When Worlds Collide, III

Well, the cat’s out of the bag. Since Tuesday, in fact. What am I talking about? I’m going to get so beaten up in the playground for this…

casino royaleWell, I did a post a while ago about a trip I did to New York to take part in a day long shoot for a magazine, all dressed up in my tuxedo on a “Casino Royale” themed set. You can read about it in full here. What was the point? Reaching out. More science in the public domain, and on the lips of the regular person on the street. The usual things you know (from my writing here and elsewhere) that I’m passionate about. The readership of the magazine in question is not commonly exposed to images of scientists. The world of science and practicing scientists hardly intersects with the world of R&B, hip-hop, sports, fashion, the primary foci of this magazine and many others. I see no reason why not, but those who work in the media that control most of the images we see think otherwise.

Except for some creative people at King magazine. King magazine is a men’s magazine aimed primarily at young African Americans. (See a Wikipedia summary here, and the magazine website here. Warning! This is a men’s magazine aimed at a very specific demographic/readership, and while it does not warrant being on those shelves in the store that are behind the black glass, it is decorated from cover to interior in a manner that is… shall we say “somewhat differently” from the magazines I usually point to, such as SEED, National Geographic, or Scientific American! Ok?)

Every year, King magazine does a feature shoot of a group of people making interesting noises in their respective fields, people that you’ve either heard from (if you’re into those fields, and sometimes even not) or that they expect you’ll hear from soon. It’s all glossy and fun and so forth, and they decided (to my lasting surprise) to call me and ask if I’d take part. Hence the New York trip. The magazine is out on the stands now (June edition), and you can go and look at it.

I took the liberty of making some scans of the pictures for you (I hope the magazine’s staff don’t mind!), since I’d teased you so much in the last post with some of the shots I took, but could not reveal details about who was in the group, etc. There’s more in the actual magazine, such as quotes from the subjects about their work, life, etc.

So here goes:

First off, we have Nick Cannon (actor, comedian, rapper, producer, etc) and Mychael Knight (much sought after fashion designer, well known for his appearances on Project Runway, etc. Uh, I spent a lot of time talking with him while trying to avoid thinking about the 80’s TV show with the car, only to find that on his website he has the music from the show playing… Go look at the clothes and so forth – there’s some really nice work actually – but beware… the music might drive you nuts after a while.):

king shoot

Next, we have Bryan Michael-Cox (song-writer, record producer for people like Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Mary J Blige), Mychael Knight again, Jamie Hector (actor, very well known now from HBO’s The Wire), and Jason “Jay” Williams (basketball player formerly of the Bulls, top American pick in the 2002 NBA draft… really interesting guy to talk to. He had to stop playing because of a terrible motorcycle accident, but is now back on the scene… he now part owns an excellent (I hear) restaurant in New York, and is planning to study Law and is COO of a sports agency.):

king shoot

Next we have Katt Williams (comedian, rapper, actor) and Lloyd (singer).

king shoot

Then we have two shoe designers (apparently everyone in the R&B and hip-hop world will be wearing their shoes soon, if they are not already) from the Long Beach (soon to be LA) based company Cr8tive Recreation, Robert Nand and Rich Confinco. There’s, uh, me throwing dice at the craps table, and there’s Russell “Block” Spencer (CEO of Block Enterprises, Manager, star maker, and apparently a right hand man of Sean “Diddy” Combs, and formerly of Tupac. See e.g. here.).

king shoot

king shoot There’s a little inset shot of me on the page (click right for larger). I was at the roulette table with a frustrating glass of martini. Frustrating since I think they’d (wisely) hugely watered down all the drinks being served. Wisely because it was the middle of the day, the shoot was long, and it just would not do to have us looking anything but fresh for our photos now, would it? The woman next to me is the model (I’ve forgotten her name) that works with Mychael Knight a lot to promote a lot of his products. See her work on his site. We chatted for quite a while about their projects, and their hopes for where the whole enterprise might go. They were very excited about the new range of diamond jewelry that you can see her wearing.

Finally, we have Polow da Don (music producer for a huge number of people again, such as Ludacris, Jamie Foxx, Gwen Stefani, Ciara, Mya…known for his focus on bringing to wider attention rap artists from the South), Russell “Block” Spencer again, and Rich Boy (rapper).

king shoot   king shoot

Er, there’s one scary thing overall (no, not the thought of this magazine appearing on the Provost’s or President’s desk! – they’d see the greater good in this…): At the end of the spread, they do a “Where are they now?” piece and rank the people from the previous year according to how well they’ve done (using goodness knows what metric). You can (from top to bottom) be a King, a Bishop, and Knight, a Rook, or a Pawn, interestingly. I can’t imagine how they are going to assess things for me – will they use scientist/academic criteria, or showbiz criteria? This will be interesting to watch! I’d better get me an agent….

