This music business is a fickle industry. It chews up and spits out even the best of them, and sifts out those who attempt to get into it for glitz and glamour, celebrity shoulder-rubbing and clout-inducing social posts.
But for those who truly love music, working with artists and the brands that back them, it offers an opportunity to get paid for your passion. The late nights and early mornings eventually give way to real relationships and worldwide travel with the artists you love and the power players behind them, and what seems like a dream life often becomes a reality that conjures the phrase "find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life."
Courtesy of Joy Young
I first met Joy Young on a warm summer evening after a Women in Music panel in which she dropped major gems for up-and-coming artists and creatives climbing their way up the music industry ladder. As a manager at Wondaland Management (home of Janelle Monae and Jidenna) and CEO of Playtime Talent Group where she manages the day-to-day of R&B group Hamilton Park, Young boasts an impressive resume that's led her to speak on music panels both local and international, attend coveted entertainment events, and garner the respect that allows her to walk into rooms that others aspire to be in. Starting as a Marketing Assistant for Trill Entertainment during her college years has evolved into over a decade-long career working for companies like Atlantic Records, BET Networks, Roc Nation and many more.
Joy Young pictured with her artists, the men of Hamilton Park.Courtesy of Joy Young
But like all things worth having, her career didn't come without its share of setbacks that would ultimately set her up for success. There were many years plagued with frustration, financial instability, and fighting for what she believed in, even if it meant letting go of jobs and people that no longer served her. But in those very moments, God would remind her that the little girl from Baton Rouge, Louisiana who would rush home from band practice to watch AJ and Free on BET's 106 & Park could dream big and manifest the life that she desired.
In this interview, xoNecole chats with the music maven on the different phases of her life and the lessons she's learned from them— from getting your first clients and finding mentors, to knowing your worth and winning in a male-dominated industry without losing your soul.
Get your notebooks out; school is in session.
Lesson 1: Start With Your Circle for Your First Clients
" Issa Rae said it best when she mentioned to network horizontally versus vertically. All of my initial clients have been very close friends of mine. The first client that I had was a friend of mine, a pastor actually who was starting a ministry. He wanted to branch out to Atlanta and do a conference here. And I was like, 'Well, why don't I help you?' So he hired me to coordinate his first conference in Atlanta.
"My second client was a very good friend of mine, DJ Poizon Ivy. When she started, she had a college show and after she graduated she started opening for different people like Wiz Khalifa. She's now the first female DJ for the Dallas Mavericks, she's gotten an Emmy, and she's just been featured on the Forbes list this year.
"So [the advice] I would give people is to not strive to shoot for the stars, but look around you and see who has talent and who has potential and offer your services."
Courtesy of Joy Young
"[The advice] I would give people is to not strive to shoot for the stars, but look around you and see who has talent and who has potential and offer your services."
Lesson 2: Protect Your Reputation
"There was a situation where the management of talent that I was working with tried to hit on me, and because I did not accept what he was offering, he tried to throw me under the bus. When I would try to make moves or make money or connect with different executives at the label that I was working for, he literally would put in phone calls like, 'I don't want her to work on this project,' and I'm just like, 'Why did you do this?' But at the same time, I never let it stop me. I had people fighting for me inside the building. It affected me in a sense where I had to fight harder or prove myself harder. Even certain relationships I never wanted to be public because I didn't want to be looked at a certain way. I made sure that my reputation was protected. I made sure I didn't wear certain clothes. I made sure that I wasn't presenting myself a certain way on the internet. I just made sure my shit was straight so nobody could have anything to say about me."
Lesson 3: Know Your Worth
"Women need to understand their worth and their value; they don't need to take disrespect. I once had an assignment where I had to pull receipts from years prior to my being [at the company], so I found as many receipts as I could, printed them out, and organized them in a cute little folder. When I handed [my GM] what I put together, I guess it wasn't in the way that she wanted it. She literally took it and she threw it across the room. So I looked at her, I looked at that folder, I picked up my shit and I walked out. After that, a few weeks go by and I get a phone call from that same person offering me a paid job and I turned it down. I was like, 'No because I see how you guys treat the people who work for you.' So when I declined the first offer, she came back to me with a second offer with a different position as a marketing assistant with more pay, and then I accepted it. The second time around, I was way more respected and I was way more valued."
