What I’ve Been Up To These Past Few Weeks…

Sesi Fall 2014 IssueHey Loves,

I want to apologize for being MIA these past few weeks. I’ve just been super busy working my head off on a feature for Sesi Magazine. Some of you may recall the interview I did with Andréa Butler, the Editor-in-Chief of Sesi last month, which turned out to be a great success. She was so sweet! Not too long after our interview, I decided to pitch Andréa. Unfortunately, she passed on my idea, but offered me the opportunity to write another article for the fall/back-to-school issue, which I accepted, of course. Since then, I’ve been working non-stop to make sure the article reaches its full potential.

My piece is about #BlackGreekLife. It’s a breakdown/guide of the four major Black sororities: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho to help high school seniors decide which one is perfect for them. In the article, I address everything one should know before pledging from some of the common stereotypes to community service and leadership opportunities. The piece ended up being around 2,700 words, which is the longest article I’ve ever written, but it’s fine because I’m a magazines girl and everyone knows that magazine features tend to be on the longer side.

Being the perfectionist that I am, I put my blood, sweat, and tears into this piece, and I cannot wait for you all to read it! The image that you see above is actually the final cover (my story is on the bottom right hand corner). I’m sooo psyched. No word yet as to when the issue drops, but my guess is that it will probably be sometime in September. As of right now, Sesi is not available in stores. To order your copy for only $3.99, head over to sesimag.com/subscribe. They sell out fast, so don’t miss out!

-Princess

9 Energy-Boosting Foods To Get You Through Your Day

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The next time you start feeling that mid-day slump, do yourself a favor by not pouring another cup of coffee, or reaching for a candy bar from the vending machine. Sure, caffeine and sugar may seem like quick fixes at the moment, but the crash that follows will leave you feeling even more tired than before. Instead, try incorporating these nine foods into your diet to help naturally boost your energy throughout the day. You can thank us later.

1. Kiwi

Believe it or not, these bad boys contain twice the potassium of a banana and twice the vitamin C of an orange. And get this: Kiwis also have 2.5 grams of fiber, which helps keep you full and prevent energy lows when you’re hungry.

2. Sauerkraut

Raw sauerkraut isn’t just a great, tasty topping for hot dogs; it also helps you maintain your energy levels. You see, fermented cabbage contains a high amount of probiotics, which allow your body to digest food much more efficiently. As a result, you’re left with more energy.

3. Dark Chocolate

Yes, chocolate can actually be good for you, especially if it’s dark chocolate. It contains theobromine, a natural stimulant that’s similar to caffeine, which is known for boosting your energy and your mood. Oh, and the darker the chocolate, the less sugar and the more energy-boosting potential it has. How cool is that?

Read the rest of my article at [BlackDoctor.org].

10 Common Asthma Myths Debunked

asthmaAccording to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, nearly 25 million people suffer from asthma. What’s even more startling is the fact that African Americans are three times more likely than any other racial group to die from the disease due to factors such as genetics, socioeconomic status, health maintenance behaviors, air quality and obesity. In an effort to help bridge the disparity gap, here are some of the biggest misconceptions about asthma.

 1. Asthma can be cured.  

Despite many great advances in treatments over the years, there are currently no cures for asthma. The good news, however, is that with the appropriate diagnosis and proper treatment, most people with asthma can lead normal, active lives.

 2. It’s normal to use your blue reliever inhaler at least once a day. 

If you find yourself having to use your inhaler on a regular basis, we hate to break it to you, but your asthma is not under control. If you’re on a preventer medication, be sure to take it every day, or perhaps it’s time to increase your dose. Needing to use your reliever frequently is a strong indicator that you could soon suffer an asthma attack, which can be life-threatening, so see your doctor right away!

3. People with asthma shouldn’t own pets

Plenty of people with asthma have pets in their homes. Some can be more of a trigger than others; cats and dogs tend to cause the most issues. For many though, a reaction only occurs when getting in close contact with animals, but each individual’s response will differ, of course. Find out what works best for you!

Read the rest of my article at [BlackDoctor.org].

Celeb Dentist Uses Art to Provide Dental Work for the Uninsured

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New York City’s Smile Design Gallery might offer one of the coolest approaches to giving we’ve ever seen.

