Talking It Up with J'na Jefferson #AndFriends
J’na Jefferson may work by day writing about major names in music and entertainment, but she’s got a big personality in her own right. Since last fall, she’s been the host of her own podcast called #AndFriends with J’na Jefferson, using her platform to give a voice to those who aren’t usually invited to speak about pop culture, politics, and everything else that matters to millennials. We sat down with her to chat about her work and, of course, her style.
AD: Why don’t we start with your name, age, and where you live.
JJ: My name is J’na Jefferson, I’m 24 years old, and I divide my time between Central Jersey – because it’s a thing! – and Brooklyn, Crown Heights.
AD: So first I just want to ask about your day job. You work as a journalist, can you tell me about that?
JJ: I am a staff writer at vibe.com, Vibe Magazine, and I also have a couple bylines at other music publications: Billboard, Paper Magazine, Playboy is a recent one, XXL, and I used to intern at CollegeHumor. And it’s fun! I get to talk to musicians and actors, and write. It’s so much fun for me, I love it so much.
AD: What’s your favorite kind of beat to write about?
JJ: I just like entertainment, entertainment news. Not so much “what are they wearing,” more the actual meaty stuff. I like talking about movies, television, music – cultural critique is more up my alley.
AD: Do you have any funny or crazy stories about your life reporting entertainment?
JJ: Oh yeah. At the VMAs in 2016, Chance the Rapper said I had a good handshake. He smells really good, if anyone’s wondering.
I went to this event for Nile Rogers from Chic – like, “freak out!” – my mom’s high school boyfriend, who is really close to the family, was actually the drummer in Chic. So I was thinking, I know that guy, I know that guy…so after the show I went backstage and said, “I don’t know if you know me, but…” and he said, “Oh, I do, you look just like your mother – get in here for a hug.” So I talked to him, met Nile Rogers, so that was really cool.
AD: I had to ask, people who work in entertainment always have funny stories like that. But now we can move on to talking about your podcast.
JJ: I have a podcast called #AndFriends Podcast, I’ve been doing it for about 9 months now. I think September 2017 was when we started it. At first I really just wanted to help out Indie Creative Network with editing and working with software, and all that stuff. Then I got to talking to the owner and founder of the company, Wize Grazette, and he was just like, “you have a great personality, why don’t you just have a show instead?” And I was like, “okay, well…I have an idea.”
One of the priorities and main focuses of the show is to get millennials to talk about things that society or ageism won’t let them – like, “you’re too young, you don’t know about that.” We actually do, maybe if you gave us a chance, you would understand that we actually do know what we’re talking about.
I also really enjoy just being able to shoot the breeze. I really like talking. Like, a lot. I’ve been talking since I was 16 months old. I just talk so much.
We talk about a lot of really real things. We’ve talked about race, gender, equality, feminism. So we’re actually talking about things that matter. I really like how much the podcast has grown, I enjoy talking to my guests. Everyone has brought something completely different to each episode. And I’m having a lot of fun! It’s given me a lot of opportunities to meet people and network.
AD: So who are some of the guests you’ve had on the show?
JJ: We’ve had journalists, I had one of my coworkers at Vibe, Shenequa Golding. I had an episode about Pride recently, because it was June, I had one of my friends who is part of the LGBTQ community. I had a rapper who’s worked with Childish Gambino, her name is Kari Faux. I’ve had the owner and founder, Wize Grazette, we’ve talked about ICN and the origins and the development of it. It’s really cool to meet other creatives and discuss all sorts of things in our realm.
AD: Do you have any big hopes for the future of #AndFriends?
JJ: It would be really cool to get a bigger following, and one day be able to talk on someone else’s panel about something stemming from the show. I spoke on a smaller panel in April, thanks to the show, which was really cool, but I want to expand and reach as many people as possible. I want to be a voice and a figure to people who usually don’t get to do this kind of stuff.
AD: What advice would you give your 18-year-old-self?
JJ: Oh my goodness! When I was 18 I was a freshman in college. I was so lost. I hated school that year. I don’t think I made the right friends, I was just in my own head and I did not go with the flow. I would tell my 18-year-old self that change is good, change is necessary, and it’s ok to break out of your shell. It’s so much easier to do things when you live without fear, and I was so, so afraid to branch out. I was so full of insecurities about being judged for what I wanted to do, what I wanted to wear. So I would just tell myself to live without fear. It’s so much more fun that way! It’s so much easier to live life when you live it your way.
AD: Moving on to fashion. If you had to describe your look in one word, what would it be?
JJ: If I had to describe my fashion in one word, I’d probably say…whatever. You know how people are like, “I’m boho,” or “I’m grunge,” or baggy or hip-hop or whatever? I just wear whatever’s comfortable to me, and whatever I know looks good on me. One day I’ll be wearing army pants, and another day I’ll wear skinny jeans with high heels. “Whatever” is totally the word for it.
AD: What do you like about vintage?
JJ: I think vintage looks good on anybody. There are so many different types of vintage – my favorite is 90s vintage because I like the brightness and the sort of baggy feel – and someone might like 70s vintage, with the flow dresses and the…puffy sleeves? Is that 70s vintage? [laughs] I don’t know, it’s not my style. But it’s someone else’s! Everything that’s old is new again in fashion. If you wear it before it’s cool, you’re ahead of the trend. I always say, trend is late. So if you were wearing it before, you’ve been cool.
AD: What’s your favorite vintage find?
JJ: Oh my god. A big denim jacket. There are more pictures of me in that jacket on Instagram than with men. It’s basically my relationship. Oversized denim jackets make an outfit look so good – dressed up, but a little rugged.
AD: Do you have a favorite Ver Co piece?
JJ: The Kylie jeans with the cutouts in the booty! I love them so much.
AD: What is the worst trend you’ve ever participated in?
JJ: Those ugly chunky belts. You know when you wore a baggy shirt and put a big chunky belt over it? That was maybe 2010. And I’d wear it with a little skirt. It was so gross. So ridiculous. Oh, and bucket hats.
Ariana DiValentino is Head of Social at Ver Co.