Category: Movers & Shakers

Stand out creatives & innovators that you should be on the lookout for.

Movers & Shakers Presents: The Engine Behind Popular Demand, Thundercup

Often times it’s the person who looks least likely to be a power player, that is indeed holding all of the cards. Let’s face it. Our perception shapes our reality until we are proven otherwise. It’s not necessarily a negative thing. Perhaps it’s just human nature. If you’re a fan of defying the status quo, then you’ve got to love it when someone comes along and kicks normalcy in the mouth. Monica Lin depicts this scenario in more ways than one.

As the Marketing Director of Popular Demand, Monica has been charged with the task of knocking the industry door down and seeing to it that Popular Demand is mentioned in any conversation involving streetwear. At the young age of 25 and in a male dominated industry, Monica Lin has become a respected voice and an inspiration to industry hopefuls worldwide.

Like most Millennials, she’s used social media to create transparency between herself and followers who find pleasure in looking into her daily adventures. She’s more than a Popular Demand employee, she is a brand herself who has garnered a social following addicted to her every move. At first glimpse there are a few things for certain. She’s fly as hell, works her ass off, and has fun doing it. She answers career development questions from her fans day in and day out via DM, and she keeps the positive energy flowing.

Despite the transparency, few people know the behind the scenes story of the young woman from a tight-knit Taiwanese family; raised by her mother through a childhood cloaked in a love for streetwear and pop culture. Brave and assertive, this is someone who has habitually taken life into her own hands. No matter if that meant leaving home at the age of 17 or dropping out of college to pursue the career she leads now. This is the story of Monica Lin. I believe the saying goes, “You gon’ learn today!”

 

img_9176

“I come from a Taiwanese family that’s super proud of our culture but at the same time, very open-minded. My cousins are all between the ages of 18-30 and our parents all raised us to be around each other constantly, so we’re still close to this day. I’m blessed that we were all raised to have diverse experiences and to be accepting of different cultures.”

Monica subconsciously grinned as she reminisced on the adults of the family taking her and her cousins to try a variety of different foods and divulge in a never-ending amount of ethnic enclaves. She recalled the freedom of never being pressured to pursue careers such as medical, legal, etc. that typical Asian families tend to push on their kids. She was always free to figure life out on her own.

That’s a major point that must not be ignored. The autonomy to take the world in for all it has to offer, and feel empowered to do what feels right intrinsically is the catalyst for greatness. Add the fact that Monica’s mother introduced her to streetwear at an early age and you’ve got the ingredients for a hot plate of dopeness. Monica attributes her love of streetwear to her mother’s early, and still present influence.

“My mom is super in tune with all that stuff. She was the first person to show me CDG. In Taiwan and Japan, they are ahead of the game in streetwear. She pays attention to pop culture to this day. She still shows me new stuff now. She’s very in the mix. I moved to Taiwan when I was 9 and lived there for 4 years. Being out there is pretty cool, a lot of the trends I saw ended up coming out in America like 3-5 years later. There are streetwear pockets like Soho and Fairfax in America, but over there they’ve always had young people who made it their life business to sell their own clothes and accessories. They started so early that they didn’t jump on the social media wave so they aren’t as big as they could be. If you pay attention to what’s going down out there, that’s what’s going happen in a few years. Most people don’t realize that a lot of trends come from there.”

As Monica grew older her natural interest in streetwear grew with her. As an adolescent she read blogs like Nitrolicious and took note of the fact that people were making true careers out of it. It made her hone in and pay attention to the culture as a student just as much as a fan. During her time in college she hung out on Fairfax frequently and kept up with brands and their owners knowing one day she’d be in the game herself. Of course, she didn’t imagine it would be to this magnitude. In the early days, she figured she’d just be blogging and taking pictures. A slight underestimation of her own potential but let’s forgive her for not knowing her potential right away.

Unsure of how or when she would break into the streetwear industry, Monica started where many creators do with her own blog.

“When you have a blog you have the potential to give other people a platform. Everything I learned about editing photos and writing came from my blog, teaching myself. I was using my blog to maximize my network and get into a lot of shows. I built a network off of it because people would want to hit me up when they were in town. At one point I met Ben Hundreds and Bobby Hundreds. They had a huge blog at the time; they took a pic of me and posted my blog. I had a big spike from that and a lot of people hit me up. One who did was my friend Philip. One day he told me this brand called Popular Demand was looking for interns and I researched, and saw that they were still brand new and growing. I was in school and working full time so I didn’t have time to intern for free. A little farther down the line they were looking for a marketing person. I reached out to hear more about it, it was entry level enough for me to have an opportunity.”

During the summer, Blake Ricciardi (CEO of Popular Demand) would bring Monica in to get her feedback. Her opportunity with the company grew from there as she interned for about a month. Laughingly, she recalled her first day.

“I showed up in a pencil skirt and a button up when we don’t even have a dress code. You can just show up with good ideas and make it happen. I kind of carved out my own role.”

For Monica, that meant getting the brand into the spotlight where young kids would pay attention. One sure way to accomplish that was to tap into music videos. Equipped with the companies 4 shirt styles and a steamer, she would go out to different sets to try and help out with wardrobe. After building enough contacts she created value for herself.

“A lot of people think networking is about what others can do for you when it’s about what you can do for others. One day a director named Fredo hit me up and asked me to come through a shoot. It ended up being the “Show Me How To Function” remix. Big Sean, Birdman, etc. was there. I was like “Oh shit this is my biggest shoot to date,” I was there for 14 hours in heels and since they didn’t have a stylist I was able be responsible for wardrobe. That was why I got hired. It gave me a chance to show Blake and everyone else my abilities.”

Blake made a safe bet on Monica, since becoming Popular Demand’s Marketing Director she’s pulled off activations and partnerships with the likes of Karen Civil, REVOLT, Def Jam, Puma, and plenty more. As she adds more wins to her list of career accomplishments, Monica still faces stereotypes, stigmas, fears, and insecurities just like the rest of us. All while growing her own exposure, and attacking new goals outside of Popular Demand. Here’s what she had to say about it all:

thundercup2-2

What about your relationship with your father, did he have any type of profound impact on you like your mother did?

“My confidence, my assertiveness, my resourcefulness, and my extroverted side are all thanks to my dad. My dad and I had a tough love relationship when I was growing up and nowadays, he is still a crazy ass person, but I appreciate him wholeheartedly. I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today without him.”

Why did you leave home at the young age of 17, and how did that experience mold you for the better? 

“I won’t go too much into detail (maybe one day), but in short, I had to leave in order to take control of my own life. I packed three bags in the middle of the night, had my best friend Ashley pick me up, and then I never looked back. I got scholarships and educational grants that paid for my college tuition + dorms, which helped me out immensely for 3 years before I chose to drop out to pursue my career full time. Sometimes, it’s now or never and you have to have the balls to take that chance.”

What are some of the doubts or fears you have about your future plans, and what do you do to overcome that doubt?

“You can’t doubt yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? There will always be times when things don’t happen the way you envision it. It’s okay to have to take an alternate route to get to the end goal. I’ve learned that successful people aren’t the ones that are great at everything, they’re the ones that are great at adapting effectively.”

What are some preconceived notions that people may have about you and how do you go about proving otherwise? 

“I guess I’m sort of an outlier in my industry. I’m a 5’2” Asian girl. Sometimes, people don’t respect me right off the bat because they don’t take women seriously. Once in a while, I come across people who stereotype Asians and think I’m probably shy and timid. I’ve been doing this for over 4 years now, I don’t really go out of my way solely to prove them wrong – I just do what I do and be myself.” 

Most people might ask you to speak on the disadvantages you face in a male dominated industry. Are there any advantages that this gives you?

“I’m marketing a lifestyle and the product. Sometimes you look at a product and it’s dope. A year later you’re over it. For the retailers they still love it. I can’t let my personal stance override that. In terms of being a female in a male dominated industry, on one hand you have to work 5x harder because people won’t take you seriously. Sometimes people come in for meetings and don’t realize what my role is and shake everyone’s hand but mine. You have to make people take you seriously. I’m not here just to chill. On the other hand it helps because people remember me. There aren’t a lot of girls and there aren’t a lot of Asian women. We work closely with the music industry too and there aren’t a lot of Asian girls.”

What are some standout moments in your career thus far? Tell us about times when you succeeded, and failed. How did you use those moments to learn and grow?  

“The things I am most proud of include being able to work with an incredible team at a company that we built from absolutely nothing. I get to work with extremely talented people across various creative industries, who are beasts at what they do and it’s inspiring to be around that all the time.”