Since its inception last spring, the out-of-the-box charity, founded by celebrity dentist Dr. Lee Gause, provides complimentary dental services to uninsured people through various art shows/auctions with several celebrities and artists, including Swizz Beatz, Fab Five Freddy, A$AP TyY, Angelo Romano and Chi Modu.

The art shows are normally held every month at various locations around Manhattan, from the luxurious Hudson Hotel to the famed Riverside Church. With $300,000 raised thus far, the next event is scheduled for July 9 at SoHo’s Martin Lawrence Gallery. Japan-born Takashi Murakami, who’s worked with Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, is one of the many artists who will be featured throughout the evening.

The concept behind SDG might be a little unconventional, but it seems to be working considering the fact that more than 500 uninsured people were treated within the past year. To date, approximately 126 million Americans lack dental coverage, according to the National Association of Dental Plans.

Read the rest of my article at [EBONY.com].

Former Essence Magazine Editor, Niema Jordan, Chats About Moving to New York City In Pursuit of Her Dreams

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It goes without saying that New York City is the place to be if you want to make it in journalism, particularly magazine journalism. Essence, Rolling Stone, Seventeen, Glamour, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, People — you name it and I guarantee you it’s somewhere in New York City a.k.a. The Big Apple a.k.a. The Melting Pot a.k.a. The Empire State a.k.a. The City That Never Sleeps. New York City might be known for its many nicknames, but one thing’s for sure: If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Writer/editor/filmmaker Niema Jordan is proof of that.

Since trading in palm trees for yellow taxis and the nearly all-black attire that New Yorkers are notorious for, the Oakland native has contributed to a host of publications, including Essence, Healthy You Now, Spa Magazine and Oakland Local. Currently, Jordan serves as a reporter for Richmond Confidential and executive editor for 38th Notes. And did we mention she’s also in the process of earning a dual master’s degree in public health and journalism from the University of California, Berkley School of Public Health? In case you can’t tell, Jordan is a go-getter!

Here, the former Essence editor reveals how she was able to break into magazine journalism — an industry many consider to be on its way out.

A Royal Point of View: Back in 2008, you decided to relocate to New York City, in order to pursue a career in magazine journalism. What inspired you to make that move?

Niema Jordan: I had just graduated from Northwestern and I was sort of back and forth about it because I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have a place to live. I had a home girl in New York and I was talking to her. She had graduated from my Alma matter about a year before and she said to me, “Well, don’t you wanna live in New York?” I said, “Yeah, but I don’t really have all the things that I need.” And she was like, “Well, I don’t really know how you plan on being a magazine editor in New York unless you move to New York.” And I was like, “Oh, right!” so I just kind of went with it. I took my last paycheck. Her parents agreed to let me stay with them for a few months until I found a job.

My goal was to get in front of as many editors as possible and work whatever kind of job I could get. I had gone to the NABJ convention in Chicago not too long before that, so I made some good contacts and a lot of people said, “If you’re ever in New York, you should stop by my office,” so when I got there, I took all of them up on that during the first week I was there and went into straight hustle mode. It was a very risky decision, but I had a strong network and I had some folks I knew would look out for me no matter what was going on. Ultimately, I knew that if things didn’t pan out, I could just go home and I’d be fine. It wasn’t like, “Oh, if I don’t make it here, it’s the end of my life.” I knew I could just step back and reboot. So much of it has been about my network. That’s really how I was able to survive out there. I had a strong support system.

A Royal Point of View: California and New York are very different from each other. How did you make that transition and was it difficult?

NJ: It wasn’t too bad because I had went to Northwestern for my undergrad, which is in Chicago, so I had already been away from home for a while, so it wasn’t like getting into the New York flow from being in Cali. I’d already been separated from home for a few years. I really love New York and New York is a place where you can find so many people to connect to. There were people I connected to because we went to the same school, there were people I connected because they were from the Bay area, and there were people I connected to simply because we were straight out of college, starving students, so it was really easy for me to find some folks that I connected with once I got out there.

A Royal Point of View: Is there anything you wish you would’ve known prior to moving that would’ve made life easier?

