Interview with Athlete PR Expert, Ari Nicole of Double Coverage PR


Good day Ari Nicole! How is everything going in your world?
Everything is great here, I woke up this morning so I cant do anything but smile.

I always like to ask, what would you say to a stranger if they came up to you and asked “What do you do?”
I used to say I handle PR for athletes, but a lot of people didn’t understand what all that entails. So now I would say I handle branding, appearances, and autograph signings for athletes as well as being the point person for athlete/fan relations.

Can you tell me what inspired you to create your own Public Relations firm? Like, what happened in your life’s story that led you down the path you are on now?
At the time I was a senior at Michigan State University and interning for the Miami Heat. I had already started to receive job offers for post grad and when I started looking over contracts and roles in the job offers, the number didn’t add up for me. I thought to myself “why should I work for someone else and have to give them a percent of what I’m making from the client?” I just figured, I had enough experience and knew the right people to do it on my own.

Tell me more about career? How long have you been in public relations? Did you receive “formal” training? Or did you just use “street smarts” or what I prefer, failing your way to success?
I’ve been working in PR for 5 years now. I went to school for PR and Marketing, and that’s what I received my degree in. I also interned for two NBA teams, a NHL team, and worked for Michigan State men’s basketball while in school. So I guess you could say I had a lot of hands on experience

What type of services do you offer an athlete or potential client at Double Coverage PR? (Love that name by the way!) Who are some of your current clients?
The services we offer are branding, setting up autograph signings, paid public appearances, charity/ foundation work, and in-house styling. For disclosure reasons I cant mention every client we work with but some of them are Taijuan Walker of the Mariners, Tyrell Jenkins with the Braves and Darqueze Dennard of the Bengals.

To be job specific, how do you handle a “crisis situation” that may happen for an athlete? Are there any well known examples in history that you think were handled ‘like a pro’?Personally, I’ve been lucky enough to not have too many negative crises to handle. The types that we usually handle are in the essence of being cut or traded. One of our MLS clients was traded mid season this year and unexpected. Like 10 minutes after it happened, I went into work mode reaching out to media in his new teams city to introduce him to the community and work on getting housing situations together. I try to stay away from the clients who are going to get into legal crisis situations.

image1 (4)

I was doing some research on you and I realized that you worked with the great college basketball coach Tom Izzo! How was that experience? And do you believe in the theory of surrounding yourself with success to become successful?
Coach Izzo is great! I honestly owe him a lot when it comes to getting my career kick started. I worked for him as a student secretary while in college. He kind of knew that I wanted to work in sports as a career. I remember one day as a junior, he asked me into his office and was just like “what do you want to do when you graduate?” We had a long talk and next thing you know I was interviewing with the Miami Heat. I definitely think you have to surround yourself with the right people to get to where you want to go. You have to evaluate who you let your in your presence; if they’re not helping or inspiring you in some way, why have them around.

We have a saying here, “DO WHAT YOU DESIRE” or #DWYD. How does that apply to what you have and are doing with your pr career?
I mean I think that has everything to do with my career. I could be working for someone else right now at a desk, probably burnt out. Instead I created my own path and enjoy every day doing what I love in PR and sports.

How can we find out more about you and Double Coverage PR online? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Website?
Twitter is @dblcoveragepr I also post a lot on my instagram about my clients at @arinicolelife. Our website is

Are there any last words of wisdom or advice you’d like to give any of our readers?
Don’t be scared to do things your way. Even if its not conventional, you have to do what the heart desires. Nothing is more rewarding than making your own lane and succeeding.

Interview with serial entrepreneur and global connector, Germaine Moody


Good day Germaine Moody! How is everything in your world? Everything is exciting, exhausting, unbelievable, and supernatural.
I always like to ask, what would you say to a stranger if they came up to you and asked “What do you do?” I’m an serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, author, and global connector. I pretty much do whatever I feel passionate and excited about, and I love bringing people together.

I know we all have a story, that relates to their pursuit of their passions. What is your personal story? Was there a moment where you saw/read someone/something or had an experience that made you say “I know what my life purpose is”?
It would take a book to share my full personal story but the gist of who I am, what I do, and who I’m becoming has a lot to do with the inspiration of Michael Jackson. His heart and passion to help heal the world, humanity, is what drives me to be successful, and to use that success for the greater good globally.


Tell me more about career? How long have you been an entrepreneur? What have been your biggest accomplishments? Biggest setbacks? How did you overcome them?
My mom says I’ve been an entrepreneur since age 7, selling lemonade and popcorn, producing puppet shows from the front porch and so on. I started my first business at age 14 called GM Productions. My services included playing the keyboard, singing, choreographing and performing for weddings, banquets, and any events around town that would hire me. My first business pay check was for $325. I knew I had to work for myself after that moment.

My biggest accomplishment as of now? Just being alive now is an accomplishment. Businesswise would have to be my worldwide networking event tour of 2010 and my book “50 Seeds of Greatness”. The tour hit 14 cities including New York, Los Angeles, London, Miami, Toronto, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Vancouver BC, Atlanta and several others. In each city I hosted networking events up to 300, sometimes 500 people, creating the most amazing business connections worldwide. Several of which I’ve partnered on business ventures. In my book “50 Seeds of Greatness”, 357 business professionals, entrepreneurs, and multimillionaires from 106 countries around the world joined me in that book, making it the largest global collaboration on any book in publishing history. Guinness World Records offered me the record “Most Contributors To An Anthology” but I’ve yet to submit the materials to accept it and claim it, mainly because I plan to break the record in my next book “The Power of Dance”.

My biggest setbacks are having a lack of discipline and allowing too many distractions to steal my time. I’ve overcome the distractions by removing them, whether it’s people, television, or what have you. As far as the discipline, I just tell myself every morning before I get up that “I won’t get rich by staying in the bed”. That gives me discipline to get my butt up and create money.

