By 2006, Julia Beverly was 24 years old and at the forefront of changing tides in mainstream music: the southern takeover.
As CEO, founder, and all-hands-on-deck of Ozone Magazine, Julia Beverly amplified the voice of hip-hop music below the Mason-Dixon line one month at a time and literally paved a way for hip-hop greats to not only be recognized by the mainstream, but respected, too. Ten years later, she and I are speaking via phone call during an “off-day” from the constant hustle of her 50th consecutive day on a cross-country cycling trip from California to Florida.
Still, her goal from then to now remains the same: to keep things adventurous, bold, and new. “When I was doing Ozone [Magazine], I was just thinking of it as an adventure,” said Beverly. “Like, going to concerts or going on tour with different artists was just an adventure to me, so [biking] is the same thing. It’s all the same to me. I just like not knowing.”
The first time Julia Beverly embarked on a journey of not knowing was back in 2002 when she partnered with the already up-and-running local magazine, Orlando Source in her hometown of Florida. Just a couple years after being introduced to hip-hop through the sounds of Outkast, Julia was setting up Ozone headquarters in Atlanta directly next to their studio. “Before I started Ozone, somebody told me at one point, ‘Oh, you should just start your own business.’ And at the time, I was kind of afraid because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to - because you know, I didn’t have any money. So, I felt like even if I started something, I worried about not being able to financially continue it. I was scared of failing at something. So I was kind of hesitant to actually start a company.”
[Tweet ""I was afraid because I felt like I wouldn't be able to. I was scared of failing at something.""]
But, she did. A company that reached nearly one million people for eight years. And
what was her secret? It appears to be the ability to distinguish weaknesses from strengths. “I wasn’t really a music expert or hip-hop expert so I would always try to bring in other writers to do music reviews and stuff like that— people that were a little more well versed in it than I was.”
The ability to quickly adjust to challenges has proven to be a successful theme in Beverly’s career. As a white woman in a black male-dominated industry, she’s pushed past “culture vulture” labels, misogyny from disgruntled artists, and even public accusations of unjustly eating off of a late rapper’s legacy. But now, she’s way too busy focusing on her next destination on two wheels to have time for a grievance someone may have with her. “On my first trip, I had a lot of knee problems and stuff and once I actually got fitted and put the feet in the proper place and all that, then that problem went away,” she said. “Looking back, we didn’t have any of the right gear, we didn’t know where we were going. It was just totally renegade,” she said about one of her most recent new challenges.
Her first trip on the open road came earlier this year after her friend, Pitbull’s recording artist Vega, fell to a bet gone wrong— and the losing party had to ride a bike from one state to another. “When I learned about it, they had just left Atlanta,” said Beverly. “And it was just the timing of it. I had like two weeks open at the time and I thought, ‘I always wanted to do something like that.’ So, I went and bought a bike and met them the next morning and we literally rode from Atlanta to Miami. And it was an interesting experience… because we didn’t know what we were doing.”
Cycling may be Julia’s newest endeavor, but fitness is certainly nothing new to the music mogul. She’s just always loved sports. As a young, athletic child who played basketball, soccer, and ran cross country in high school— she was following her father’s footsteps and clearly it’s still very much thriving in her blood. With that said, for one who tends to crave bold and new adventures, it made sense that her desire for running came to an end. “If you’ve been running three miles a day for four years, it’s going to start become something that your body needs. Like, you’re gonna have to switch up your workout in order for it to be effective. So, with the cycling, this is what happened.”
But first, came the major transition.
One year after she had decided to shut down Ozone, she found herself between a rock and a hard place—with no trail in sight. “Probably one of the worst points [in my life] was when all of my camera equipment got stolen. And that was about a week before Pimp C’s mother [“Mama Wes”] passed. I had been working with her on the book [Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story] for I guess about four years.” Julia made the choice to walk away from Ozone Magazine for more reasons than one. “We stopped publishing in 2010, and [at that time] people were worried about losing houses, keeping food on their children’s plates— like they weren’t trying to spend money advertising their independent record labels…and we depended on them. So financially, it was at a point where it wasn’t being profitable anymore and it wasn’t really inspiring me and it was like ‘How much longer are you going to keep doing it?’
[Tweet ""I kind of thought people would stop f*cking with me, but that hasn't happened.""]