NJ: I would’ve had some money saved up. I think outside of saving money, my advice for people who are moving to New York is do not underestimate your network because honestly, most of the jobs I’ve gotten have come through connections and word of mouth. So if I worked really well with somebody on a project, they referred me to somebody else for another project. Like I said, I’m a member of NABJ, so people have passed my resume around to other folks. Inward networking is very real in New York and it’s very real everywhere. The other thing is be prepared to actually produce and do something dope when somebody in your network recommends you for something because you don’t want to make them look bad.

A Royal Point of View: Looking back, would you do it all over again if you had to?

NJ: Yeah, I think it was very much worth it. I think that sometimes we move to New York because we have something to prove to ourselves. I think that’s why most people move to New York. And some people choose to stay while a lot of people feel like, “OK, I’ve proven that I can make it here and do whatever and now it’s time for me to move somewhere else.”

A Royal Point of View: What would you say was your first big break?

NJ: My first job in New York was working at Essence. I got my job at Essence after about two months of living in New York. I was editorial assistant and I was there for about nine months. Then my dad got sick, so I moved back to California for about a year and a half. I was freelancing for the magazine during that time and then when my dad got better, I moved back to New York. And the person who had replaced me at Essence was actually leaving, so I just fell right back into my same job. And since I had more experience under my belt, instead of getting the title of editorial assistant, I became assistant editor.

A Royal Point of View: Did you have any mentors along the way?

NJ: Oh yeah. Everyone at Essence was really supportive. I guess my go-to was Charreah Jackson, who’s currently the relationships editor there. The person who mentored me and got me through with everything when I first moved to New York is Demetria Lucas, who was the relationships editor. I was working directly under her when I first started. And Sharon Boone, who’s the health editor there, is always amazing and helps me out a lot still even though I’m no longer there.

Outside of that, I’d say Kelley Carter. I met her when I was an undergrad and we had lunch one day and she basically tore my resume to shreds. She was like, “You have potential, but you’re not doing everything you should be doing. You don’t have enough internships, you don’t have enough clips. You’re graduating in a year and if you want to be able to do anything after you graduate, here are the steps you need to take.” And that pushed me in a very real way, which is important, because outside of your professors, there are certain things that people who are currently in the field can tell you that your professors can’t.

A Royal Point of View: You’re actually back in Oakland now. What led you to move back to California?

NJ: For me, my departure from New York was really about having another plan and really wanting to complete my master’s here because I really loved the program at the University of California, Berkley. I could’ve stayed in New York for a little bit longer, but I always planned on coming home. I’m actually home earlier than I thought I would be. I had a lot of other goals besides being in New York, you know?

For me, it’s a great opportunity to get two master’s degree in three years. I think I was really inspired in a lot of ways by my experience at Essence because I was working in the health department and getting all these crazy statistics across my desk about Black women and health, so I really wanted to understand a lot more at the core of those disparities and do research. So yeah, I enjoy it and I’ll be done with everything by the time I’m 30.

A Royal Point of View: As you know, the publishing industry is extremely competitive. What’s the best way to get your foot in the door?

NJ: Writing, writing, writing. I think there are certain times when we’re so focused on getting in the door when we should really be focused on doing the work. I worked at this magazine called Venus Zine and it’s not running anymore, but it was an Indie Rock magazine that focused on women in music. It was not my scene. I didn’t know anything about the majority of artists they covered. It wasn’t one of the magazines I grew up idolizing. It was a small magazine. It was one of those places where I could write 200 words for Essence and my whole family would just spas out and I could write a 1000-word story for Venus Zine and people would be like, “What is that?”

The key, however, was they were letting me write those big stories. It wasn’t so much about getting to the big names as it was about getting my clips. And if I didn’t have those clips from that small publication, Essence wouldn’t have been impressed at all. If you really want to write and you really want to edit, then write and edit if even if it’s not for the big names you grew up idolizing or the editors you stalk on Facebook and Twitter because eventually, you’ll get up to that space of writing for those folks.

A Royal Point of View: What are some of the biggest dos and don’ts in this industry?

NJ: Do write. Do hustle. Don’t compare yourself. Don’t talk shit about other people because the world is very, very small. Don’t only have one project or one thing that you’re working on, so if you have one story you’re working on, you should also be looking for your next story. Things are not stable. I’ve seen people dedicate themselves to a brand and then get laid off. What people don’t understand is that it’s all business. People can love you, you can be great at what you do, but when bottom lines are effective, bottom lines are effective.