How have you been able to utilize your own following to boost your efforts with Popular Demand? 

“It’s a mixture of the brand and my personal self. I get opportunities outside of the brand. I’ve made myself a resource for other people. I reference Karen Civil and what she did with Beats. There are parallels between us. I give the brand a platform and use it as my platform as well. People ask how I built my following. Whenever influencers would ask how I built that, I just connected with influencers chop it up and they’d always take pictures with me and shout me out for helping them. Leverage what you have to offer and build genuine connections. Think about where you spend your time and allocate it wisely in terms of who you’re learning from. You can’t be out here saying yes to everything. Know yourself, know your brand and your story so you don’t sell out.”

As for right now, Monica appears to have found her sweet spot. She’s kicking ass at Popular Demand and every day is like a reality show. No seriously, they’re working on reality show. It’s one big family, and with that comes plenty of pro’s and con’s. The company is young with pretty much everyone being under 30, and they’ve literally grown their careers together; half of them dropped out of school to work at Popular Demand full time. Everyone wears multiple hats and plays a major role. So much that no one dares to take off for weeks at a time. Even when on vacation, everyone stays on call.

“You have to sacrifice personal time. Day-to-Day life involves everyone talking shit to each other all day. We all love food. Soon as we hit the office we’re plotting on lunch lol. It’s chill until after 12pm and then rappers and actors start showing up and it just gets crazy. Everyone gets their shit done there’s music blasting all the time.”

Popular Demand aside, we can expect way more coming from Monica. She’s helping to creative direct a women’s line for Karmaloop. She’s also working on a women’s sunglasses boutique. Not to mention her #ThundercupandFriends photo series where she reinvents anime cartoons that inspire her. She’s linked up with painters and graphic designers to create original work through it. Eventually, she wants to do an actual gallery showing.

 

As for the next 5-10 years Monica doesn’t have any concrete expectations. She just wants to continue doing what she’s doing and having a good time. In essence, she’s remaining true to the lessons she learned as a child. Keep an open mind, and find your way according to what moves you.

Want to learn more about Monica’s work and some streetwear industry advice along with it? Follow us on Twitter as she takes over for a live Snapchat Q&A session!

unnamed

Movers & Shakers – Jeff Staple: Leader of The Flock

We took a trip to Staple Design for a sit down with a staple in creative culture (pun intended). Jeff Staple, Founder and Creative Director of Staple Design is what most creatives aspire to be. He runs a clothing brand, retail space, and design company responsible for some of the most iconic moments in sneaker and pop culture history. From collaborations with Nike and PacSun, to guest art direction for Complex Magazine the Staple Pigeon brand has transcended decades to touch the lives of countless lovers of culture.

There are countless Jeff Staple interviews and profiles all over the web, but none of them seemed to get the background story of what it took to bring the Staple Pigeon brand to life from the inside out. We spoke with Jeff about identifying as a creative, his personal journey to career success, rebranding Reed Space, and leaving a legacy. EnjoyMovers & Shakers: Jeff Staple, Leader of the Flock and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates on hot new content just like this!

 

Josh Madden: The Art of Blending Talents

Any creative will testify to the fact that their main goal is simply to live inspired. We absolutely thrive in any situation where we get the urge to introduce a feeling through our work. More times than not, we find that type of inspiration in more than one craft. The problem we’re left to solve is figuring out how to successfully blend our efforts into one satisfactory existence on this Earth. In other words, how the hell can we do everything we love? It’s important to identify examples of the careers we aspire to have, and for me that example is Josh Madden.

A true lover of the culture, you don’t find Josh over selling himself or making a big fuss about all of the work he’s done. Nonetheless, if you want to talk about pioneers and true influencers then you cannot leave his name off of the list. He’s played a heavy hand in structuring and curating many of the experiences we’ve enjoyed throughout our youth.

What immediately stuck out to me during our conversation was Josh’s genuine love for the experiences he’s been able to live through as a result of the work he’s done. He doesn’t care about the paychecks, or the reputation that comes from working with well-known brands. For him, it’s all about getting to reflect on the nostalgia of encountering some of the biggest names in creative culture, before they were big names.

“If you stick to your instincts and don’t get caught up in the bullshit, you can be fucking HUGE. I know a bunch of millionaires, but they don’t excite me as much as the day I met Eddie Huang, Wil Fry, Emanuel “Mano” Nickerson, Steve Aoki, or G-Eazy. The day I meet people is always more exciting.”

Madden finds delight in these moments because he appreciates passion and potential. He believes that passion is at the helm of progression, and progression is everything. This mindset makes complete sense considering the path he’s traveled to get where he is today.

Growing up in Maryland, Josh Madden was not raised in a very diverse area. However, that did not stop him from having an eclectic taste and outlook on life from an early age. He listened to Tupac just as much as Metallica, Stevie Wonder, BB & CC Winans, The Cure, Operation Ivy and classical music. Though music was obviously an area of interest for him, fashion is where he first decided to express himself creatively.

“I knew I had a knack for the fashion thing since I was young, because even though it wasn’t around me, media was my window. I studied it so heavily, and not even on purpose.”

Josh would go on to earn admission into Greensboro College. The city of Greensboro, NC served as a true home for his personal growth, the way most college towns do. A quick walk down memory lane brought Josh to back to a time when he contemplated dropping out of school on multiple occasions. He credits a woman named Cynthia Hanson, former head of the School of Business at Greensboro College for fighting him on the idea and keeping him enrolled.

His knack for fashion resurfaced in 2000 when Josh founded MADE after graduating with his degree in Marketing & Economics. During a time when he was working construction back in Washington DC, living with no heat or hot water; his brother Joel of Good Charlotte partnered with the seed money of $500 to start the clothing line back when they both were broke. Ironically it would be a quote from one of the first MADE shirts that went on to be the title of Good Charlotte’s wildly successful album, “The Young and the Hopeless.”

Made was a widely popular clothing company, however the Madden brothers were forced to shut it down due to trademarking issues. The success that stemmed from it was enough to help propel Josh to the next level in his career. He was earning his stripes in New York styling for the likes of Nylon. It was an interesting time in his life as he watched friends get famous while he remained in the background styling, directing and curating projects.

“I had to learn to not be selfish. Everything I had to work with, I worked with because I loved it. I didn’t make anybody, folks allowed me to be a part of their equation. Any person that’s famous, they’re special people. The world loves these people for a reason and it’s my job to big them up.”

Josh went on to explain the importance of being fully cooperative and engaged. We live in a world where we’re taught to go against each other in the pursuit of success. He believes this to be an unhealthy approach to personal satisfaction and career growth, because our voices are to be used to lift up and praise the people we believe in.

Good karma stems from that, and Josh’s life and work can be attributed to good karma just as much as hard work. His resume speaks for itself and is a testament to remaining patient and working toward the opportunities you desire. As a stylist he’s overseen campaigns, editorials, lookbooks, runway shows, and brand ambassadorship for Ben Sherman, Timberland, Paper Magazine, House of Cassette, Kangol and more. He’s written, directed, and produced for Nylon Magazine and Good Charlotte as well.

A lover of music at heart, fate would provide an opportunity for Josh to deliver good vibes from the DJ booth after filling in for accomplished DJ and respected music industry veteran Sarah Lewitinn aka UltraGrrrl. Sometimes a natural high is the fuel you need to send you into the next direction of success and Josh got the proper high from rocking a crowd.

He’d add DJ’ing to his resume spinning at Sundance, New York, Paris, Amsterdam and London Fashion Week shows as well as award show after parties. Josh Madden is a rare example of what it’s like to be a jack-of-all-trades. A man in his position could easily bask in his own glory, but his humility keeps him grounded. Regardless of his success, his real passion is empowering those he believes in, especially the new generation of creators.

There were plenty of gems to take away from our conversation but these 5 are words of advice that we all can stand to benefit from.

Have Fun With It, Even In Dire Times

“I’ve been thousands, and thousands of dollars in debt and during those times I made some of the dopest shit. My biggest regret is that I was so focused on getting out of the red that I don’t even remember those moments when I created my best work. Never forget to enjoy the process.”

 

Show Love & Be Supportive

“We owe it to each other to show support and pass knowledge along.”

 

Find Your Clarity & Maintain It

“The people who make it are relentless and they have clarity. Pray, meditate, do whatever it is you do. Everybody’s trying to figure it out, and people all find their own code. The recipe that makes you is most important.”

