Part III: I’ll Just Go the Safe Route

…One night, I remember holding on to my mother’s leg like a baby. My heart was beating so hard, but this time I was not afraid. The whole time, I just kept saying thank you Lord. I literally praised him until it stopped. I remember my mom just rubbing my back, and I kept whispering, thank you Lord. I didn’t know when that episode would end, because it felt like forever- but I knew I had to trust God. That was the night I was healed. I didn’t know it at the time though.

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Have You Ever had Glimpses of Your Life?

There have been many instances where I’ve had situations occur in my life that seemed to be snippets of my future. I am talking about meeting and exchanging information with editors from high profile magazines that I want to work with. Or even, high profile publications reaching out to me, but something just never seemed to go all the way.

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Part 2: When My Faith Turned to Fear

….The feeling I had, when I sat down with my team lead, as I slid him the envelope with my two week notice. The strange thing is, he was actually puzzled as to why I was doing this.

I didn’t care anymore, I was moving on. Finally, I can do my site full time! Even though I still had no job prospects, I knew God was carrying me.

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My Journey: Two Years Ago is Why I’m Here Today, Part 1

Consider this a formal, but informal introduction. I am Jonnita, the face behind YS Mag Live. I created this site to share the stories of many overcomers, but somehow I neglected my own story. So, here is my story.

Two years ago, I made one of the most challenging decisions ever. I left my comfort zone. Meaning, I left my steady form of income, and we all know how important that is.  I left my job. I was not happy, and no longer willing to settle.

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Interview: PRSVR, Brandon & Margaret Williamson are the Definition of What it Means to Persevere

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PRSVR: Persevere

When you have a vision,  nothing can hinder your progress. In a matter of two years, husband and wife power team, Brandon & Margaret Williamson, owners of  the luxury clothing and luggage label, PRSVR  have created a non-stop growing empire.  Init
ially launching in Chicago with The Atelier, leather showroom, PRSVR has since expanded its brand  with more signature leather pieces,  home decor, and they capped off 2014 with the new store Hours.

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Jonnita in the City: Chicago Blogger Network 500th Member Celebration

What’s better than being a blogger? Being in a room full of bloggers, of course.

An intimate crowd of Chicago bloggers gathered this past Thursday, for the (CBN) Chicago Blogger Network’s 500th member celebration, at the RM Champagne Salon.

I had such a great time meeting new bloggers around the city.

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Charlotte B., creator of milknhonee & Duane, creator of Chicago Hustle’s Magazine

Smile for the camera.

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(to the left) Zahra, of LoveZahra.com

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Nika Levando, of WearandWhy.com & Greg Birman, of The Watcher

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Of course, I was there snapping away. Thanks CBN for such a great event.

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Next to Blow or No: SZA, Country

Today’s Next to Blow or No comes from artist on the rise, SZA. I came across her EP on Concrete Loop, and was immediately drawn to her sound. SZA’s music is a combination of R&B and pop music. Pretty cool visual, definitely matches her sound.

Let me know what you think.

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#SPOTLIGHT: Corey Williams, Model & Founder of Stolic Kidd

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Corey De’Mon Williams, Model/Actor & Founder/creative director of Stolic kidd clothing

Every Wednesday, I like to spotlight entrepreneurs of all industries.  So, this week I caught up with the ambitious, and comical Chicago model and founder of Stolic Kidd, Corey Williams. Get to know him and the brand he is building.

I noticed your twitter handle say’s, The Black Jew. Is there a back story to that?

(Laughing) That’s a good question. The name (The Black Jew) was given to my grandfather, because he was the only black (man) working with a bunch of Jews at this factory. The owner of the company liked his worked ethic, [and moved him to another] wing so everyone started calling  him the black Jew. But, I did a documentary and [I am] writing a script about him, called the black Jew, so [I'm] just putting the name out there.

You’re in the modeling and acting industries. What draws you to both?
Modeling and acting is like two sides of the same coin. They complete each other. In everyday life, I like attention. I like to put on clothes, make people laugh, people watch, study habits (weird right), but these all play a part in modeling and acting.

What goes through your mind, when you are walking down a runway?
While walking down the runway [I'm] thinking, I’m the dopest dude on earth, and don’t lick your lips (lol).

Was modeling always something you wanted to do?
Not at all! My first love was basketball. I had mad hoop dreams.

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Tell me about the Stolic Kidd line. What is the inspiration behind that?
I came up with the name at church. I go to an Apostolic church, which is basically the study of Jesus and the apostles to sum it up. I’m one of those people that nicknames everything to sound cool, so I took the apo off and I just used to say stolic. Everybody thought it was dope. I say kid(d) a lot, and I put them both together. Stolic coming from the study of apostles, which are sent messengers to bring change. Kid(d) is the most humble a person can get, as like Jesus came as a kid, so you put them together (humble sent messenger) Stolic Kidd. I just want to put together a brand with class and style, that will transcend generations with a message and [not] be churchy. I can go all day about this brand every little thing has a meaning.

What’s one of the best ways you feel you can impact the world?
To use the gifts God gave me to the max, and to keep giving my knowledge to the kids of our future- and hopefully it becomes a trickle down effect, where the wisdom never ends.

Find out more about Corey Williams, here.

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#SPOTLIGHT: Ben Lane, Actor, Model & Artist

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You model, act, and I see you are an artist as well? Tell me about each, please. How did you get into the industry?
Art has been a skill of mines since an early age. I always loved arts and crafts like creating pop-out cards, popsicle houses, sketching cartoon characters, “bubble letters”, and buildings. But I didn’t tackle portraits and original creations til my early 20s. Then they seemed so difficult, now it’s one of my favorite parts about drawing. Capturing the emotion behind a portrait or picture is what I love not just mere duplication. My modeling and acting career allowed my art to get more exposure by setting up vending tables, meeting other artists, and networking at the events.
 
In 2008, I went to my first casting call and was completely unprepared. Needless to say, I didn’t get that gig. But it definitely prepared me for the next one. I’ve done runway, print and promotional modeling, which I did as a hobby for a couple years. Then, I was selected to be a model in Power92′s Surround Sound of Fashion Show, and got great exposure. This made me get more serious about it as a career and has proven to be a great decision. Since, I’ve been in numerous fashion shows wearing designers such as True Religion, Puma, Andrew Christian, Zoo High, among many others.
 