Because it’s a business, you can’t get into this brand royalty that will leave you out in the cold. They don’t owe you anything. And I think a lot of people get lost in that and dedicates themselves and their lives to these brands and then if they get let go or the brand changes ownership and they’re going in a new direction and you don’t fit that and you don’t have any money saved up or have any other contacts, you’re effed. Don’t put yourself in that position. Always have a backup.

A Royal Point of View: You’ve worked at a number of newspapers and magazines. Based on your experience, what’s the biggest difference between the two?

NJ: I love magazines. I’m so a print girl, I’m so a magazine girl. I love the time that you have to spend on a project. I guess the biggest thing is how much time you get to spend with your words. Yeah, that’s probably the biggest thing for me. Also, I like not having the pressure of having to stay super current because a magazine’s lead time is three months in advance, so right now, I’m thinking about October, November, December and what stories I’m going to pitch. I’m already at the end of the year instead of having to anticipate what’s going to be hot next week.

A Royal Point of View: How do writers pitch fresh ideas to print when online content is constant? Do you have any brainstorming techniques?

NJ: Read different things. On one hand, the things you see in print aren’t that different from online. It’s just more in-depth. You’re thinking new people, you’re thinking slightly different angles. Even print may have their themed issues. You know that every year, InStyle is going to do the body issue, you know that in October everybody’s going to do a breast cancer story. It’s really about discovering new angles. And you can’t get new ideas if you’re consuming the same things all the time. So sometimes the idea is getting offline and reading something in print that might you inspire you take a different angle. Read things that are not on your beat and you’ll see a new way of thinking. What we write reflects our experiences. Consume differently and you will get different ideas.

A Royal Point of View: How can writers make their pitches stand out?

NJ: Know the publication. Know and be able to articulate why you’re the best person to write the article you’re pitching. Don’t send things at strange hours. No one is going to respond to you if you’re emailing them at 5 o’clock on a Friday. Don’t be afraid to follow up. Don’t be an a-hole. Try to get face to face with people. I know it’s increasingly hard because not everybody has for you to sit down with them and have you pick their brain, but join organizations. Join NABJ, join SPJ. Go to a networking event because an email is one thing, but in-person contact is still so key and important. People are busy, so if you can get in front of somebody and you can talk to them, then do it. If you can join an organization, if you can get somebody to recommend you, do it. Networks are important.

This is the other thing: Give your editors what they ask for and give it to them when they ask for it. The easier you make your editor’s life, the more they will assign you stories. When you miss a deadline, you’re not only messing with their schedule, but you’re making them look bad when they have to go back to the meetings and say where their stories are in the process.

Editors talk to each other. Someone may see something you wrote and say, “What was your experience working with this girl? That story was really good.” And if your editor has to say, “Actually, she didn’t turn in the story on time and I did the largest rewrite I’ve ever had to do in my life,” you not only ruin your chances with your editor, but you also ruin your chances with the editor she talked with. So much about this business is about your reputation. You have to protect your reputation.

A Royal Point of View: For those interested in becoming an editor someday, what makes a great editor?

NJ: I don’t know. I know my favorite editors to work with as a writer. I like editors who give good direction and feedback. When I was an editor, my focus was really about understanding your audience, getting them the information that they need and doing it in a creative way, but that’s the writer’s job as well. It was also about deadlines and being able to work with a team and having certain outside contacts and having relationships with people who would then get you access to something else.

A Royal Point of View: When we were in the process of setting up this interview, you mentioned your journey in the world of journalism is ongoing. Do you feel like you still have some ways to go?

NJ: I still have so far to go. I think that’s why I found it so interesting that you wanted to interview me because I was like, “Oh God, I’m still trying to find my way,” but I understand that it’s good to talk to people who are in different phases of their careers. You know, I get that, but I have not made it at all. I think in terms of my journey, I would still love to get to the point where I’m writing a bunch of magazine features. I still need to get to a point where I have a few documentaries under my belt. There are so many things that I want to do.

I kind of discovered early on that I’m much more of a freelancer. I like working on multiple projects, so I wouldn’t say that my goal is to become Editor-in-Chief of a magazine or anything like that. I would also like to teach journalism because it’s very rare that I see someone that looks like me as a professor, so I would like to be that for somebody. I think I’ve accomplished a lot, but I still have a lot more writing and learning to do. And if I ever got a point where I felt that I’ve done everything I needed to do, then I think it would be time for me to switch careers.