50 Seeds of Greatness

You are known as a networking master, I am sure many of the readers want to know, how do you find, build and maintain a network? And how important are relationships in life?
Networking is something that can and should be done everywhere, a movie theatre, restaurant, sports game, church, at work, etc. The more people you connect to, the more opportunities you’ll have in life. Building relationships, strategic relationships, is the most important thing you can do as an entrepreneur, business professional, or someone that has dreams and goals to accomplish. In life, just about every major door will be opened for you by another person. You may be able to create a few of your own, but ultimately, you’ll still need a yes from someone to continue expanding. Linkedin is a major resource for networking on any level. I suggest everyone set up an account on there. Without developing key relationships, your life will be limited and will not produce much.

I know you are someone who believes in Philanthropy, giving back to the world. Do you believe in the mantras of “paying it forward” and “what you give to the universe is what you receive in return”?
I believe that we all have a divine mandate to help someone in our lifetime. Whether we get something back in return should never be the concern or question.


Can you tell me about some of the books that you have authored? What inspired them?
“An Abundance of Person” is one that came about from a realization that we as humans, God’s creation, were given everything at birth that we need to accomplish all of our dreams, goals, and God-given desires.

“Discover Wisdom: 100 Days of Inspiration and Power” was inspired by a desire to help people learn how to live a daily life of inspiration through this devotional writing. It is imperative that we discover how to self-motivate ourselves and include inspiration in some way, shape, or form everyday, as much as possible. There is an atmosphere of dismay waiting to consume you daily.

“50 Seeds of Greatness” started out as a compilation of daily journals on topics for me to create a better me. I then decided to share those with the world in a book, and eventually asked the entire world to join me in on it, and they did.

Can you tell us about DIAS eyewear? How did this partnership form? And what can we look forward to at the event in Chicago?
DIAS Eyewear is the coolest, founded by entrepreneur Sophia Dias who is an amazing friend of mine. We met on Linkedin, our spirits connected and I knew I wanted to be a part of her vision. From there we started strategizing on how to build the brand and connect with consumers, celebrities, and so forth. Through launch party events, we get to showcase and market the line to buyers and those who appreciate fashion, plus the custom designs. Our Chicago event will be a great night out of high end business networking, great food, amazing people, surprises, and fun with the DIAS family.

diasgrey2 diaslogo2 diasblue2

You have worked with some interesting people and in many industries! Can you tell us some of your most memorable moments so far?
Well I try not to drop names, that’s really not my thing, but I believe attending certain events, working with particular companies, and traveling to cool locations are the most memorable. From attending my first GRAMMYS, judging talent competitions in South Africa, hosting London’s largest networking event in history, casting for major television networks, volunteering with the Salvation Army to serve Thanksgiving dinners to the less fortunate, pitching music to some of the biggest artists in the world, and being able to assist my own clients reach newer heights in their career, those are all the best and most memorable moments.

Besides business, are there any other interests/hobbies/vices that you enjoy that people might know about you?
I love tennis, bowling, volunteering, visiting museums, cooking, horses, dalmations, and smurfs are the best.


We have a saying here “DO WHAT YOU DESIRE” or #DWYD. How does that apply to what you are doing with your career?
I only do what I desire. I’m blessed and beyond grateful to be able to say that.

How can we find out more about you and your vision and products online? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Website?
I’m on Facebook and Twitter, but I don’t tweet much. My main personal websites to follow my life and global mission are and the upcoming launching in January 2016.

Are there any last words of wisdom or advice for people searching for meaning and passion in their lives?
You only have a certain amount of time in life to accomplish that which you desire. The more time you waste, the less you will accomplish and the less fulfilled your life will be. Be awesome. Be amazing. Be unique. Be yourself. But most importantly….Be bold. Be wise. Be great.


Interview with Jahde of The Phat Start Up!


How are you all at The Phat Startup? How is everything on your side of the world? 
We are doing well, grinding and learning something new everyday. We’ve had a very busy year and have even more exciting projects coming up in the future. Currently we are preparing for our second annual Tech808 conference, that’s been our main focus over the last couple of weeks.

I always like to ask, what would you guys say to a stranger if they came up to you all and asked “What do you guys do?” 
Through a combination of hip hop motivation and startup business lessons, we help aspiring entrepreneurs take their business to the next level. Through our education platform we provide interviews, coaching and multimedia resources all designed so that you can take actionable steps that build on your ideas.
unnamed-4 (2)
What inspired you all to create The Phat Startup? Can you tell us more about what you hope to accomplish with your organization?
We created The Phat Startup because we felt a gap in the marketplace when it came to the tech startup industry and it’s coverage. We would attend conferences and although very informative, it didn’t speak to us in a way that made us hungry to start a business. We have always been big fans of hip hop music and particularly the aspirational and motivational aspect that a lot of rappers bring to the table. We wanted to incorporate that into the tech world and started The Phat Startup to bring those elements of the culture that we grew up in to the startup scene. Over the past 2 years we have seen a tremendous response from people all over the world who have identified with our vision. In the future we hope to see more entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs starting companies and getting more active in the tech industry. That’s a goal we all share and something we work towards every single day.

I think I first heard about your company from listening to Great Scott McKenzie. The thing that drew me to your organization was that it spoke to me, in my language, the Hip-Hop and Entrepreneurship language that I grew up with and am a part of. Many companies are trying and actually have gotten their hands into the culture. and spending power of us . What are your thoughts about this? 
I think it was always inevitable. The saying goes that pop culture is America’s greatest export and if that’s the case then Hip-Hop could very well be argued as one of America’s biggest exports. Maybe not so much the music itself but definitely the culture around it, which has grown to become an artistic expression of black and latino youth. From music, to fashion, to language, the list goes on and on which is the reason why I’m not surprised that major corporations are now trying to benefit from the culture. These companies are in the business of making more money and that often lies within the interests of the youth.
unnamed-7 (1)
I do think that some companies do a better job than others but there are definitely some that are forcing it. Ultimately with those companies since it does not feel authentic I doubt they will be running with any “hiphop” themed promotions for too long. On the other side it’s interesting when certain artists become partners or promote brands that they themselves enjoy. Since we have a passion for starting businesses, investing and ownership it’s nice to see rappers help their families financially benefit from the products they would rap about anyway. It is my hope that in the future they can take a more active role in these partnerships e.g. instead of just charging a fee to promote a pair of sneakers opt for a certain equity percentage based on sales.