As for being an actor, last year I was approached after a fashion show and asked if I would be interested in acting. Prior to this, I hadn’t thought about acting and had no experience, even in high school. But I accepted the invitation to the acting class and found my new passion.The teacher said I was a natural and got me a small role in a play; from there I made some great connections. Shortly, I was cast in my first lead role in the play Love Jones: The Chicago Stageplay. This created an even greater opportunity. A writer came to me after the play and cast me in another lead role for Standing in the Shadows of Love which allowed me to work with great talent [such] as Tommy Ford, Jennifer Holiday, Dave Hollister and Donald Gray. I love it and this is only the beginning.
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You are a jack of all trades, how do you manage everything?
God! Faith! Prayer!! These are definitely major factors and then there’s my mother. She helps remind me of things to do and take care of them when I’m unable to- due to my many projects. I love her and don’t know where I would be without her. I also have some good organizational skills, which helps tremendously and I’ve been this way since I can remember. Knowing how much I can handle is what keeps me from over extending myself; yet my passion for success makes this threshold much stronger. Great relationships with the people I work with is another piece to the puzzle, because they are understanding of my schedule and that is truly appreciated.
 
What inspires you as an artist in general?
Life is my major inspiration. My life experiences and the life experiences of others, is what I draw from. I appreciate all forms and facets of art from natural art to abstract, from dance to poetry. I just enjoy the artistic expression and freedom. I feel it’s needed in life to expand the perception of reality, and gain greater control of the mind. Living in moments with a child like view is what I think adds to my creativity, and I just put it on paper or bring it to a character or down the runway. 
 
What is one of the best ways you feel you can impact the world?
Through my art and in my character. I want my art to affect people in a positive way or at least make them recall one’s own experiences. I feel that by expressing my creativity in a positive manner it will then have a trickling effect on people. With the enhancement of creativity, problem solving will come easier and greater solutions can be obtained when it comes to societal issues. Also, art has no boundaries, it can be a release from the rest of the world. Art, meaning all forms, is an escape to serenity on Earth.
We are God’s children and what parent wants to see their child fail. We were born for success. Its all about perception, greater perception comes from thought, thought can expand through creative expression.

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Next to BLOW or NO: Ike Sav, Poison Love

Today’s Next to Blow or No comes from an emerging artist, Ike Sav. I like a video with a story line, and this is the love story we all know too well, where we meet someone new, but the past of our ex just seems to find us every time. The R&B/hip-hop track has a smooth flow to it.

Let me know what you think.

#ROCK MOMS: Tiffini Clark, Personal Trainer

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Tiffini Clark, 24, CEO of Tone-Up-Fitness

Life is a journey and I’m just passing through- meaning I will not always be where I am now, but I have to go through this to get where I want to be.

I started my mobile fitness business as a personal trainer in January- my clients come to my home or [vice versa]. My goal is to cut out the excuses that people create, and inspire them to live a healthy life. You do not have to go to the gym to get or stay fit.  I teach body weight movements, and how to use your surroundings to stay fit and toned. [I was inspired, after seeing over 20 diabetic patients at work, and I realized] people are not being educated on eating healthy. If so, they might be able to understand how most illness comes from what we put in our bodies. Another thing that inspired me to start my business is Facebook. People would see postings of me working out,  they would ask for help, and here I am today! Still under construction with my website, but it’s coming.

I am a single mother. I had my daughter Syncere when I was 18- years-old, I am now 24. In the beginning it was very emotional for me. When you’re young with a baby, people judge you off the back and try to down you. I come from a strong family, so I was always determined to be the best mother I can be and still achieve my dreams. It’s not easy but it’s worth it. I would work a full time job, go to school full time, come home do mother duties, get up and do it the next day. Sometimes I’ll be up over 27 hours- it’s not healthy, but I was determined to do what I have to do for my daughter.

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What do you love about being a mom.
Syncere helped changed my life! Being a mother is a blessing, truly. As mothers our job is to nourish and protect. I knew I wanted the best for my child, and in order for that to happen I needed to be the best mother, provider, teacher, counselor/role model for her. A mother is way more than just giving birth to a child in my eyes- it’s all of these things I have said and more. I’m just thankful for my support team to watch her while I’m at work, and allowing me to do what I have to do.  I am where I am now because God is my provider. All glory to Him, I remain prayerful and humbled. He knows my beginning and end. He made me in his image which means, I am made with greatness and I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me. Being a single mother never defeated me, but made me stronger. I call myself wonder woman, because I always wonder what I’m going to do next! My life right now is about my grind and Syncere.
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Saluting Mothers: Sherrie Lynn, Children’s Author

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Sherrie Lynn, 26, Children’s author

A successful woman takes the bricks the devil throws at her and uses them to lay a firm foundation- Nishan Panwar

I am a single mother and aspiring children’s author. My daughter is my inspiration- I base my stories off of her one of a kind personality. Growing up I’ve always loved to write. I’ve always had a big imagination, but the older I got the more I lost sight of it- kind of like Peter Pan, I guess you can say.

In November of last year (2012) my daughter’s father was murdered. His death showed me that tomorrow really is never promised, and if there is something that you want to do, if you have a dream, you better do it. Follow your dreams. Being a children’s author is my dream. If I don’t make one dime from my books, I would be okay with that, because I followed my dream; and I know Donovan (father of her daughter) would be very proud of me because of that.

What do you love about being a mother.
I honestly love everything about motherhood, [all] the up and the downs. My daughter is the reason why I am the person I am today. Raising a child is one of the most powerful things a woman can do. I take pride in it. It’s a blessing to watch my “mini me” grow everyday.

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How do you juggle being a mother and working.
It’s all about time and memories I think. I work everyday and still make time to help with homework, walk the dog, dance to High School Musical, and play Barbies. My daughter is five, so I think these are going to be the most memorable moments in her life. I want to be the best role model for my daughter- an example that she uses for her own children, when she has some of her own in the future…LIKE YEAR 2050!!

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#ROCK MOMS: Monica Sparks, TV Show Host

In honor of Mother’s Day approaching this weekend, Y.S. Mag Live wanted to share some moms with you that work hard for their families, while making it look so effortless. I hope you are inspired by these amazing women, as I am.

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Monica Sparks, 41, Urban Sparks, TV show host

We do so much with so little , that we can accomplish the impossible with nothing at all- Jason Tarell

I started Urban Sparks as a way to connect and share my view on diversity with people. A way to connect and get real! Everyone is using the buzz word- Diversity, but I really think they do not know how to celebrate each other though the differences we all have. The Urban Sparks is the umbrella for the Monica Sparks Show (WTKG 1230am) & Networking Divas Magazine.

On motherhood.

I feel honored to be a mother. I feel children are our greatest gifts- ever! Children balance us, give us life and help us benchmark our dreams and goals. We find out our strengths, weaknesses and what life is really all about when we spend time with our babies!

I love watching the growth of my two boys. It is truly amazing, just when I think that my boys have not learned a lesson I taught them, I see an action that tells me; I am on the right path! It feels so good to know you can help facilitate and be the ‘change’ you want to see in the world through your child. Making a positive difference is all that counts! Raising productive citizens, gentlemen and scholars is my only true motherhood  goal.

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Monica’s two sons.

What is it like juggling work and being a mother.

