Women In Entertainment- Part I
Sidney Madden is an assistant music news editor at NPR Music and formerly, an editor at XXL Magazine. Her journey to becoming one of the top music journalists in the entertainment industry is both motivating and inspiring. I have been waiting to have the opportunity to ask Sidney about her success and the persistence it took to reach her goals. Of course, the beautiful and talented editor dropped some precious gems.
- First question, what made you want to be in the entertainment/music industry?
Sidney- First, I’ve always been the type of person who has been much more comfortable creating then dictating or computing numbers. I am naturally a creative person. I have a dance background so music has always had such a huge impact on my life. I love writing, I love creating new things so I knew for a long time that I actually wanted to be a journalist. And then when I learned that you can actually get paid for music journalism, to write about music and interview artist, I realized that it could be a lucrative and rewarding career, I wanted to get into that. Music is subjective. It’s about passion and feelings but there is a way to critic it and dissect it. It’s the best of both worlds for me.
- You currently work for NPR and previously you worked for XXL. Can you take me through the steps from graduating to getting your foot in the door with the music/entertainment industry because it’s really difficult to do that.
Sidney- Even before I graduated as you know, (we both went to the same University) Hofstra University is very adamant about getting students into internships. Internships are a huge focus. They want you to take advantage that we are near the news hub which is New York City. So I knew it was important to get an internship. So I interned at, Cosmopolitan, a major public relations company and MTV. That’s when I got inspired and got in my head that I can do this for the rest of my life. I interned at MTV for two semesters and I made sure I stayed connected with my intern supervisors and who was directly managing me or whoever was giving me tasks to do. I always did my tasks wholeheartedly and I always made sure to stay connected with them. That could be as simple as sending a holiday card or reading their work and saying that I loved a piece they did. That is important, so that they wouldn’t forget about me.
As far as social media it’s not strange or taboo to follow someone who is an intern manager to keep up with their lives.
Once I graduated, I stayed in touch with all of my intern supervisors. I then did a brief stint at Fox News and I stayed there for about three or four months and that was because of a scholarship that I got at Hofstra. I had then made the decision that I did not want to do hard news.
When I look back at all of my internships, the most creative and fun internships for me was when I worked in music. So I went back to the drawing board and realized that’s where I wanted to be.
I was very adamant about calling my former intern manager to see if they had any work or needed any help with anything in any capacity. So I freelanced for a couple of sites. They were all online, People’s Choice, Vibe and XXL.
Me- You better go girl
Sidney- I mean when you have bills to pay you cannot just rely on one check. Those freelance checks are either feast or famine. So I did that and while I was freelancing I was also, applying to freelance assistant jobs. One thing that I was kind of discouraged by, was how do I get my foot in the door? How do I get that first entry level job? I kept going on these interviews and I wouldn’t get anything. I wouldn’t get any follow ups or any call backs. I kept thinking, what am I doing wrong?
But finally because I had been freelancing at XXL for a little bit, the new managing editor at the time hit me up because I had been keeping tabs with her. She asked me to transcribe something and I was on it. I showed I was willing to do any work. They kept giving me little task like that, then she called me in October and said XXL was looking for a part time editorial assistant and she asked me if I wanted it. I told her yes. I went into the interview and I didn’t hear back for two months. I eventually got the gig. I started in January 2015 and I started off as a part time editorial assistant because I wasn’t full time I still had the freedom to freelance part time other places.
I worked at XXL and I freelanced for People’s Choice and Nylon Magazine. I would freelance to make the rent. I eventually became a full time editorial assistant at XXL and I was in that particular role for one year. A couple of people had left so there was room to grow and move up. I was able to move up because I was down to work overtime for the company. There were so many late nights and unpaid hours.