Courtesy of Joy Young
"Women need to understand their worth and their value; they don't need to take disrespect."
Lesson 4: If It’s Not Serving You, Move On to Something Better
"Don't look at a client or any situation that you're in as it's the best that it can get and that you need to just take whatever because that's not the case. I've been in a situation where I dealt with a lot of shit for longer than I should have, thinking that it was the best that I could get at that time. At the end of the day, no matter who you're working with or who you're working for, what's for you is for you. So if you feel like a situation doesn't serve you, then you can leave because no matter what you're still going to get what you deserve."
Lesson 5: Invest In Yourself & In Others
"You need to invest in yourself. If you're getting a $2,000 retainer, take a percentage of that and invest it back in your company. Don't be scared to invest your money thinking you're not going to see your return because you will. That's the only way you're going to grow as a business owner and as a company, you have to invest in yourself and into your dream because if you don't do it, no one else will. Also, be open to giving. From a spiritual perspective, the whole purpose of God blessing you is to bless other people. So whether it's giving $5 to somebody on the street, that's the seed that you're sowing to come back to you. If you see a friend selling whatever product they're selling, support their business, support their dream because that's also a seed that's going to come back to you."
Courtesy of Joy Young
"Be open to giving. From a spiritual perspective, the whole purpose of God blessing you is to bless other people. So whether it's giving $5 to somebody on the street, that's the seed that you're sowing to come back to you. If you see a friend selling whatever product they're selling, support their business, support their dream because that's also a seed that's going to come back to you."
Lesson 6: Build Relationships by Caring About People
"The key to cultivating relationships is treating someone like they're human, treat them like they are your friends. People have to remember that you have feelings and you're a person, you're going through shit. So consider that when you approach people, consider that when you're engaging in conversation with people. Instead of the first thing that comes out of your mouth is asking for something, ask me how my day is going to get a gauge on if I can even have this conversation with you right now. Text me like, 'Hey, I hope your day is going well,' or just make me feel that you actually think about me. People are there with their hands out and don't really care about what you have going on. So my biggest thing on building relationships is you have to be considerate about that and cultivate relationships. Try to get to know me a little bit before you just jump in with the ask."
Lesson 7: Offer Your Help Before Asking for Handouts
"Be open to having different kinds of mentorships, whether it's through literature, one-off conversations or even organically having a day-to-day mentorship. There are some mentors that I consider myself having that I've never met, but I read their books. There are also mentors who I may have had one or two exchanges with in the past or professionally who I just followed their careers and take notes based on how they operate, how they move, things they've accomplished or even nuggets that I have just been having short conversations with them. Then there are the mentors who I actually get to have access to on a consistent basis. I started off asking them how can I help them? I think that's the key. If you really want to be able to get access to someone, offer your help because we all need something, especially people at this level. We need help with a lot of shit, and if you can fill the void and serve then that's the best way to get access to somebody."
Courtesy of Joy Young
"Being a manager is a selfless job. You have to be a mother figure, sister, aunt, a counselor, a therapist, a cook, and a personal assistant. And there are different levels too because each client is different."
Lesson 8: Create Boundaries for Balance & Peace of Mind
"Being a manager is a selfless job. You have to be a mother figure, sister, aunt, a counselor, a therapist, a cook, and a personal assistant. And there are different levels too because each client is different. Some clients might not need all that, but then there are some clients who are a little bit more sensitive and need a little more attention. If you're not super intentional about your self-care regimen, then sometimes you get lost in that. You have to set boundaries like I can't be available for phone calls after this certain time if it's not an emergency, or I need Saturday and Sunday to myself. Or hey, I'm going on vacation and I'm cutting my phone off. Do not call me. Make sure you provide them what they need before you leave, but you have to set those boundaries to be able to have that balance."
For more of Joy, follow her on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Joy Young
Originally published on January 20, 2020
This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘Do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
When you’ve been working in the field of relationships for as long as I have, there are certain questions that are bound to come up on a semi-regular basis. When it comes to the world of dating, one of them is women asking me if they should wait for a man to say “I love you” before they decide to do it. It’s kind of wild to see how this sends some ladies into mid-hysterics as they think of all of the hypothetical pros and cons that come with them “making the first move” in this fashion.