After she made the move, she easily found new avenues to explore. “I kind of thought that people would just stop f*cking with me or whatever, but that hasn’t happened. I still get invited to the events. I still go. That’s when I realized at a certain point, that in addition to building Ozone - which was a strong brand - I had also done a pretty good job of branding myself as Julia Beverly.”
Beverly continued her successful booking company, Agency Twelve, which books (damn near everyone!) from rappers and singers to reality TV stars worldwide—as well as her career as a photographer. So, although she was ready to get out all of the amazing material she researched of Pimp C— she didn’t have the time. “I would work on [it] for a week or two and then Rick Ross would go to London and I would fly off [with him] and would totally forget about what I had been working on. But when my camera equipment got stolen — of course, it was a terrible thing and I couldn’t really afford to replace everything right away. What it did was, it forced me to look at it like a message. Like, OK— sit down and finish writing this book! But [it] was definitely a low point financially because when you’re sitting down, working on something for literally, probably 12-14 hours a day that hasn’t produced any income, of course that’s going to be tough.”
But, it was at least new and challenging— Beverly’s M.O. And so, she took the next nine months or so to write, edit, revise, and complete the 700-page epic about one half of the hip-hop legendary group UGK, Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story. After self-publishing the book, she went on a three-month tour that ended in December. And then, her calendar was completely empty (given that she can do her booking agency from anywhere in the world).
“So, I started planning a bunch of trips,” Julia said. “I went to hike The Inca Trail, hiked the Grand Canyon, the mountains, just all these trips to find something to get into.” That’s when she hiked from Atlanta to Miami; and then the northern coast of Spain; which led her to cross country biking from San Francisco to San Diego along the pacific coast of California.
That’s how she came about her current adventure: The Southern Tier.
“I was thinking about doing the cross-country thing [after completing the trip to San Diego] but I was like ‘Oh that might be too much, that’s a huge commitment,’ so I had almost talked myself out of doing it. I was on my bike and I rode past this building where somebody had [painted the Henry David Thoreau] quote on the side [of the building]: ‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you have imagined.’ I saw it, and it had just stuck in my head all day long and I kept thinking about it and I was like ‘OK!’”
[Tweet ""Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you have imagined.""]
As far as her current journey, Beverly has biked from California to Arizona, through New Mexico, the huge state of Texas (which she pointed out was one-third of the entire trip) and made it to Louisiana (where she and I caught up), continuing towards Mississippi and Alabama, to finally end in her home state of Florida. Beverly has done the cross-country bike trip through the multiple sclerosis non-profit Bike the US for MS. “Yeah, so only 16 more days left,” she said in a way that would make anyone besides herself and her co-riders feel like a fitness failure. “It sounds easy at this point, having come this far.”
Far indeed. “When I start to bike, if I have to bike 70-80 miles, the first 10 miles are hard. And all day you’re kind of thinking to yourself like, ‘Aww man, 30 more miles, how am I going to do this?’ and then all of a sudden, it’s like you’re done.”
And the new challenges aren’t really challenges when you prepare—to the best of your ability, at least. “I do Google Maps, walk through the route ahead of time and look at everything in the area, satellite images, you can read up on the itinerary and all of that, but you really don’t know what it’s going to be like until you get there. And it’s always going to be unexpected things that happen. And I like the kind of uncertainty of it, just not knowing what might end up happening. It could be bad or it could be good. It’s 50/50. It’s all the same to me, it’s just a cool adventure.”
“If someone’s interested in doing something like [biking cross country], I would definitely look into the Pacific Coast route because people have one of two reactions: either they love it and they want to do it again or they never want to see a bike again. So, you might want to try doing the short trip before you look at doing something like that cross country,” she laughed. “I don’t think there’s a lot you can do to prepare for something like this. I think that it’s just something that you have to do. Either you do it or you do not. And I think you’ll be surprised at what you’re able to accomplish.”
[Tweet ""Either you do it or you do not. You'll be surprised at what you're able to accomplish." - @JuliaBeverly"]
On October 30, 2016, Julia Beverly concluded her cross-country biking journey. In a matter of 65 days, she went through the cities of San Francisco to St. Augustine. 3,235 miles, with nothing but time, space, and the open road. How's that for adventure?
For more Julia Beverly, find her on Twitter and follow her crosscountry cycling adventure on Instagram: @juliabeverly. If you want to be a part of a cross-country bike trip, learn more about Bike the US for MS here.