I’m super excited to spotlight the first “Mentor in My Head” for 2015! She’s not only a well-renowned journalist that has written for publications such as of SPIN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Root and TIME; but she is also an iconic leader that has served as editor for Billboard Magazine, editor-in-chief of VIBE magazine, and continues to change the landscape of journalism as we know it. (She has also interviewed all of your favorites in the process.) She and her husband, the G.O.A.T. of hip-hop journalism Elliott Wilson, have founded HRDCVR, a book-shaped magazine that looks to serve the ‘new everybody’ — a multi-culture demographic that is not currently being served by mainstream media. Her creativity, authenticity and fervor for change inspire me daily, and her iconic piece 1994 piece Dreaming America for SPIN Magazine empowers me 20+ years later.
Meet Danyel Smith.
Danyel has a way with words that not only evokes emotion, but challenges you to evaluate your surroundings, and how you can change them for the better. In watching her presentation on HRDCVR as a part of the John S. Knight School Fellowships at Stanford University, I couldn’t help but admire how sincere, honest and transparent she was about what she believes will ‘change the soul of journalism.’ She tactfully demands your attention, leads with intention, and is the epitome of a BOSS.
Here are three lessons that Danyel has taught me:
1. Embrace the evolution of your career. Not only does she bring her experience as a seasoned journalist to life with HRDCVR, but she’s sharing her expertise and creativity with future journalists as well. Danyel is currently a professor at Syracuse University (my beloved alma mater) in New York City, teaching a course on Race, Gender and the Media. One of my favorite classes while I was at ‘Cuse, I’m positive that Danyel does an awesome job in bringing a modern flare to this course, and empowering her students to think differently about the way the media impacts our lives.
2. Failure is not an option. From watching a number of her interviews and reading her extensive body of work, I can tell that without a doubt Danyel believes in herself, her dreams, and the power of speaking her truth. Yes, there may be roadblocks, detours and bumps, but you can’t give up on your dreams…EVER. I admire Danyel’s strength, her willingness to persist until she succeeds, and her openness in sharing the journey to reaching her goals.
3. See the beauty in everything around you. If you follow Danyel and/or HRDCVR on Instagram, you’ll often see amazing shots of murals, images and skylines from across the country with the hashtag #HoodsDeepWorldWide. To me, this not only shows that she’s very in tune with the world around her, but that she appreciates the power of imagery — no matter how intricate or simplistic it may be — and the story that lies behind it. To me, this is a vital part of storytelling; igniting the imagination to work more purposefully and intuitively. I’m very excited to see the final product of HRDCVR.
Danyel, I want to thank you for being a constant inspiration to myself, and millions of other millennials that aspire to be change agents in the world of journalism. Your ingenuity, leadership and focus to incite change are the blueprint — and I appreciate the awesome and necessary work that you do.
Have a great weekend,