Me? At this stage and season in my life, I just don’t think that loving someone should be so complicated because, contrary to popular belief in this crazy ass culture of ours, love isn’t complicated. People can be…love isn’t.
And so, while I could give a very simple “yes” or “no” answer to this particular dilemma (which really isn’t all that much of one) so that you can see where I’m coming from in my ultimate conclusion, I want to break down the “who should say 'I love you' first?” scruple by presenting a few different points first. Ready?
Who Says "I Love You" First?
Love and Ego Are Not Friends. Let Alone Lovers.Giphy
Being controlling (which includes always wanting to control a particular outcome). Believing that you are always right. Not willing to let down your guard. Being hypercritical. Choosing to not see things from another person’s perspective. Guess what all of these things have in common? They are also connected to a person who has a serious ego problem.
The problem with that is ego and love don’t get along very well. That’s because, when you love someone, it’s about putting down your walls, being flexible, and 1000 percent wanting to extend as much empathy as possible — and that’s just the very tip of the love iceberg.
So, to be out here refusing to express yourself to someone you truly care about simply because you want to “win” by saying that he expressed himself to you first? Doesn’t that sound egomaniacal just to read and run that back in your mind? Imagine if he did that to you? Wouldn’t it feel like some low-key game that he was trying to play? Who wants love to be a game?
And that brings me to my next point, to be honest.
Game-Playing Is Never the Right MoveGiphy
Author and motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia once said, “Never idealize others. They will never live up to your expectations. Don’t over-analyze your relationships. Stop playing games. A growing relationship can only be nurtured by genuineness.” I like the entire quote, yet what stands out to me, as it relates to what we’re tackling today, is not idealizing someone, not playing games, and making sure that you are being a genuine individual. Genuine people are authentic. They are what a lot of us refer to as being a “real one.” Let’s keep building.
There’s a husband I know who says that something that he tells his wife, whenever she says something that he knows is virtually unattainable, is, “You should probably lower your expectations” — crazy as it might sound, he says that it works every time. One example he gave is that she was watching The Bachelor, and she came into the bedroom afterward and asked him, “Why don’t we go on dates like that?” and he immediately was like, “Are you serious? A fake reality show with a high budget? Please lower your expectations.” For her, it was a quick reality check. It’s also a great example of idealizing something that is pretty unrealistic — if not flat-out ridiculous.
Another problem with idealizing is it can lead to playing games. You’ve decided in your mind how something should go, and so you “script the person in” without their knowledge or consent and then have the nerve to be mad when things don’t play out the way you want them to. And then you try to play victim, gaslight, or blame someone on top of it all. Yeah, that’s peak game-playing. It’s also why a lot of people end up sabotaging their relationship, even before it gets off of the ground or before it goes where they want it to.
Thinking that a man should say “I love you first” because “that’s the man’s job”? Who came up with that? And how are so many women on that anyway in the day and age when they claim that a lot of gender roles are antiquated or obsolete (for the record, no, I’m not one of them)? Which team are you on? And if y’all church folks are gonna come with “A man should love the woman more anyway,” if you’re coming from Ephesians 5:33, where it says that a husband is to love his wife, remember that a wife is also to respect her husband (eh hem). Also, that doesn’t mean that a husband is supposed to love more so much as he is to remember that love is how a woman feels loved — just like how a man feels loved by being respected (a lot of women miss that).
Bottom line here, being caught up in not telling a man that you love him first because you think that if he says it first means that he means it more — yes, you’re playing games, and two, that’s not automatically the case. And besides, why should you want to ration or even parse true love with another person? Eww. I mean, “eww” in the biggest way possible, too.
Eve Was Brought to Adam. Here’s What I Mean.Giphy
It’s hard for me to talk about love, healthy holistic love, without bringing up Scripture because some of my favorite love stories are in the Bible. Even if I wasn’t a disciple of it (John 8:31-32), I would still enjoy reading it. And so, since perfection is only recorded in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1-2), I like Adam and the Woman’s (Eve’s name prior to sin — Genesis 2:23 & 3:20) journey. For the sake of time and space, I won’t put all of Genesis 2:18-25 here. I will share a particular verse (verse 22), though: “Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.”
