A couple of days before Los Angeles went into lockdown last year, I was sitting at a coffee shop with Issa Rae. We were catching up for a cover story I was writing on her for Teen Vogue. Interviewing and writing about culture is pretty much the only thing I've ever really wanted to do. Growing up, my appetite for pop culture became an obsession the very moment I got my hands on Right On! magazine and saw TLC splashed across the cover. I’ve been lucky enough to spend nearly half of my life in my dream job. But sitting with Issa, as the reality of a global pandemic seeped further into our daily existence, an uncertainty I hadn't felt before took ahold of me.
For the first time, it felt as if my career was actually hanging in the balance. I had willed a career out of writing about popular culture and survived in an industry that always felt like it was in its last days before quitting my first big boy job a few months before the pandemic. For months I was filled with anxiety, thinking I had absolutely fucked up by walking away from the "security" of a full-time journalism gig. Many of you first read my voice in the Los Angeles Times. It was the first full-time journalism gig I had, a place where I had spent ten exhilarating (and exhausting) years bringing every dream I had as a young queer kid growing up in Cincinnati into fruition—and going further than I could have ever imagined. I mean, I’ve gotten to dance my ass off onstage with Britney Spears, hang out with Mariah Carey at two of her homes, cover all the award shows I grew up hoping for the chance to see IRL, and write features on everything and everyone I ever wanted to write about. Walking away from that was hard, but I was completely burnt out and frustrated and ready to move on to other projects that interested me.
Although journalism has always been a rollercoaster of an industry to navigate, the threat of a mysterious virus killing me came in second to the existential crisis happening in my head over the thought of the nascent freelance career I had mapped out for myself being over before it ever really began. I’m grateful that ended up not being the case, and even more grateful to have had the space and time to truly focus on my book, Didn’t We Have It All: In Defense of Whitney Houston (shameless plug, but get used to it because I’m thrilled to have actually finished it).
When Facebook approached me about launching a newsletter under its new platform, Bulletin, I was equally intrigued. The idea of writing about my interests and building a community felt exciting to me, as did the thought of directly connecting with those of you who enjoy my work. But as a writer who has survived layoffs and buyouts and the mental anguish of an irreparably fractured industry, the opportunity to create and own something on my terms moved me. And so Coda was born.
I like to think of Coda as a journal of notes and observations on popular culture, which is to say there will be a mix of essays, interviews, and miscellanea landing in your inbox on a weekly basis. If you’ve followed any of my work or my (occasional) rants on Twitter over the past decade, you know I’m just as curious about the impact of pop culture on our existence in the present, past, and future as I am about the people and ideas that shape and define how we see the world. And I’m thrilled to be able to explore all of that and whatever the hell else I find compelling as I continue to pursue my interests and passions.
An element of Coda will always be free, however, a portion of the content will go behind a paywall in the future. I know, I know. The word paywall makes some of you cringe, but I’d rather save my soapbox for something more provocative than explaining why journalists deserve to be paid for their intellectual labor. For now, I do hope you’ll subscribe and follow along.