 

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

“There’s so much hardship behind the scenes that goes unseen. People get ripped off and taken advantage of. It’s tough to be in the space where you know people are looking at you. A celebrity is nothing but a person who’s work we celebrate. Just work. All of the people who the audience obsesses over all have the same human struggle. Creativity has an all time high in value because energy has an all time high in value. If you’re willing to work, and really get your hands dirty you’ll be fine.”

 

Be A Cultural Participant

“Be about the work and the message, don’t worry about getting all of the attention. You can lose out on opportunities by always trying to shine. We have to carefully define our expectations, and operate in the best interest of those expectations. A lot of times that means being unselfish.” 

Josh Madden is above all else, a thankful man. Appreciative of the opportunities his creativity has afforded him. Now, with a successful career to stand on all he cares about is love and sharing all of the insight he can put into words. For that, we thank you Josh. Every generation requires tutelage, and we’re more than grateful for yours.

 

 

 

 

Julian Mitchell & The “Get Paid To Be Yourself “ Movement

 

Finding your purpose is no easy objective. Identifying what you’re on this earth to accomplish and how you can be happy while doing it sounds like a simple concept. Considering the next couple of facts, it’s actually pretty damn hard. You’ve spent 12 years or more learning in an education system that places emphasis on groupthink instead of building on individual gifts. Now you’re in your early to mid 20’s, acknowledging the fact that you’re not using your gifts, and you’re balancing that need to find your true self with new responsibilities like car payments, building good credit, and everything else on the long list of shit you wish they told you about before hitting the real world.

The thought of failure scares you, and taking a step back to sacrifice comfort just to find yourself is crazy talk. So what do you do? You settle, you settle into the existence that was designed for you instead of taking ownership over the canvas that is your future. You want to Van Gogh your life with all of the beautiful colors that make you awesome, but instead you’re drawing simple shapes, because those make sense and everyone will at least accept them.

If this sounds right so far, then you my friend are sabotaging yourself. You’ve got something to offer the world, and you can do it in a way that best represents who you are. Believe it or not, there are people who get paid to be exactly who they are authentically. It may take some time and patience, but with enough focus you can find your purpose and build your life according to what makes you feel most inspired. If you need an example, look no further than Julian Mitchell.

An award-winning brand marketer and multimedia journalist, Julian Mitchel has had a hand in creating content and campaigns for brands we all know very well. Honda, Google, and Wells Fargo ring a bell for sure, and he even worked with Sean “Diddy” Combs himself to launch REVOLT Media & TV in his role as Social Media and Editorial Director. Currently, Julian is a contributor for Forbes and the Huffington post. However, his most important work is in his efforts to teach people with untapped potential how to create an income just for being who they are.

But what the hell does that even mean? I’m shy, does that mean I can get paid for it? Well it goes a bit deeper than that. Mitchell understands that people are realizing they don’t have to follow tradition. Nothing is attractive about working one job you kind of like for most of your life, only to retire with half of your annual salary to show for it. We want options, and we want to be inspired each day. Beyond that, we want freedom to be who we are while we earn an income, instead of waiting until 5pm to let our authentic selves show.

Where folks tend to struggle is that they aren’t sure how to acknowledge their skill set, and monetize it. That’s where Mitch comes in, with is Get Paid To be Yourself workshops, attendees are walked through the mechanics of monetizing their value. From LA to Boston, Julian Mitchell is changing lives by empowering others to be the best version of themselves while getting paid for it.

With such an inspirational mission, and a resume that speaks volumes about his work ethic, I knew Mitch was a perfect candidate for our Movers & Shakers series. A collection of profiles highlighting up and coming and established creatives alike who are making waves in their respective industries. This time it’s all about a growing force to be reckoned with, whether it’s his aim or not. Hello world, meet Julian Mitchell. 

“I’m just an incredibly driven and passionate person with an abnormal sense of belief, focused on living out my purpose to the fullest potential. I was born in Seattle, Washington, before later moving to Las Vegas at 11 years old. I grew up without my mother and father, so my grandmother raised me for most of my childhood. My older brother also lived with my grandmother and I. My upbringing has several layers to it, but in short it was a lot of free roaming — living in my imagination and exploring things. Because my grandmother was so much older, there wasn’t much structure and that came with tremendous benefits and challenges. There was a lot of turmoil, but by the grace of God I was able to turn it into fuel to go create the life I wanted for myself.”

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

 

Your mission is to empower young creators, and to encourage people to design their lives according to what inspires them. How did you come to realize this mission? 

 

“I came to embrace this mission by living it out, and experiencing the process of staying true throughout the journey – then being able to look up and realize everything I saw for myself to a point has manifested. I truly believe getting paid to be yourself is the real American Dream, and there isn’t a feeling more rewarding than knowing you’re authentically yourself, aligning with your purpose and inspired by how far you can take it. You never have to question if you’re compromising values or integrity, regardless of failures that come. Creating the life you want is an ever-evolving road, but assures you attract everything promised to you in this lifetime. So many people settle for being a fraction of who they are designed to be, and in essence only tap into a fraction of their power. I want people to realize how powerful they are.”

 

What is the Get Paid To Be Yourself series, and can you describe your selection process for interview subjects? 

 

“Get Paid To Be Yourself is an editorial series that profiles dynamic individuals who have crafted multifaceted careers rooted in who they are and what they care about. The people I highlight have built sustainable businesses by understanding the value in their unique interests and perspective, and found organic ways to monetize that value. When selecting people to profile, I look for people who shape key segments of culture on a major scale but may not be well known, but they also have compelling and/or inspiring stories about how they arrived at the place they’ve landed. Ultimately, I look for people who stand as a lesson on multiple levels – whether how to do business, navigate the journey, or believe in yourself.”

 

What do you think are some of the reasons that people struggle to monetize their value? 

 

“I think most people struggle to fully monetize their value for a number of reasons. First, we’re not taught how to outside of mastering one skill set, and pursuing one career path. Formal education often programs us to take on a trade and associate our value to how far along we progress in that profession. As a result, the idea of enterprising or simply expecting a career that encompasses multiple passions isn’t prevalent. Secondly, I think people underestimate the power of their perspective. Your perspective is your value. It’s a one-of-one, because every person on the planet lives an exclusive set of experiences. That means we each have value to offer than only we can. When you create a demand or desire for that value, you can monetize it. But, because we undervalue it, we too often give it away. Thirdly, I think there is still a sensitivity or insecurity around doing what you want for a living. It’s almost an apologetic attitude, because monetizing your value can mean defying convention, going against what other people want for you, and putting yourself first. But, when your intentions are genuine and the value you offer makes people and society better – you shouldn’t feel bad about it.”

 

You played a huge role in developing the social and editorial identity of Revolt. What was that experience like, and can you share what you learned from working alongside Diddy?

 

“That experience changed my life – as a person, and as a professional. It required a level of focus and drive that pushed me to new limits. My team was small, but we were responsible for launching a network. Having no television experience, it was the ultimate challenge of proving to myself that I could step up and create something I believed in at the highest level and know it would have a direct impact on the same culture that raised me. I didn’t see any networks speaking for us, as diverse young people with passion for music, going the extra step to have engaging conversations consistently with fans. I poured a lot into making sure we did that, and were a progressive platform for creators. That took countless sleepless nights, meetings, intense work sessions, presentations and producing content around the clock. But, we accomplished that goal and made history. Nothing can ever take that away.”

 

“PD taught me that there is always another level to reach, and it’s all about how much you’re willing to push yourself. I learned that when you’re on a mission to do something great, excuses don’t exist – you find a way to get it done. I also learned that “making it” and “success” are illusions. Everyday is new opportunity to surprise yourself and do something powerful and game changing. You can’t focus on what you’ve done right, because you should expect to perform. But, you should always focus on how you get better. He always challenged me to do more and get better, and gave me the confidence to know that if you have a vision and are willing to outwork anyone, experience or odds don’t matter. You will win. He also taught me that information is also more important than experience – the person with the information is the one with the power.”

 

Aside from your work at Huff Post, MediaBistro and writing for Forbes, you conduct workshops teaching others how to turn their gifts into an income. It seems like just as youve mastered how to monetize yourself, youve turned around to show others how to do it. What was your personal journey like in getting to this point in your life? 