Can you tell us about your live events? What are they like?! Who have been some of the speakers/presenters at your events? What can one expect to experience at a live The Phat Startup event?
Our live events are definitely unlike any other tech conference you’ve seen before. The reason is because we do not hold back on our speakers, we ask them the really nitty gritty questions that most people would be afraid to say. Last year we hosted a fireside chat with Ben Horowitz (co-founder of VC firm Andressen Horowitz) and even he said that most people would not have the guts to ask what we asked him. Furthermore the energy in the room is always electrifying. Whether it’s a huge conference hall or smaller room for a fireside chat, you can feel the energy in the air of a group of individuals who are eager to start a new journey in life and change their business for the better.
That motivational feeling is an important part of our events and we try to keep up that energy with #bossup breaks where attendees can talk and network with each other. We also play great music throughout the whole day, so you can dance and bop your head while getting fed nuggets of wisdom. Some of our past speakers include Ben Horowitz, Gary Vaynerchuk, Young Guru, Combat Jack, Alexis Ohanian and many more. All in all it’s a very electrifying experience at our Tech808 conferences, I would urge anyone interested in technology or business to come check it out.

You recently decided to take the show on the road, calling it the #Tech808 Tour! What provoked the decision to go beyond New York and travel to Oakland and D.C.? Was there a particular reason those cities were chosen? How has that experience been? 
The people decided for us! We had such a great reaction to the inaugural Tech808 at NYU that we literally had people calling us to take the conference on the road. It had always been in our minds that a conference like Tech808 could work in different cities but we had no idea how successful the New York conference was going to be. In the end we had a turnout of about 400 people which let us know that this was something we wanted to share with the world. Oakland and D.C. were chosen specifically because they have a burgeoning startup scene, especially amongst people of color. In the Bay Area, San Francisco gets most of the love because of the incredible companies that have sprung up in the region over the last couple decades. However, Oakland is now starting to become it’s own tech community and we wanted to take advantage of that to bring together all the amazing entrepreneurs, programmers and designers in the Oakland area.
unnamed-6 (1)

I have been reading and doing a lot of networking and there truly is a lack of so called “minorities” (I don’t like the term minority, I think it is used to diminish our contributions to the world) in the technology sector. Is there a reason(s) that you can pinpoint why this is the case? What can we do to help change this for the better?
It’s very hard to pinpoint a specific reason for a lack of so called “minorities” in technology. There are so many nuances when it comes to the socio-economic problems within the country that it would be very tough to single out just one. With that being said I do believe there are a few areas that could be causing some of the issues. One is undoubtedly access and education. Many of the tech entrepreneurs we know of today were fortunate enough to be exposed to technology at a very young age. Whether that was their Dad’s Apple II computer or a beat up Commodore sitting in their garage, they had means to understand and tinker with the machines at a very young age. This would give such a person a head start within the tech industry but also reinforces their love and interest for all things that are technological.
Another issue in the tech diversity conversation is what I like to call the “Tiger Woods effect”. Before 1997 it was safe to categorize golf as an upperclass, middle-aged, white man’s sport. It was rare to see anyone that didn’t fit this profile at your local country club and probably even more rare to see an exception on TV.  When Tiger Woods won his first Masters tournament in 1997 he changed the game when it comes to the sport of golf. Nowadays you see all different races, coming from all different backgrounds both men and women on the golf course. The problem in the tech world is that there are hasn’t been any “Tiger Woods effect’ yet. Where is the black Mark Zuckerberg or brown Elon Musk? In many minority communities most kids dream of growing up to be like their favorite basketball player or rapper. I think when we start to see more entrepreneurs of color excelling in the field of technology, we will also start to see an increase in minority computer science graduates and kids interested in pursuing a career in the field. There has been some progress over the years including Intel’s recent $300 million fund for “minority” entrepreneurs and technologists. Although there is a tremendous amount of work to be done we can all help by exposing our youth to technology and the benefits of being a creator and not just a passive consumer.

You all are very accomplished in your careers. What have been some of your greatest moments? How about some of your biggest setbacks? How did you all overcome them?
Some of our greatest moments have definitely been putting together this Tech808 conference and seeing it grow in the short span of a year. It feels like the culmination of all our hard work with The Phat Startup has blossomed into this amazing experience with Tech808. We have met people from around the world that are inspired by us and we have also met and become personal friends with many individuals that inspire ourselves. Another great moment was our panel talk at SXSW last year in Austin, Texas. We had a great time in a new city and really got to test the strength of our brand name. As entrepreneurs we face problems everyday and it’s our duty to work on solving them in the most efficient manner. Luckily we have not had many huge setbacks, but some setbacks were actually spontaneous and would often happen on the day of an event. A speaker might be caught in traffic or a package was shipped to the wrong location, yet these were all problems we were able to fix as a team. Over the course of working together on Tech808 and The Phat Startup we have grown to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses which makes it easier to deal with setbacks when they arise.

We have a saying here “DO WHAT YOU DESIRE” or #DWYD. How does that apply to what you all are doing with your lives and The Phat Startup?
Do what you desire is a great slogan and definitely something we incorporate here at The Phat Startup. To me it means seizing everyday and making the choice to live your life how you want to live it. We have been indoctrinated from a very young age to live according to a certain standard and it is often very hard to break out from the norm. The desire to become an entrepreneur is something we all shared and that focus has led us to experience and accomplish many things we never would have if we did not make that choice. Its not easy being an entrepreneur, you have to fight and work hard everyday. Starting a company is something you need to have a burning desire for in order to see it through, or else you will never find the will power to continue when the going gets tough. To me #DWYD is emblematic of the passion and sacrifice it takes to follow your dreams and choose your own path in life.
unnamed-5 (1)

How can we find out more about The Phat Startup online? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Website? 
We are very active on social media and our account is the same across all properties @thephatstartup so holla at us. Thank you for your time and remember to #BossUP!
website =
If you have any questions about Tech 808 or The Phat Start Up tweet Jahde here

Are there any last words of wisdom or advice for our readers? 
If you are reading this right now you have the power in you to follow your dreams and change the world. There has never been a time in history where that statement is more possible or even more true. Life is short and the best way to live it is by making sure you are having fun and learning something new everyday. That could mean starting a business, learning how to paint or simply spending more time with your family. It’s important to realize that the only thing that matters in this world is what matters most to you. Once you figure that out the next step is to create each day with that as your focus. This might not happen overnight and sometimes can take years but I promise once you get there you will experience a reward like no other! Thank you for your time and remember to #BossUP.

