SPEAKING WITH JEN BKLYN
Along with her good sense of humor, Jen is cool. Like down to earth, radiating positive vibes with a side of no bullshit kind of cool. I first caught wind of Jen BKLYN by way of the magical internet waves, where I came across her web series, Ladies First, on Hot 97's website. I thought it was rad that she was featuring up and coming female talent on such a male heavy hip-hop platform. Being an interviewee is something she is only recently getting use to but it's clear that her ability to make strangers feel at home even when out of her element comes natural to her. She began her journey into music and entertainment 6 years ago as an intern for Bad Boy Records, where she decided to make the most of her first hand experience in the fast pace industry and began to build a foundation of her own in the radio world. Jen is now Hot 97's Editor In Chief, a digital TV Host, Radio personality and the creator of We Love Ladies First, her new website (launching this February) for all things women. She manages to wear many hats and as far as her list of growing responsibilities goes, she remains dedicated to her passion in the midst of all the chaos. She is enthusiastic about motivating others to go after their goals and is willing to share her knowledge of the industry with her peers because she genuinely cares about culture and what she is contributing to it. Get to know JEN BKLYN.
I want people to see me as their home girl that made it. I’m witty (at least I feel like it), I’m caring, I’m hard working, hungry and I like to listen. With my interviews, I sit down to have real conversations because I'm here to get to know these people beyond the surface level.
I grew up in Brooklyn, born and raised right by Church Avenue. I only lived there until I was fourteen, but that was a big chunk of my childhood and a lot of that played a role in the person I became. Being one of the only Asian family's in the neighborhood I had to walk around strong and resilient because people would pick on me, so as far as the way I handle things now, I come across a little strong and that’s the reason why.
I've always had a love for entertainment, anytime my dad had the camera on, I'd jump in and say corny jokes or try to perform. I always knew I wanted to be in the world of entertainment. Plus I come from a very musical family. I'm Vietnamese, we have a lot of singers and performers on my father’s side, he plays the guitar so music has always been in my life. As far as hip hop, growing up in a neighborhood like I did, we all just gravitated to hip hop as well as reggae, and Spanish music. But my range is all over the place now, I love everything from One Direction, Beyonce, Jay Z, J. Cole to Taylor Swift and Skrillex. I come from a traditional Asian family, with the exception we lived in a bad neighborhood, it wasn’t World War 2 everyday but it wasn’t white picket fences either. Fortunately my mom got my sisters and I out of there before it really affected me.
At Hot 97 I'm surrounded by all these creative folks everyday. Being in that type of environment, it's just in me to want to do something more with myself. That’s why I always make sure I surround myself with creative people because it's so important to me, it inspires and motivates me to do whatever I dream. Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg are the ones that put me on, period, I wouldn't be here without them. They are responsible for branding me as "Jen from Brooklyn," they're the ones that gave me that name and it just grew from there. I felt like I wanted to rep Brooklyn but also represent myself. Everyone from Brooklyn isn’t this hard body, thugged out gangster. It’s so diverse in this borough, I think I’m a reflection of that. On top of that, there’s not a lot of Asian personalities in the entertainment world. I feel like I had/have something new to bring to the table and I want people to see it. I can relate to people, I want them to see my story as, “Hey that’s our girl Jen, she made it, that means I can do it to. “ I came from Brooklyn and now I’m doing what I love or at least trying to get to it, I want that to inspire people. I’m big on inspiring and motivating others, I want to be that example that you can do whatever you want whatever your dream is and fulfill it. Especially coming from a family that didn't really understand what I wanted to do, feeling a bit discouraged, but I didn't give up. That’s what made me want to branch out honestly, I had the support from my peers that I needed and that’s very important when you’re trying to make it.
SOCIAL MEDIA DIRECTOR
When I first got the position two years ago our numbers weren't where they needed to be. I had to figure out how I was going to build this brand, this huge platform without messing up the legacy in any way. I didn't go to school for social media marketing, I didn't even know anything about it at first (laughs). If you follow Hot 97 on social media, anything that's posted, down to the verbiage is me. Surprised? (laughs) People are sometimes taken back that it’s me but I guess that’s a good thing? I hope so…. I feel like in a lot of ways, I am the voice of the brand on social media. So anyway, if you see all those jokes, random shit talking that's the way I do it. I didn't look at analytics, I didn't search for different ways to approach it, I just did me. Whatever I thought was dope I put out, whatever I thought was whack I didn't. I go on feeling more than anything.