 

“In short – I always had a drive and belief that matched a vision for my life. That was met with a lot of opposition, whether people thinking I was crazy, expected too much for myself, or they simply didn’t understand. Instead of being discouraged, I always kept those moments tucked away in my mind and used it as more reason to go conquer. Though it took a lot of struggle, it made me bet on myself and trust my inner-voice no matter what it looked like. As I matured in that, I became more confident and clear in what I wanted for myself at each stage – I started broadening my scope every step, making the commitment that I would do that work required to get there. That also translated into my desire to conquer different fields, from marketing and media, to teaching and speaking. When I turned all of them into sustainable streams of income, it showed me that others could do the same if they had the understanding of how to navigate.”

 

 

Why do you find creativity and self-monetization so important? Are the two concepts really applicable to everybody?

 

“It’s economic freedom. Enterprising is a form of economic revolution, in whatever form – whether as an entrepreneur, or freelancer. If more people tapped into their multitude of talents and designed the career they wanted, incomes would increase and accumulating wealth would seem more attainable than it does now. If you don’t monetize your value, someone will for you. And, it’s often much less than what you deserve, with all of the restrictions and conditions that keep you from truly being who you are. I think it’s applicable to everybody because it isn’t exclusive to a particular structure – you decide what it looks like.”

 

 

In due time, and with enough work you very well may position yourself to be an authoritative voice in discovering creators and entrepreneurs who are next to impact culture. Is this an intentional effort of yours?

 

“I’m honestly just focused on doing the work and getting people to see that everything they thrive to be, they already are – it’s just a matter of staying on course and growing. The message is intentional, and the movement is intentional also. I think being an authoritative voice for discovering the next wave of entrepreneurs is something that comes with consistency, and I’m committed to remaining consistent. People will catch on soon enough.”

 

Whats your opinion on education as it relates to encouraging creativity and entrepreneurs? Are there some changes that need to be made?

 

“I think entrepreneurship is emphasized in schools, but not in an unconventional way. I still think the concept of creativity and entrepreneurship is seen as skipping a career to start a business, or find that one huge idea that can change your life. I’d like to see it taught as a natural trade, or path that is encouraged for creative people who wish to accomplish a variety of things, and own a multitude of businesses in their lifetime. In short, I think schools should teach more about enterprising.”

With your resume, you could call a lot more attention to yourself than you do with press. Is there a reason you stay relatively low key?

 

“Doing quality work consistently has always meant more to me than recognition. I think great work speaks for itself, and my movement will make the impact it is suppose to. Honestly, I think what I’ve done to this point, and the way in which I’ve done it, most people won’t truly grasp or appreciate it as much as some may expect in this moment. I don’t compare or expect to get all the love — those who know, know.”

 

Since he was 18, Mitch has had a vision for creating his own media company in the same manner that Marc Ecko introduced Complex to world. Julian wants to usher in a smart pop culture. One that includes content and experiences for our generation and ones to follow that people can take inspiration from.

 

“I want to build a global movement that reflects an elevated way of thinking, living, and understanding the world we live in.”

 

Something tells me Julian isn’t one to fail, his track record speaks for him and soon so will his media company. He isn’t just moving and shaking his way through the media industry, he’s cementing a legacy as one of the most influential minds of our generation. It’s your world Mitch, and we’re lucky to be in it.

Click here to register for the next Get Paid To be Yourself Webinar! 

Isabella Rose Taylor Conquers New York Fashion Week & Designs For Nordstrom All Before The Age of 15

If there’s one thing that’s not on our side it’s time. The one thing most people can probably agree on is that they wish they’d found their passion sooner and started their career earlier. Imagine how much farther along we would all be if we tapped into our god given talent just a few years earlier. That’s why it’s always to great to see a young person acknowledge their gifts right away and sprint towards the life that celebrates that gift. You find yourself rooting for them the same way I find myself rooting for Isabella Taylor. Isabella is a designer, entrepreneur, collegiate, painter, and all around gifted creative. Did I mention she’s only 14 years old?

You’re probably wide-eyed with a dropped jaw just like I was when I first learned of her age. She’s not even old enough for a driver’s permit and her accomplishments in the realm of fashion have enabled her to grace the pages in publications from Teen Vogue to Forbes. Her clothing line is available in select Nordstrom locations and she’s conquered fashion week. At her age I was riding bikes and playing basketball in my neighborhood. Isabella on the other hand is busy building her empire one brick at a time. Our publication makes it a point to find creative talent and expose that talent to the masses. Isabella more than fits the bill, and lucky for me I was able to gain some insight into the life of a future household name. Welcome to the world of Isabella Rose Taylor.

“I would describe myself as a person driven by creativity. I have had this desire to create for as long as I can remember and am always striving to make things that I am happy with which is a real challenge for me. I try to focus on how my life is enriched by art instead of just what the end result will be. I have learned to fall in love with the process and try my best to create authentically.”

Like most kids, Isabella found the first hint at her skill set at camp, sewing camp to be exact. Up until that point she had been painting for several years before learning how to sew. Creating something from 2D to 3D through fashion changed her perspective, because it was an opportunity to share art in a different way. She also saw it as a way for her to push herself when it came to creating. Her world got just a little bit bigger, and she knew she could do a little bit more.

Shortly after her experience at sewing camp Isabella started making her own clothes. People began asking her where she was getting her clothing from and instinct kicked right in. What came next is what separates the great business minds from the train of thought the rest of the world travels on. Isabella knew that there was opportunity there for her to make sales. Life changed for her right then, she became a businesswoman.

“Everything happened very organically. I think I do have a natural business mind. I had been selling my art for years previously and it felt natural to extend that to the clothing that I was making.  When I sold my art I would take the money and buy more paint and canvasses. This was how I started in fashion – I would sell something and buy more fabric. What I like about fashion is that it can be mass-produced. With art the creative development and production stages are pretty related. With the garment industry it is a little different because the creative side and the production side are more separate. There is a lot more to learn about running a fashion line, and it’s very hard to learn how to be profitable. That’s why my course work at Parsons focuses on the business aspects of marketing and merchandising. Fashion is a very difficult business.”

By now you may be wondering what exactly her clothing brand is. It’s called Isabella Rose Taylor, ready to wear clothing for the young contemporary who likes to mix artful elements into their wardrobe. Isabella provides a unique mixture of her art through textiles into a wearable formats. When it comes to creating, often times we create what it is we want to see exist in the world. Isabella takes this same stance with her clothing. She’s inspired by art, music, and current culture. Her brand didn’t make itself, and it didn’t come overnight. The process was slow, organic, and full of mistakes. That’s what makes legends though, that mindfulness to push through the mistakes. Being aware that greatness is on the other side of it all.

Isabella would go on to claim her greatness becoming the youngest to ever design for Nordstrom. She would build on that by presenting at New York Fashion Week. She’s even received praise from industry greats like Jeff Staple. That’s a lot of accomplishment for someone so young, and it’s easy to get big headed in a day and age where follower counts alone serve as ego boosters. Yet and still, young Isabella is as humble as they come.

“Staying grounded and humble is one of most important things in my life. I really try not to read or listen to what others say about me, whether positive or negative. I concentrate on appreciating what’s in front of me, enjoying the process and creating what I want in my life. I think it’s cool to get noticed because it kind of validates that you are on the right track, but I think it’s way cooler when I see a random person on the street wearing one of my outfits.”

Above it all, Isabella is an artist at heart. The thrill of having a vision and bringing it to fruition gives her the most joy. She sees art in everything that surrounds her, beyond that she’s a storyteller. That aspect of her work comes to life in her runway shows. A true architect of her own brand, she controls everything from music, model selection, styling, to hair and makeup. That’s the natural ability of a visionary. She knows how the experience she’s delivering is supposed to make the people feel. It’s not just about the clothing. It’s about manifesting the vision that it all started with.

To wrap it all up I wanted to know how Isabella felt about being a role model of sorts. There are girls looking up to her whether she sees it yet or not. I wondered if that kind of pressure impacts someone who’s still developing as a person, let alone a businesswoman. Refreshingly, Isabella isn’t seeking to be a role model. She’s just doing what she loves, and living out her dreams. That’s all any of us can ask of you Isabella, that you continue to shine your light on the world. It’s bright enough to lead you to the very success you’ve been dreaming of.

If there’s one thing that’s not on our side it’s time. The one thing most people can probably agree on is that they wish they’d found their passion sooner and started their career earlier. Imagine how much farther along we would all be if we tapped into our god given talent just a few years earlier. That’s why it’s always to great to see a young person acknowledge their gifts right away and sprint towards the life that celebrates that gift. You find yourself rooting for them the same way I find myself rooting for Isabella Taylor. Isabella is a designer, entrepreneur, collegiate, painter, and all around gifted creative. Did I mention she’s only 14 years old?

