On October 6, the Sabrosa nightclub was packed. Guests filtered in off the streets of Manhattan's Meatpacking District into the white-washed brick building that during daytime hours would easily be glanced over.
They arrived in singles, pairs, groups—a mix of young and old of all races click-clacking down the concrete corridor illuminated in sensual dark-pink lighting and into an open room where DJ Austin Millz spun Drake and Future to a crowd wavy off of free Hennessey. At 9 'o clock glasses filled with Moet raised simultaneously in the air in celebration of the release of HRDCVR—a book-shaped magazine created to push the envelope of journalism, one that's free of the constraints of the web and not confined by the traditions. For us, by us, and catering to everyone.
For co-founder Danyel Smith, it was the icing on a cake, layered with 11 months of trials, triumphs, tears, and tenacity—a culmination of the vision that she and her husband, veteran journalist, and Rap Radar founder Elliott Wilson, dreamt up months ago.
“Everybody was excited about the book and it was really a good time; it was a long time coming actually," Smith tells me on our call. “I feel like there's sometimes this kind of segregation between millennials and those older than them, and this wasn't that. It really felt like we included everyone."
Danyel is one of those journalists that you admire from a distance and study up close. She's talented, yes, hints why she's earned top positions at Vibe Magazine (Editor-In-Chief), Billboard (R&B Editor), Time Inc. (Editor-at-Large), and The Root (Executive Editor), and written for many more respectable publications on top of writing her novels More Like Wrestling and Bliss. But it's more than just her ability to pen profiles, it's her passion, respect for her craft, and thirst for knowledge of not just music, but the world around her, that has garnered her over 30,000 and 100,000 followers on Twitter and Tumblr respectively, as well as a number of devoted fans inspired by her work.
Not bad for someone who dropped out of college her sophomore year for family reasons, and didn't get her bachelor's degree until she was in her 30s.
“It's not easy no matter how talented, smart, or focused you are. You know, life happens to people, to women in particular, whether it's boyfriends, your neighborhood, family dramas, whatever it is."
"I always tell people, just because you take a turn to the left or a turn to the right, you can get back on your path at any time."
The East Oakland native who claims 83rd and East 14th Street has come a long way from interning at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, where she turned lackluster news on the history of olive oil into her own column, telling captivating stories of the rise of the hip-hop and R&B era when Cali artists Too $hort, Tupac, and Tony! Toni! Toné! were just hitting the scene. Building her name as a music critic unknowingly elevated her to the position of a pioneer—for there were very few women at that time covering the music industry, and even fewer diving into hip-hop.
But Danyel has never been afraid of pushing the envelope and ushering a new wave of traditions. In fourth grade, it was her newspaper, The Weekly Arrow, where her byline reigned supreme with news of the latest happenings from her then High Point Street Los Angeles neighborhood—circulation of six. Now, it's HRDCVR, a magazine printed as a book for the “new everyone" that doesn't just serve one group, as often seen with both mainstream and affinity magazines, but all people regardless of race, religion, lifestyle, or beliefs. The “underserved" as she calls them. It's very much reflective of the society that we live in—where traditional lines have been blurred and barriers broken.
The couple worked hard to build a team just as diverse as the content, bringing in writers from all backgrounds—some by profession and some by passion—as well as people that they knew and respected from previous jobs and projects. They gave $1,000 media fellowships to journalists and a designer to be a part of the team who would push all aspects of reporting, storytelling, and design—and brought on interns who understood the vision and were eager to play a role in bringing it to fruition.
But of course, creating something of this grandeur would take money. A lot of it. And what better way to know who's interested and supports your mission than by starting a crowdfunding campaign?
So they took to Kickstarter with an introduction video, promising a high-quality product with amazing visuals and diverse content. Every Monday they released the HRDlist, an email newsletter with catchy titles that curated diverse news headlines from around the world. They went heavy on social media, promoting daily and doing interviews talking about the “new everyone." In four days they received 50% of the funding. They pledged a goal of $30,000, and in 28 days they got $67,230 from 516 backers.
“We used [crowdfunding] because we wanted to have kind of an intimacy about who we were serving and a group of people that we could communicate with all the time, either on Twitter or via Kickstarter."
It was tough, though, and not just because they were managing a team that was spread out across the country (although they did use their temporary DUMBO office for central headquarters), but because Danyel also had to manage herself by stepping outside of her comfort zone.
“I had to re-learn to be as determined as I know how to be. I've been spending a lot of time as a student and working on my book, and I can be very introverted with those activities. But putting together a project like this, it's all about being outgoing and showing your personality. So, that's what I had to do and that's what the team had to do and I think that we all learned a lot of lessons from each other."
It was also the first time the couple would work on a project together instead of competing against one another in the journalism world. Elliott often recounts the story of when he was an editor at XXL while Danyel was the editor-in-chief of Vibe Magazine, and her snatching up the cover stories that he was actively pursuing.