If you are putting together a magazine there is no leaving at 6pm. You have to be committed to the job. I moved up and became an assistant editor. I then moved up to an editor at XXL. I was an editor for about six or seven months and then NPR contacted me and said that they were looking for an editor for NPR music. I was kind of leery about it because it was in DC and I wouldn’t be in the nucleus of music which is New York City. I wasn’t someone who checked NPR music day to day but I said I would give it a shot.
I went through a couple of rounds of interviews at NPR and then it came down for me to make the decision. I said this was the time, I am young and I made that decision to take the job. I accepted it and I moved to D.C. and now I am an editor for the site and I also, produce for Tiny Desk.
It’s funny how everything in my timeline was all stepping stones and movements and I am still not done.
- What are some obstacles and challenges that you’ve had to endure?
Sidney- Being a young woman working in Hip-Hop you have to do twice the work and you have to always think about how you are representing yourself.
You have to insert yourself in certain situations but let your intentions be known off bat. As a young journalist who is trying to get an exclusive for a show you want to be back stage getting an exclusive with an artist for a quote. You need to make it clear this is what I am here for and I am not here for anything else. That is one of the challenges.
Also, proving your integrity and having to earn respect. You have to prove yourself twice as a woman working in any industry because it is almost like a disability. You have to do twice the work to be looked at. The way the media industry works right now, is there is so much competition. You will face a lot of self-doubt and people do not really talk about that enough. Say you follow a lot of people on social media who are in the creative industry and they look like they are killing it on their job, well they are not showing you the late nights, they are not showing you deadlines that they have to finish, they are not showing you chasing after this person for weeks and weeks and weeks to get a story. They are only seeing the photo of the two of you at the end result. People do not see as much work that goes into it.
Sometimes you will compare and question yourself and say wow they are killing it, why am I not doing that? It’s inspiring but also, terrifying. Sometimes that can fester into self-doubt.
So one thing I’ve always had to do is remind myself that I am on my own path with my career.
You have to remember you are only as good as your last bi-lines. You have to have laser focus about your own career.
As a woman you have to be able to hold your own.
You have to know when to negotiate your salary. You have to know when to say no. You have to know how to hold your own and know your worth. We have to work twice as hard as a woman that you forget yo, I am clocking that shit. You have to know your self-worth. You have to be able to negotiate with someone that is your superior or someone you could be intimidated by. That is a process too. They teach you a lot of things in school but they don’t teach you in a real world sense how to negotiate your salary.
- Can you talk about how you have to represent yourself as a woman with being professional?
Sidney- It’s very much about how you carry yourself. It is a lot of small social cues that you have to nip in the bud right away.
If you’re producing something and they ask, can you go and get me a tea or soda baby. No I am not baby, my name is not baby it’s Sidney. It’s the way that you dress, the way you lay out the facts to them. It’s the way you ask your questions.
Respect is not given, it is hard earned.
You have to develop good relationships but still have a certain amount of boundaries.
You have to be hyper vigilant about the way you are and how that is perceived.
- If you had to give one piece of advice to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?
Sidney- Damn I don’t know hahahaha. Ummm, I would say don’t be afraid to go after things. I’ve worked my butt off for a lot of things that I have.
I believe I was timid about things that I wanted in the beginning and I was going with the flow. I wasn’t really dictating where I wanted my professional life to go. I was kind of accepting things as they are instead of pushing.
If you have something that you are passionate about, do not be afraid to go after it.
It took me a long time for me to even realize that I wanted to do screenwriting. I would be watching shows and I would see these amazing monologues and I would say, I want to do that. And then I realized that I am a writer and I can do that. I just need to know how to write in screenplay format.
The lane for black women as creatives is so wide open right now.
We are becoming more bosses at earlier ages and telling stories that normally wouldn’t be told.
Do not be afraid to tell a story that you think other people would not identify with. Don’t be afraid to connect the dots and see what you like and how you want to get there.
Don’t just think about it or procrastinate just do it.
Don’t be timid about your goals and what you want.