P.S. JOSHUA HERE! I wanted to let you all know that Jahde and the good people at The Phat Start Up set up a special discount code for all of YOU readers for the Tech 808 Conference! Go to and enter “DWYD” for a special price!

Interview with music industry connector Tampa Mystic

TampaMystic logo
I always start off by asking, how is everything in the world of Tampa Mystic?
Everything is Amazing! Busy, just how I prefer it!

What would you say to someone if they came up to you asked “What do you do ?”
I’d ask them if they have a few minutes, because I do so much lol!

Tell me more about yourself? How long have you been in business? What have been your biggest accomplishments? Biggest setbacks? How did you overcome them?
I’m an innovator for sure. I started my business ‘Mystic’s Entertainment’ just over 3 years ago. We offer promotional services to the music industry. Also, twice a week I have an independent artist showcase in ATL called ‘Industries Most Wanted, I manage 2 artists (King Miz & Smoov ATL) along with being on radio 3 days a week. Some of my biggest accomplishment are having won 12 awards in 4 years of being in the industry. Also, moving to ATL and successfully putting my stamp on this city! One set back, but also a blessing at the same time was getting laid off my job earlier this year. It was tough going from 86K a year to no paycheck. Fortunately, I have Mystic’s Ent established and I now run my business full time!

Your work with all types of artists/djs/companies/etc. Can you tell me how you approach each one?
I approach each with an open business mindset. I’m all about building and keeping good relationships.

Your work is done in Atlanta, which to me is a hotbed of talent. How is the scene from an insider perspective? What is lacking? Is it over saturated? Is there anything that you desire to change?
 I love this city! I’ve been coming here for years, and always knew I’d live here one day. If you’re an independent artist who is serious then this is the place for you. I don’t think there’s much it’s lacking, the opportunities here are endless. It is somewhat over saturated in the aspect of everyone wants to be a rapper, DJ & promoter but so many don’t have the skill set! Only thing I’d like to change is the rush hour traffic lol

How important is public relations and branding in the marketing and pushing of a new artist? In your perspective. What do you help artists do in the music business?
Very important! An artist not only needs PR, but positive PR! They must be out networking, shaking hands and kissing babies! Getting involved with community activities etc. Also, on the branding side having things such as shirts with their name on it etc.

Besides working with artists, is there anything else that you are passionate about that supporters of you may not realize!?
Yes, ME! lol I recently started living a much healthier lifestyle. Eating cleaner & exercising daily. I do a combo of jogging / walking 8 miles a day.

We have a saying here “DO WHAT YOU DESIRE” or #DWYD. How does that apply to what you are doing with your company and in your life?
It applies from top to bottom, front to back! After losing my job of 10 years, I’ve decided to wake up in the morning and create my own day! I absolutely Do what I desire every single day!

How can we find out more about Tampa Mystic online? Facebook? Twitter? Website? IG?
My IG, Twitter, Facebook & Periscope are all @TampaMystic and website

Are there any last words of wisdom or advice?
I’d like to thank you for this dope interview! Advice would be stay humble, consistent and definitely stay loyal to those who are loyal to you!


Interview with Free Lunch Academy

image1 (3)
How are you guys at The Free Lunch Academy? How is everything in your world?
We are blessed and highly favored here at Free Lunch Academy.  Last school year alone we were able to partner with over 50 public school communities and positively impact the lives of over 10,000 students here in Chicago.  Additionally, we successfully hosted two educator appreciation events as well as our inaugural back to school youth summit and talent showcase.  So all in all, we doing extremely well and the future is looking even more promising.

I always like to ask, what would you say to a stranger if they came up to you and asked “What do you do?”
Free Lunch Academy provides educational entertainment services for youth and adolescents in Chicago, IL.  Our programs, performances and services are all centered around creating inclusive learning environments for students through mutual respect, scholarship, artistry and community building.  This is achieved through our innovative curriculum centered around character and leadership development through highly transformative social emotional learning. In short; we make learning cool and effective.

Tell me more about your career before The Free Lunch Academy? How was The Free Lunch Academy created? Can you tell us more about what you hope to accomplish with your organization?
Prior to founding Free Lunch Academy I studied business administration and marketing at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.  Thereafter I began my professional career with International Business Machines (IBM) as an IT Consultative Sales Rep.  While still in corporate I began volunteering my time at local non-profit agencies working with after school mentoring programs.  Having found an affinity for assisting in the development of young people I made the bold decision to change career paths as I moved from the boardroom to the classroom by accepting a job in education within the Chicago public school network. After serving an instructor, counselor and extended day program coordinator over the course of several years I felt compelled to take yet another leap of faith.  We began formulating plans to establish an organization called Free Lunch Academy as the world’s leading educational entertainment non-profit organization for young people. After several years of market research and testing Free Lunch Academy, it is well on the way to achieving our goals.  And while we have been extremely successful to date regarding our accomplishments, the best is yet to come.

Free Lunch Academy (LIVE) from Free Lunch Academy on Vimeo.

What do you think is the primary problem in our school system, not just in Chicago, but in almost every urban area of the United States? What are some solutions to make it better?
One of the primary problems with inner city education these days in my opinion is a lack of engagement.  I feel that maybe now more than ever students and often times educators simply go through of motions when it comes to educational matriculation.  I believe this is a result of (among other factors) content and subject matter being presented in a way that doesn’t truly interest, motivate or resonate with most students. Instead of teaching “at” students I believe it is our job as educators to teach to, thru and with students in a meaningful manner.  For example, instead of teaching students subject by subject I feel a better approach would be to teach students one situation, circumstance and/or scenario at a time and be purposeful about infusing core subjects such as math, science, literacy and history into each lesson.  This approach makes the lesson real to the students, especially inner city students whose life is already very real in nature, and essentially brings the lesson to life for them.  The end result of this approach is increased interest, involvement and ultimately application of what has been learned.  This is what we aim to do with our solution based approach to education here at Free Lunch Academy. We meet students where they are at and teach students how they learn.  Finally, we aim to show our value through increased academic outcomes inside the classroom and purpose driven decision making outside of the class room for all students that experience our programs, performances and services.

