I’m a journalist and an editor. I also host a show called Your Favorite Auntie. I’m an Aries with a Virgo moon, so I’m a fireball and I’m also hypercritical.
Now I consider myself a New Yorker, but I grew up in Dallas. Everyone always tells me they went through the airport there and I’m like, “Okay, great.”
I’m the youngest of three. Growing up, my family was like the Huxtables. I’m not lying: my dad was an OB-GYN, and my mom was an English professor. I had my two older brothers, and I was like little Rudy.
We were the only Black family on the block. We lived in the suburbs and I went to mostly white schools. Racially, it was pretty siloed. But then I would go to church on Sunday, or I’d hang out with my family, and that’s when I was around my Black community.
The environment was pretty closed off. I definitely wanted to leave when I was 18 because I just felt like it didn’t affirm me in a lot of ways. Now when I go back, Dallas is hopping. It’s the fastest growing Democratic county in the country. It’s super diverse and open. But that wasn’t my experience at all when I was growing up.
My family was very open with each other about the kinds of obstacles we were up against. My mother would come home and tell me about her co-workers who were racist, or who were prejudiced. My father would too. So, we never felt like we couldn’t tell our parents, “This happened to me.”
My parents wanted the best for their kids, and I don’t think that they knew what the impact of sending us to all-white schools would be. I don’t begrudge them at all for that. They are of their generation. They saw so much shit. My mom would always say to me, “I’m from Mississippi, like Jim Crow Mississippi. I saw everything. And I still would go to school, and I’d get my lesson. I would get my degree, and I would get a job.”
That was their philosophy: “Yes. It fucking sucks, but we still have to work really, really hard.” I hear that and I respect it. But I’m also still working through the generational trauma of that, because I don’t think that’s something they were allowed or able to do. For the Naomi Osakas of the world to say, “This doesn’t work for me”—that’s a big generational shift. I have to recalibrate my brain that way, too.
I didn’t smoke a lot of weed growing up or in college—only every six months or something. It was more something that I would have at the end of the night, to take all the drinking to another place. Not a bad place; it would just kind of slow everything down before I went nuts. That’s how I thought about it. It was so I could digest things at the end of the night. It’s interesting because I go hard on liquor. I don’t know where it would lead me if I went too hard on cannabis.
I definitely also saw weed as a political moment. My good friend and roommate was really political and active in Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. She was the one who educated me on the bias around it, and why it was necessary for us to get beyond the stigmas, and the taboos, and the propaganda.
I looked at weed as a device that was used to continue to disenfranchise and marginalize people. Even to this day, when we talk about police violence, victimhood, and people who have been victims of police violence, people will be like, “Oh, the victim smoked weed” and therefore they deserved it. I don’t understand how those connections are made. I think this is a large part of why my relationship with weed was an occasional party moment for me. And still is.
I’m happy to see that it’s been legalized, of course, but then everybody who was brought up on a trumped up drug charge needs to be released. They need to have their records expunged and given another day. And I think Black and brown people need to be at the forefront of all of these money making opportunities. It would be sad to see if we are left with very little of that pie after generations and communities were ripped apart again and again.
After college, I floated around New York for a couple of years. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was working in fashion, but I was working retail, so I wasn’t working in it. Fashion has been a lifelong fascination of mine. I studied it, I followed it, I had an encyclopedic knowledge of it. The ins and outs of every Vogue magazine—I knew them. I knew the people, the designers, the models, all the shit. I knew I wanted to work there, but I didn’t know how. It felt very “you got to be the daughter of somebody.”
So while I was working in retail, I decided to go back to school. I wanted to study race and I wanted to study my own personal history—living in New York had a lot to do with that. I wound up at Columbia for African American studies. That really changed the way that I thought about myself as a thinker. It just changed my whole perspective on life. I wanted to figure out a way to combine my academic work, which really dealt with race and gender, with fashion.
I wound up working at Net-a-Porter as a personal shopper. Then I was at Moda Operandi, then Saks. I was in these really high-end luxury retail spaces and working for really rich women, but I was kind of like, fuck this system. It was this weird dichotomy. I thought, I don’t know where or if I’m ever going to fit in. So I started writing about it.
