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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cheap Chicks

Cheap Chicks: KJ Smith and Victoria Sanders Interview

 by Evan L. Jackson
The chemistry between KJ Smith and Victoria Sanders, co- creators and co-stars of the show Cheap Chicks was apparent the first time I talked to them. Even if these two didn't create a show together they would be the best of friends going on adventures. Think of them as a modern day Lucy & Ethel and we're just along for the ride. On Cheap Chicks, appearing on Black&Sexy.TV, KJ and Victoria give money saving tips for the everyday person on a budget.  KJ Smith is an actor who has appeared in several TV shows and Victoria is a style blogger & a stylist to the stars. KJ and Victoria have a synergy that goes unmatched and a clear vision ahead of them that will have us anticipating more of their work for years to come. 

How did you and Victoria meet?
KJ: We met through mutual friends. They all told me “You’re going to love her” and I did! Victoria styled my first editorial.

What inspired you two to come up with the idea for Cheap Chicks?
Victoria: We were broke at the time, struggling artists, and we needed to figure it out. We both came up with the idea for the show. It came out of necessity. We wanted to create a show that shows that you can live life on a budget.

What interests do you share and which set you apart and allow each other to coexist in the creative space you two have built upon?
KJ: That is our friendship in a nutshell. We are similar on the surface level, but we are different in many other aspects. She provides a good balance to me though. All the things that I’m lacking she’s very strong in.

Victoria: When it comes to ambition, success, and core values we are on the same page. The differences between KJ and I give a good contrast which in turn creates balance. We both provide what each other lack. That’s one of the main reasons why KJ and I work so well together.

The Cheap Chicks series seems to be influenced by the retro looks of the 1950s, how did this come about?
 KJ & Victoria: Girl Power!

Victoria: We love that era with I Love Lucy and the 1950s. That was at time where women were not only filling the role of homemaker but leaving the household and becoming breadwinners for their families.

In an episode Babes on A Budget you two head to the beach to share some money saving tips. How fun is it to film this series?
KJ: Coming up with the ideas are always fun. Everything leading up to the day of shooting can be hectic because we both have careers. Once we start shooting it gets really fun. It’s something we created together and the fact that I do it with my best friend is amazing.

Victoria: Who wouldn’t want to have a fun time creating something they believe in with their best friend? We realize that both of us have lives to live and careers we want to excel in but it feels less like work when you are with your best friend.

How does it feel to have Cheap Chicks be on a platform such as Black&Sexy.TV?
Victoria: It feels good to have Cheap Chicks on a successful, black, and progressive platform.

KJ: It feels awesome!

Why is it crucial moving forward that more African American women become content creators, show runners, and writers such as yourselves?
KJ:  It is important for everyone to create. We are designed in the image of God; he’s a creator, so we should create. Plus nobody wants to work for somebody for the rest of their lives.

Victoria: Nope! Not me, I do not want to work for someone for the rest of my life. That is why KJ and I both in our careers and in creating Cheap Chicks are building for the future so we can be our own bosses.

KJ: We are leaders! For example Shonda Rhimes is killing it right now with her thee shows on ABC. We want to be an inspiration to women, especially black women.

How do you find the balance of doing Cheap Chicks as well as focusing on your individual careers?
KJ: It is very hard to commit to because Victoria and I have separate passions outside of Cheap Chicks. I would be on call to book a role and would have to be ready at a moment’s notice. But the cool thing is when working with your best friend you find a way to get it done.

Victoria: Like KJ said, we understand each other’s schedule and we find a way to make it work. I would also be on call and would have to be booked for a set on short notice.

What do you see for the future of Cheap Chicks and for yourselves individually?
KJ: As for the future of Cheap Chicks we want to see it on every billboard and every platform as possible. We want to make appearances at seminars and workshops. Eventually we would also love to branch out into Television. The great part of it is that we are patient. We understand what it takes to be successful in this business.  Individually I just want to be an inspiration to people as a person and in my career as an actor. I want to have an established body of work like a Meryl Streep.

Victoria: Individually, like KJ said, I want to be an inspiration. I blog and I style and I want to be recognized as one of the best stylists in the industry like a Rachel Zoe or June Ambrose. I want to build an empire and create my own clothing line.