A Royal Point of View: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now, professionally speaking?

NJ: Alright, I’m just going to throw some things out there. So 10 years from now, I’ll have a couple documentaries under my belt and a few cover stories. And I will be splitting my time pretty evenly between Oakland and New York, but I’ll be traveling a lot and working on a lot of interesting projects nationally and abroad.

Be sure to follow Niema on Twitter and check out her website.

Sesi’s Editor-in-Chief, Andréa Butler, On Starting and Growing a Print Magazine in Today’s Digital World

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As a teenager, wordsmith Andréa Butler was (and still is) obsessed with magazines but never felt that any of them catered to the needs and interests of young Black girls such as herself. According to the former high school English teacher, Essence was “too old” and magazines such as Seventeen and Teen Vogue lacked diversity. Tired of flipping through the pages of magazines she couldn’t relate to, Butler decided to take matters into her own hands back in 2009 with the launch of Sesi Magazine.

Sesi, which means “sister” in the Sotho language of South Africa, is a quarterly print magazine dedicated to “today’s eclectic Black teenage girl.” It’s a place where Black girls can go to feel celebrated to the absolute fullest. Since its inception, many popular musicians and actors/actresses have graced the cover, including OMG Girlz, Mindless Behavior, Keke Palmer and now Imani Hakim. Here, Butler reveals how she was able to successfully launch a print magazine in a technology-driven world.

A Royal Point of View: We keep hearing that journalism is dead, especially print, so I’m curious to know what inspired you to launch your own publication in this day in age?

Andréa Butler: I actually got the idea when I was 17 because I was obsessed with magazines, and I would always look through them and wonder, “Why isn’t there anyone who looks like me on the cover? And why don’t they address issues that I’m going through?” I thought, “Well, if nothing changes by the time I’m out of school, then I’ll start one,” but I kind of went around that and taught high school English for five years [after completing graduate school]. Then I decided I really wanted to do the magazine, so I initially launched it in 2009 while I was still teaching.  Then I got a new job as an editor at LivingSocial.com, so I put the magazine on the back-burner. But I kept getting called back to do the magazine and knew this is really what I wanted to do, so I relaunched it in December 2012 but was still working at LivingSocial.com full time. I didn’t start doing the magazine full time until January 2014.

I decided to do print because our audience is Black teen girls from ages 13-19, generally speaking. A lot of teen girls don’t have access to iPads on a regular basis. Also, magazines are such a different animal than newspapers. Still today, teenagers like to rip out the pages of their favorite ads or rip out a page of a cute guy to hang on their wall. They still do that. You can’t fold up an iPad and sneak it in your locker or stick it under a textbook, which I’m not advising people to do [laughs], but you can’t do that. It’s just a tactile experience that you have to have with a magazine. It’s so different from any other type of media.

KeKe Palmer on the cover of Sesi's spring 2010 issue.

A Royal Point of View: What were some of the steps you went through to ensure the success of Sesi?

AB: After college, I went to graduate school. In college, I studied English and in graduate school, I studied magazine journalism. That’s where I learned more about the business of magazines because all I knew was I liked to read them [laughs]. As my master’s project, instead of writing a thesis, I did a business plan for a new magazine and I did it for Sesi. And I did a prototype with it as well. When I started, I was using [a content publishing service] and I just did not like the paper that they use. It didn’t feel right. It felt more like a homemade project, so when I relaunched it, I met with a local printer. I knew it would be more expensive, but I thought, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right!” So I met with the local printer, got to feel the paper and take a tour of the place. And it feels like a real magazine now.

What I did next with the relaunch anyway, was get one of my friends from high school do the layout. She actually got her degree in graphic design and she’s working on her master’s in magazine design. And she does it all on a volunteer basis since our budget is tight. Then I posted ads on ed2010.com and Twitter asking for freelancers. And when I left LivingSocial.com, I asked some of the freelancers if they wanted to come with me, so finding writers wasn’t difficult. As for the celebrities on the cover, I didn’t know what I was doing, so I just said, “You know what? I’m going to email the publicist. What do I have to lose?'” And so, they wrote me back and I was able to get KeKe Palmer on the second issue ever. You just have to take chances and do your research. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s also really fun and a lot of trial and error.