You are very accomplished in your career. What has  been some of your greatest moments?
The greatest achievements in my career as an “edutainer” thus far have mostly involve direct feedback we’ve received from students who have been impacted and influenced by our services. I remember one particular instance that stands out the most.  The encounter occurred a few years back following a performance called “CROSSED” that my team and I did which was themed around the importance of maintaining balance in life regardless of what trials, tribulations and/or triumphs you may face along the way.  Following the performance a friend of mine from college brought his mentee over to meet the cast and I.  At the time this young man had to be in middle school at best.  After a brief conversation with the young man we were taken aback when he stated, “Man, that play was amazing.  I cannot wait to go to college now.”  While that statement may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, it meant the world to the cast and I.  We knew at that very moment that what we have been called to do is greater than us.  That’s the precise moment when we decided that the main focus of our productions going forward must be centered around providing educational entertainment services for youth first and foremost.  Low and behold several years later we find ourselves fully engaged on this mission in the form of Free Lunch Academy. While we know the best is yet to come in terms of the memories and moments we will experience along the way, the most rewarding feelings come from experiences such as these.

Can you tell me more about the work that you do with Creative Cypher? How did that come about? What are some of the things that you have worked on and are working on?
Through my relationship with Troy Pryor dating back to our college days and working together on several plays and performances. After these experiences I joined the Creative Cypher during it’s inaugural event back in the late summer of 2014. Since joining I have worked extensively on several CC projects and volunteered at serval youth centered events as well.  As it relates to the Cypher we are currently developing several projects including a short silent film on the cycle of bullying and an informercial of sorts entitled, “Poor Decisions.”

We have a saying here “DO WHAT YOU DESIRE” or #DWYD. How does that apply to what you are doing with your life?
Honestly we have learned along our journey that it’s very important to align our thoughts and desires with that of the Lord.  And once that takes place the sky is the limit in terms of what you can achieve in life and your ability to do what you desire because there won’t be any situation, circumstance nor scenario that you won’t be prepared to make it to and through from the point on. Amen.

How can we find out more about Free Lunch Academy online? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Website?
Website –
Facebook –
Twitter – @freelunchchi
Instagram – @freelunchacademy
Youtube/Vimeo/Google – “free lunch academy”

Are there any last words of wisdom or advice?
My two favorite inspirational verses/quotes are “Train up a child the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV) and “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” (Frederick Douglas)


Interview with actress and producer Mariann Aalda

unnamed-1 (2)

I always like to ask, what would you say to a stranger if they came up to you and asked “What do you do?”
I’m a storyteller. I give life to scripted material by taking it off the page, making it three-dimensional and and infusing it with humanity.

Tell me more about career? How long have you been an actress? What are some of the things you have been involved in?
I’ve been a member of the Screen Actors Guild (now SAG-AFTRA) for almost 40 years, and a member of Actors Equity (AEA) for almost that long.
My first professional job was with Off-Centre Theater company, which had a contract to provide lunchtime entertainment for the New York City Parks Department. I made $75 a week plus tips when we passed the hat. That was in 1974.

The New York theater scene was very fertile back then and I worked a lot Off and Off-Off Broadway. My first big show was Take It From The Top with the legendary Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in 1979. They were lovely people and just delightful to work with. They set the standards for me in professional decorum both on and offstage. The previous year I had filmed the movie, The Wiz. Diane Ross came to the play to see Ossie and Ruby and when she saw that I was in it too, she made a point to come to my dressing room and compliment me on my work. She’s another star who’s a real pro and also gracious to work with.

My experience has been that the more talented folks are, the nicer they are to work with. The ones with more ego than talent are the ones who tend to act like jerks.

My “day job” was doing TV commercials. I did a campaign for Total Cereal that even landed me on the cereal box! My mom must have bought 30 boxes of the stuff. She loved going through the checkout line and bragging “That’s my daughter!”

My first big job on television was on the ABC soap opera, Edge of Night. I was the distaff half of “Calvin & DiDi,” one of the first black super-couples on daytime TV. When the show went off the air in 1985, I moved to Los Angeles and landed the role of “Ellen Parker” opposite O.J. Simpson on HBO’s first hit show, First & 10. I was on that show for three seasons.

The 1980’s and early ’90’s was a heyday for black sitcoms and I guest-starred on most of them. Then, in 1991, I landed the series regular role of “Elizabeth Royal” with Redd Foxx and Della Reese. Naya Rivera was 4 years old at the time and she played my daughter. Silver Gregory played my oldest daughter and Larenz Tate played my son.

The show was cancelled after Redd died but I continued to work steadily on TV in recurring and guest-starring roles. Most recently, I did two episodes of NBC’s The Blacklist. I haven’t done as much film work, but two of them have become classics, The Wiz and the cult comedy, Class Act, where I play rapper Kid’s mom.

unnamed-2 (1)

I have heard from a lot of actors and musicians and creative types, that they always KNEW, this is what they were destined for. How about yourself? What was that one moment in life or culmination of moments when you knew, you HAD TO PERFORM?
Acting isn’t so much a career choice as it is a “calling.” With some, the flame burns from an early age, with others, it ignites later in life. It’s not something one decides to do, it’s what one MUST do. I always knew.

It’s a difficult path and it’s filled with rejection and disappointment, so I don’t advise getting on it unless you’re as tenacious as you are talented…and passionate about your craft.

