We continue our interview with Ladybrille’s Woman of the Month, the very brilliant Jacque Reid.If you missed Part I, click here for it! Interview by Ladybrille’s Niama Sandy.
LADYBRILLE.com: In 2004 you interviewed then-Congressman Barack Obama as he was running for the Senate seat against Alan Keyes. Did you have any inkling that we’d have this moment four years later?
Jacque Reid: At that moment I didn’t think “Wow, he’s going to be the next president of the United States.” It was the day after he gave that speech at the convention that I sat down with him. When you interview politicians who when you sit down with them it’s very natural and in-the moment like Bill Clinton. Some politicians that I’ve interviewed are very measured about what they’re saying. They are trying to stay on message and there is a stiffness to the conversation. Barack Obama is very down-to-earth, very natural, and when you ask him a question you honestly feel like he’s just answering the question.
I interviewed him recently after he clinched the Democratic nomination. The first thing I said was “You said you were going to take your wife out to dinner because you’ve been campaigning so hard. Have you had a chance to do that?” and he said “We got dressed up, we made reservations at a nice restaurant with candles, and that’s all I can say about that!” [Laughs] He answers the question! He doesn’t get back into “Okay, I’m talking to voters.” I saw that in him and I saw that there was something special about him. I didn’t make the connection to him running for president at the time but that’s probably my limitation because I think that was the buzz at that time. He’s very very impressive and I’m very happy for him.
LADYBRILLE.com: Do you see this moment as a “game changer” for blacks in America?
Jacque Reid: I see it as a game changer across the board for African-Americans in two ways: how we see ourselves – I think there’ll be a lift in our confidence as a group, as a body- and I think how the world and specifically other Americans view us. The typical stereotypes about us will have to be buried somewhat. It’s a new game, it’s a new day. When little white, Asian, and even Hispanic boys and girls see us not just as entertainers or sports figures, but they’re growing up with a black man as the president. You know we can go through a history class in school or a science class and things like that, and never if you’re in an every day public school that doesn’t have a predominantly African-American with black teachers and things like that you can study things and never see blacks as role models or even see them in a positive way. I think it’s a game changer in that way for us as a people. Because now you’ve got all races, especially young people growing up, seeing this man in office as a black president, that has to change their perception of black people; you can’t say “he’s not like the rest of them.” He is one of us and it is what it is.
I want to encourage every one especially black people to be conscious of the fact that not only does Barack Obama represent us but we represent him in everything that we do. It’s time to raise the game across the board. No matter what level you’re on or what you’re doing it’s time to raise the game and make him proud so we can alter and significantly uplift the way black people are viewed in this country. He started it [but we have to finish it]. We have to do our part. On Election Night I was out in DC, and it was ridiculous and glorious. One of the first things that occurred to me that life will never ever be the same after today. Yes, this change has come but we also have to change too. I don’t know if people get that yet.
I hope so, I think they will. I think people feel different. I keep hearing these stories. Black people feel different. I felt different. When I left Denver where I was for Election Night, I was going through this mostly white airport and I felt like white people were looking at me differently. They weren’t wondering if I was gonna steal something, or if I was gonna get mad and start shaking my head from side to side and cuss somebody out [laughs].
LADYBRILLE.com: I’ve noticed, and this is going to sound crazy, that white men are looking at black women now. Like really looking now. It’s really interesting.
Jacque Reid: It really is. And I have to speak on the Michelle Obama thing. I was already proud to be a black woman and [I] wanted to change the game with how we were portrayed in the media. Her going into the White House makes it 10 times easier because again it’s not gonna just change the way white people look at us but the way we look at ourselves and the way brothers look at us.
Barack’s selection of Michelle Robinson now Obama as a wife says he had the character and the confidence to say you know what – he could have any body probably to be his wife – he choose a brown-skin, every-day-looking, beautiful black woman – an intelligent black woman. He had the confidence to make that choice. He didn’t say “Well I need someone who looks like this to make people look at me like that,” or “I need this on my arm.” He chose the best partner for his life to help him live the best life and now he’s in the White House. I challenge any one to say that he could have gotten there without her. I challenge them to show me that.