I didn’t know how to be a journalist. I didn’t go to J-school. I was intimidated. I felt like journalism was primarily made up of white men and not for someone like me. Am I saying the right thing? Am I writing the right way? Those are the things that kept me second guessing myself. But eventually I just was like, Fuck it. I’m going to fake it till I make it. I hustled. How do you get experience as a young journalist? You start doing shit and making opportunities for yourself.
I finally wound up at Vogue. After about a year of freelancing for them, they had me come in-house as a senior fashion writer. I took that opportunity and that platform to put a focus on cultural heroes and heroines that I felt were often overlooked in that space—specifically Black people. I brought Gucci Mane to Vogue. I wrote Cardi B’s first Vogue story. Now, you can’t think of anything but Cardi B and Vogue. But back when I pitched her, people were like, “No.”
There was a lot of freedom to write about what interested me. But after a while, I was totally burnt out. I decided to go freelance, which was a really big struggle because I was known as a writer, but I didn’t want to work as a writer anymore. I had hit a wall. I felt like I wasn’t good at it and that I wasn’t adding anything to the conversation. The pace was pretty relentless. It was back to back to back to back, and I wasn’t really given a lot of time to sit with the material. At the end of the week, I’d find myself in a daze, just like, What did I just do? I don’t even really remember what I did. Did it stick? Did it even speak to my ideals?
I had to work really hard to regain my confidence. But I dug my heels in and started writing again. Now things have ramped up a lot. I have found that doing features and cover stories is definitely a challenging but very invigorating creative process for me.
Your Favorite Auntie is a new kind of advice show from somebody you actually listen to. That’s the whole tagline. It was born out of quarantine. It was an opportunity to connect with people and build community in isolation. It’s also a natural evolution for who I am. I’m someone who always wants to be in the mix. I always want to give advice. I always want to help. I always want to talk and talk and talk. A lot of young women and men coming up in the fashion and beauty game want advice, and I’m happy to give it, because I’ve lived. I don’t have all the answers, but I certainly have seen a lot. So, I’m happy to share that.
Every week, I field questions from my community around a particular topic. I answer the best ones on air. We’ve talked about everything from interracial dating during BLM, body image, pop culture, hair, cooking. And I’ve had some really great guests—Jenna Lyons, Patia Borja, Sean Garrett, Devonn Francis, Donte Colley. I would love to turn Your Favorite Auntie into a television show. A real show, with a real set. Between Two Ferns is definitely my reference for a lot of it.
I’m kind of a shy person. But when you get me talking, you won’t be able to shut me the fuck up. I think it’s a way of being disarming. For a lot of people, just asking a follow up question is crazy. We often gloss over what other people say to us. But if you’re just like, “Oh, that’s interesting. Why do you say that?”—that in and of itself can make someone feel seen and heard when they haven’t been. There’s a lot of power to just going deeper on something and not glossing over shit.
I struggle with celebrating my accomplishments sometimes. As writers, especially as female writers, we’re often taught to be very humble. And I respect people who are humble about their writing or their career pursuits. But I also feel that, especially as a Black woman, no one else is going to give you the attention and the credit. You have to go grab it. That is something I’ve really learned in the last year or two, as a personal adage. I read something that was like, “Are you going to be discovered or are you going to introduce yourself?” So, I just have to coach myself sometimes, tell myself, “It’s okay. You can tell people that you wrote this, and be proud of it, and outwardly excited about it.”
One thing that I come back to a lot is, “What’s for you is for you.” I truly believe that, and then when sometimes I don’t believe that, I force myself to believe it again. We live in a world full of comparison. There are a lot of distractions, and you have to be able to believe that what’s for you is going to happen. I also try to tell myself—and others—to be the person that your 18-year old self needed. Because I remember being a totally out of place little black girl in the suburbs of Texas, and escaping through magazines and music videos and pop culture. Now I get to work at those magazines and write those stories. I want to hug that little girl and tell her to keep her chin up, because she’ll get there.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Marjon Carlos photographed by Meredith Jenks at her home in Brooklyn. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.