A full-circle moment, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is a “series of developments that lead back to the original source.”
The original source, in this case, is The Source. And my full-circle moment is happening today (Monday, November 9 2015) as I become Content Director for the media brand that inspired my entire career.
I knew from a very young age hip-hop would determine, shape and influence my personal and professional growth. I discovered The Source magazine when I was 13 years old in the early 90s, taking sneaky trips into the city to soak up the atmosphere at Soul Sense record store. Soul Sense was the unrivaled destination for lovers of “urban culture” in Sydney, Australia (shouts to local legends Eddie and Robert Kaleel and Freddie Mahinda) and a haven for multicultural youth to revel in a music form that at the time, was truly underground. Those were the days, man. Love for the music was pure, especially for us international fans physically so far away from its mecca. I wasn’t yet working so I’d beg Mum to give me money every month to buy The Source and VIBE, and because you could only get them from Soul Sense as imported magazines, she’d shell out roughly $25-30 each time for me. I would excitedly devour each page, memorizing the staff list and picturing my name. I had wanted to be a journalist since I read a book called The Reporter in the third grade (or Year 3, as we say back home) and covering hip-hop came naturally.
In 2003, I founded Urban Hitz magazine. This came after I did high school work experience at Smash Hits (shouts to Agatha Antonian) and TV Hits (shouts to Santi Pintado) and then during my college days, Juice magazine (shouts to my earliest media mentors Toby Creswell, Lisa Anthony and Stuart Hitchings). I was editorial assistant at Juice but happily took the lead on their “urban” coverage and positioned myself as an authority from a very young age (inspired also by WKD, a Melbourne-based R&B publication, at the time). When I graduated with my journalism degree in 2002, I worked with my good friend and top Australian DJ George “G-Wiz” Bechara to produce a street press (a.k.a. free) hip-hop/R&B magazine called Request, which gave me the confidence to ultimately create Urban Hitz in 2003.
Urban Hitz was my local tribute to The Source, an on-sale national publication with a balance of emerging coverage from Australia and New Zealand plus American content. Thanks to my publishers at the time (Derwent Howard) I was allowed to have my brand exactly mirror the one I learned from, with powerful stories tinged with social commentary, exclusive in-depth interviews, lifestyle features and more. Urban Hitz is my greatest achievement because I was told no-one in their right mind would pay for an Aussie-based hip-hop/R&B magazine when they could still buy The Source or VIBE, especially with a female editor. Not only did we become the highest-selling urban publication in Australia to this day, we did it with limited resources and industry support. We had the people, the kids who were just like me, and that’s all we needed.
When I moved to New York City after wrapping up Urban Hitz at the end of 2006, hired by DrJays.com to create content for their popular retail site, I told the owners I was familiar with the Dr. Jays store brand from years before—by reading about rappers talking about it in The Source, of course. I had an incredible full-time run with DrJays.com and consider the company family to this day (working with them still from time to time), because not only did they support my life goal of living and working in New York City, they allowed me to start doing on-camera interviews, execute major fashion campaigns with breakout stars like Nicki Minaj and much more. I branched out from print to digital with them and then embraced a career in radio with Hip Hop Nation (SiriusXM) and DASH Radio, thanks to incredible people in my corner. Through it all my original love for magazines never died, and a dream deep inside to work for the title that kicked everything off never waned. So after a few light social interactions with L. Londell McMillan (current Publisher of The Source), we sat down recently to a five-hour brunch where we discussed the past, present and future of the brand. Londell’s career is decorated and celebrated, but what I admire most about him is after such a long time in the industry, he’s honest to a fault and extremely passionate. His NorthStar Group is today one of few Black-owned media companies, which is extremely important to me coming from a minority background.
I’ve accepted this position at The Source to focus on the positive. To reconnect with the old and usher in the new. To pay homage to the legacy of the brand and at the same time, move it forward. From editorial to marketing to branding to international expansion, I’ll be lending my lengthy expertise while learning and growing with my team.
I cannot emphasize enough how The Source made me the woman, hip-hop lover, journalist and socially conscious spirit I am today. Like a rapper equipped with the albums that inspired him to get in the booth or a community leader studying the activists who came before them, this magazine laid the groundwork for me as a journalist. Its writers and editors spoke loudly to me through each page, sending a clear message to be part of this culture was an honor. That hip-hop was unlike anything else on this planet, an uncomfortably beautiful bridge to endless possibilities. It taught me a young ethnic girl who grew up with a single mother thousands of miles away could actually be part of the world she truly felt she belonged in, as long as she remained authentic to herself and put in the work.
Mum still has my old copies of The Source in big plastic containers back home, and when I told her about my new position her reaction was, “Oh, that bloody magazine! You finally made it huh?” Sure did, Ma.