WHEW…TGIE- Thank God I am an entrepreneur! I honestly try to incorporate my children in as much as I can-volunteer work, events, my radio show, at the office and I also make it a point to blend into the things they are into or like to do. I serve on the school board, so they understand I am part of their team along with the teachers for their successful future. I play outside with them and their friends (yup-I have the ‘kool-aid house.) This allows me to know who their friends are too. Being a single mother can be tough and we may not always have everything we want, but we have what we need. I found out early on after my divorce to their father that love is a four letter word spelled time. People [make] time for the things and people they feel are important.

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NEXT TO BLOW OR NO: Bebe O’ Hare, Back Down (Rmx)

Today’s Next to Blow or No comes from Chi- town noisemaker, Bebe O’Hare.  Holding her own on the mic, Bebe’s unique flow will definitely grab your attention.

Let me know what you think.

#Interview: The Story of Caroline Jhingory, How She Dropped 150 Pounds

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One trip to the dermatologist changed Caroline Jhingory’s life for the better.  Initially seeing her dermatologist to get treatment for dark blotches on her cheekbone area and neck, that she believed could be treated with skin lightening cream, turned out to be an indicator that Caroline was pre-diabetic. At 22-years-old, Caroline weighed approximately 307 pounds. That was 10 years ago. Ten years later, Caroline Jhingory is now half the size she used to be, a published author of Half My Size: How I Ate to Lose, and she has given health tips on the Today Show, Dr. Oz, and Goodmorning America. Get to know her story.

Tell me when your weight loss journey began.
My weight loss journey began when I was about 22- years- old. Just a little back story, my highest weight was a little over 307 pounds, and I had always been big, heavy. The fat kid, the ugly kid. I had been that probably since the second grade. I always tell people, I looked at my first grade class picture, and I was skinny, then I looked at my second grade picture, and I was fat. From until I was in second grade, until I was about 22- two years old, I was a morbidly obese child.

…for some reason when I was twenty-two all those painful experiences of being teased when I was in the second grade, it just hit me like a brick. I decided at that moment, I was going to make the rest of my life, the best of my life.

I didn’t do any diets or special weight loss plans. I was in college. I didn’t have any money. I called it the poor man’s diet, because I did nothing but (at the advice of my doctor) cut out all white foods, bread, pasta, sugar and dairy; and I did nothing, but walked outside. When I [began] walking, because I was so heavy, and I never exercised, I could only walk for ten minutes, then I worked my way up to twenty. In the first two months of doing that, I lost close to thirty pounds. Within a year and a half, I lost 150 pounds. I’m thirty-two now, I kept it off for ten years.

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What were some factors that contributed to your weight gain.
I tell people it was combination of things. My parent’s cultural differences led to them having a lot of arguing and conflicts, and just seeing that I constantly turned to food. I think in terms of being the fat kid, my family members thought they were being supportive, and they weren’t. They were saying the things like, you would be so pretty if you’d just lose weight. They were destructive, instead of constructive. Being teased at school, being teased by kids in the neighborhood.

During your weight loss journey, how did other things change in your life? People, self-esteem, your outlook on life.
My outlook became more positive. I can’t say I became a more religious person, but I definitely became a more spiritual person. I feel like a sense of clarity, and somehow it brings me closer to God. With everything that went on with my cousins, losing weight, constantly exercising, taking better care of myself physically and mentally, I just have this peace now. God and I have made peace with each other.

My self-esteem, my self worth has definitely boosted. A medical doctor told me, in terms of being a black, American woman to keep off over 100 pounds for ten years, you’re the real one percent. He was like a woman like me makes up one percent of the population.

Tell me about your book, Half My Size.
My book, Half My Size: How I Ate to Lose 150 lbs is about exactly what the title says. What I ate, and why I ate it to lose 150 pounds. I talk about [how] weight loss is not a one size fits all approach. This is what worked for me, as a woman, a woman of color, and I also talk about how certain diets work for some ethnic groups or populations of people, may not work for other people as well. I give people realistic tips they can use when they go out to eat, on personal or work vacations.

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At what point did you become a health super star.
I say this humbly, but none of my success is based off a PR agent, who I went to school with, who I slept with, who I pledged with, or me being black. All of it is 100% my own efforts, and I really just have to believe there is something greater that wants me to get my message out there. The opportunities, sometimes they do come to me. I’m not afraid to go to the top and ask people for what I want. In politics I never dealt with middle men. When I was on the Today Show, I went to the top person on NBC, and I’m pretty sure he was like the how did you get my email address- he just forwarded it through the appropriate chain.

You went from 300lbs to half your size, and inspiring people to take control of their health. What does this feel like.
It feels amazing. I mean the TV part is great. I am grateful, but I think the biggest blessing is when people send me messages and tweets like, thank you for the advice, I lost seven pounds, I lost ten pounds. I think one lady told me, in one week, she lost eight pounds. One thing I think is probably my best PR strategy is that I treat my PR strategy, like a customer service strategy. I make an effort to respond to every tweet, email, Facebook message, [and] Instagram messages that people send me.

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#Interview: Who’s That Lady in the Illinois Lottery Good Life Commercial…It’s Keesha J. Merritt

If you are in the state of Illinois, at some point you have seen one of the Illinois Lottery Good Life commercials, where an African- American lady opens up the lotto box, and gives us a series a funny faces and dance moves. Well, if you are like me, I was wondering, who is this young lady, and what is her story. So, I did a little research, and found out the amazingly, silent actress, is Keesha Joyce Merritt, from right here in the city of Chicago. She’s a humble, young woman pursuing her dream, and is determined to stay focused on the gift God has given her. Peep the interview.

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Illinois Lotto commercial…how did this come about.
Well, I have been acting for a while, and just trying to find commercial auditions on my own. It wasn’t really working out like I thought it would. I recently got an agent last year, they called me and me told me I had an audition for the commercial. They sent me the information about it. It just so happened I was having a bad hair day, I put my hair in a bun. I went to the audition. I didn’t have to speak, I just had to react to what they were telling me was going on, and dance and have fun with it. So, it was kind of me being myself. Honestly, I feel like that was nothing but God. Going to so many auditions, and being told no so much can make you feel like I need to get a regular job. It was just a yes I needed to keep going.

What was your reaction.
I was smiling from ear to ear. Just you asking me again has me smiling. I was so excited. I just started saying thank you God. I felt like, yes, I needed this. This is my first commercial. It’s a silent commercial, but I don’t care.

What do you think when you see yourself on the commercial.
I think, oh gosh, I look like a grandma on there. I never wear my hair in a bun, and for some reason, it worked for this. They had a hairstylist there, but they were like, we want your hair like you did it [for the audition].

What are goals as far as being an actress.
I love doing positive things, something that tells a story. So, as an actress, I already have in mind certain roles I dont ever want to do. When I do roles, I want people to be happy. I love when someone watches my thirty second commercial, and starts cracking up. That just makes me feel really good. I want to do clean comedy, and if it is a dramatic role, I want it to be someone who overcomes something. I really want to help other people follow their dreams.