You are very accomplished in your acting career. What have been some of your greatest moments? How about some of your biggest setbacks? How did you overcome them?
The ratio of auditions to actually booking a job can be astronomical — as much as 30 or 40 to one — so anytime I book a job is a great moment! But it can set you back if you allow yourself to feel defeated by those odds, So, you’ve got to approach each audition with a clean slate. How do you do that? I guess you’ve just got to have faith in your talent and your destiny.

unnamed (2)

I know that you have many new things that you are doing, like the online series and your website, Can you tell us more about them? Why should we watch?
Acting roles on television became scarcer once I turned fifty, but fortunately the stage is much more accepting and accommodating, so I returned to my roots of live performing. I did standup comedy for a couple years, but being on the road was not that appealing. In fact, that’s how I came up with the name for my website…I figured I didn’t have to do standup, I could “sit my ass down” and be just as funny.

Four of the theatrical productions I did were invited to be performed a the prestigious National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC; three of them I co-wrote and co-produced. I developed my performance art character, “Adult Sex-Ed Evangelist & Mojo Motivator Ginger Peechee-Keane,” in those shows, which ultimately led to my solo comedy show, Occupy Your Vagina!, which I’ve performed in New York, New Orleans, and which I’m bringing to The 2015 Chicago Fringe Festival.

The web series, Talk to Me, Ginger! is based on the same character, but in private practice as a relationship counselor. Five couples each have a story arc of five episodes, or “sessions,” with Ginger, where she helps them put their relationships back on track. All of the episodes were improvised, and while the characters might be a little wacky — it is a comedy series, after all — the relationship issues are real. Folks should watch because it’s funny AND they might learn something they can apply to their own relationships!
You are a teacher and a mentor as well. (I believe everyone needs a mentor, if they can find one or some) How important is education and helping others to you? Why do you enjoy giving back?

Every actor needs a village. The “elders” provide training and wisdom from experience, while the village members who are their peers provide moral support and camaraderie. It’s important to be in a good village.

A family issue brought me back to my hometown of Chicago last summer from New York. I was introduced to Troy Pryor, and not only did I join his Creative Cypher “village,” I also became one of its elders. I conduct workshops and have been a Creative Cypher representative on Zane number of panels.

Creative Cypher is a collective of artists with different skill sets who pool their resources in support of each other and their projects. Troy and Cypher member, Logan Stone, were co-producers of Talk to Me, Ginger! Several Cypher members are also in the cast.

I don’t think of my participation with the Cypher as “giving back,” I think of it more as being a contributing member to my village.

unnamed-3 (2)

We have a saying here “DO WHAT YOU DESIRE” or #DWYD. How does that apply to what you are doing with your acting career?
Well, I think we’ve already pretty much covered it! Except I will offer this one caveat. It’s really important to discern the difference between what your heart desires and what your head desires. Because unless your heart is in something, you’ll never be able to survive the inevitable challenges and disappointments that come with achieving your goals.

To find out more about what Mariann Aalda is up to theses days — along with seeing classic videos of her work, visit To check out her web series, go to

Interview with Pugs Atomz of Iridium Clothing Co

DSC08686 (1)
I always start off by asking, how is everything in the world of Iridium?
Going well our SS2015 “The Wave” collection is out and getting great reviews, we’re starting to make more denim based products, and gearing up for some fun events for the summer. First off was our grand opening 2 day party in June  at our new Flag ship store in Wicker Park. Crazy tourn out great fashion show and performance.

Ok, I always like to ask, what would you say to someone if they came up to you asked “What do you do?”
I guess I would say I’m a creative and a connector in most cases. But on a special day I’d say I get paid to think all day.

Tell me more about career? How long have you been in the fashion game?
I have been designing since my sophomore year in college at SAIC. For a friends line and from there I did some tshirts here and there. But interning for Afro Wear was when I really started to take it more seriously in 2007. Between them and my roommate cutting up his paintings and attaching them to tshirts I was in waist deep. From Afro War I got hooked up with American Needle and got to work on their Malcolm X and Red fox capsule collection and really started to see this as a possibility.

What have been your biggest accomplishments? Biggest setbacks? How did you overcome them? Your designs are very unique, very well made, like passion was put into them. Where do you find your inspiration?
Well Platinum and I have lived in a few different cities from Japan to the London, taking in the cultures and fashion in those places. But ultimately I feel our goal is challenge the norm and get people dressing outside the box.

I know you have worked with many well known personalities. Who are some of the people that have rocked some Iridium?
Rich Homie Quan, Waka Flocka, Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, the cast of Empire, the cast of Wildin’ out, Vic Mensa to name a few.

back2 (1)

Where does the name Iridium come from?
Iridium is the purest form of platinum, the 77th element on the periodic table.

The founder of Iridium Platinum graduated with a degree in Bio Chemistry and wanted to pick a name that reflected him, and his love for science.

Besides fashion, is there anything else that you are passionate about that supporters of your clothing company may not realize?
Well I  have been doing music for some years, and have toured around the world a few times for my albums and groups I have ben apart of. I also shoot  music videos and  have been hosting a radio show called CTA radio in Chicago on the legendary for about 16 years interviewing  and championing Hip-Hop, Soul and Instrumental music’s vets and next up like Kali Uchi, Vic Mensa, Hiatus Keyote, Krs One to Nas to name a few.

We have a saying here “DO WHAT YOU DESIRE” or #DWYD. How does that apply to what you are doing with your music career and in life?
From my start as a painter to rapper and now designer I always did what I felt in my gut and what was working, even when other people couldn’t see it. I feel  living this way leaves me in a plac to have no regrets and to enjoy my wins  nd setbacks cause I’m doing it all my way – #nomanual.

How can we find out more about you online? Facebook? Twitter? Website? IG?
On any social media from Sound Cloud, YouTube, Cacebook, Instagram etc. I’m on there as “pugsatomz” or you can always go to to my bog and see what I’m listening to, creating or am inspired by.

Are there any last words of wisdom or advice?
If everyday of your life you’re not making steps to the person or the place you want to be, what are you doing?
Download my new EP Neuvo Casino and  follow me @pugsatomz

Interview with super producer “Focus…”

Focus 8

Whats good Focus…! How is everything in the music production world?

– It’s been amazing! With the release of “Compton”, everything has been incredible…

I always like to ask, what would you say to a stranger if they came up to you and asked “What do you do?”