Jazzmin Ramos- Producer for The Wendy Williams Show
Jazzmin Ramos is a Producer for the Wendy Williams Show. She has and still is leaving her mark on the entertainment industry and she is making sure she keeps God at the center of every accomplishment and goal she reaches. I had the pleasure of speaking to Jazzmin and she dropped MAJOR KEYS!!!
- How did you get into the entertainment industry?
Jazz– After graduating from high school I pretty much was trying to figure out what my next steps were and decide what my career would be. I didn’t see a future in art (which was my major in high school). I didn’t know if I could have a career in art. I didn’t know if I really had the ambition to really even be in that field. I asked myself what am I passionate in and what makes me happy?
I wanted to do something where I was working but it didn’t feel like I was working.
So it was music and television. I remember going to college and I remember loving music and television but I still wasn’t sure exactly what direction I wanted to get into. So, when I was in college I remember taking this speech class and it was my freshman year and I was majoring in business. I just went with that until I figured out what I wanted to major in. I remember there was this girl in my speech class who was doing an oratorical report and I remember drifting in out of people’s speeches but when she spoke it like woke up my soul.
So she got in front of the class and she was discussing her internship and she was working for a magazine company which P. Diddy had started. She talked about how much she loved it and how she discovered TV and she changed her major from Journalism to Communications.
That moment was like a light bulb above my head. I said what? Communications? I had never heard that in my life but I knew that sounded exactly like something I wanted to do. After the class I went straight to the register office and asked more about the communications major. So, I changed my major from business to communications.
So, I then had my first internship at BET and I worked for a show called BET Styles.
It was my ahaha moment. I even remember going to 106 & Park. I was always more interested in the staffers more so then the talent. I was so impressed with how the staff worked. Even when the show was over, I went to one of the staffers and asked about internships.
So one of the staffers told me to go across the street and get an internship packet and fill it out. So, I did everything that was required and three months later I heard back from BET and got an internship and that is how it all started.
- After your internship, what other places have you worked at other than the Wendy Williams Show?
Jazz– So after my internship, my first production job was at BET the Black Carpet. I got that job right after I had graduated and it was at the moment where I was trying to figure out a way to be hired as a PA. So, I was doing temporary jobs for Awards Shows and that would be a one day job as a PA and I wanted something permanent. I was scared that I wasn’t going to get any long term work because I was only getting calls from temporary jobs and that wasn’t paying the bills. I remember being depressed one day and then I received a call from my mentor and he said to me Jazz, I want you to take my job. I am leaving to go to Oprah. His name is Carlos King. He is my mentor and he is an executive producer for his own company. He asked me to send my resume to him and he tweaked it and then he sent it out to Candida who was the executive producer for the Black Carpet at BET. He also, set up an interview for me.
So I had the interview with Candida and it went really good and she said they loved me. I was known as the star intern.
I was the one intern that knew my shit.
I knew everything about production. I knew the terminology I knew how the camera’s worked, I knew how to transcribe. Candida let me know she wanted me on her team but she was interviewing someone else. She told me she would let me know in a few days if I actually got the job.
I got hired as a Production Assistant for BET the Black Carpet and then I worked there as a PA for one year or two and then I got promoted to an Associate Producer. My job required me to go to every press event and interviewing celebrities and covering different events. They called me Red Carpet Ramos. That was my nickname because I went to every Red Carpet.
- What is the process that you’ve had to experience to get to the position of Producer at The Wendy Williams Show?
Jazz– It’s funny you asked that question. It is actually a journey. I actually got a demotion. My first show that I worked at was canceled after about three years. That was when the recession hit really badly around 2008. I had to pretty much figure out what my next steps were going to be. So, I started submitting my resume to a bunch of people I had met but I wasn’t getting any phone calls and I was starting to feel discouraged. Long story short, I received a call from someone that worked at BET. The network was working on a three month project and she asked me to get on the project as an Associate Producer, which was my title because remember I had got promoted at my other BET job from PA to Associate Producer. I worked on that show called Rising Icons on BET for a few months.