If you give me a crate, I will take that crate, and show people you can go far. If you don’t go as far as someone else, that’s alright. Do what you love.

How long have you been pursuing your acting career.
Since, right after high school. That was like 2003.  My senior year, my sister was killed, and what I knew about her,  she was doing something she was great at- she was a hairstylist. [Right before she was killed], she was telling me, go to [Morgan Park], it’s a good school, they have a nursing program, they have a computer program. But, ever since I was a child in elementary school, I loved acting. When that happened to her, I was like life is too short. I wanted to go to the University of Illinois (Urbana), major in economics, maybe do a little acting on the side. But, throughout my senior year, I was trying to push through, just trying to make it. After that, I was like, I’m going to go to Columbia, they have theater, I don’t know how I’m going to pay for it, but I’m going to go. Whenever I heard of auditions, I was like I’m going to go to that. I started getting into plays and doing that. I’ve been pursuing it since high school, because I felt like there was nothing else for me to really take seriously.

We all know acting is a come and go thing. Sometimes you get booked, so how to manage in between time.
I just left Express. I did promotions in between time. I worked for Redbull in between time. I worked for 5-hour Energy. Little side things. My favorite is promotions, and different things dealing with customer service, because it always involves me with people, so that’s what I do when I find my little side hustle.

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Have any casting people reached out to you.
(Laughs) Girl, when I say they disappeared. It was like, yea, I’m on now, I have to have a bunch of auditions coming up after this, right? I went to three auditions after that, but it seemed like I didn’t nail it. I got my hair done. I’m like maybe I should’ve kept my bun. It seems like the last month has just been crickets, but people have been telling me I did a good job- so that’s been a cushion to not booking other stuff.

How do you keep pushing.
Honestly, and I’m not even that deep. It’s just the fact that I’m breathing. There is no reason for me to not go for anything that I love. When I try to get involved with things, that I’m not passionate about, it eventually just wears you out. You have to have a way of living, but you don’t have to do everything, so that’s something that keeps me motivated.

I know God put this want in me for a reason. If he gave me the gift, he’s going to make a way for me to use it. I believe it. I may not be where I want to be, but I know it’s a process.

Can you relate? Stay inspired, and check out the commercial if you missed it.

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NEXT TO BLOW OR NO: Tha Movement KOBMG, To Whom It May Concern

Today’s Next to Blow or No comes from a new Chicago group, Tha Movement KOBMG. Using their music to spark a movement amongst our youth, Tha Movement KOBMG is spreading its message about the violence in Chicago.

Let me know what you think.

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Jonnita in the City: Hebru Brantley’s Birthday Party & Downtown 88

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I hope everyone had a great weekend! Once again, Chicago was live, and I have to say, my Friday, was definitely a kick off to the weekend. Friday, I attended (along with the rest of the city of Chicago) Hebru Brantley’s Downtown 88 Exhibit/Birthday Party. Great combination, right?

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Caught up with the birthday boy, Hebru Brantley.

This party was something amazing, because Hebru created a space for Chicago artists and professionals to come together and celebrate 1) the movement of Hebru Brantley’s artistry 2) all the talented individuals in Chicago 3) and to just be in the midst of a great atmosphere and good music.

Speaking of music… Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest) was on the 1′s & 2′s, and he definitely kept the crowd live. He played a mix of everything, from Marvin Gaye’s, Sexual Healing to 90′s hip-hop, with a little turn up music. The moment that got me, was when Q-Tip threw his own track, Vivrant Thing in the mix…that’s my song. It was just amazing to be amongst one of the hip-hop greats.

The entire atmosphere was very reminiscent of Chicago, especially, if you were a child growing up in Chicago. There was a whole table set up with some of my childhood favorite snacks, that all Chicago native’s know you can find at your local corner/candy store. From the little Frootie candies, to Flamin’ Hots…oh, and I can not forget the pickles. Yes, they had pickles at the party (lol).

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Now, a party is not a party unless a circle is formed around people dancing, in the midst of the party (lol). Felt so old school.

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She did that!!

The party was full of entertainment. Peep the gallery below.

Til next time. :)

#Spotlight: Arika “AJ” Linton, Brand Consultant

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Meet Arika Linton, a prime example of how branding yourself can create endless career opportunities.

You do a lot of everything..lol. Do you have an official title?
Yes I am the Brand Consultant of Fame Production Group

I see you put on a lot of events in Chicago, how do you do it?
I’m not as busy this year with events like I was last year. But it’s all about staying relevant. Not doing events of quantity but doing them of quality. Making a long lasting impression on people where they leave wanting to come back and know who you are.

The latest event was the “It Girl Panel”, what was your inspiration behind the seminar?
The inspiration behind “IT Girl Panel Discussion” was wanting to do something inspiring for young women aspiring to rise to the top in their given career fields. People always ask me what makes me so successful and I credit it to the women I surround myself with. Women of strength, courage and wisdom. I lean on them for guidance and encouragement so I wanted to share that with everyone else.

You are pretty known throughout the city, how did you create your network?
I’m not as well-known as I would like to be, but I started as a college-student at Columbia College Chicago some years ago. I just started making myself known for business and Entertainment and it took off.

How is the “Don’t Kill My Chance” campaign coming along? Any updates on how people can participate?
The campaign is coming along great. You can find out more information on ndigo.com. If anyone is looking to ghttp://ysmaglive.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2671&action=editet involved in the stop the violence photo campaign “Don’t Kill My Chance” email us at dkmccampaign.com

What’s next for A.J. Linton?
I don’t even really know, just trying to be the best mentor I can be. Encouraging young women to be them no matter what it takes!!!

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P.S.: If you’re in Chicago, Thursday (4/11), stop by Fame Production Group’s networking mixer at Tantrum. Check out the plugger below.

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NEXT TO BLOW OR NO: Lil Ke, Party Tonight (Rmx)

Today’s Next to Blow or No comes from Cleveland native (by way of ATL), Lil Ke.  The party track showcases Lil Ke, and friends as they get live on stage. Everyone likes a little #turnup every now and then.

Let me know what you think.

 
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Jonnita in the City: Blake Martin Presents “Night of a Thousand Fantasies”

It’s Monday!! LOL. So, I hope you had a great weekend, like I did. Chicago was really live this weekend. There was the Black Women’s Expo 2013, and Blake Martin’s fashion show: Night of a Thousand Fantasies, as well as many more events.

In the midst of it all, I was able to attend Blake Martin’s production. I have attended his shows in the past, and I am always impressed. Blake really has a way of taking one concept and expressing it in so many ways.