I’m confident about who I am, about how I look and about what I bring to the table. I feel good about me but there are a lot of brown-skinned sisters who don’t, especially little girls who look at music videos and think “I gotta get a weave” and “my skin’s not light enough;” and little boys who wanna be with the Rihannas, and the Beyonces and the J.Los of the world. There’s nothing wrong with those sisters, I love and appreciate them for what they do but what I’m saying is that society hasn’t set us up to define for ourselves what is beautiful and what is not. I hope that brothers can realize that the spectrum is much wider than what they are limiting themselves to – of course I don’t mean all brothers but you know what I’m saying. I’m encouraged with Michelle Obama stepping into the role of first lady and I’m excited about the next eight years
LADYBRILLE.com: So you’ve just re-elected him in your mind! A lot of other people have too! [Laughing] Do you think that with a Black president there should be a conscious effort to have more journalists of color in the White House Press pool?
Jacque reid: Yeah, I do. I definitely do. Like I said I don’t think it should be all black. I think that when it comes to this president that our perspective really matters and it needs to be part of our story. I think that when it comes to things like the way Michelle Obama said that she was proud of her country for the first time or this whole flag pin thing, there are those of us who’re black who get that and think “that’s not really a big deal.”
You just have to wonder if there had been more African-Americans at the decision-making table covering the campaign would those stories have been such a big deal. In my mind, I’m not speaking for Michelle Obama; I don’t know why she said what she said. But I understand it, When she said it I was like “Oh,” I didn’t think anything of it. It reminds me of growing up as the only black girl in my class in elementary school. People focus on peculiar things about you being black but for you and me it’s nothing new. Girls would ask me “I hear you put grease in your hair. Is it Crisco, like cooking grease?” It’s that whole thing. It’s like the Black in America; it was highly criticized because it was like “Being Black 101.” It was things that we as black people already know.
LADYBRILLE.com: Let me stop you there, did you see The Black List on HBO. In comparison to CNN’s Black in America it was outstanding!
Jacque Reid: The Black List was in depth. It was really interesting and significant conversation about being black. It took the conversation somewhere that even as a black person I was like “Wow!” CNN was like “Okay, what’s new?” They just did a very basic look. It was like an introduction to “Being Black 101,” and I think that that’s what happens when we are not at the table. I think the same types of things that can happen with the coverage – it’ll be a story about “Look at Sasha and Malia they have braids! Let’s do a story about braids, a story about the history of cornrows!” I definitely think there need to be more journalists of color in the White House press pool.
LADYBRILLE.com:On your website jacquereid.com you have a phenomenal short video news story up. In “Not in My Lifetime” you touch on the historical impact of the election for older black Americans. The video is incredible! What was it like working on that project, and have you considered making a full-length piece?
Jacque Reid: It was great experience because one of the people I interviewed is my grandmother. So I interviewed people in her apartment building – which reminds me I need to send her the DVD copy before she kills me [laughs]. It was a great experience, it was very moving. Unfortunately it had to be a certain length so there were people who ended up on the cutting room floor, or sound bites that we couldn’t put in there. I wanted to go back on Election Day and see them vote.
I definitely wanted to do more with it but I’m glad that I did that. It was a great experience and it captures how so many people who are black feel about this whole experience. Whether you’re their age or younger, you know what it’s like to be black in America you don’t need CNN to tell you. We live it, we know what it’s like, and so we know the significance of this moment of this Barack Obama time. But to talk to people who actually dealt with racism on that level it was an incredible experience and I’m so glad I was able to do it.
LADYBRILLE.com:Piggybacking off of what you just said about living in the face of blatant discrimination. Do you feel that in your career, your talent has been overlooked because of your race or sex?
Jacque Reid:Overlooked yes absolutely it has. There was a situation at BET with the whole Trent Lott situation. It was unfortunate because it happened at a black network. We were trying to interview John Kerry and George Bush for thirty minute specials on air. The decision was made that Ed Gordon should come back and do the interviews. It was told to me that there was the perception that a man could do a better job at it. That disappointed me. I spoke to management about it and I wanted to let them know my feeling that it was an unfortunate decision. But it wasn’t my network, which is why I do my own thing because I make my own decisions.
