aren’t for sleeping. It’s grind time. But the truth is, finding balance is an ongoing task. My bread and butter comes first because I take care of family. I don’t have the luxury to step away right now my 9-5, but it makes me more hungry to put myself on a deadline to do so. I’m fortunate enough to work in with great people who understand if I have to leave early to film or host an event. They respect and admire what I do because no matter what else is going on, I show up the next morning. I have a manager that helps me with my schedule and ensuring we are meeting our timeline of goals. Her presence helps me function in a way that doesn’t leave me burned out or my loved ones neglected. Lastly, you have to learn how to say no. Don’t say yes to everything out of fear of missing an opportunity. Every opportunity is not for you.
What next for you?
More visual content. I’m working on a new series launch on Dinnerland for Season 4. We’re going into production now. I want to push myself outside of the Clever In The City realm. I also want to expand my brand into apparel. There might even be a move on the horizon. We’ll see.
What motivates you as your pursue your goals?
Fear. Fear of being forgotten. Fear of it all being in vain. Fear of being inadequate. Fear of not reaching my goals. I feel anxiety about wasting the time God has given me on this earth. It makes me want to work hard to not be the girl who was on her way to greatness but never made it there.