From Australia To NYC: Hip-Hop Journalist Simone Jordan’s Memoir Is A Helluva Ride

“Tell Her She’s Dreamin’,” now available in the United States, tells a colorful story about how a young Australian girl in love with Hip-Hop made her dreams a reality.

When Simone Amelia Jordan sat down to write her new memoir, Tell Her She’s Dreamin’, she had an epiphany. Growing up in Australia, the former content director for The Source—once considered Hip-Hop’s “Bible”—always felt uniquely alone during her formative years. But as she went through the writing process, she realized  elements of her story could mirror the experiences of countless other women.

“I always felt that my experiences were so left of center and so individual,” she tells AllHipHop by Zoom. “And then when I sat down to write the book and I covered so much ground, I figured out, ‘Man, I know this is going to touch so many young women and women in so many different ways and make me feel that I’m not alone.’ We’re all more similar than we are different.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Simone Amelia Jordan (@simoneameliajordan)

Bullied at private school and labeled an outlier due to her Lebanese-Cypriot background, Jordan had to swim upstream to make a name for herself. But, as the title of the book suggests, she was able to manifest her dream of not only making the move from Down Under to the Big Apple but also working for a Hip-Hop magazine and interviewing many of her rap heroes.

Along the way, she tapped into her challenging childhood years and used them as fuel. In vibrant detail, Jordan recalled one specific incident in which she was caught shoplifting as a teen. Her mother, needless to say, was furious.

“I know we’re not supposed to say this, but my mother beat the s### out of me after that,” she says with a laugh. “I had gotten a scholarship to a private school, and I saw these all these girls with things my mother couldn’t afford. I didn’t want to ask her for money she didn’t have, so that led to my shoplifting career. That was my basically only criminal activity, and I went down in a blaze of glory.”

In hindsight, she was insulted by the police officers who caught her. She continues, “With the other part of the book, I’m chasing this Lebanese identity culturally because I’m not full Lebanese; I wanted to be more Arab. I wanted to be viewed as a person of color in Hip-Hop. So, when the police arrested me and said, ‘I bet you’re Lebanese,’ I was like, ‘Yes.’ I was so proud. But then looking back, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, that wasn’t a nice thing for them to say.”

Tell Her She’s Dreamin’ is chock full of charming childhood anecdotes and the hard-won lessons Jordan learned throughout her journalism career. But it also digs deep into some of the challenges she faced as a woman in Hip-Hop. She was well aware of the potential not to be taken seriously as a journalist due to her gender.

“I would do everything in my power not to be seen as a flirt when I interviewed rappers on camera,” she remembers. “But I would still get all of these comments on my YouTube videos like, ‘She wants to bang Rick Ross and all this insane stuff. I had to highlight a couple of negative experiences because it’s part of my story. I wanted young female readers to hopefully take that information in and maybe remember it when they need to, but I also wanted to balance that out with the majority of experiences that I’ve had in my career have been overwhelmingly positive.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Simone Amelia Jordan (@simoneameliajordan)

And Jordan knows she’s lucky. From interviewing Rihanna and Aaliyah to Nicki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar, she’s enjoyed a career most only dream of (no pun intended). Making the move to New York City in 2006 afforded her  the kind of opportunities she wished for as a kid.

“I have wanted to be a Hip-Hop journalist since I was a child, which you would have read in the book,” she says. “I knew that I was living in a country where that wasn’t a job—there was no Hip-Hop journalist to speak of in Australia in the city of Sydney. I had to buy The Source and Vibe at 13 years old for $20-something each. That’s how much they were due to shipping. I spent all the money I had, any pocket money I could make, to buy these magazines that I thought were my only connection to this art form that I loved and connected with so much.

“So I always had this innate sense of, ‘This is what I was meant to do,’ and I worked hard.  I was very clear on that goal, even though it was an insane goal to have at the time. But nothing ever felt insane to me. When you’re young, you’re fearless.”

She continues, “As I say in the beginning of the book, my grandmother, who helped raise me with my mother, was a workaholic and worked multiple jobs while raising seven kids on her own. And my mother was a dreamer who didn’t like work so much, but she had these big plans and wanted to join the circus and was more creative. I am the product of both of them. So I had the dreams and then I had the work ethic to make them reality, which I guess is the magic secret recipe.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Simone Amelia Jordan (@simoneameliajordan)

But Jordan’s dream of being content director at The Source was cut drastically short. After one year at the helm, she was forced to vacate her position and move home in 2016. Her Crohn’s disease had flared up and she was in dire need of rest and recovery. Needless to say, she was gutted.

“It was like it was the end of the world,” she says with a sigh. “I had busted my ass for 10 years in New York and for years before that in Australia, and I felt like I had finally gotten a role that had some visibility, where I could flourish and really kind of rise to the occasion. That was ripped away from me because of this illness that had gotten so bad because the hard work I had put in and the stress I put myself under to get to that role.

“From the minute I landed in Australia, I feel like I was depressed for a very long time because I felt like I had this dream robbed. It took me a long time to understand that you have to just get back up again and keep fighting. But I didn’t listen Hip-Hop music for at least two to three years after I left. I just withdrew from music because it was too painful. And as I say in the book, my now-husband would say, ‘Let’s talk about the Joe Budden Podcast or let’s debate about what’s going on,’ and I would get mad. I was in the mix, now I’m just a spectator and it was so painful. That was an extremely tough time.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Simone Amelia Jordan (@simoneameliajordan)

To add insult to injury, the same day Jordan had to quit The Source, she was told she was approved for an O-1 visa that would allow her to stay in the United States for a few more years and then she’d be able to apply for a green card. While the news was devastating, the tradeoff was Jordan met her husband, had a daughter and got to be with her beloved grandmother before she passed away. Now, Jordan does consultancy for non-profit organizations, she’s plotting an essay collection and working on launching The Dream Collective, a networking and mentoring series for diverse women in the arts and entertainment.

She’s still living the dream.

“If you’re a dream chaser, that never leaves you,” she says. “No matter how much you think it does, that’s just this innate hunger for more. There was a period when I first got home where I felt like, ‘This is it for me. I have to hang up my jersey, my career is done.’ But the more that the smoke cleared and I settled down in other parts of my life, it became very clear to me that I’m always going to be a storyteller. I’m always going to be an advocate for the power of Hip-Hop to change lives.”

Her next dream? If the book ever makes it to the big screen, Jordan hopes Ava DuVernay will be behind it. “Vision board, s###!” she says.

Tell Her She’s Dreamin’ is currently available for in the U.S. Find it here (and don’t stop dreamin’).