You’re probably wide-eyed with a dropped jaw just like I was when I first learned of her age. She’s not even old enough for a driver’s permit and her accomplishments in the realm of fashion have enabled her to grace the pages in publications from Teen Vogue to Forbes. Her clothing line is available in select Nordstrom locations and she’s conquered fashion week. At her age I was riding bikes and playing basketball in my neighborhood. Isabella on the other hand is busy building her empire one brick at a time. Our publication makes it a point to find creative talent and expose that talent to the masses. Isabella more than fits the bill, and lucky for me I was able to gain some insight into the life of a future household name. Welcome to the world of Isabella Rose Taylor.

“I would describe myself as a person driven by creativity. I have had this desire to create for as long as I can remember and am always striving to make things that I am happy with which is a real challenge for me. I try to focus on how my life is enriched by art instead of just what the end result will be. I have learned to fall in love with the process and try my best to create authentically.”

Like most kids, Isabella found the first hint at her skill set at camp, sewing camp to be exact. Up until that point she had been painting for several years before learning how to sew. Creating something from 2D to 3D through fashion changed her perspective, because it was an opportunity to share art in a different way. She also saw it as a way for her to push herself when it came to creating. Her world got just a little bit bigger, and she knew she could do a little bit more.

Shortly after her experience at sewing camp Isabella started making her own clothes. People began asking her where she was getting her clothing from and instinct kicked right in. What came next is what separates the great business minds from the train of thought the rest of the world travels on. Isabella knew that there was opportunity there for her to make sales. Life changed for her right then, she became a businesswoman.

“Everything happened very organically. I think I do have a natural business mind. I had been selling my art for years previously and it felt natural to extend that to the clothing that I was making.  When I sold my art I would take the money and buy more paint and canvasses. This was how I started in fashion – I would sell something and buy more fabric. What I like about fashion is that it can be mass-produced. With art the creative development and production stages are pretty related. With the garment industry it is a little different because the creative side and the production side are more separate. There is a lot more to learn about running a fashion line, and it’s very hard to learn how to be profitable. That’s why my course work at Parsons focuses on the business aspects of marketing and merchandising. Fashion is a very difficult business.”

[metaslider id=9554]

By now you may be wondering what exactly her clothing brand is. It’s called Isabella Rose Taylor, ready to wear clothing for the young contemporary who likes to mix artful elements into their wardrobe. Isabella provides a unique mixture of her art through textiles into a wearable formats. When it comes to creating, often times we create what it is we want to see exist in the world. Isabella takes this same stance with her clothing. She’s inspired by art, music, and current culture. Her brand didn’t make itself, and it didn’t come overnight. The process was slow, organic, and full of mistakes. That’s what makes legends though, that mindfulness to push through the mistakes. Being aware that greatness is on the other side of it all.

Isabella would go on to claim her greatness becoming the youngest to ever design for Nordstrom. She would build on that by presenting at New York Fashion Week. She’s even received praise from industry greats like Jeff Staple. That’s a lot of accomplishment for someone so young, and it’s easy to get big headed in a day and age where follower counts alone serve as ego boosters. Yet and still, young Isabella is as humble as they come.

“Staying grounded and humble is one of most important things in my life. I really try not to read or listen to what others say about me, whether positive or negative. I concentrate on appreciating what’s in front of me, enjoying the process and creating what I want in my life. I think it’s cool to get noticed because it kind of validates that you are on the right track, but I think it’s way cooler when I see a random person on the street wearing one of my outfits.”

Above it all, Isabella is an artist at heart. The thrill of having a vision and bringing it to fruition gives her the most joy. She sees art in everything that surrounds her, beyond that she’s a storyteller. That aspect of her work comes to life in her runway shows. A true architect of her own brand, she controls everything from music, model selection, styling, to hair and makeup. That’s the natural ability of a visionary. She knows how the experience she’s delivering is supposed to make the people feel. It’s not just about the clothing. It’s about manifesting the vision that it all started with.

To wrap it all up I wanted to know how Isabella felt about being a role model of sorts. There are girls looking up to her whether she sees it yet or not. I wondered if that kind of pressure impacts someone who’s still developing as a person, let alone a businesswoman. Refreshingly, Isabella isn’t seeking to be a role model. She’s just doing what she loves, and living out her dreams. That’s all any of us can ask of you Isabella, that you continue to shine your light on the world. It’s bright enough to lead you to the very success you’ve been dreaming of.

 

 

 

 

 

BET’s Taj Rani – Just Warming Up

Taj Rani is a special kind of energy. The kind that makes you empowers your spirit by mere association. Within 10 minutes of conversation, you know she says exactly what she means and means what she says. As an Associate Editor at BET she’s found herself in a career that she’s a natural for. Her most notable work comes as a writer, producer, and on camera talent for The Warm Up where viewers get their dose of entertainment news.

 

A native of Nyak, NY (don’t worry, I’ve never heard of it either) , she currently resides in Mount Vernon. Her father always urged her to pursue traditional careers, but like most of us Taj could never ignore her itch to be creatively invested in her work. Luckily, she was still encouraged to be who she was. Her family always showed up in numbers for support at recitals, plays, and things of that nature. I’d like to think that support had a lot to do with her sureness in herself, which shines through in her personality today.

 

Eventually she would go on to graduate from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2009. She crossed the stage right in the middle of our country’s unemployment crisis, working retail to make ends meet.

 

“I was working at Express for two years. I did freelance for little to no money. Eventually I left Express and was laid off from my other job”

 

Taj found her way into an opportunity at Music Choice as an Editorial Assistant. It was a key experience for someone looking to make a way in the media industry. She learned a great deal about editing, writing, and research. All of which play a huge role in her career. Never one to settle, Taj sought out opportunities elsewhere once she began to feel stifled. Her friend was working at BET in social media, and she suggested that Taj apply as an Interactive Producer for 106 & Park. It was a move that would change everything for her.

 

“I told them I could do interviews on camera so they let me. I also managed the digital strategy for Being Mary Jane, and developed The Buzz as well. Eventually I expanded it and changed the name to the Warm Up doing celebrity interviews and entertainment news. “

 

It seems like Taj was able to make moves pretty quickly and advance her career, but that’s not the case. In our Movers & Shakers Profile I spoke with Taj Rani about the long road to her current position, her views on creatives in the growing digital landscape, and what the future holds for her in the entertainment industry.

 

What was life like for you during the transition from college to BET?

 

“My dad wanted me to go to grad school, but I didn’t think it would get me where I wanted to be. My degree wasn’t actually in digital media per say. I did an internship at Vibe and my connections there got me into writing. You just have to grind, I don’t remember doubting myself. You go to church, and you surround yourself with good people. “

 

Since you work in digital, what do you think of creatives and the digital landscape right now?

 

The word creative is like the word Millennial. I never called myself a creative. People need to understand that just because you make content doesn’t make you creative. Journalists make content, but it doesn’t make them creative. I don’t like labels, and I make that known. Women in this industry tend to stay quiet because men feel threatened, but that doesn’t concern me. I’m Taj Rani, and this is what I do. I don’t prescribe to gender roles.

 

Is there anything in particular you want to get better at in your career?

 

For The Warm Up, it’s very easy for me to write scripts. I wake up, I pull the stories I want and literally write it on the commute to work. You’re writing for time and visual components you capture. As far as journalism, I’m getting used to it. With pop culture, you can use your own voice but sometimes it’s hard and other times it’s easy. I also try hard to monitor my accent as well.

Taj reminisced on a time where she almost blew off being in front of the camera at altogether. She encountered a professor who in short, told her she wasn’t pretty enough to be on camera. Shameful words that should never leave an educators mouth, but it’s something she’s proud to have overcome. His words made her break down in tears back then, and now she’s got the last laugh. Taj Rani is leading a successful career doing what she loves, and having fun at the same time. If you ask her, she can’t wait for the chance to show that old professor how much she’s accomplished.

 

It goes to show that all of us may encounter people who will try to kill our dreams before we even try. Whether on purpose or accidentally, it happens. People say or do things that can deter us from our calling. Taj is an example of what’s to come if you hold your head high and keep pushing. She sees a media empire in her future.

 

Not in any particular rush, Taj is pacing herself with a focus on killing the game in her current position. In all, she wants people to always say in regards to her work, “She did that dope shit”. Enough said. Check Taj Rani out on BET’s the Warm Up, and stay on the lookout for her next accomplishments. If history serves as any evidence, there’s no reason to doubt her potential.