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Hosted by two of WGCI 107.5′s Chicago, radio personalities, Demi Lobo & UB Rodriguez, A Night of Thousand Fantasies featured a variety of underwear/lingerie collections from Victoria’s Secret, Andrew Christian clothing, Gilly Hicks Sydney, Llewellyn and Tease Boutique.

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Demi Lobo & UB Rodriguez

Each designer definitely put a twist on each ensemble, making it very entertaining for the audience.

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During a brief intermission, the show included live entertainment from one of Chicago’s rising R&B stars, Mark “JP” Hood. He performed a medley of songs, including one of my faves, John Legend’s, Tonight, and he nailed it! It almost felt like John Legend was in the room.

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Mark “JP” Hood

After that amazing performance, there was an audience “Walk- Off” contest. It was a fashion show…so why, not see, who else had a mean walk. First, I give major props to these ladies for getting on stage in front of hundreds of people.

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I have to say, Blake Martin is a multi- talented individual. Not only did he put the show together…he also squeezed in a little time to jump on stage and perform. And yes…he can dance!

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Blake Martin

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I must admit, I definitely enjoyed myself at the show..ready for more! What’s next Blake?

…Of course I had to snap a few pics after the show! For more exclusive pics, please visit our Facebook page, here.

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Demi Lobo & I, Jonnita :)

Til next time :)

P.S. If you have an event in your city, and you would like for Y.S. Mag Live to be there, shoot us an email at yurstoree@gmail.com

#VIDEO: So You Think You Want to be a Comedian?

For all the aspiring comedians out there…making people laugh is not as easy as it looks. Chicago comedian, Calvin Evans takes us on his journey as a comedian, and shows us what he goes through to build his brand.

P.S. Shout out to Calvin, my fellow University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign alum. I remember seeing Calvin on campus when he initially started to perform. #progress

 
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Next to BLOW or NO: Jon.E.L.L., Holy Water Freestyle

Today’s Next to Blow or No is in memory of Chicago, hip- hop artist, Jon.E.L.L.

Jon.E.L.L. began writing verses at the age of 14 and full songs at the age of 17. He withheld his lyrics until late 2010, when his disappointment with the mainstream hip hop of today drove him to share his talent with the world , and prove that real hip hop still exists. Jon.e.ll is not one of the cookie cutter “bling” rappers that flood the radio airwaves, rather he is a conscious, forward thinking, true hip hop wordsmith. Like the tattoo on Jon.E.L.L.’s forearm, his rhymes are cunningly outspoken and thought provoking.

R.I.P. Jon.E.L.L.

From here on, I’m mainly looking for the respect as an artist from listeners as well as fellow artists.  Not to be viewed as someone who only shines through catchy bars, or a certain kind of image, but as an MC who brings a crazy talent as well as substance to the table.- Jon.E.L.L.

 

-Courtney Bonner

#Interview: Get to Know Ambrosia Malbrough & Her Youtube Empire

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Over the weekend, I had the chance to interview YouTube queen, Ambrosia Malbrough. Ambrosia has literally built a continuously growing empire from doing what she loves. With a YouTube page that features over 300 beauty and hair tutorials, more than 70K subscribers, oh, and over 6.9 million views, Ambrosia has definitely built a lasting brand. Not to mention, she is also the founder and owner of BL Boutique, an online jewelry boutique. Go girl!  Get to the know on- camera personality, and what goes on behind the scenes.

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#SPOTLIGHT: Nikki B., Creator of Words Scar

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We have all been blessed with a gift, or talent, but, when you go a step further to use that gift to make a change in the world, you are really going the distance. Nikki Bruce, founder of GreyMatter Photography has made the decision to take her photography a step further when she created the Words Scar exhibit, last August.

Inspired to bring positivity to the city of Chicago, inspite of the gun violence, Nikki used Words Scar to interact daily with kids – and get their stories to find out why there was anger amongst this generation of teens.

Check out a clip from the exhibit.

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Next to BLOW or NO: Price, Dreams to Reality

Today’s Next to Blow or No comes from Canadian, hip-hop artist, Price. In this anthem- themed track, Price is letting the world know, he is not stopping. It’s a short track, but his message is very clear.

Let me know what you think.

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#Interview: Natural Hair Guru, Yolanda Renee, of EtcBlogMag

Hey, all my natural hair ladies and gents, I had the opportunity to chat with natural hair guru, Yolanda Renee, of EtcBlogMag. Yolanda is literally a jack- of- all- trades. She’s created a brand within the natural hair community, as well as a graphic designer for the well- known site, Necole Bitchie. Get to know this natural hair fashionista, and find out how she uses all of her talents!

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#SPOTLIGHT: Janeen Kern, Creator of Janeen’s Art

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Janeen Kern, creator of Janeen’s Art

When did you start painting.
I started painting when I was very young. I can recall painting as early as the age of six- years- old. My mother taught me how to paint. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and she is very artistic. She passed her art skills and love for art down to me.  We worked on many art projects together and painted for fun. Art was a way we bonded and learned about each other. Art taught us things about each other that verbal conversations did not.

What is art to you?
Art is a way of expressing your inner emotions!  Art is visual for me even though it is much more than that- it’s a way to give a gift from the creator to the world. Art tells stories and history, [it] embraces creativity and being different. Art allows one to push limits and get a pass. Art is your interpretation of life and is what you want it to be.  Art is the way you see things. Art is a way of life. Art evokes passion, love, energy, feelings, spirituality, and peace.  Art has no boundaries.

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What is your favorite piece you’ve painted?
My favorite piece is the Sphinx. This painting depicts the power of a great woman and how she is significant to the growth, wealth, kingdom, and status of a man. This woman is equipped to help her man and she has the gift of influence. This painting shows the woman looking off but she has eyes that can see what others cannot see.  She is next to a man who has honor and integrity.  He is strong, confident, bold, and he commands your attention because he is looking straight at you. I painted this man with no eyes because his woman shares her visions and ideas with him.  The man and woman are a team. The man and the woman have different but positive qualities. They prevail together.

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How did you make your artwork a business?
I decided to turn my love for art into a business when I was in college.  I went to school to become an on-air personality and earned my degree in Communications which focused on Journalism and Broadcast News. In college, I also studied business and learned what was important for all businesses which is having your product available for customers through the web.  I made my art available online by building janeensart.com, my art website.  This was essential to reaching customers all around the world.  Even though art galleries are wonderful, I didn’t want to limit myself to selling my art in art galleries.  I wanted to make my art available to people who did not live in my area and my website allows my art to be accessible to everyone.

My passion is for art but I learned some useful skills and knowledge while studying at my university so I decided to partner with Dartise Media Design, a production company, to create Janeen’s Art Memoirs.  Janeen’s Art Memoirs is a show for the web.  My show gives viewers the opportunity to actually see me create my paintings and to see what inspires my art.