One of my assignments was to go to the Wendy William’s Show to get some photos from Chrisette Michele’s mother because Chrisette Michele (singer) was a guest on show that day. We were working on a news package on the singer so I needed the photos for the package. I had about two more weeks at the BET gig so I was thinking to myself; oh my God two weeks will be here soon where will I go next?
I get to The Wendy Williams Show to pick up these photos and I go to the receptionist to tell her why I am here. I asked if there was anyone that could take me upstairs to get the pictures from Chrisette Michele’s mother. The receptionist told me I would not be allowed to go upstairs until the entire show was over. In my head I am thinking what the fuck? Should I wild out. Why do I have to wait for the show to be over? BUT something in my mind (which was Jesus) was like chill out and wait until the show is over. So I listened and sat down, relaxed and got out of my feelings and just waited.
I wait. And let me tell you, the Lord has a funny sense of humor. As soon as the show is over, I hear this loud mouth coming down the stairs and the voice sounded familiar. I see a friend that I know come downstairs and I told him why I was at The Wendy Show. I then told him about my situation at BET and I also, told him if he hears about any job openings to let me know. He said okay and then I finally got the photos and then left.
One week later (1 week before the show is wrapping) I get a call from the same friend. He then proceeded to tell me that he did know of a job that was available and he asked me if I wanted it. He warned me that it was a Production Assistant (PA) job at The Wendy Williams Show. I told him that I was an Associate Producer now. He informed me that it was a good consistent job. I said you know what, I don’t care I need a job and thank you for thinking of me and letting me know the job is available and open. I will take it. I then emailed him my resume and then I received a call from the supervising producer and I went in for an interview. As I was leaving the interview I get a call from the executive producer and he wanted to meet with me. So I go back. Four days later I get a call from The Wendy Williams Show that I got the job!
It was a demotion in a sense because I was promoted at my other job as an Associate Producer. I could have been arrogant and said well I’m an Associate Producer not a PA so I’m not taking this job.
BUT I know MY GOD and I know myself.
So I said to myself if you were able to be promoted from Production Assistant to an Associate Producer at BET which was my first television job, you can do the same thing at The Wendy Williams Show.
So I worked as a PA at the Wendy Williams Show for two years and then I got promoted to an Associate Producer and then after 3 years I got promoted to my ultimate goal (which I had on my vision board since I was 19 or 20) which was to be a Producer. I was ecstatic that I was able to accomplish that goal after 5 years.
Sometimes I would get in that moment where I saw people getting promoted left and right around me and I kept wondering why am I not getting promoted? I worked just as hard and sometimes I felt like I was being overlooked.
In addition to that, after a while I started to look at everything differently, I was like Jazz it might not be your time yet. I then asked myself, what can I do to prove that I am ready? I realized that I would come to work a lot of times with jeans and a t-shirt. I knew I could do better and be dressed up.
I understood that you dress for the job that you want not the job that you have.
I changed my appearance because I believed that would help me get the promotion quicker because people would take me more serious. It really worked. I even switched my hair and cut it into a bob cut because I also, realized I would wear a bun all of the time. I started to care more about my appearance.
I was showing that I was ready for this and so was my appearance.
People and executives were talking to me more and even people that never had conversations with me were talking to me. It worked. A year later I got my promotion. That was the extra boost I needed to get me where I am.
- What one piece of advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
Jazz- Baby girl relax. This chubbiness is about to fade away and you are about to be so fly. Not to worry that much. Don’t worry. Stop worrying. Stop stressing and just know that anything you put your mind to, you can accomplish.
The only person that can stop you is yourself.
Make those goals. Whatever it is, you have the power to be anything that you want and nothing is too much or too little. If you want it you can have it. You can really have it.
Anything you want in this life only has to come with hard work.
So if you are willing to work for it then it is already yours.