– I’d say that I do my best to make the people around me stronger and happier. I’m corny, I know…

I know it may sound “cliche”, but what was that real MOMENT in your life where you said, “Damn I gotta do music, there is nothing else I want to do!”?

- I knew I wanted to be a music producer from the age of 8. My father was in the music business and I idolized my father. I wanted to be just like him. I never put a B plan in place so I had to make this music career of mine work…

I have read a lot about you and your career as a producer. You have worked with R&B artists and hip-hop artists that people would dream to work with! Knowing that R&B and Hip-Hop are two different styles of music, how do you approach working with these different types?

- It’s funny. Music is music! Your approach is what dictates the outcome. Listening to a Drake track, or a Kendrick Lamar track, without the vocals, you would swear you were listening to R&B. I never approach one or the other differently. I just make music and present myself to whomever it is I will have the honor of working with…

Tell me more about career? How long have you been in the game? How big of an influence was your father, Bernard Edwards founder of the legendary “Chic”? What have been your biggest accomplishments? Biggest setbacks? How did you overcome them?

- I have been professional since 1991 so that’s 24 years, if i’m not mistaken. My father was the reason I busted my behind in my career. I always wanted to show him that my music was good and my main goal at the time was to get an ‘I’m proud of you, son’ from my father. I never had the chance to show him due to his passing in 1996 but, he was and STILL IS the drive behind my work ethic. My biggest accomplishments are regaining a relationship with Jehovah, 5 years of blissful marriage, 5 beautiful children, and somewhere in between all of that, I’ve won 2 Grammies, an ASCAP award and have been on 35-38million records sold worldwide. My setbacks were needed. I left the game in 2008 to get my life in order spiritually, mentally and physically. I lost a lot of momentum and that did hurt my career but me and my wife got very close during that time, I got to watch my kids grow up and be a present father instead of a Skype dad or a hangout pops, and I found peace of mind. I overcame everything through faith and prayer. My wife and my bro, Tyhiem Cannon, were my biggest support, throughout, as well as my management team, iStandard…

You just produced and mixed on Dr. Dre’s critically acclaimed “Compton” album. I know that you were apart of Aftermath in the early 2000’s then you left to do your own thing, how did it feel to re-unite with Dr. Dre and work on such a needed album for the hip-hop culture? Can you take us through the creative working process for “Compton”?

- This has been nothing short of incredible! Dre gave me the chance to work with him instead of for him and that is the greatest experience in itself. I never really hung around Dre. I would go in to the studio and cook up, then bring him what I worked on. Our interactions were short and sweet. This go-round, I have had the honor of being present throughout the entire process and I have got to say, this was way more rewarding than the way we worked prior. Dre put together an infallible team and gave me a spot in that team. I never collaborated in my career so that was a challenge but the guys I work with are amazing. Trevor Lawrence, Jr., Eric “Blu2th” Griggs, Theron Feemster, Curt Chambers, Andre Brissett, Sly Jordan, Cardiak and Dem Jointz really showed me the up-side of collaborating. Each song was a different process but, they all pretty much started out as jam sessions. Tyhiem (Aftermath’s A&R) brought in a lot of music that was undeniable so we would build on those as well, under Dre’s direction…

I know that all of the greats have a constant thirst for success and like Bruce Lee said, “If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” I have to ask, (because you have reached many plateaus) What is next for you?

- I am happy making music. I am here for mentoring, teaching and showing the new comer how to exist in this climate as regards to the music industry. I no longer want to be a label owner and I don’t see myself throwing my face out there too much longer. I spoke to my team and I may start branding myself as a mixer for future projects. I will definitely keep working for Dre as long as he will have me there…

We have a saying here, “DO WHAT YOU DESIRE” or #DWYD. How does that apply to what you have and are doing with your production career?

– It means EVERYTHING! I really sacrificed a lot to get where I am. Some of the sacrifices were necessary, some were not. I am learning from my past and doing my best to stop the regret regarding who I was. I was a knucklehead but it all got me here…

How can we find out more about you and your production online? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Website?

- I have a website in the works, My Instagram is my most active social network, @focus3dotz and that goes through my twitter @focus3dots. I house my music either on my Bandcamp page, or my Beatstars page, … No Facebook…

Are there any last words of wisdom or advice?

- Each situation is different so me saying one thing may not be the one thing needed to say. If anyone wants advice or guidance, hit me anytime on those social networks and let’s build… SALUTE

twitter : focus3dots
instagram : focus3dotz
“Sound without Focus… is just Noise!”

Interview with the ultimate creative business man – Troy Pryor


How is everything in the business world?
The entertainment business is always a roller coaster, but staying true to who you are and focused on your goal will keep you on the right track.

Ok, I always like to ask, what would you say to someone if they came up to you asked “What do you do?”
I make your life easier, whether I’m in front of the camera or behind. I’m an actor, producer, exec, and thought provoker.


What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
Boredom. I got tired of waiting for other people to give me a chance and the novelty of what was coming my way began wearing off.

Tell me more about your career? How long have you been in the game? What have been your biggest accomplishments? Biggest setbacks? How did you overcome them?
I’ve been at it for about 8 years, started with print and runway, to stage and TV/Film, now producing, writing, and directing. My biggest accomplishment would be not quitting and discovering what I actually wanted. If you don’t love what you do, you’ll end up quitting at some point. Everything else seems to fall in place when you commit and surround yourself with the right energy. The biggest set back was not taking charge earlier in my career. I reached a point when I realized and I didn’t have to right people in my corner and missed out some great opportunities.


You founded Creative Cypher, can you tell us more about it? What inspired its creation?
I was blessed to be on both sides or the camera, and I would network like a monster until I became the person with the connections. Eventually people began coming to me, so I created an infrastructure to support those networking opportunities. We produce live experiences that attract the most talented people around and quite naturally like minded people begin to attract one another. We then provide guidance so the potential projects are properly developed for production and distribution. We have other companies for the later.