A Royal Point of View: What was the biggest obstacle you faced along the way?

AB: I would say the biggest obstacle is selling ad space. It’s really difficult. In the beginning, I was trying to sell ads, but nothing was happening for a year and a half. Recently, I just sold two ads — well, technically, three because one is running in two issues, so it’s starting to happen. All the nos are starting to become,”Oh yes!” And I’m having more meetings with potential advertisers. It takes a lot of patience.

A Royal Point of View: Many publications these days come and go. What do you think has been the secret to sticking around for this long?

AB: I don’t know. I would say hard work and faith because there are times when I’m like, “I don’t even know how we’re keeping this going” because it’s very hard. There’s also been times when I call my friends and my mom and just cry. I’m like, “I don’t know what I’m doing!” But they’re so encouraging and they tell me, “Andréa, this is what you’re supposed to do.” I pray a lot as well.

A Royal Point of View: Talk to us about why it was so important for you to create a publication that represented and celebrated Black girls.

AB: Like I said, when I was younger, I was obsessed with magazines. I subscribed to Seventeen, YM, Teen Vogue and Teen People and it was just the same people on the cover all the time. It’s still like that today. All the teen magazines that are out today — the mainstream ones, their mission statement specifically claims that they’re for all girls, but when you look at the magazine, they are clearly for White girls. That’s who their audience is. I didn’t like that they claimed they’re all inconclusive, when they’re really not.

There’s also Essence for older, Black women and we have BET, TV One, Radio One and all that, but we need a magazine for Black girls as well because they need to see themselves on the cover. They need to see their beauty, hair, fashion sense, music and movies celebrated. We published an article about color complex in our fall issue last year and we also talked about racial profiling — you’re not going to see that in Seventeen. People equate mainstream with White and that’s why our slogan is, “We’re covering the Black girl’s mainstream.”

Mindless Behavior covers Sesi

A Royal Point of View: As of now, Sesi is a print magazine, but it’s sold exclusively online. Do you think you’ll eventually sell it in stores?

AB: Even harder than getting ad space is getting into stores. You can’t just go to a store and say, “Hey, sell my magazine.” You have to go through distributors and the distributors have to think you’re worth it. They’re very subjective. I’ve reached out to many distributors and they’ve said to me, “Oh, we don’t think that you’re magazine can make us money right now.” Until I can get into stores, I’m focusing on selling it online. It’s just like any other magazine, where you can order it and have shipped directly to your home. I know its going to take a while, but we are looking into getting into some of the local stores and we’re actually in several school libraries and public libraries already.

A Royal Point of View: What entrepreneurial advice do you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

AB: Do your research — that’s very important. Study your competition, study your market and make sure there is a market out there that isn’t being covered. You want to find a niche because you’ll have so much competition already, so you really want to find something that you’re filling a void for. It’s a lot of trial and error, but definitely read books on starting your own magazine just to give you some type of structure. Build a team. If you can do it all, that’s great, but I’ve found that I’m not that great with the design aspect, so it’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses. And if you have money, that’s great, but if you don’t, you might want to keep your day job for a while.

A Royal Point of View: What tips and pointers would you give up-and-coming journalists who want to thrive in this competitive industry?

AB: The whole multimedia convergence thing is really huge now. I’d say learn not only how to write and edit but also how to do video, incorporate Google hangout interviews, learn about social media management and start a blog. Basically, learn about every aspect of your business that you can. And networking is everything. I’m really not the type of person who likes to go to mixers, where I don’t know anyone. That’s not really my thing, but if you go to conventions like the National Association of Black Journalists or the Society of Professional Journalists, you can talk to people in the different sessions and it’s not so forced. Also, network while you’re in college with your friends because they may go off and do the same type of thing you’re trying to do.

A Royal Point of View: For those of us who are interested in contributing to Sesi, what do you look for in a pitch? What excites you?

AB: I like pitches where the opening is really attention grabbing. I won’t finish reading something that’s like, “Dear Andréa, I would like to write about blah blah blah…” Just get to the point. Tell me the story that you want to write and really grab my attention. And then go into who would you interview for this story and what’s your angle. Be creative. I don’t like the standard, cover letter-looking pitches. Also, be sure that you’ve actually read an issue before you pitch me something because we get a lot of pitches that are just off-based.