What inspires your pieces?
My spirituality, my fascination for the elements of the earth, and the universe inspires most of my art.  My art evokes peace, strength, serenity, and unity.  My art tells a story of my heritage and ancestors.  I am in constant search of being more connected to where I come from and to gain knowledge from those who were here before me.  My paintings document my growth.  My family is another inspiration of mine.  My mother, aunts, and grandmother’s battle with cancer inspired my New Beginnings paintings.  They tell a story about being diagnosed with cancer, battling cancer, surviving cancer, and losing the fight against cancer.  When I learned my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I had to exercise my faith and I became even more spiritual.  I used painting as an outlet to express the emotions I felt, while I supported my mother through her battle. I had no other way to really release what was brewing inside of me.  Thank God my mother won her fight against cancer.

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What an amazing story. Your passion can come from anything.  What are you working on right now?

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Next to BLOW or NO: Kenny Kash VIII, Bottom of my Heart

Today’s Next to Blow or No comes from Chicago, rap veteran, Kenny Kash VIII. Back from an extended hiatus, with his newest track, Bottom of my Heart from his latest project, The Standard. There is a little nudity in this video…just a heads up.

Let me know what you think.

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#Video: One- Minute Inspiration with Dave Jeff of PHLI Worldwide

Hi Everyone,

I hope this post finds you having the best day of your life! I want to introduce you to our new series, One- Minute Inspiration. This series is a combination of videos to inspire you to go forward in whatever dream, goal, idea, you have right now.

Sometimes we never know how to get started, so I hope these videos give you direction and encourage you to start.

Check the clip.

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Jonnita in the City: Are You Watching District 312?

Hey Everyone,

If you are a Chicago resident or wherever you are, make sure you check out Chicago’s newest fashion web series to hit the scene, District 312. Sometimes, I get tired of shopping at the same places, so it is definitely a breath of fresh air to see some of the hidden boutiques in Chicago.

This episode, District 312 features, Dave Jeff, the founder of PHLI. For all the sneakerheads out there, def cop some of these pieces.

Check out the clip.

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Next to BLOW or NO: Dank Dooley, Just Win

Today’s Next to Blow or No comes from another Chicago artist, Dank Dooley. This track is from, his latest project, Grind- we know about the grind. 

Let me know what you think.

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#BLOG: Your Words Have Power…Use them Wisely

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Over the weekend, I had the chance to chat with some great friends. The topic of our conversation literally did donuts around speaking things into existence, and the power of words.

Every time our words leave our mouths, we are either giving life or taking life. Although, words leave our mouths all day everyday, because speaking is so normal to humans; I think sometimes we underestimate just how powerful our words really are.

You ever notice how the simplest words can either make or break a conversation. When you deeply translate your words, you can really see how our words can either uplift, or destroy.

Too often, we unconsciously let anything slip from our lips, and then we wonder why our worlds have been turned upside down. Imagine, if you spoke positively all day, about everything…even when someone has made you mad. I think the world would definitely be a much better place.

Today, or for the rest of the week, practice saying positive things, and see how positive things will manifest throughout your day.

Here are some positive affirmations, if you do not know any.

I will have a great day.

I am successful.

Thank you God for this day.

I have everything I need.

Today is the best day of my life.

I am patient. (<—I need to say this a few times throughout the day :))

I am kind to everyone.

Remember your words will bring you just what you put into the world. So why not spread love and abundance to not only yourself, but to the people you encounter.

P.S. If you say these things enough times, you will actually start to believe them!

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Photog: milknhonee

#SPOTLIGHT: Paul Wilson, Founder of NextonDeck.com

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My name is Paul L. Wilson. I’m 26 years old. I live on the south side of Chicago Illinois. I graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with a degree in Accountancy and Finance. I’m a very outgoing person who takes life as living lessons and that patience is a virtue. I am Founder and CEO of NextonDeck.com.

When did you create Next on Deck.
The manifestation of NextOnDeck was created on December 24, 2010. The idea didn’t become complete until the launch of nextondeck.com on February 15th 2013.  NextOnDeck is to give up and coming artists from the Chicago land area, an opportunity to to gain more exposure, and [create] a fan base for their talents.

Nextondeck is: Your music. Your stage. Your audience. The perfect platform to upload your musical creations and earn a fan base, NextOnDeck is open to the world and all genres of music. Let the world know who you are by creating a profile. Even if you don’t sing, rap, or produce, you can still be the one to launch the career of your favorite unsigned independent artist simply by voting.

The [concept] of NextOnDeck was created, because I have a lot of talented friends that are on the music scene. My friends either rap, sing, produce, write music or direct/edit music videos; and me being a true fan of music,  I do not have the greatest voice, nor can I write a complete 16 bars that will deliver a complete story- that makes sense at least( lol). So, I wanted to create an outlet, so they can display their talents, gain more exposure and get feedback on the content that they have created.

What have you learned along the way, in building a website.
I have learned a lot of valuable things along the way, while building a website: One thing is that, patience and faith is a virtue. Just because you have an idea, that doesn’t mean that it will come into fruition the next day, week, month, or year.  It takes time and effort to make your dreams come true. You have to remain faithful that you will accomplished your mission. Not just building a website, but building a brand has taught me the true meaning of faith without works is dead.

Do you have a team, how has that worked out.
Yes, I have a team that supports the progress of NextOnDeck. They have helped out with implementation of ideas, spreading the word about NextOnDeck and just being great friends and family to help me establish something I hope to be great one day! The team has worked out greatly!

How do you feel NOD will benefit artists, etc.
NextOnDeck, will help artist, by giving them  another resource or outlet to help expose their talents to the public audience. I believe artists that are passionate about their dreams of becoming more involved in the music scene, will need as many resources as possible to make that dream a reality. By artists uploading their content onto NextOnDeck, getting public views, votes of  a “Nod” ( meaning they like the content) or a “Shake”( meaning they dislike the content) can give artists feedback on their material. NextOnDeck is free to sign up, making it more attractive to the artist.

Well, for the aspiring artists out there, upload your music to NextonDeck today! Great opportunity for everyone.

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#BHM Wrap- UP: Movies You Should Be Streaming This Black History Month

You’ve seen Roots, and you’ve quoted the Color Purple. These iconic novel-based films are not to be missed—and they most likely haven’t been. During what’s left of Black History Month, put that Netflix subscription to good use and throw yourself into these oft-missed films that make powerful statements and testaments to black history and the black experience.

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1) Carmen Jones
Dorothy Dandridge’s beauty and charm matched with Harry Belafonte’s strong theatrical presence made this 1954 musical a critical and commercial success. What makes this film a sacred piece of black history is the all-black cast playing some of the best roles in Hollywood at a time when most of America was practicing segregation.

2) Medicine for Melancholy
Boy-with-a-chip-on-his-shoulder meets girl-with-rose-colored glasses. The setting is San Francisco, but for many black, twentysomething urbanites, the location is interchangeable with any metropolitan area. The city is changing, and gentrification, displacement, and race and class issues take a passenger seat to the driving force of this independent drama, which is a subtle yet intimate look at two strangers discovering each other.