 

 

[schema type=”person” name=”Taj Rani” orgname=”Black Entertainment Television” jobtitle=”Producer – The Warm Up” worksfor=”BET” url=” http://www.weareinfinite.co/2015/05/taj-rani-just-warming-up/” ]

Digging Into the Mind of Director Lawrence Lamont

Many of you have seen Big Sean’s IDFWU video, and more recently J.Cole’s video for GOMD. Yes, those are two totally different videos but they meet in the middle and that is with Director Lawrence Lamont. The 26-year-old Detroit native relocated to LA a couple years ago to fully pursue his career in filmmaking. From age 9 Lawrence would watch recorded VHS of classic films from the likes of Stanley Kubrick and Francis Ford Coppola. He wrote short stories and even a book around 10, and would also act in plays.

After being heavily involved in the theatre department in high school, he wrote his first screenplay and directed a friend’s music video. Lawrence did not attend film school, but he took a lot of courses and attended symposiums. The young writer is still hungry and eager to learn more. Lawrence Lamont is preparing to elevate even further and eventually become a household name for his work that he feels was, “subconsciously embedded in his mind from the start.” We caught up with him to discuss his two latest videos, influences, and where he’s heading next.

 

Growing up who were some of your favorite directors and producers that may have been an influence on you? 

“Yeah the classics of course you know Spike Lee. Especially with ‘Mo Better Blues,’ I thought that was shot with so much quality. Also Do The Right Thing. Paul Thomas Anderson with ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘There Will Be Blood.’ Christopher Nolan of course. Umm Music video wise I really like a lot of Spike Jonze work. Chris Cunningham and Hype Williams too!”

Your work is very thought provoking. I love it when videos actually match the music and make you think. It’s almost as if it takes me back to videos of the 90’s because they actually told stories versus today’s hip hop videos. We don’t get to see a lot of substance or actual concepts. A while back when I first saw the IDFWU video I was like, “Man, now that’s how you direct a video!” I know you and Big Sean are both Detroit natives so how did you two connect for the visuals?

“He’s actually a friend of mine, like I’ve known Sean since back when I was in plays, and he was getting people to listening to his raps in a crowd of a hundred people.”

Oh my goodness I remember seeing those videos and he was like mad young rapping.

“Oh yeah he’s been rapping since he was really young, Um so you know we are connected on the friendship level. But out here I think he had like a bunch of video treatments coming in and at the time I was writing a script and trying to raise some funds for the future. I’m just in LA floating around you know just trying to do something. This idea came in of Ivan Jasper. I’m not sure if you know Ivan Jasper but he’s in the Kanye camp and the DONDA camp. He’s a really creative guy he’s cool. He had this idea that Sean could draft it. It was different than the actual video but that sparked it. So we’re like yeah football but Sean is like, ‘You got a play man write it just write it.’ So I’m writing it then I’m there like on the set and its like Ohhhhhhhhhh!!!”

(Laughs) Right! So speaking of Kanye, what was it like to work with him, does he take good direction?

“Yeah he was amazing. It was kind of weird how great he was. He takes great direction. He wants to make sure he’s doing it right you know feels good, looks good you know, the aesthetics. But he was awesome like definitely true artist. I met him like right before his scene and we shot it pretty quick. Sean took me into his trailer and he was putting his clothes on to be the coach. And he was pointing out that he had ‘Coach’ written out on his turtleneck (laughs) and he was like ‘Yeah you like that?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah I love that!’ He was awesome, he’s a perfectionist and he just wants everything to be done right. He was incredible to work with.”

IMG_8075-1

That is so cool! And it helps to work with a perfectionist like him because he’s looking out for quality in the same sense you are. Did you have full creative direction everything?

“Yeah I was steering the ship!”

So you called all the plays like an actual football game huh?

(Laughs) “Yeah Exactly!”

The characterization was genius. Big Sean was Quarterback while his fellow label mate Teyana Taylor played a cheerleader. GOOD Music founder and producer Ye’ was the football coach as we just stated. E-40 was the announcer. I mean anyone could have put him in a football uniform alongside DJ Mustard because he’s a bigger guy too. Instead you made him the Game Announcer. I thought was so dope because he’s verbal and quick when he spits. It’s like you tied everyone into such fitting roles.  So one of my favorite points of that video was the many cameo appearances, how did that come to mind when you wrote the treatment were they always planned?

“We kind of were just like man it’s a football game so let’s go crazy! Like who all is watching you play? It was awesome! What a lot of people don’t know is that the Kardashians were scheduled to be in the video also. They were involved in the email thread and booked ahead. But our shoot got pushed a week. We were supposed to have Khloe, Kendall, and Kylie just rooting for Sean in the crowd with everyone else. And actually Chris Brown was going to be on the team as the wide receiver. But the push of the week kind of made the schedule get crazy which we still made it work.”

That also would have been really dope to see those appearances. It was an awesome idea, but it definitely all still worked out great.

“Right, it all worked out. It was a crazy day like getting everybody in. It was a whirlwind but everything worked out.”

I mean it looked like a pretty fun video to shoot, you even got to see some boobs in that one scene.

(Laughs) “Right! Exactly, it was definitely a fun shoot”

It really took me back to high school. Those really used to be some memorable nights out at the games especially if you were involved which I cheered. It was so realistic and I think that’s what made it so awesome and relatable! After the Big Sean video, you got to work with J.Cole for GOMD visuals, and I find it really fascinating that someone so young could come up with such a deep concept. From Cole playing the house slave who was envied by the field slaves, to later turning into the plantation hero and just rebelling. What approach did you take in creating this video?

“Well Cole had the idea originally but it was loose. Like he knew he wanted to play a house slave, and it would be about slave rebellion. You know it was all loose so I was like let’s make it make sense. When they sent over the ideas, we wrote the treatment, I had to create some characters, you know just sit and tie it all in. From there I knew it would be powerful. We basically became friends. You know we had a conference call and we just really elevated the idea to continuously make it better. It was definitely a collaborative thing it was all of us. Even my friends, his friends, and the producer’s friends. Really everybody so I won’t take credit for that fully but just bringing it to life was amazing. We got this positive feedback, I though we were going to get a lot of back flack at first.”

FullSizeRender-1

Why did you think that? Was it because it was a “controversial” subject?

Yeah I mean in my heart I knew that it was all love and during those times brutality was also occurring. It was just so fitting for whats happening right now in America.

Yeah I agree. It was right on time with all the issues still being faced in the African American community to this day. I watched the video and I was getting chills. And like you were saying you didn’t want to take full credit for it but J.Cole is pretty young too so it’s cool to see two young minds come together and birth something like that.

“Hell yeah!”

You would have thought Lee Daniels directed it or something.

(laughs) “Right! I’m just glad these stories can still be told.”

Well yeah those are the things being taken out of the textbooks. So it’s essential to have people like you and Cole putting this out there for younger people like, “Hey it wasn’t always shits and giggles this is what it was and really it’s what it still is, not much has changed.” I think your creative vision will bring substance back to mainstream hip-hop videos and steer us away from the cliche and unawake. So with that, are you interested in working with other genres of music?

“Absolutely! For sure, I’ve turned down a few things with rap videos I won’t say what or who. But I’d love to get crazy with a Rihanna or Frank Ocean. I don’t want to stay in the lane of Hip Hop. Not knocking anything but I want to raise the bar. You know Sean is always ready to do awesome shit. Cole is ready to do awesome shit. But I’m not trying to shy away from a Gwen Stefani video. There are so many artists I want to work with.”

That’s awesome that you’re ready to expand. Now In some of your earlier work you co-wrote the story line for the comedy film Corner Store, and you also were in front of the camera as a star. Is that something you see yourself doing more of in the future or are you cozy in the directors chair? 

Hmm I am super cozy in the director’s chair. I have friends that are like, ‘Man why aren’t you acting anymore?’ I trained a lot. I did a lot of intense studying in the acting world. But I think it was for me to know how to take better to other actors as a director. Even when I was in plays in theatre, I used to have a lot of lead roles in high school. I would be like almost an assistant director in my stage plays because I was always striving to make everyone around me better. I may act again in the future under certain circumstances.

So you’re making sure you get the role of being a director in check?

“Yeah for me it’s just bigger than my specific world. Like actors can just show up and leave but for me as an actor I like to know what the finishing product is going to be. I need to really make sure that it’s good. I think that’s what made me want to become a director.”