Adam was not a hunter. He was a gardener.
The Woman was not prey. She was a blessing.
Adam didn’t pursue his wife. God brought her to him.
The Woman’s job was to let God do that. Adam’s job was to acknowledge God once he did.
Okay, if you get rid of all of that “a man has to chase me down” nonsense, why wouldn’t it be okay to tell a man that you love him? If you know that God wrote your love story and that he brought you to the man whom you are supposed to spend the rest of your life with, why not praise God by declaring that you love your future provider and protector? Or…is it that you’re unsure? And if that’s the case, the issue isn’t really about who should say anything first…more like, you should ponder if you need to be involved with ole’ boy at all (hmm…).
In the Wise Words of the Group Brownstone: “If You Love Me, Say It”
Y’all remember the R&B group Brownstone from back in the day? Actually, while I was in the process of writing this, that’s the song that immediately came to my mind because they’re right: If you love someone, why wouldn’t you say it? Why should it be so hard to say regardless of if he’s said it first or not?
One time, while reading an article on Oprah’s site about the topic of I love you, author Robert Holden shared that when you tell someone that you love them, what you’re essentially declaring is:
“I see you.”
“I accept you.”
“I thank you.”
“I am here for you.”
In that last part, he also stated this:
“Each time you say ‘I love you,’ you are really saying ‘I am here for you.’ ‘Being here’ means being fully present in the relationship—physically, emotionally and spiritually. Saying 'I love you' means 'I am committed to you' and 'I am committed to us.' You are telling that person you are in this relationship. You are not waiting for the relationship to sparkle or to improve before you commit to it. You are not playing it safe. You are not wearing a mask. You are not just trying to get something. You are really here, and this relationship really matters to you.”
He's right. And this can be quite revealing as to why you think a man should say “I love you” before you do. Perhaps you are playing it safe. Maybe you are wearing a bit of a mask. Maybe “I love you” from him is more of a goal than it really is about the two of you growing and evolving together. And you know what? All of those things are relational red flags.
And what if you’re one of those people who thinks that a man saying “I love you” first is the equivalent of him proposing marriage? First, I would say that’s a bit over the top, and secondly, I would say that you could end up waiting for a while, and that could cause you to experience some unnecessary anxiety.
My final point on all of this will hopefully explain why I say that is the case.
What Exactly Are You Waiting For?Giphy
I’m thinking that some of y’all will remember the sitcomGirlfriends fondly. Imma tell y’all what — the older I get and reflect back on that show and its spin-off, The Game, the more it makes sense to me that Joan Clayton and Melanie Barnett-Davis were cousins. Both of them were pretty neurotic if you ask me. All of that drama that they created in their heads when it came to matters of the heart…how were they not exhausted all of the time? SMDH.
Anyway, I’m closing out here because one of Joan’s more memorable relationships was with Sean. Nevermind the fact that he eventually broke up with her because (eh hem) “she was just too much work,” back in the happier times, she was doing all kinds of mess, like saying “olive juice,” hoping that it would make him say, “I love you too” so that, technically, she didn’t say it first — he did.
Now read that back and look at how silly all of that is. And besides, the way it played out is he came and used the bathroom while she was in there, she asked him not to, and he said, “When two people love each other, they should be able to do anything together.” And that’s when she realized that he had been loving her for a while — he was just more focused on actions than words.
Personally, I don’t see a better way to round this all out. If you feel loved — I mean, really and truly loved — by your partner, why not say “I love you”? Because I promise that there are a lot of people out here saying the words without a lot of actions to back it up. For the record, if you happen to be a “words of affirmation person” (like I am), I do get how all of this plays differently for you; still, leading by example can go a long way.
Y’all, after all of this, what I really want to say is life is too short, and time is too precious to be so trivial. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who says “I love you” first. Again, what matters is if you feel loved, consistently so. And if that’s the case, why not praise your partner for that by verbally saying “I love you” to them? If that means you say it before he does, so be it.
The love is there. And that’s all that really matters. Standing firm on that, too.
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Featured image by Adam and Kev/Getty Images