“We both have very strong personalities and we both have an idea of how we would like things to be. And, while we've somewhat figured out how to deal with those strong personalities in marriage and relationships, on the creative partnership side of our bond, we are learning every day, and it's challenging. But look at the good work that came out of it."
It's the challenges that have allowed them to learn more about one another. I reference a Will and Jada Pinkett Smith interview where Jada talks about the couple creating Karate Kid together, and the challenge of how her and Will have different ways of creating, but how much she's learned from working with him and seeing things from a different perspective.
“I definitely did." She says when I ask her if she learned something from her and Elliott's time working on HRDCVR. “I forgot that Elliott is a copy editor. I forget that there's not a mistake that he doesn't see. He sees a mistake like there's an extra space between the period and the beginning of the next sentence. I be like, what?! He's very detailed in his head like that. And then there's some things he's not, there's some things, like, if we're looking at film, my notes back to people are intense and deep and Elliott is just like it's a lot you're saying, and I'm like because it's a lot that need to be done. So, it just depends. But you go back and forth between being big-picture and detail-oriented, and we learn a lot from each other.
[Tweet ""It comforts me that there's still new stuff to learn about him after 10 years of marriage.""]
Perhaps it's the beauty of learning and discovering more about one another through HRDCVR that has inspired them to continue on the path of creative partnerships. They worked together on Future's “Like I Never Left" documentary, serving as executive producers along with L.A. Reid and Sylvia Rhone, and on their 10th anniversary launched the #RelationshipGoals podcast where they discuss everything from dating and marriage to new music and current events, inviting you into the kitchen of their Brooklyn apartment.
I admittedly tune in because there's something so authentic and real about their love that I admire. It's not sugar-coated, as you often find when public figures broadcast their marriage. On any given episode you can often hear the two bickering over everything from Elliott coming in the house too late (he has a 2am curfew) to Danyel being chastised for interrupting Wilson's conversation, but it's minor in comparison to the warmth that emits from their casual convos sprinkled with Elliott's iconic laugh and Danyel's Oakland-girl brashness.
“Whatever the week has brought, we try to give the listeners that, and it's fun. I mean, marriage is hard," Smith says. “Everybody's marriage is complex regardless of how they're presenting it, but to me, it's one of the greatest relationships of life if you're lucky to have it and if it's something that you want. I always remind everybody that marriage isn't something that's everybody's dream, it just isn't. But I think what is everybody's dream is to be loved, and that's what marriage at least does for me, it kind of reminds me of that on a daily basis that there is somebody that's there outside of family."
She also admits that it's sometimes how they catch up with one another, since their separate careers sometimes keep them apart during the week. Before things got hectic, Elliott would play her new music and she would play him old songs. Now they keep tradition alive through the podcast where the sounds of Sza are heard alongside Mary J. Blige.
“Us doing that, it really does bring us a lot of joy because we're like, we used to do this all the time for each other, like all the time! So it's been nice."
I tell her that they remind me of Brown Sugar—the movie where Sanaa Lathan plays Sidney, a successful Editor-In-Chief of XXLand her best-friend-turned-lover Dre (played by Taye Diggs) is a well-known A&R for the fictional Millennium Records, who later quits his job to start his label signing real hip-hop talent instead of the mainstream mockery that many labels have adhered to, sacrificing quality for dollars.
They fell in like through hip-hop and fell in love when they realized that they have more in common than just a passion for the genre. In this case, it's the love of culture and constantly learning and evolving that seems to keep them tied together. When I share this with Smith she says to me, “I've heard this so many times!"
And then admits that she's never seen the movie, probably because she's weirded out at the fact that everyone attributes her and her husband's relationship to a fictional story that has absolutely nothing to do with their lives (Elliott is, in fact, a journalist, and not an A&R executive). She identifies more with Queen Latifah's character in the 90s hit show Living Single, who runs the fictional Flava magazine—boss by day and navigating the world of relationships by night.
I get it because I used to do the same. Until I saw Brown Sugar.
A couple of minutes later Elliott is peaking around the corner, letting her know it's time to go. They're headed to a CRWN event, a live interview series that he hosts with some of today's top music artists. Tonight's session is with Mac Miller. Just like when Elliott shows support by coming to her events, she's making sure to be in attendance for his.
“We were living apart for 10 months when I was in Stanford [as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow] recently, and that was one of the hardest parts, you know, not being able to be there for each other in certain moments. So, I think we might be overcompensating now where if I have something he's like, alright I'm there what time is it?"
She apologizes as she rushes me off the phone. My thoughts immediately go back to Sanaa's character when she gives Dre the money to launch his own record label or when at the last minute she goes to check out a new artist he's interested in signing. Always supportive, always there for him.
As we say our goodbyes, I can't help but smile as I click off the recorder.
Yeah, they're definitely Brown Sugar.
Featured image by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Remy Martin
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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Featured image by FOTOGRAFIA, INC./Getty Images