You have an event, #CYPHERLIVE – which has been desciribed as late night meets “Def Comedy/Poetry Jam”! That sounds quite interesting, tell us more Troy!
Yes, we do this every other month with our partners Blue 1647, an amazing tech incubator in Chicago, which is now expanding into other markets! Our goal here is to provide a platform for filmmakers to showscase and pitch their projects but we also incorporate, comedy, spoken word, live music, and special guest interviews. We attract the people we want to work with and lay the path for collaboration. Our last event’s special guest was Golden Globe winning actress, Regina Talyor and on August 8th we’ll have Oscar and Grammy winning song writer, Che, “Ryhmefest” Smith. We just did another event with Che and Sway Calloway 2 days ago.

Who are some of the other creatives that you have worked with?
I’ve been on several covers and ads , so tons of amazing photographers. The first project I ever worked was with Tyler Perry. A lot of great ad agencies for commercials and my last role was on NBC’s Chicago Fire.


Can you tell us about new projects that you are working on?
Some of them…lol. I’ve got a film called “Intersection” heading to Puerto Rico next week. It’s been screening around the country for the past year. We’ve got another show up for a 13 episodes deal, 3 films in post and 6 in pre-production, in addition to the live events….so not too much going on.

We have a saying here “DO WHAT YOU DESIRE” or #DWYD. How does that apply to what you are doing with your company?
“Man know thyself” You have to know who you are, what you want, and your worth. Then execute a game plan to achieve those goals. That’s what we do.


How can we find out more about you and your pursuits online? Facebook? Twitter? Website?

Are there any last words of wisdom or advice that you have for our readers?
Nope…I’m still trying to figure it out myself. lol


Interview with photographer Dino Black

Al Mariani

Whats good Dino! How is everything in the photography world? 
Every day is truly a blessing. I am so thankful for what I have accomplished. It’s really an indescribable feeling, I mean there’s not a second that goes by where something does not remind me of creation. I see potential in so many things. Ideas are constantly running through my head. It’s an unbelievable feeling. There is and will always be inspiration. I’m always filled with ideas and passion. I mean the passion and confidence is constantly and most definitely always oozing through my ears, through my nose and out of my eyes. But hey, it comes with the territory.

Ok, I always like to ask, what would you say to someone if they came up to you asked “What do you do?” 
If someone were to come to me and ask “what do you do?” I would say.. I live life, I have fun, I stay humble, I work hard, and I create. I love it because each small thing for the most part has a powerful meaning below its surface.

Vee Adams

What inspired you to become a photographer?
The thing that inspired me to become a photographer… totally when I was a kid, I was toying around with my father’s polaroid camera. And said to myself, wow, not bad, pretty cool. That was when I was around the age or 5 or 6. But seeing the photo made me so happy. It made me so happy that I kept taking photographs from the Polaroid camera. But no one told me that the camera stopped spitting out photos after a little while. I was so confused and baffled. But it was all great!


Tell me more about career? How long have you been in the game? What have been your biggest accomplishments? Biggest setbacks? How did you overcome them?
Ever since I was a small child I’ve always had an interest with cameras. I really got into photography and found it even more amusing when I took my first photo class. And I took another class and another class. Before I knew it, I had my own business.  I’d say one of my biggest accomplishments was before I went to college. I was in the advanced placement studios arts course in high school (Marquette University High School). And I was really happy with what I shooting and creating. At the end of the course I had to submit a portfolio to a board of judges and I ended up getting a perfect score. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it is definitely something that was attainable for me. It was a confidence booster, and it helped make a major difference in my style of artwork today. Another huge experience I had was in 2014. I took a trip down to where my father and his huge family were from; the historic state of Arkansas. I mean it truly was an eye opening experience. Going down there and seeing where part of my family came from was such an eye opening experience. I was able to really understand the meaning of poverty. There was nothing there, remnants of what was, and what had been. Seeing what I saw made me appreciate life so much more, and I’m already a really humble and appreciative person.  This was a major turning point for me in my life. Seeing Arkansas made me even more ambitious and even more humble about all that I have been blessed with in this beautiful thing called life. It was such an overwhelming feeling that I went through very high and low points. I was grateful, yet very depressed. It was a lot to take in. But over time I became stronger and more passionate from the experience. I’ve been through some pretty hard time, but one in particular was when I got my first DSLR camera and I broke it. I don’t know how it happened, but I learned a valuable lesson. It was a tough period because I didn’t have the camera that I needed or wanted for a while. I was a spiritual test and journey for me. It acquired me to do soul searching. It made me realize that if you take things for granted and are not responsible, undesirable things can happen. So ever since then, I’ve tried to be even more careful with everything, even myself. Tough times do not last, the person who has the will powerful and faith does though. I’ve always kept this in mind, because it’s so true.

What would you describe your style as? In your words.
If I were to describe my style, I would say that it’s very humble and sophisticated, elegant and edgy, but it’s all about perception really. It’s open for interpretation though always is, always will be. I leave that kind of thing for those who follow me, and view me.

Dani Simone

You shoot very interesting images with men and women. In my opinion, you are One of the few male photographers who can shoot them with an eye for fashion and with an appeal for women as well. How do you approach shooting men vs. women?
When I photograph men and women, it’s simple. I just go with my gut feeling, my brain does the rest, along with my fingers and eyes as well I suppose. Going with what feels right is truly something magical. I see beauty in men and women, because essentially in they are in front of my camera, they become a piece of artwork. To me, art is so many things. I don’t approach men or women differently; it’s essentially based upon the individual in particular because everyone is different.

We have a saying here “DO WHAT YOU DESIRE” or #DWYD. How does that apply to what you are doing with your photography?
In my business and in my personal life, doing what I desire it so important. Doing what feels right is important to me. Being an intuitive spiritual being, I follow my heart and my passion. I make decisions based on what is best. “Best” to me, is a multitude of things. But a few prevalent things are being humble, happy, and humorous, coinciding with ethics.  Because in reality, you have to be the best you can be and do what truly makes you happy.


How can we find out more about you and your photography online? Facebook? Twitter? Website?
I have work on Instagram, my page is DinoBlackStudios, and my Facebook is Dino Black.

Are there any last words of wisdom or advice? 
My advice to anyone everyone is, be positive, be happy, surround yourself with uplifting and positive people who genuinely support you.

Pete Mac and Guys