3) Women of Brewster Place
This miniseries tackles poverty, racism, and man troubles in an engaging portrait of seven diverse women living in the same housing project. The issues are grand and, at times, heavy with no real relief. The ensemble cast of amazing black actresses—Oprah Winfrey, Lynn, Whitfield, Jackee, Cicely Tyson, Lonette McKee, and Robin Givens—parlays this film into must-watch-this-February status.

4) Just Another Girl On the I.R.T.
The ultimate cautionary tale—the one almost every black mother hopes to ingrain into her daughter’s prepubescent brain: One mistake in the name of love can change your entire life, no matter how promising. Yes, it happens to the smart ones too. The power in this film is not in its afterschool-special-type message but in the raw and relatable way in which that message is delivered.

5) Our Song
In the same vein as Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., Our Song speaks to the issues facing young, black teenaged girls in the hood. The focus here is not to so much on the plot—which walks viewers almost aimlessly through the Brooklyn housing project that the three main girls call home—but on their lives, relationships, and familial issues. The girls handle crisis like it’s a trip to the grocery store—an occurrence that eerily brings to light the reality that is being a black teenager in the hood. As an added bonus, catch Scandal’s Kerry Washington in her first film role.

If brick-and-mortar movie stores exist within a reasonable number of
miles from you, pick up these DVDs this month as well:

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6) Remember the Titans
Football players at a recently integrated high school learn to trust each other and ultimately build friendships that break the color barrier.

7) Higher Learning
John Singleton directs this intense, thought-provoking drama set on a diverse college campus, where several students from different ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds succumb to or fight their individual prejudices.

8) Antwone Fisher
In Denzel Washington’s directorial debut, he and the titular character—who also wrote this autobiographical film—open up a world where a black man can discover his past hurt in order to confront it and end a cycle of anger.

9) The Express
The story of Ernie Davis, the first black man to win the Heisman trophy. The touching story line is enhanced by the subsequent momentum of the Civil Rights Movement.

10) Do the Right Thing
Spike Lee’s penchant for approaching racial and social issues with a welcome, unflinching lack of tact is never more prevalent than in this blistering and tense drama set appropriately on the hottest day in Brooklyn.

-Kelly Taylor, Guest Contributor

Next to BLOW or NO? The Boy Illinois, Merci, Merci

Today’s Next to Blow or No comes from The Boy Illinois. This track is fresh from his new project, Memoirs of Gilbert Gaston.  Another Chicago artist, as you can tell by the name.

Let me know what you think.

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#Interview: Meet the Boss Behind, The Boss Network, Cameka Smith, Pt. 1

It’s so amazing to meet so many people in Chicago, who are really doing big things. This time around, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing, Cameka Smith, founder of  The Boss Network- one of the leading online professional networks for women. I’m a member of The Boss Network, ladies you should definitely join. The Boss Network- boss being an acronym for Bringing Out Successful Sisters, is certainly making it’s mark across the globe. Find out how Cameka Smith transformed her career as a Chicago Public School educator into a worldwide women’s empowerment brand.

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Next to BLOW or NO? Mz. Notra, Pumps On

Today’s Next to Blow or No comes from another R&B singer, Mz. Notra. She is right here in Chicago, putting in work. This track definitely has that ladies anthem vibe to it. Check out the short and sweet video, Pumps On…it’s straight to the point.  

Let me know what you think.

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Power Couples Week: Joshua & Kenya Mercer

To close out our Power Couples Week, today’s power couple is Joshua & Kenya Mercer. Representing Chicago very well, this couple has planted its entrepreneur seeds around the city. They are the owners of Mercer’s Insurance Agency, Inc., Swish Dreams, the Conversation, and Move Makers. Check out how the comical, newly weds manage to keep the balance between business and pleasure.

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How did you meet.
KM: We kind of knew each other for a while, and just by passing, kind of.  We have a mutual friend, and then one summer we exchanged phone numbers, because I was involved, and I‘m sure he was involved; and then we just started hanging out, just like homies. Then, one thing led to another. Josh actually sent me a text saying, I’m falling for you. (Josh interjects, saying it was a mass text..lol) I didn’t respond…and his feelings were hurt.

…how long have you been married.
We have been married for two months.

What is it like working with your spouse.
KM: Hard. It’s interesting, because you get to learn about the whole person. You find out their strengths and weaknesses.

JM:You find their tolerance levels. Sometimes you can use it as a crutch, because it’s hard running your own business, and always being the person in charge- everyone is looking to you for leadership. It’s good to have somebody that can spread the blame, or somebody that is going to love you regardless. I think it’s easier than what people say.

KM: With the different business ventures that are set into play, regardless if we admit it or not, they [are] not going to run without both of us having input in it. He’s the man, but I’m the boss!

How do you juggle the businesses and being a couple.
JM:I think one thing that is good, is that we have a lot of the same friends, so our outlets are the same. Another thing is, the businesses that we do have, we enjoy doing them. Even though sometimes it brings stress, sometimes it’s not like work all the time. Ultimately, knowing that we are in control. So, if we really don’t want to come in, we don’t have to, or if we really want to start late the next day, we can do that. [Also], our goals are aligned, so we have an understanding of what we are trying to get to.

KM: We’re learning how to balance. We’re fresh. We’re learning how to balance personal and business.

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Did you ever think you would be working with the one you love.
KM: Um, it was a hope. I think I’ve always wanted to be the wife that kind of ran her husband’s businesses. I don’t come from an entrepreneur background, I come from an arts background. So, I knew I didn’t want to be with someone like that. I knew I always wanted the opposite. So, it kind of flourished naturally with Josh, in particular. I wouldn’t have thought it.

JM: My dream was, I would always work in sports, in charge of my own schedule- in a position to make some money. That [working with his spouse] was never my goal, but now its the only option that we have right now, because no one else is going to put in the type of work we want- we don’t have the money to pay somebody to do all that stuff. We’re always going to be working together in some way.

How do you encourage one another.
KM: I think I’m a little things person. I would hope that it encourages Josh. I remind Josh, that I love him and [vice versa]- that’s encouraging in itself. Him always putting his vision out there. Saying that out loud all the time is encouraging, because I’m not a visionary all the time. It makes me think, it’s something that I’m doing, that is going to take us to that point. I pray for Josh all the time, and I pray for what I should say.

JM: I’m in love with her, so, that’s all the motivation I need.

How did you know he/she was the one.
KM: I’ll admit, I didn’t like Josh at first, as a boyfriend, but as a friend. Then he started coming around a lot. I don’t know. I’m sure it was game, but I looked at it like, he’s trying  [new] things [for me]. He would come to things, I invited him too.

