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…
Well, 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.):
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.):
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.).
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).
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.