I asked Lawrence to paint a picture of the perfect rainy Sunday. He expressed that he was an introvert and it would either involve locking himself in a cabin to read and write, fix tea or have wine, and just be locked away in his room watching films. Lawrence say’s he’ll walk around and procrastinate before he figures out what he’s going to write. He likes to approach things differently depending on what he is working on. It is said that he will most likely deliver another music video next month and he’s writing a short film starring someone pretty big that is due towards the end of the Summer. His goal is to constantly raise the bar like Woody Allen, and to make sure he is constantly telling quality stories while staying true to hisself. Lawrence Lamont lives by a Konstantin Stanislavsky saying, ”Love the art yourself not yourself in the art.”

 

By: Erinn Diggs

Photos By: Dominic Scott

Respect The Shooter: Aviva Klein

Aviva Klein has had the opportunity to photograph icons we all look up to. I could say Prince, and stop there knowing that it speaks volumes about her skill level. Her clientele list has included the likes of Beyoncé, Nike, Mass Appeal, The Source, Puma, so on and so forth. Aviva has had the privilege of turning her passion into her day job. From behind that camera lens she’s been able to tap into her genius level talent and hone her skills to become a reputable eye for capturing moments.

 

During an interview about the birth and growth of her career, she found herself reminiscing about the first time she even touched a camera.

“My boyfriend in college gave me my first camera. From the moment I made my first picture I knew that I had a special connection to the camera. It wasn’t until I was really dissatisfied with my job at the time that I realized photography was what I was meant to do.”

She enjoyed it as a hobby, but it didn’t cross her mind that she could do it for a living until she graduated. Aviva was working on the marketing side of the music industry. In time, the corporate angle of the industry began to give Aviva a consuming sense of frustration. So she decided to redirect her professional goals, a decision that wasn’t as difficult as one may think. It was living with that decision that challenged Aviva in more ways than one.

“I had to come up with ways to make a living while I made time to learn how to make pictures. Leaving a well paying job with benefits and a 401k for waitressing really challenged me in many ways. It forced me to learn about a side of myself that I didn’t know existed. I learned how impatient I was. That got in the way a lot in the beginning because I would envision my work to be really beautiful, but it seemed like learning how to make images beautiful couldn’t come fast enough. When you’re ‘in it’ sometimes it’s hard to see how much you’ve learned, or how far you’ve come.”

For a period of time Aviva left the hustle and bustle of New York for Puerto Rico to develop her skills. Returning to the city that raised her proved to be a daunting task in and of itself. The task of figuring out how to get from point A to point B is one that drives anyone crazy during the beginning of a career. It took her years to figure it out, but the result was picture perfect. No pun intended.

Aviva has gone on to build a career tailor made for her. She’s able to set her own schedule and work with whom she chooses. In our interview we spoke about standout clients, exhibition experiences, and advice for up and comers in this edition of Movers & Shakers.

DT: Do any of your client experiences standout?

AK: Working with Beyoncé is definitely a standout experience. I’ve worked with many people throughout the years, some celebrities some not. She is the most proficient person I’ve ever worked with. She’s a Master. Truly inspiring to watch.

DT: What is your creative process?

AK: For pre-production first comes the subject. Who is it? What visuals come to mind? How does that person make me feel? What do they inspire in me? I then start to pull references based on the ideas that I see in my mind’s eye. This is how I communicate my ideas to my client and the team I’m collaborating with. On set I don’t really have a process, my only goal is to connect with my subject so that they feel comfortable enough to be authentic.

DT: Can you describe your exhibition experiences?

AK: I love exhibiting work. I love to be able to give a different type of experience to the viewer. You can show work online but there is nothing like seeing it in person, for me too. I look forward to more of it.

DT: What’s it like working with huge clients like Beyoncé, Prince, Pepsi, etc.? Is your approach different depending on what or who you are shooting?

AK: Well for those 3 specific clients I shoot reportage. So my approach is always the same. Watch for the light. Commercial shoots require a lot of pre-production.

DT: What is your overall goal for your career?

AK: My overall goal is to keep making pictures that tell a story. Images that touch, move, and inspire people around the world.

DT: Any words of advice for people searching for fulfillment like you were?

AK: All I can say is make sure you ground yourself with a good support system and reach out to them, frequently. Everyone is searching for fulfillment; being vulnerable enough to share your experience with others will strengthen you.

 

 

Feature Image Photo Credit: Alex Thebez

A Life In The Day of Andrea

The world of freelancing is crowded and a bit confusing to say the least. What is a freelancer? How do they find work? When it comes to branding, a good freelancer is someone with creative talent coming in to give your brand the kick in the right direction it so desperately needs. There are no strings attached, you’re free to go on with your business and the freelancer is free to work with other clients until you need their services again.

It’s a lifestyle we see so may people jumping into now. With good reason too, plenty of folks have made a nice living off of freelancing. On top of that, it’s hard to find full time work so you’d better be getting paid from more than one revenue stream. Right now the tough part is the heavy competition for freelance work. Unless you live under rock, you’ve noticed the growing importance of content.

It’s nearly impossible not to come across someone running a blog, creating some sort of visual content, and promoting a personal brand. Best-case scenario, they build a following adding value to their work. Making it easier to build consistent clientele. On the other hand, they could just be taking up space. Either way, the crowd is pretty thick when it comes to creative freelance work.

Andrea K. Castillo is a multi-media creative whose talents span across writing, photography, and on-camera personality. On her blog, A Life In The Day of Andrea  you’ll find everything from product reviews to event coverage. She keeps you in the know when it comes to products and experiences from art to awesome dining. The site gives the “New York minute” vibe, with content based on topics spanning across various locations. Her portfolio displays beautiful photography and her camera readiness through interviews with Luke James, Ryan Leslie, and Mack Wilds for Concrete Loop.

At first glance, you might think she’s wearing too many hats. To your contrary, that’s probably what makes her such an asset to companies like Juke Bar, headphone brand SOL Republic, and Brooklyn Industries for her skills in event hosting, facilitating customer experience, and cross-promotion. Being a successful freelancer isn’t an easy thing. You’ve got to have a solid track record. For a more personal account of the life of a freelancer I interviewed Andrea K. Castillo for Movers & Shakers.

 

What was life like growing up and did anything in particular influence you to be creative?

 The story of my childhood was quite colorful, but it was one that was always filled with music and art. Being surrounded by that, I always pursued the arts in and out of school, whether it be in choir, dance classes, or theatre, and I kind of found my niche in being an ear to the streets, if you will, to the young creative world.

 

The first thing I noticed about you was you’re a triple threat doing editorial, photography, and graphic design.  Did each of these skills come along at different stages or have you been honing them simultaneously all along?

 

Writing has always been something that came naturally to me, so I would say that is something that I’ve been developing for the longest amount of time. Not just writing to write, but writing clearly in my own voice. Photography started as a hobby when I was in junior high & I became the friend that would always take photos of trips and nights out. It didn’t really kick off professionally until 2012 when Jasmine Solano asked me to shoot some of her parties in NYC. Graphic design is my newest (growing) skill as I think I really started graphics in about 2012 when I had just gotten Photoshop and had a lot of free time. Everything is still a work in progress.

 

The Internet has made for tough competition when it comes to winning freelance, work with everyone enforcing a personal brand. Is this something you’ve noticed and how have you been able to separate yourself from the crowd?

 

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here. Being a freelancer is really tough work, no matter how experienced you are, whatever accolades you may have, or industry co-signs you have. When I first joined Twitter in 2008, I started with a silly nickname, but I took note that a lot of people were using their real names, so I jumped onboard, and made all my accounts in my real name going forward. It was important to me to use my real name because it best represents myself, and I wanted that to be evident across the Internet. I think I’ve been able to separate myself from the crowd by unabashedly being myself, and not compromising my beliefs for a check or a plug.

 

 

Your blog, A Life In The Day of Andrea is a pretty cool mixture art, music, and overall experience. How do you stay in the loop with all of the events and happenings around the city? What’s your selection process like in deciding what you choose to write about?

 

Having been in and out of the music and fashion industries for the past ten years, I’m kept in the loop via many colleagues at labels and brands on what special events may be happening in NYC or abroad at any given time. I’m also subscribed to many PR databases, so I get lots of pitches from brands, event listings, etc. My selection process is pretty simple; I cover what interests me, and what I believe my friends would enjoy. My reader is pretty multi-faceted, so I give myself range, but I refuse to force content. It’s not worth it.

 

You’ve had the opportunity to interview some dope entertainers like Luke James, Ryan Leslie, and Mack Wilds. How do you prepare for on-camera interviews?

