How does the city inspire you?
I always knew that no matter what you're going through, you don't need to look like it. I don’t shy away from the fact that I like fashion and when you look good, you feel good and you do better. I really do believe that. Also, being born and raised in Harlem, that hustle that most people adapt to is something you weren’t given a choice to have. On the flip side, I’m trying to balance that with taking care of me because it’s so easy to get burned out in this city from overstimulation and feeling like you need to be everywhere.
You're a double-degree holder from Syracuse. How did you launch your career after graduating with your masters?
I don't want to say it was a mistake because I don’t regret it, but I very lazily made the expensive decision to go to grad school because I didn't have a job offer after senior year. I graduated at 21 from one of the top programs in the country and I’m thinking who wouldn’t want to hire me? That was the farthest thing from the truth.
I was interning at Sway In The Morning and The Wendy Williams Show while also working full-time at Aldo Shoes. My workdays were from 6 AM to at least 10 PM. I remember feeling like such a failure when I had to borrow $25 from my mother for a Metrocard. She wrote me a beautiful note telling me not to be discouraged as Puff, who I’m obsessed with, was once an intern too and bought me The Defining Decade, which I swear by.
When I got my first job at The Maury Show, the hustle took over because I knew how easily I could end up back at Aldo. I was the first PA in, last PA out, helped teams I wasn’t on, even painting guests teeth. I went onto Atlanta next to work with one of my bosses from Maury and stayed to work on a few reality shows. I figured out that wasn’t for me, but taking jobs you don’t want is career advice I always give because you never know what you like until you do it. I came back to New York to interview for Condé Nast. It took me a year to land this job.
How did you finally land the gig?
Securing that job speaks to tenacity and dedication, but also being prepared. I would go in for interviews and they would say I had great TV experience but not the digital experience they’re looking for. I was told to reorganize my resume, try to add one digital project and they would do what they could to get me hired. So I created Ask Auntie for my mom and two aunts who kept asking me for a reality show. It was something fun for them to do and a way for me to gain the experience, but I went on to sell it to BET. I took that back to Condé and was hired as the Facebook Live producer. I was in charge of producing 25 videos a week across 12 brands who I had to pitch to based on our internal structure. To give you an idea of the stress during that time, I now produce two videos a month. I was offered by Elaine to launch what would become Teen Vogue Take. They knew I had both TV and broadcast experience and suggested I also co-host the show.
What does the job of a producer typically consist of? What additional tasks have you taken on besides hosting?
Using Teen Vogue Take as an example, I would spend two to three days working on a script and pitches. Once those were approved, they went to the strategy team to help figure out how to ensure the highest performance. I would then rework the script, brief the cast and we shot on Tuesday from 6 AM – 11 AM. I’d run across the Oculus to hand deliver the footage to my editor and sit with him to cut the episode for 6 PM that night. I am actively trying to learn sales because that’s something we struggled with for Teen Vogue Take. When we launched the show, brands were moving away from social activism and saying they wanted to get back to fun. The Harlem girl in me knows how to get money, so I became really involved in that side of things.
What makes someone a good producer? How have you been able to set yourself apart as a great producer?
What I’m learning is there are different types of producers. Some focus on and enjoy working on the creative and others the logistics. Both are an absolute necessity, so it’s a great thing when you can find a producer who’s really good at both. I enjoy telling stories more than anything and with logistics, it’s to the point I don’t even like other producers on my set because I need to know shit gets done. That’s not best practice though and I’m working on it! What makes me a great producer is approaching this work in a way that nothing is beneath me. I still make the coffee runs and will continue to as an EP if that means my team making the best use of their time. I have also never gone over budget on a shoot. Again, as a Harlem girl, I know how to get things for free or at the least, a better rate. I believe in giving the mom-and-pops a chance who can work with a smaller budget and will appreciate the press. I don’t know if that’s something that can be taught.
What are your predictions for content creation?
I think live video will be deprioritized in the sense that alerts will go away. In terms of trends, Condé was ahead of the game in treating YouTube as a TV platform and unlocking those revenue streams, but others will follow. The content will be of higher quality in hopes of scaling to TV. Speaking of TV, it’s in a golden era and I think it will continue to get better and better. There’s so much content out there that the bar has been raised for what actually gets our attention and diverse voices are being amplified.
What do you consider to be your lane in the content creation world?
