In celebration of Black History Month, NYLON is running a spotlight series called Black Girl Power... The Future Is Bright. Every day, phenomenal black women from different industries will be featured to tell their stories—revealing how they became who they are, showing what they have accomplished, and pinpointing how they navigated their careers. Black women deserve to be celebrated 365 days of the year, and we hope that this series will inspire everyone to believe in the power of #blackgirlmagic.
Dodai Stewart has been writing stories since she was four years old. The New York native went from the Bronx High School of Science to studying film, screenwriting, and playwriting at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. From there, she interned at Universal Pictures which eventually led to an editorial assistant position at Entertainment Weekly, and then a full-time staff position at J-14, followed by tons of freelance work online. And as fate would have it, she ended up applying for a "special project" that would turn out to be Jezebel. Stewart worked alongside founder Anna Holmes for seven years, and held the title of Deputy Editor by the end of her cycle.
"It was a lot of work, and I don’t think that people will ever understand or appreciate how much work we did in the beginning, because we were building something that didn’t exist and there weren’t other websites for women," she said. "If there were, they were from lady mags—they weren’t independent. There were blogs that were run by people, but there weren’t independently-owned websites like that, that were commenting on stuff that was being aggressively marketed to women."
Stewart currently works as the Director of Culture Coverage at Fusion, where she continues to cover a variety of her interests from television, music and film to music, fashion, news, and politics. During last month's blizzard, we had the chance to talk Stewart about the stages of her career path, working as a black woman in predominantly white newsrooms, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Get all the details from the interview, below!
I mean, the issue is that it’s very tough to navigate and sometimes you have to take one for the team, and that’s just how it is, and suck it up. I felt like there were times at Jezebel where I was like, 'Ugh. I have to do this because I’m the person that can do this the best, and I don’t want to do it maybe, but I want us to be representing this situation properly and, out of everybody, I’m the one who should be doing it.' I kind of feel a few different things—I feel like it’s actually good for you as a writer to sometimes write the things that you don’t want to write because if you can do that, you can do anything. It’s kind of like, 'eat your vegetables then have your dessert' kind of situation. Sometimes you don’t want to do those things that are good for you or you feel like, 'I shouldn’t have to do this' and it’s like, 'Well sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do.'
I have to say, that if I ever wrote something and I only thought about what the reaction would be, I would never write it. You have to know who your real, true audience is and sometimes it’s yourself. Sometimes it’s your friends, and you’re like, 'I’m doing this for my friends and the people who understand' and the people who don’t understand, it’s not for them anyway. If I wrote everything like I hope people like this, it’s not a good place. I think you have to be true to yourself. I think that’s the most important thing. People can tell in your writing if you’re pandering or making an argument for the sake of making an argument. It doesn’t come through as good, honest writing and so I think the most important thing to do is to start in a good and honest way.