LADYBRILLE.com: Why did you start your company Jacque Reid Media? What is the goal/vision for the business?
Jacque Reid: Because I realized that I could work for myself and control the way that I was connecting and communicating with people. That I could decide what I would say, how I could say it. That it would be up to me to say yes to a job or no to a job and keep working. I could do things on camera, or behind the scenes, that I could do a variety of things and be in control. That was the thing. I had worked for so many years with other people making decisions about my career that disappointed me.
From news executives, to agents, to producers, everyone was controlling what I was doing. “This needs to be shorter!” “This needs to be longer!” “You don’t need to ask this question!” “You need to do this story.” I got to the point where I said “enough,” and opportunities presented themselves for me to be involved with some projects and I said “You know what I like making decisions, I can do this!” And so I just jumped off and did it!
It is to create and provide positive, uplifting, inspirational, encouraging content. It is to raise the quality level of what is in the media. That’s it in a nutshell. I get sick and tired of how we’re [African Americans] covered in all media forms. The way that we’re interviews, the way we’re presented, the way we’re portrayed in movies, on radio, on television and those are all industries that I’m trying to get my foot in. I want to raise the level of how we’re portrayed.
LADYBRILLE.com: What has been your proudest moment in your career so far?
Jacque Reid: Launching my website.
LADYBRILLE.com: I thought you’d say that.
Jacque Reid: [She laughs]Jacquereid.com is a news magazine and I just felt like there were so many stories – like the “Not in My Lifetime” story, and the whole “Man Talk” page is about black women and those of us who are single. There’s a page dedicated to charities in a really unique way, there will be user-generated content. It’s my baby; it’s something that I’ve been trying to do for about two years now. I finally reached a place where I had room to do it. God made changes in my life where I had room to do it and I did it and I love it. It’s just getting started but it’s my baby and I plan to make it a big success on my terms.
LADYBRILLE.com: You’ve also ventured into radio through The Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner Morning Shows. There was a bit of controversy in 2006 over your seemingly sudden exit from The Steve Harvey Morning Show. Do you care to comment on that?
Jacque Reid: No Comment.
LADYBRILLE.com: That’s fine. Let’s talk about your other forays into radio.
Jacque Reid: Two years on Tom Joyner. I also do a segment on Al Sharpton’s nationally syndicated show “Keeping it Real.” I’m a frequent quest on the Michael Baisden show, and the Warren Ballentine show. I do a segment for Tom Joyner two days a week on Tuesday and Friday, I’m on Sharpton every Friday, and whenever they call on me I’m on Michael Baisden or Warren Ballentine to talk about issues or whatever they need me for. Radio is a different animal but I enjoy it a lot.
LADYBRILLE.com: I’ve read a lot about your community service efforts. What are some of your favorite charities and why do you feel that it’s beholden to you to give back so actively?
Jacque Reid: I think it’s important for all of us to try to find the time to consider other people that are not as fortunate as we are. Even in this country when you think about poverty it’s nothing in comparison to the poverty in the world. I was in Sudan last year and the poverty there took my breath away. I think it’s important to do your part even if it’s just talking about it. It’s a way to make people think about it. I believe that we are on this planet to help each other. I think there is a basic level of kindness that we should have. That’s always been my personality, to be kind and help people in every way that I can.
I am a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and that was one of the main reasons I decided to pledge. I did the graduate chapter, I’m not trying to go be in a step show [she laughs], I’m trying to make my life better and make the world better and that’s what Delta Sigma Theta is all about. It’s all about making the world a better place. By signing up and having access to participate in the initiatives that we organize locally, nationally, and internationally it makes me proud to be a member of my sorority. I’m a board member of Life Camp with Erica Ford here in New York. The group works with teenagers in Brooklyn, NY. . .It’s about teaching young people who see themselves as disadvantaged that there’s always some way you can give back to someone else.