I don’t create for any particular person or thing and I can produce anything. Instead, I try to represent a larger picture. What that looks like for me is helping people understand that the combination of who they are and where they come from is important and why.
How do you handle all of your responsibilities at Condé Nast, creating and pitching your own content, and co-owning Bakery HNY?
I’m still learning. I had a very bad burnout back in April for this very reason. Self-care is different for everyone and maybe for me, it’s just turning off my phone for the day and not feeling guilty about it. I’m thinking a sprint approach may be best where I go hard for a period of time knowing a period of rest is scheduled. It helps me to have something to look forward to and I no longer move the mark. With things outside of the office, I’m testing out building a team. I have issues with delegating and trusting people to execute. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay if something doesn’t end in my perfect vision as long as it gets done.
How does running a family business fulfill you?
I was just talking to my brother Cheo about this last night. We’ve been in business for three years, are looking at a second location and coming out with a sneaker next year, which is insane to say. I texted him to ask how it feels and his joy and excitement made every stress I’ve experienced with him worth it. It’s also amazing to see my niece learning business. She and her friends set up in front of the store the other day and I got such immediate gratification from seeing them negotiating and selling.
You come from a very social and well-known family around Harlem. How did you draw from those roots to build your extensive network?
Most importantly, my family has a reputation for being kind. My grandma’s house was one where the door was always open and my mom is so giving. For the first year with the store, we struggled because my brother wanted to help all of his friends who owned brands. I’m very proud of that legacy in a world where people aren’t so nice anymore. Even though it may take me a minute to get back to you, I definitely have a minute for you. It costs me nothing and I gain from the universe.
You raised a point recently on social media about early and consistent exposure to trauma. How has that shaped you? How do you cope?
I'm pretty fine, I think? But when I talk to my peers about the things I've experienced, they're in shock that I'm able to be this composed person. With the passing of Kim Porter, who wasn’t only an icon, but also a family friend, a lot of people around me were very sad. But I couldn’t find it in myself to be any sadder. Hopefully, that doesn’t sound crazy, but it’s because I’m just used to it between being in the hood and news and pop culture. I need to figure out a way to deal that isn’t on the other end of the spectrum. I remember back in 2016 when there were multiple Black men murdered by police in 48 hours and while I still showed up to work, my spirit was so done. I couldn’t figure out how to articulate why until a white co-worker came up to me and was like ‘Oh my God, did you know one of them?’ And it’s like I knew everything about them and nothing at all. She recently told me that really impacted her because they don’t necessarily experience that phenomenon. Both of these instances made me step back to question my relationship to death and trauma as someone who grew up around it in the hood and also works in entertainment. I’m still unpacking it.
How do you define success?
Girl, I’m going to send you my therapy bill after this. I used to think it was a certain amount of money and an Instagrammable life. After burnouts and failures, success is being healthy. You wake up in the morning and for the most part, do what you want to do and are happy with that. My health coach says the biggest threat to my health is my perception of success. That shit hit me hard. Achieving all of these goals won’t matter if I’m not able to enjoy them fully. Now, success is having the emotional intelligence to receive what I hear in therapy and prioritize making my sessions, to make sure I’m working out and eating right. It’s more inclusive of my well-being than ever before.
My therapist helped me realize I don’t have any hobbies because I set the bar at being the best with everything I do or try to make it monetizable. Some things should be just for fun and happiness. I told her I liked running because it’s the one thing that helps my anxiety since all I can think about is one foot in front of the other. Then, I said I need to run a marathon and she stopped me to ask why do I have to make it a thing. The question then became which parts of my success are for me and which parts are performative to create the narrative that people think I’m successful. Why would she shake the table like that?
How do you feel being a Black woman in this current moment?
It’s so much fun, specifically being a Black woman creative from the hood right now. The Black woman community exists much more openly than before and the sub-community of creatives feels so indebted to each other. Not only are we cheering each other on, we’re also putting each other on. We’re are leaders of culture and our coming together combined with being inclusive when other groups catch on is how we combat patriarchy and white supremacy.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I will probably be moving to the west coast next year. I’ll be spending the first quarter of the year focusing on myself to get grounded before the move. I also don’t know what I like anymore outside of work, so I will be figuring it out. Going into my 29th year, I want to have self-awareness in that part of my womanhood.
How do you stay motivated as you strive to achieve your goals?
I don’t have much opportunity to get unmotivated because there’s so much on my plate. But I make a point to be genuine, keep people who I’m inspired by around me and check in with them often.