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Courtesy of Brooke Obie

5 Questions With xoNecole's New EIC, Brooke Obie

"My goal is to build upon the legacy of sisterhood and community Necole and the xoNecole team have diligently created."

BOSS UP

Brooke Obie is xoNecole’s new editor-in-chief, and this sister has the career receipts that prove that she’s set to take the platform to the next level. Let’s start with the proof of real skin in the media game: She is an award-winning journalist, whose work has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Essence, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and many more.


The Hampton University and Mercer University School of Law graduate has served as the co-editor of Roxane Gay’s The Audacity, the deputy director of Refinery29 Unbothered, Ebony.com’s first editor-at-large, and as managing editor for Shadow & Act. She is also a TV and film critic who has a voice and perspective to be reckoned with.

Her smart and thought-provoking film and TV insights and cultural criticism have had a viral allure, which is not surprising. (Just go read her telling commentary on the “zombification” of Whitney Houston, and you’ll see why.) Her critiques have enhanced the cultural conversations of shows and panels including NPR’s 1A Movie Club.

She also took her writing passions further with her debut novel Book of Addis: Cradled Embers, which was honored with the 2018 Accra International Book Festival Awards’ Independent Writer’s Award, the 2017 Phillis Wheatley Book Award for First Fiction, and the 2017 Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award for self-published Fiction.

“What began as a way to pay my bills while I finished grad school and my debut novel turned into the most fulfilling career I never could’ve imagined for myself,” Brooke said of her start in journalism in an interview with xoNecole.

Courtesy of Brooke Obie

In 2019, she was named one of The Root 100’s most influential African Americans in 2019 for her viral and exclusive interview with the family of Dr. Donald Shirley, “How ‘Green Book’ And the Hollywood Machine Swallowed Donald Shirley Whole." And she has interviewed icons of entertainment and media, from Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Maya Angelou to Ava DuVernay and Aretha Franklin.

Now that's she's adding xoNecole's EIC to her resume, we sat down with Brooke to ask five key questions about her career passions and the impact she expects to have in her new role. The multi-hyphenate gives insight into her hope for all Black millennial women:

1. How did you first find your purpose and passion in journalism?

"I’ve always been a writer and loved storytelling, but it wasn’t until I graduated from law school and began a career crafting other people’s messages and stories that I felt an overwhelming urge to find my own voice and help tell Black women’s stories. I started a blog about my life in D.C., which won a few awards and led to me being a contributor for the newly-launched Ebony.com. My first professional editing job came by chance when I filled in for my editor when she went on maternity leave and I’ve been an editor, writing and helping other Black writers craft their stories ever since!"

2. What do you wish to accomplish during your xoNecole tenure?

"My goal is to build upon the legacy of sisterhood and community Necole Kane and the xoNecole team have diligently created. I’m blessed to be among such phenomenal Black women and I want to continue to cultivate an environment where our audience and our internal team feel seen, heard, and empowered."

3. We talk a lot about self-care and work-life balance. How do you create that for yourself?

"I have a hard stop time every day and I reserve my weekends for myself and my personal projects. I respect other people’s work-life balance as well and make sure to schedule emails instead of sending them during times when I know people are offline. I also schedule breaks in between meetings so I can decompress. Prioritizing outdoor time is also huge for me. I hike on the weekends and jog or walk during the week to make sure I’m getting vitamin D. And I am in daily contact with the people I love and who love me.

"I believe in Audre Lorde’s definition of self-care as a community effort that works when we can all experience rest and take care of ourselves. I’m always looking for ways we as a community can help shoulder each other’s burdens so we can all be well."

4. How has where you've been in your career led you to where you are now?

"I’ve had many different careers and have worn many different hats over the years, but the one constant in all of them is storytelling. I started off in journalism as a freelance contributor and have worked every journalism job on the way to editor-in-chief. But what I believe led me here is beyond journalism skill and experience. My heart is for Black people and our stories—one of the most powerful tools we possess for our liberation. I’ve been so blessed to spend my career in Black media, amplifying our stories, cultivating emerging writers, and providing space for us to be challenged, to grow and expand in our imagining of what’s possible."

5. What do you think is missing in this space for Black women, and how do you seek to fill that gap?

"The beautiful thing about a community of Black women is how diverse we are. I want to create more spaces for Black women across the Diaspora, across sexualities, across sizes and shades, and beyond the binary to share their stories and experiences. I’m excited to create content and curate experiences for us to all learn from each other, understand each other better and grow together.

"More than anything, I want Black millennial women to be free and well. I hope that we seek out ways to get free and to free each other; to be well and lead each other to wellness; to love each other and love ourselves, every day. We deserve it all."

Featured image courtesy of Brooke Obie

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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