Well, overall that was fun, and maybe valuable. Certainly one of the more unusual outreach projects I’ve undertaken! Goodness knows what the readership will think with this obviously out-of-place “scientist guy” in the middle of the pack. Perhaps this sort of creating mixing in the photo shoot will speed along the coming of the days when it will not be odd for me (both as scientist and as black scientist) to be included in a list of people doing interesting things in their careers.

Kudos to the staff and King magazine for taking the road less travelled.


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13 Responses to When Worlds Collide, III

  1. Bee says:

    Oh wow! This is cool, I was beginning to suspect this was a men in black meeting, and they brainwashed you afterwards so you wouldn’t tell anybody 🙂

    I really like the photos, they know what they are doing. There are so many magazines out there who are just cheep. The small insets are really interesting, I like that.

    You are not out of place at all! Think of the arbitrary plot of every good story: there has to be a mix of different people, otherwise it’s just boring. Even more important if they all wear black suits… For a good story, science and scientists are always a part of the mix.

    Have a good weekend,


  2. Mark Srednicki says:

    Great stuff, Clifford! I can’t think of anything else I’ve ever seen that includes scientists as among the cool and fashionable. Important maybe, but never cool and fashionable …

    And it looks like you’re throwing the dice with a real pro move there! Remind me not to bet against you!


  3. Nick Halmagyi says:

    mad props Clifford,

    when do we see a spread in King where you take down Weird
    Al Yankovic for the “white and nerdy” debacle. surely this was
    endlessly discussed by you guys in NY

    I think you could use the same tuxedo


  4. TBB says:

    Hi Clifford, I looked at the magazine in the grocery store a little while ago and the spread looked good. Funny, in the index it says, “…and even a scientist.” Even! One wants to make a movie where the slightly nerdy physicist cleans up at the tables and walks away with all the babes (and, boy, did that magazine have them!) 😉

    Seriously though, you all look good, and I do like Nick Cannon’s scarf and gloves look – reminds me of Gregory Hines in The Cotton Club for some reason.

    Another thing, in your bio it says there are no visible black scientists in the media, but having seen Neil deGrasse-Tyson on The Colbert Show last night (a “threepeat” as Stephen says), he is at least one very recognizable astrophysicist. (I like him and want to raid his office, btw – he has lots of cool objects). Still, there are hardly enough visible black scientists in the media that can serve as role models. Good for you – it doesn’t hurt to make science a little sexy, right?

    Well, you have a year to make King. 🙂

  5. Clifford says:

    TBB: “One wants to make a movie where the slightly nerdy physicist cleans up at the tables and walks away with all the babes (and, boy, did that magazine have them!)”

    Who needs a movie? You don’t think I don’t blog about everything that happens to me, do you? 😉

    Yes, Neil, with his recent work on Nova Science now, has begun to change things a lot. But it i a very short journey from “no” (written by an editor) and “one” or even “few”. The basic point remains the same, as you’ve essentially said.



  6. Clifford says:

    Mark, thanks! I had the throw looking good after only a couple of tries. I had no idea what I was doing, however. I was much more convincing on the roulette and blackjack tables, in terms of my winnings….Beginner’s luck.. Pity it was only plastic chips.

    Nick: Strangely, the topic never came up…. go figure.



  7. Samantha says:

    How about sending them a link to check your citation index over the last year? Or(anonmously) send them your annual activities report? Or your teaching evaluations? Any of those things will have pulses racing at “King” I am sure!

  8. Clifford says:

    Ha Ha! I can hardly stay awake reading my own annual activities report.. I’d never inflict that on anyone. And teaching evaluations are not my favourite way of measuring how well I’m doing (except when they’re good, of course… 😉 )

    No, no… it’ll all be fine… I’ll just carry on fighting the good fight(s) as best as I can and see what difference I can make, incrementally. That’s all one can really control, being serious for a minute.

    On a lighter note, I think I have arranged a shoot or two for a certain TV channel next week. Should be fun, taking part in getting some science out there to the general television-watching public again. I’ll try and blog it.


  9. Samantha says:

    I suppose the real question is, will you put the King shoot in your annual activities report?

  10. Clifford says:

    Absolutely! This is something very worthwhile to do… University admin needs to learn about the various ways we can, as university people, engage with those those beyond our gates…. Blogging, magazine shoots, radio spots, tv spots.. these should all count and be mentioned.


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