#AHHPowerfulWomen: Sonya Magett, From Brooklyn To Bigger Things
(AllHipHop Features) As digital content editor, Sonya has provided daily fashion, entertainment and lifestyle content online for Huffington Post Blackvoices, Tyra Banks’ Tyra.com, Russell Simmons’ Globalgrind, Viacom’s BET.com. Additionally, she has been featured and quoted in The New York Times, Marie Claire, ABC, Fox 5 news, BET, NY1 News and more. As a public speaker she has sat on many panels around the country including Columbia University, New York University, Pratt Institute, City College and more. After a run in fashion and entertainment media, Magett is now running a burgeoning nonprofit. Welcome to her next act.
AllHipHop: How did you survive being so deep in the game? From Hip-hop fashion to tech?
Sonya Magett: Being a futurist yet always humble. It is important for relationships. And quietly being a creative nerd that is extremely open-minded to embracing and adapting to change. I’m confident about storytelling on any platform because of my keen instincts and ability to spot what’s next culturally and with business trends. Sensing and demonstrating what will be hot before it becomes mainstream on everyone’s radar makes you valuable. Essentially what I’ve have always been doing consistently is storytelling but on different platforms- from print, to video, film, photography, a book and now technology. Honestly, I never thought about writing or journalism. I was blessed to have amazing editors, mentors and creative friends who said I was a storyteller who thought and approached shoots like a writer. The editors pushed me to write first the credits, titles, the heds, deks and eventually celebrity and fashion interviews and features. I learned from the copy editors and their AP Style guides. So the career progression as a storyteller went from fashion styling to journalism to now technology.
AllHipHop: Talk about what you are doing these days? What do your duties entail?
Sonya Magett: I am a social scientist, I bridge the worlds of content and commerce through technology. As a content creator and social media manager for a company owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, my day-to-day includes daily meetings to learn the business’ needs for monthly goals, publishing the company’s brand blog articles daily, creating and posting social media content; campaign ideation and creation with a Marketing team. Deep dive into analytics because that is where the “story” is to learn the best digital strategies. Since I joined the company several months ago, I’ve launched a new YouTube channel, a podcast and currently working hard on the creation of several other types of digital assets to leverage for top-of-the-funnel marketing (brand awareness). I am also working on the re-branding of one of Sean “P.Diddy” Combs’ brands. Talk about full circle after having worked with him when I first styled Notorious B.I.G. eons ago.
AllHipHop: Tell us about your non-profit.
Sonya Magett: Code & Content Academy is a tech education nonprofit organization I co-founded with my partner Myorr Janha. We provide introductory computer science programming to groups that are underrepresented in tech, especially girls and minorities. The goal is to inspire youth to consider pursuing higher education in computer programming or digital content to increase diversity in tech, which is a major talent pipeline problem. We tell the kids that even if they are not interested in a career in tech, being technically proficient is essential no matter your career path. Whether it’s for branding, or for an entry-level career skill set in your industry of choice. It’s just necessary. We emphasize that they are not just learning to code but coding to learn. Less than 10% of U.S. schools offer computer science nationally, 1 in 4 schools surveyed by Google offer tech and in New York where there are over 30,000 computing jobs but only 4,000 college kids got degrees in computer science. Less than 2,000 high school kids took a computer science exam and less than 200 are black! Preparing them for a future with Artificial Intelligence including machine learning; many products already does not require programming. Even with bit coin and other forms of digital currency because paper money will be extinct. Self-service checkouts in stores, train stations, airports and more is a huge indicator that service jobs are slowly eliminating. It has proven to help break the poverty cycle for those who comes from a disadvantaged background. This also helps combat the systemic school-to-prison pipeline. Trust me, our program and others like it are sorely needed. Overall, we aim to help erase tech education debt in under served communities.
AllHipHop: What difficulties have you encountered as a female in the Hip-hop game? Is it different than this present day?
Sonya Magett: I would say the biggest difficulty was getting the fashion companies to take not just me but hip-hop culture seriously. I aggressively pursued the brands that kids were wearing on the street because I thought our readers should see the brands they love on people that looked just like them in print. Often times the fashion companies had no idea how popular they were on a street level. The clothing companies saw how real it was when we would list the brands’ phone numbers in the magazines and our readers would call. That’s how the magazine started getting fashion advertising.
In hip-hop it was challenging dealing with celebrities — they always try to take advantage of their fame on every level. I don’t deal with them nearly as much now but in the last few year it was challenging trying to raise capital to start my own company. The stats for Black women founders to get venture capital in the last 2-3 years is still less than 1%. I have been taken more a bit seriously now that I work in the tech space because I can prove that my digital strategies yields results and leads to conversion. My says to clients, “ooh she has a brain”.
AllHipHop: What advice do you have to offer people that want to be where you are or aspire to make it in the business?
Sonya Magett: Stay humble! It is all about relationships and word-of-mouth whether you are starting your own company or looking for a job. And it is imperative that you can communicate effectively that you are not only on the pulse of what’s hot but that you are a big picture thinker who can deliver results that meets a company’s bottom line, no matter how large or small a business is. It is all about data, so always be prepared to prove there is opportunity for whatever it is you are trying to do, for yourself or a company. Even if it is innovative and has never been done before, PROVE it. Very few people take risks in investing in you if you cant prove WHY they should.
AllHipHop: Final words?
Sonya Magett: Be patient, your time will come. Hustle beats talent when talent don’t hustle is real. If you are not driven, you do not put in the work then do not be surprised when it happens for others. You can’t cheat the grind.