Where can people reach you?
KJ & Victoria: People can reach out to Cheap Chicks on Instagram: CheapChicks and Twitter: @Cheap__Chicks

KJ: Individually they can reach us  on Instagram & Twitter: @MsKJSmith 

Victoria: My Instagram and twitter: @TheVicStyles 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Morgan DeBaun Interview

Morgan DeBaun Interview 

Morgan DeBaun is the CEO and co-creator of the media platform Blavity. Along with co-creator Jeff Nelson, Morgan started Blavity as a platform that highlights Black culture through media. Blavity showcases filmmakers, innovators, and creators. Morgan DeBaun and the inception of Blavity have loosened the mainstream media’s stronghold on the portrayals of Black culture. Blavity is a new platform where Black Millennials can have their creativity cultivated and ideas elevated.   

Age: 24

Home Town: St. Louis, Missouri

How did your love for the technology come to fruition?

I have always valued technology in my life. In college, I created a startup with a group of friends and also worked at an early stage edtech startup. Through those experiences I was able to identify things about the startup world I liked and disliked. The skills I gained during college have been essential to overcoming obstacles I’ve experienced starting Blavity.  

How have your experiences at Intuit help prepared you to create your own tech company Blavity?

Intuit taught me a lot about building products for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Creators and makers are the lifeline of Blavity and through my time at Intuit I was able to thoroughly understand the pain points and challenges creators have brought their visions to reality. I recently quit my job at Intuit to focus on Blavity full-time.  

What inspired you and your co-founder Jeff Nelson to create Blavity?

It all started when we were in college at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU.). WashU. is a predominantly white institution yet, the Black community was really tight knit. There was always a tendency during any University functions for black people to gravitate towards each other, whether it was at lunch time, off campus housing, or even Chem 101. Our “congregating” was never really planned it just kind of happened, and that’s where we got the idea of Blavity. At the lunch table specifically, we would talk about the agenda for the upcoming Association of Black students meeting, gossip about new freshmen, or give feedback on someone’s essay that is due in 30 minutes. Blavity facilitates these offline conversations…online!

What is Blavity doing to reshape the narrative on the perception of Black culture?

If you go to VH1 or BRAVO you see one stereotypical view of Blacks. Blavity is about providing a platform for people who are creating content that showcases the “other” (and I would argue majority) experience. Some of my favorite creators are the guys at Dormtainment who make skit videos of college life and The Strivers Row’s spoken word videos. There are tons of web series, videographers, and filmmakers continually creating high quality content that shows a wide spectrum of what it means to be black. They just never have a platform to voice their dreams while maintaining and retaining creative control, and Blavity aims to be that connection point.

Tell us more about your writing content on the Blavity Bulletin (Blavity Blog)?

 The Bulletin is the written manifestation of Blavity. It’s a place where our team shares their point of view on things happening in society through the lens of a black millennial in today’s culture. We also have places for influencers of our generation to share opinion pieces, commentary, and musings on life and culture. Julian Mitchell of Quantasy and, or Dominique Taylor from Token in America, are great examples of that.  

Why is it important that Blacks have more representation in today’s tech industry?

Black people are culture makers. We set trends, express what’s cool, and have tremendous economic impact. We’ve been doing that for decades. As a community our problems should be represented in the innovations that are coming out of Silicon Valley, and other technology hubs. Unfortunately there are really aren’t that many Black founders and even fewer Black women founders in Silicon Valley. Luckily, this has been getting press lately with new campaigns from Sam Altman of Y contributor, a syndicate from 500 Startups for women, and great efforts to build community by the founders of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Angela Benton is also on the front lines with her NewMe Accelerator as well.

What do you see for the future of Blavity and yourself? 

Blavity over time will become a multi-channel media platform that enables people of color to own and manage their own creations. I will be working on Blavity for the foreseeable future --it’s my heart and soul and I love it. I hope to grow with it and build Blavity with passionate people who believe in the power of creative collaboration and the empowerment of people of color.

Where can people reach you?

Hit me up! You can reach me on Twitter @MorganDeBaun and email at
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Feel Young, Be Bold, Live Regal

Feel Young, Be Bold, Live Regal