I met culture journalist and this month’s #LoudMouth, Ivie Ani, in my least favorite part of Brooklyn: Williamsburg. Speed walking down Driggs Avenue I could still notice the abrupt demographic changes that gentrification produces. Black and Brown youth coming home from school and just two blocks later middle-aged white women checking out overpriced vintage shops with their green smoothies in hand. When I arrive at the cafe, I spot Ivie through the large glass pane windows right away. She is the only Black girl in the space and she’s taking selfies.
It’s the second Friday in May, and her last month being 25. Since graduating from New York University with a degree in Journalism and Africana Studies, her pen has graced the pages of The New York Times, Women in The World, New York Magazine, The Village Voice, Teen Vogue, PAPER magazine, Complex, Grazia UK, NYU’s Social and Cultural Analysis Journal, and more. She's held positions at Facebook, BET Networks, and Associated Press, but now, she’s Music Editor at Okayplayer — a position that had yet to be helmed by a woman until she came along.
Since meeting Ivie as students at NYU, I knew she was a force, not because of what she said, but what she showed. A Nigerian girl from the South Bronx, she came to class with designer bags, glimmery nails, and hair to her ass. And when someone said some ill-researched, racist comment you could feel Ivie’s side-eye from across the room. Although not the first to talk back, it was clear to me that blending in has never been in Ivie’s interest. It is her visual attention to detail that makes her stand out.
DM: Did you have a relationship with the phrase “talking back” growing up and was it ever something you got in trouble for?
IA: That concept is non-existent for me. I'm African— you probably know how that goes. There is no such thing as disrespecting your parents or countering them or talking back. I think Black people in general are taught to respect your elders, but talking back was never a thing for me. I was always more so observing rather than responding, or observing and internalizing before responding. Now I am in a position where I have agency to be loud as opposed to before, especially in terms of my career. I understand that sometimes women, and Black women in particular, who are in these fields are quiet not out of convenience, but out of necessity and survival. They can't get on Twitter and start talking reckless about whatever's going on because it’s going to hurt their pockets.
My process varies but for interviews particularly, I take notes when I'm there — what they're wearing, how they look, their mannerisms, facial expressions— because all those are the vivid details you want for a profile piece. So yes, attention to detail. I've always had a penchant for those types of details and then because of those details I'm able to contextualize people into greater themes and still get the intricacies of their personality and their being. But that takes a while to do. I'm not a microwave type of writer. There are people who can push out good work quickly. I could do that too, but these are bigger stories.
DM: I feel like when I read your work I know you're a scholar. I can tell when I read your work that you read. When I think about essays, when I think about good nonfiction writing, it's like braiding all of that work. The cultural thought, the scholarly work, your personal interests.
IA: I love that analogy because braids last longer than twists. A twist is quick little cute style, but braids are beautiful and they last long. There is a lot of braiding and weaving that I have to do. Online, it gets really hard because you have to appeal to different demographics. They need stuff quick so you have to condense everything to a digestible format. So I think that's a skill to be able to write well online and grasp attention. That's a feat. That's a difficult thing to do, and I'm doing it and navigating it.