Nowadays it’s different. We have weekly meetings where we reviewing numbers and analytics, but because I handle all the platforms by myself, I'm constantly making sure we’re up to speed. With all this experience, I feel like I can handle anything...if someone throws fifteen tasks at me at once, I'll make it all happen. As far as our content goes, I come in to work earlier than I am supposed to because I like to chill out with Ebro In The Morning. I've been with the morning shows for the past 6-7 years so I'm so use to being up early, I come in and make sure that I live tweet the show, I post anything that happened the night prior, which means combing through content and saving anything that I think is dope and people would want to know about. I will get called out by the HOT 97 fans if I'm late on something though, for instance I was on vacation and I posted up the photo of Malia Obama’s selfie (her wearing the Pro Era shirt) and I got killed for it! They were like, "You're mad late!" so it's a 24/7 job.
Before I started at Hot 97 I was an intern at Bad Boy Records and prior to that, believe it or not, I was in a girl group. We were called Evanna and there was a girl from each nationality....yeah well that didn't last. But I was writing a lot back then, I think that’s why it comes so naturally to me now as a blogger because I've been writing since I was a kid. I literally wrote a 400 page story when I was about 11 or 12, on looseleaf paper, front and back. I still have it.
WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY
When I first started at the station there was a lot of "hey want to come hang out" and stuff like that from males but I knew what it is. The guys love to test you when you get into this industry. Listen, I'm not into being the sexy chick and I'm not trying to be the woman that men lust over, that's not me. So I made suure any vibes I gave off were strictly friendship and/or business. I'm all about being recognized for doing what I'm good at, people diggin' it and being respected for that. I am big on respect.
You have to have thick skin in this industry, you have to make sure you let people know what the deal is upfront. Also it's about proving yourself because if you're a woman in this field it's kind of like, well what makes you so special? What makes you unique? As far as women in general, sometimes were looked at as a pretty face and that's about it. You want to be a woman in this industry with a statement and a mission, you want to show people that you're about your shit. You need to be taken seriously or else people are going to walk all over you and think your just another naïve girl. What I've learned is to make sure that people take me seriously and that is the bottom line.
I've learned a lot about myself from being on camera. It's all the technical stuff that you pay attention to, I mean like visually. I make a lot of faces and I need to chill out with that. If anyones trying to do on camera work, do not move and talk with your hands [laughs.] I’m very expressive so I use my hands a lot when I talk. As far as interviews go, it's about listening to people talk. Learning about them, knowing about them, doing your research and paying attention to what they are saying. It's really important to pick people your genuinely interested in and care about, it says a lot. All the women chosen for Ladies First are chosen by me because I personally reached out to them. They didn't go through the label or the radio station, these are people I sought after. However, should you be given an interview to do, do your research on them.
Out of all the social media platforms, Youtube is the worst, because YouTube commenters love to hate by nature. There have been a lot of negative comments regarding race and appearance, but it all comes with the territory and you gotta just brush it off. You can't let it bother you, you've gotta just keep doing what your good at. You have to not care, straight up. I just go to the site look at the views, I don't even look at the comments anymore. As long as the views and numbers are up that means people are checkin' for you.
My advice to people trying to get into Radio is that you have to start interning somewhere, thats your way in. A lot of people think that when they get out of college they are going to get a job right away but it's not that simple. You have to build yourself and make yourself knowledgeable about this world before you even get into it. Some people are lucky, they're born into it, or have a hook up, but for people like me who had no one...I had to start from the bottom and learn. I suggest you find out what it is that you want to do and then make sure you're passionate about it.
My mentors are Cipha Sounds, Peter Rosenberg and Rico who was one of the original producers on the Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg Morning Show. They taught me everything I know. They were hard on me at times, but it made me stronger and thicker skinned. Ebro has always looked out and believed in me, he gave me a ton of opportunities and kept me around. Also Laura Stylez has always lighted the fire under my ass when I needed it and also Jeff Thacker, the Digital Director of Hot 97, he's the reason why I was able to create these videos and put my visions out into the world. He believes in me…and basically without the whole morning show family I wouldn't be where I am now, they taught me a lot.
I thought of Ladies First in the summer time. At Hot97, my desk is literally in between where our main studio is and the TV studio. so i'd sit there and see acts come in all the time and I was like, theres mad dudes here! Where are all the women!? On top of that I follow a ton of amazing women on my social media. And I thought, where is the platform for all these dope, fly females that are doing their thing not only in music but in Entertainment in general. So that's where it all started and the name came when I was brainstorming, trying to figure out who symbolizes the ultimate female empowerment, besides Beyonce? I was like, Queen Latifah! The song ladies first embodies the whole idea, even though it's such a generic term, once you’re able to see what Ladies First is you'll see that it's a statement. This year I'm building it into something bigger, we're going to launch a new website this February. It's called WeLoveLadiesFirst.com and it's a website for all things women. We're not just hip-hop, it's going to be everything. The difference is that it's going to be very conversational and informative but you’re going to feel like the women who are talking to you are your friends. This Ladies First movement will be all about positivity, inspiring and motivating. I have a great group of woman working with me, there's about eight of us total, and we're all “first” at what we do.... you guys will meet them really soon.