JM: I chose her. She was what I was looking for in a woman. I wasn’t looking for a career first kind of woman. I was looking for a woman that came from a good family background. I was looking for someone who had [self] respect. So the timing worked out very well.

Shout out to that!!

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Power Couples Week: British & Toine Tracks

It’s Valentines Day! So, here is another power couple doing their thing, in the name of love. British & Toine Tracks, founders of Level-Up Magazine, have invested their time to growing an empire dedicated to building the recognition around underground hip-hop. The magazine has come a long way, starting off with just using one small camera to averaging about 8,000 readers for every new issue.

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How long have you two known each other so far.
BT: Since we were fifteen, so it’s been thirteen years.

So tell me the story of how you two first met.
BT: I was going through his locker and I was talking to one of my friends. We were getting ready to get on the bus and I had stopped at her locker randomly and all of a sudden I was going through his locker and he happened to walk up as I was standing there so he caught me looking through his stuff.

So how did you guys transition from being just friends to boyfriend and girlfriend?
BT: That was interesting too because we were study buddies for a while sophomore year. Freshman year was when that whole locker thing happened. So when we saw each other for that whole time and then stop for a year, we ended up having all our classes together except for gym. to do work for our English class together. It kind of just went from there. I think it was me that first asked him did he like me.

So, about the magazine, Level-Up, how did you two get that started off.
BT: Well, my husband started in the industry in high school making beats. Once he got to college, you know how Columbia is; there are so many creative people around. He started networking with people; he started producing so many artists. Every day he was recording artists, producing artists, networking with people on campus. One thing that these artists said that they didn’t have was a way to promote themselves or some type of portfolio to showcase all their music they were putting out. One day, Toine, just came up with this idea of creating a newsletter, something physical that would showcase all these people that he had been working with.

The whole idea got started and we launched first issue with our little camera. From there, it’s been getting better. Every year and every issue, we’ve been networking and finding more people. It’s really because of the passion my husband had from the very beginning with showcasing these interesting and talented people from the underground. And now Chicago is at the top for artists and we’re getting so much recognition. I really feel that back in 2008, a lot of people didn’t care about Chicago artists.

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Since you two are not only business partners, but also romantic as well, what’s some advice you’d give other couples going into business with each other.
BT: My advice is to keep the line of communication open. Depending on what industry you’re in, know how the industry works and have trust for your partner. Find ways to be part of the business as much as you can and show support. Just have a positive outlook on the end result of what you’re doing with your partner.

Sometimes it is hard when you have a business and are in a relationship because you both are still individuals and have your own way of doing things. You might have disagreements but cutting off the disagreements to a certain point so that things can flow a little better. For people who are single and who are looking for somebody in the industry, try to find your mate. Find someone who complements you. Don’t look for someone for what they can do for you, look for someone who will complement the person that you are and you will also compliment them.

Honestly speaking, has your romantic relationship ever been threatened by your work relationship.
TT: Yea we’ve experience that before. Early on in having a business, we experienced that and I think that it really helped us bond more and learn from that. That’s the thing too, youdon’t want your business to jeopardize your relationship but you don’t want your relationship to jeopardize a business that both of you’all would want. We want our business to keep going, to keep rolling. We don’t want either thing to jeopardize anything. I think learning that before helped us learn our boundaries on being professional. If we have something that we need to talk to each other about, we don’t make that happen on set while we’re
doing something that’s related to our business.

Any future plans for the magazine.
TT: The magazine is to take people on tour. That’s basically it, going international.

BT: We’ve really been talking about traveling the world and branching off as a couple and as a magazine. That’s one of the things we are attracting and manifesting right now. We want to branch out, go to other places, see the world and see what other underground arts and music is popping off in other countries and other states even.

Make sure you visit the magazine at www.level-upmagazine.com.

-Lisa Brown, Contributor

#Power Couples Week: Harold N the Incredible Charisma

If this is your first time checking out the site, Y.S. Mag is doing a tribute to power couples this week, just to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We just want to celebrate couples who are building empires, and making moves together. So today, we celebrate Harold Green III, lyricist/writer and Charisma S. Sweat, singer/songwriter, better known around Chicago as, Harold N the Incredible Charisma. Check out how both hold each other down, on and off the stage.

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How did you all meet…how long have you been together.
We met in college, at Grambling State University, and we have been together 4.5 years.

Do you have children.
Yes, we have the coolest kid on the planet (in our minds): son, Zaire Mali.

How did you come together as a duo.
Charisma: Well, we were initially introduced in college by a mutual friend who knew we were both artists. After collaborating on several projects and performances, I ended up joining Harold’s performing arts collective. A mutual love for music and art has allowed us to keep our collaboration going over the years, thus how H.N.I.C. (Harold N’ the Incredible Charisma) was formed. Our most consistent and visible project has been a viral series called “Flowers for the Living”, now in it’s fourth year.

What is it like working with your partner.
It’s awesome working together. It actually makes us closer. We have two different approaches to what we do, so occasionally we bump heads, but the more we work together the easier it has become.

How do you stay on common ground with each other?
As far as our artistry, we both have a common goal, and would love to do this for a lifetime, so it allows us to stay focused and find commonality in what we do.

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Did you ever imagine that you would be in this position with the one you love.
Harold: I imagined it because I knew how talented Charisma was, so it only made sense.

Charisma: I love seeing couples that either work in the same field or share the same passion and are able to tag-team when necessary to get the job done. It makes great stories that much more inspiring. So while nothing is for certain, the idea of this has always been kind of a passive thought. Now, it’s just starting to come into fruition. 

How do you encourage one another.
Harold: The most important thing we do is critique each other honestly. We don’t have to worry about hurting each other’s feelings, so we are very blunt with each other. It may sound like an adverse way to encourage one another but it works. We know that means we still believe in one another.

 Charisma: When I’m performing (solo), Harold always stands really close to the stage so I know he’s there and that he’s with me. When he has a solo gig, I try to take on a personal assistant role to show my support. I’m an all-in-one, bag holder, photographer, hype man and CD salesperson.

What’s the best thing about working with your partner.
Harold: The best thing for me is that it creates new experiences for both of us, and it makes Charisma more and more attractive. Long term relationships can be mundane in whatever realm they exist, but working together artistically keeps our life very interesting.

Charisma: Some of the best moments in my life are when I’m on a stage- the fact that I can share many of those moments with the closest person to me and know that he fully supports me in this, even in times when I lose sight for myself, not only make it far more exciting, but all the dreams seem that much more realizable. And furthermore, we’ve found it to be quite therapeutic for the occasional relationship speedbumps.

Nothing like team work. I hope you all have been inspired. Make it last forever….(cues Keith Sweat)

In honor of Valentine’s Day, H.N.I.C. has released its Flowers for the Living series…peep the vid. This time they did a cover to Chris Brown’s, Don’t Judge Me

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