On our website, we have a page that’s just for writer’s guidelines, so you want to make sure that you follow all the directions because if you don’t, I don’t even read it because I’m like, “You don’t even follow directions. How can you follow directions when you write an article?” Lastly, we like to get things at least three months in advance. Right now, we’re working on the back-to-school issue, so our deadline for pitches is June 30.

Drew Sidora covers Sesi

A Royal Point of View: What if the person pitching is just starting out and has little or no writing clips?

AB: If they don’t have a lot of writing clips, I understand that. We’ve all been there, but if the pitch is really strong and I talk to you and you seem to have your stuff together, I might ask for you to send a sample of something that you’ve written just to make sure you have our style down because that’s main thing. You’ve got to be able to speak in our voice. If you’re a writer, you’ve got to be able to write in the voice of the publication you’re writing for. You’ve got to be able to adapt. You should also be able to take constructive criticism.

A Royal Point of View: What are some pitching dos and don’ts?

AB: Do your research about the publication you’re pitching for. Make sure you know what kind of articles they’re looking for, what kind of departments they have in their magazine or what they cover on their blog. Do make sure that you follow the writer’s guidelines because they’re there for a reason. We took the time to write them out and tell you exactly what we’re looking for, so you don’t have to guess. Do be creative with your pitches, so that we actually feel compelled to read them. Don’t be rude — that’s big a thing. And don’t waste people’s time.

A Royal Point of View: Looking back, what’s been the best part about taking that leap of faith five years ago when you decided to launch Sesi?

AB: I said I was going to do this at this 17 years old. I remember that moment. I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom and I had all these magazines spread around me. And I was like, “Why doesn’t anybody look like me? Well, I should just start a magazine!” But I wasn’t actually serious at the time. Like I said, I did avoid it several times by teaching after graduate school for five years. I launched the magazine while I was teaching but put it on the back-burner and said, “Maybe I won’t do it.”

When I started working at LivingSocial.com, I kept feeling the urge to return to the magazine, so I relaunched it while I was still at LivingSocial.com, but I couldn’t dedicate myself to it 100 percent. It was difficult leaving my day job, but I believe it’s going to be worth it because it’s slow growing, but it’s growing and I think that’s the important part. I was not happy just going to work every day and coming home. All I did was get up, go to work, work all day, come home, watch TV, go to bed and do it again. And it wasn’t that exciting. If you’re going to do it, don’t think it’s easy. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

A Royal Point of View: Where do you see Sesi 10 years from now?

AB: Well, my hope is that Sesi takes off very soon so that in 10 years, we’ll be the largest magazine for Black teen girls around. By then, we would like to publish 10 times a year, have plenty of ads, be in stores and have a full staff writers and editors. We’ll always be in print, but we’ll probably also have a digital option. And we hope to keep inspiring Black girls everywhere and educate people who aren’t Black — they can read it as well and learn about their Black friends. Hopefully, it’ll be bigger and better than it is now and keep going forever. That’s the plan.

A Royal Point of View: Is there anything you wish you would’ve known back then that you know today, professionally speaking?

AB: I feel like I learned a lot in graduate school, but you don’t always know what you need to know until you get there. There’s nothing that I feel like was left out necessarily. I think you can only learn a finite amount of information when in you’re in school, which is important because you definitely need the foundation. However, you learn more when you actually get into it and realize all that it takes. And things are always changing. When I was in graduate school in 2003, there was no social media, so as things keep changing, you just have to adapt.

Be sure to follow Sesi Magazine on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. To subscribe, click here.

Project ALOE Helps Young Girls Get ‘Fab, Fit and Focused’ For College

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Lip gloss, mascara, blow dryer, curling iron–all essential items when it comes to getting ready for a girl’s night out, right? Sure, but they mean a lot more when they come with some sage wisdom.

These are a few of the items someone will receive when you donate to Project ALOE, an annual beauty drive that provides young girls with essential items and advice before they head off to college.

Each girl receives a care package, which includes at least one standard-sized towel or washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and a comb or brush.

Jumoke K. Dada, the woman behind Project ALOE, which stands for Assisting Ladies by Offering Essentials, says the idea came to her while waiting in a hair salon.

Read the rest of my article at [EBONY.com].

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