Building a brand based on trending topics and news can be tough, but Janee Bolden (Bossip), Stephanie “Eleven8” Ogbogu (BallerAlert), Talia Oliver (The Shade Room) and Rea Davis (AllHipHop) are living proof that being yourself while doing what you love can turn your life into a success story.
Boss women in media are hard to come by. Elite roles are predominantly given to males, at times overlooking and overshadowing capable women.These individuals have proved they can hang with the big boys through persistence and by staying on top of their game.
Staying abreast of what’s trending, while competing with other publications reporting the same thing can be hard, but what makes these women stand out and have their audience coming back for more is their perseverance and originality. This is part one of our four-part series.
Meet Janee Bolden, managing editor at Bossip.com
How did you arrive at this career choice? Was it a deliberate decision or a gradual and natural evolution?
It was a little bit of both. I always wanted to be a writer, but initially wanted to write poetry or fiction. I majored in English at NYU (minored in Africana studies) and then got an MFA in fiction at NYU’s creative writing program. I worked full time during the day at NYU’s School of Business to get tuition remission but the job was pretty cushy so I stayed a few years past graduation. I would publish small pieces here and there but eventually, I left in 2005 to pursue writing full time. I started out writing for a site called dopemag.com and then got a job at SOHH.com as a news writer. That lead to me getting a column at SOHH called Player Watch. Eventually, I did their SOHH Soulful blog and also a column called Hot Press. As my byline grew I caught the attention of Anslem Samuel at XXL and Ryan Ford at The Source and I began writing regularly for both magazines by 2006. When the recession hit in 2008 freelance budgets dropped tremendously and a friend referred me to BOSSIP where there was a full-time opening. I wasn’t sure about writing gossip at first but my best friend Angela Yee encouraged me to do it and I hit it off really well with BOSSIP’s CEO, Marve Frazier. It worked out really well.
What separates you from others in your field? What is unique to the experience that you create?
I definitely try to look for different ways to approach stories and I also have a really great network. I have lived a lot of places (NYC, Los Angeles, Detroit, Iowa City, Boston, Atlanta) so I have a unique perspective and I also know a lot of great people in different fields so I’m always getting pitched different kinds of stories. Knowing people comes in handy because often even when another outlet breaks a story I can hit up one of my contacts and get some fresh details.
For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
Attention to detail is key. Definitely be meticulous about your grammar and vocabulary. Do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to look up things that you don’t know. Be consistent, meet your deadlines, always do your best.
Do you think that there are any widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
Mainly the gossip aspect of working for BOSSIP. People always say “I have to watch what I say around you.” The funny thing is I keep way more secrets than I tell. I value my relationships above any gossip, but most of the celebrities I know understand that if something they do gets out there it’s my job to report it. At least if they know me they’re able to tell me their side of things so I can correct stories that aren’t true.
Also my staff and I are not malicious, we love humor and more than anything we’re trying to make people laugh and have conversations. You can’t worry about what other people think about you — especially those who don’t know you. As long as the people I know and love think highly of me I am good. I am all about good vibes, good energy and most people can sense that right away when I come around. I’d like to believe that’s why I get such good interviews because I make people want to open up.
How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
I write down my goals. I have always kept journals and planners and I like to map out short and long term goals and come back and track my progress. When it comes to work I have set quantitative goals. I measure my goals a lot of different ways — am I happy? Have I grown? Am I mastering new skill sets? Have I helped others learn new things? Those are measures of success for me. Buying my first home was a huge goal that I accomplished last year. Every time I get my passport stamped, that feels great. When I write a story or make a video or do an interview that gets good views, that’s success to me, but when my team hits their goals that’s also success to me. The other thing I try to do is really celebrate every small goal. Life is too short. You have to take the time to stop and enjoy each meaningful moment.
Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see/use as examples for you to emulate?
My peers are some of my closest friends Angela Yee, Karen Civil, Tahira Wright, Julia Beverly, Rondell Conway, Brian “B-Dot” Miller, Paris Kirk, Jennifer Goicochea (ASCAP), Fadia Kader — some of them are in media, others are in music or influencer spaces. I’m a big believer in not comparing myself to others. We all have our own timelines, so I’m definitely not trying to emulate anyone. People who I admire include Tristan Walker (Walker & Co/Bevel), Angela Rye, Donald Glover, Issa Rae, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Junot Diaz, Tracee Ellis Ross, Roy Choi.
What keeps you inspired?
Art, music, film, literature, youth. Travel, I love going to different places and visiting with friends I don’t see all the time. I keep young folks around because I remember being younger and wishing for guidance at times. I definitely am close with my cousin, who is a sophomore in college, and have great relationships with my assistant and my social media team who are in their early to mid-20s.
Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it.
Angela Yee — she doesn’t like it when I call her a mentor or role model because she considers us peers, but I have learned so much from her when it comes to managing relationships and just keeping a positive attitude. Also, she is very motivating — watching her success story has been an inspiration to me.
Donald Glover is another role model, I just met him recently and he was so grounded and down-to-earth. I love the realness. Also, he has an amazing sense of humor, I love to laugh and I love that he’s had success in making art out of real life situations. After seeing the first couple episodes of “Atlanta” I’m becoming more inspired to do different kinds of writing and I love that he’s had success in multiple fields, as an actor, musician, producer and writer. I definitely don’t want to be confined to one genre. I want to do it all as well.