 

Preparing for on-camera interviews is always fun for me, because the majority of the time, I’ve been able to choose my subject. I literally search for every interview that that person has done, read their bio, review their work (if I’m not that familiar), and try my best to ask the questions that maybe another journalist has not asked. My style is very conversational, so I format all of my questions in the way a conversation would unfold.

 

In another 5 years or so where do you hope to see yourself in your career?

 

In another five years I hope for all of my creative endeavors to allow me to live truly as an international citizen. I see so many opportunities abroad from a writing and marketing perspective, and I want to tap into that, especially from a brand standpoint. I want to grow my personal brand, but definitely want to collaborate with fashion & lifestyle brands on product and experiences. I would love to work with Nike, WeSC, and House of Marley. Fingers crossed that I can make it a reality!

 

 

 

Feature Photo Credit: Jason Chandler

 

<iframe src=”https://www.knotch.it/extern/survey/54fdc2f019b51ebb162eaab5” frameborder=”0″ style=”width: 95%; height: 230px; display: block; margin: auto;”></iframe>

 

 

Nicky Geezy: The Digital Orchestrator

The digital landscape as we know is more overcrowded than an airport during holiday season. Nowadays, as long as you have an idea and a solid Wi-Fi signal you can call yourself a content creator. Beyond that, the power to share that content with thousands, even millions of viewers is literally at our fingertips. The age of new information is upon us and there most definitely is no escaping it.

 

On one hand, there’s undeniable beauty in the fact that we have the ability to connect with one another, discuss ideas, and build on each other’s talents thanks to social media. It’s made for quite the surge in new products and brands seemingly every day. The ugly side of that is, quality is harder to come by. To grow an interactive audience you’ve got to know how to make social media work in your favor.

 

Nicky Garcia, better known as Nicky G has built her career on mastering the art of social media strategy. Specifically working within the music industry, Nicky found her niche early and mastered it. She’s been able to leave a digital footprint for herself and her clients, helping them to standout above all of the noise online. Her past/current client list includes Sway Calloway of MTV/Shade 45, Island Records, Rick Dees, ooVoo, Kevin McCall, Grammy-Award Winning singer/songwriter Poo Bear, Mally Mall, Scoe and many more. With her expertise she’s been able to turn followers into communities for her respective clients.

 

On top of that, she’s doing the entertainment industry a great deal of justice with her platform nickygeezy.com! It’s all of the pop culture and music updates you want without the rumors and gossip. Yes ladies and gentleman it’s true, we can get our entertainment fix without worrying about who broke up with who this week. Nicky is an enthusiast of love, music, and creativity. She’s combined all three to create a genuine brand and respectable career to date. With all of the work she does behind the screen, a talent like Nicky’s deserved some spotlight. Check out our interview below in this edition of Movers and Shakers. Nicky Geezy style.

[/vc_column_text][canon_separator widget_title=”Movers & Shakers: Nicky Geezy” style=”line_style”][vc_column_text]

  • Who is Nicky G? Give us your background. What was life like for you growing up and was there anything in particular that influenced your career choice?

“Growing up, music was everywhere. The first genre I remember hearing was Salsa. My mom would blast it when she would clean the whole house. That’s when I fell in love with live instruments. My dad would always be playing oldies in his car. Where I fell in love with soul. My older brother would play NWA, Dogg Pound & any other West Coast rap… where I fell in love with Hip-Hop. And I just naturally gravitated toward R&B. Hearing so much music growing up definitely played a huge part in deciding my career path.”

 

  • You started your career at Power 106 in LA and climbed the ranks ultimately finding your niche in social media and digital strategy. What was the process like for you in figuring out what direction you wanted to develop your expertise in?

“Ahh man. I had no idea. I just knew I wanted to be in the music industry and figured radio would be a good transition. While I was working in the Power 106 building I wanted to try it all & figure out what I liked – so I did. I actually worked on Power’s sister station’s street team. Then climbed to Promotions Assistant. Then Mando Fresko’s Night Show producer, then on-air covering for Liz Hernandez on Big Boy’s Neighborhood, and then running social media campaigns for Big Boy. The digital side was the most fun for me – so I stuck with it.”

  • What’s your opinion on the importance of digital strategy and social strategies for any brand? How do you define this kind of role in your own words?

“Nowadays, everyone is on Twitter, IG, FB, Snapchat… etc. If your demo, or your consumer, is adamantly using one of these platforms – why not be where they are? The trick is for your marketing to not sound like such an advertisement. For example, I strive on my work to be organic & creative. If I want you to know about Jake&Papa’s new single, I’m not gonna tweet “Check out @JakeAndPapa’s new single!” Boring. Instead, I’ll tweet something like, “Jake&Papa sampled Blackstreet’s ‘Don’t Leave Me’ in their new single. Great, now I’ll have it stuck in my head all day [followed by the link.]” It’s organic. But these kinds of moves (or tweets) are all strategized ahead of time. You need a plan and strategy in any position you hold. Social media or not.”

 

  • Do you think that social media and the power of the Internet have made it harder for quality music to stand out? How can artists use the Internet more productively to gain exposure?

“Hell yeah! First of all, if you’re an artist, stop the @ spams with a link to your music. Be creative with your approach. BE CREATIVE! Find out who your demo is. Find out where they mainly work or go to school. Find out which platforms they use the most – and be there. Be consistent with your content, and it will gain traction.”

 

  • What’s the selection process like for you in choosing which artists to shed light on with nickygeezy.com?

“I have such a great reliable team, and they’re not just in LA. I have a writer in Chicago, Minneapolis, Texas, Florida and LA. They put ME on game! Lol. But I pay close attention to what’s bubbling. I really am in the trenches of our culture. I go to listening sessions, I inquire with my little brother to see what him and his friends are listening to… and if it’s good, I want to spread the word!”

 

  • Your current and past clients include the likes of Sway Calloway of MTV/Shade 45, Island Records, Rick Dees, ooVoo, Kevin McCall, and the list goes on. What is the biggest challenge for you in coming up with digital strategy for different clients and brand personalities?

“Good question. Being creative and creating digital strategies isn’t the challenge – it’s time. Having time for my clients and myself. We’re in the hustle-hard generation, but we forget that we need sleep, we need to eat healthy, and we need time for ourselves. I used to get so engulfed with work that I would forget that. To alleviate that challenge, I’ve let go of some clients or have passed them along to colleagues. I take on what I know I can handle and give 100%.”

 

  • What was the motivation behind starting nickygeezy.com? Why was it so important to create a digital space that left out the celeb gossip? Describe the journey in bringing the idea to fruition and maintaining the growth.

“I was never a fan of gossip. Finding humor in someone else’s struggle is silly to me. I don’t care who’s in jail, who was spotted at a bar or who’s pregnant. I’d rather move the culture forward with some substance instead. Recently, Kanye West was on the Breakfast Club in NY. He was dropping gems!! But instead, blogs pushed headlines using Amber Rose’s name, & Kim Kardashian’s, Tyga’s & Kylie Jenner’s… WHO CARES? Why not focus on the game that he’s dropping? THAT’s moving the culture forward.

I created nickygeezy.com as a platform for positivity. Giving you music that is actually good – and not just mainstream. Giving you news that’s worth knowing. Giving a voice to those who have something good to say.”

 

  • You also manage singer/songwriting duo Jake&Papa. How did you come across that opportunity and what has the experience been like for you so far?

“I always knew I wanted to be in the music industry, just didn’t know how. While working a BET radio press junket with Power 106, I met Jake&Papa. We did an interview with them and kept in touch after that. A year later I had transitioned out of Power 106, saw an opportunity for us [Jake&Papa] to grow, and the rest is history. So far the experience has been incredible. The progression has been consistent and we have huge plans for the next year.”

  • You run your own site, perform digital strategy for multiple clients, and manage an entertainment act. How do you balance all of your responsibilities and make time for a personal life?

“GREAT QUESTION! I didn’t have a life for a while — until I learned balance and learned how to say no. I do my best to give time to what matters now. God, family, love, and my self-growth.”

 

  • Are there any people in particular that you look to for mentorship, inspiration or model your career after?

“Working closely with Sway has been such a blessing. I’ve learned a substantial amount from him and am honored to call him my mentor. I don’t model my career after anyone, but I look up to women like JLo, Liz Hernandez and Oprah. I aspire to be as timeless as them.”

  • What does the future hold for Nicky G? Do you have any projects coming up that we should look out for?

“I’m just aspiring to be great. I’m working on so many projects, events and collabs for this new year! Follow me on Twitter and IG @NickyGeezy for all the goods”

Stop by nickygeezy.com while you’re at it.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]