Be My Guest: Heather Faison

Heather Faison's favorite VIBE cover: "This cover came out around the time I rededicated my life to God. The irony of him holding a white dove with the sullied cityline in the background was striking artistically. And the headline is a rhetorical 'no'. You can almost hear the editors chuckling at the thought"

Heather Faison's favorite VIBE cover: "This cover came out around the time I rededicated my life to God. The irony of him holding a white dove with the sullied cityline in the background was striking artistically. And the headline is a rhetorical 'no'. You can almost hear the editors chuckling at the thought"

8:30 this  morning. I’m speeding up the Parkway, on my way to the Apple store to get my computer fixed. My Blackberry pings. I check it, knowing I shouldn’t cause I’m driving.

It’s an email from Heather Faison, a writer and dear reader of this blog. I read the first two lines of what she wrote and I was confused. It was a reflection on the end of Vibe. But she was writing like she worked there. As far as I knew, she hadn’t.

One eye on the parkway. One eye on my Blackberry. Two paragraphs in. I understood.

And I put my Blackberry on the seat of my car and cried.

I feel the loss of Vibe in a certain way. But I did it. I ran through the halls. I wrote a few cover stories. I looked up at the mountain in awe and scaled it.

Too many writers like Heather won’t have the chance to make a literary dream come true.




By Heather Faison

My co-workers lined up in a procession to offer their condolences. I smiled widely and assured them I was okay.

“It’s just a magazine,” I said.

But even as I type this my heart is calling me a liar.

Vibe was more than “just” a magazine.

It was — to summarize Sidney Shaw — the first to talk to me…the first to understand. It was partly why I looked my dad in the eyes and told him I was turning down a scholarship in graphic design to pursue journalism.

I’ve never stepped foot inside the Vibe offices. My job is at a Philadelphia newspaper. I copy edit ink-stained pages.

But everyone in my office knew I loved Vibe. They need look no further than my desk for the latest issue. And the entertainment stories I wrote for our paper earned me the moniker “the hip-hop kid.”

Vibe spoke to the full-rounded hip-hop lover in me who bumped Biggie but appreciated pieces on fashion and political commentary all in one issue. Thought-provoking scribes including Vibe Editor-In-Chief Danyel Smith, Kevin Powell, and culture chronicler Nelson George helped prove that writing about hip-hop and R&B was as much of an art form as a Rolling Stone profile on John Lennon.

Even when my desire to make a profit in design outweighed my passion for writing in the way Jay-Z struggled over rapping like Common Sense or making cents, the hope that I would one day be published in Vibe never wavered.

As when King folded, I’m now left wondering: where’s the bottom for Black-culture magazines?

Johnson Publishing Company of Ebony and Jet is battling contractors’ liens against its South Michigan Avenue headquarters, putting strain on a venerable institution already on the brink.

Black Enterprise editors told freelancers in March that it no longer had the funds to pay for stories. The Source, while financially in the green after falling millions in debt is no longer the scrappy glossy that introduced Biggie Smalls.

Advertising from fashion and automotive industries flat lined, leaving Vibe, which recently marked its 16th anniversary, no choice but to close shop.

I passed the Vibe offices on a recent trip to New York and felt my pulse quicken. The time was near. I’d be there one day.

Then yesterday, I felt like Lebron James being told in his senior year that the NBA went bankrupt.

I studied Vibe writers on this very site — among them Aliya S. King and Serena Kim — their diction, their prose, their styles, with my highlighter in hand. The motivation from this community of writers even gave me the gumption to consider taking an internship at Vibe (mind you, I’m a 25-year-old, employed college grad) leaving my banal yet stable job just to get in the building.

Was I crazy? Hell yeah! But so was Quincy Jones who launched the upmarket publication in the shadow of The Source, which at the time ran the show.

My boys John Kennedy and Michael Arceneaux (former Vibe contributors) talked me off that ledge. NYC is too expensive to play Mary Tyler Moore.

Still, the Keith Faison—my father—in me, who ran off to Harlem when I was a toddler to pursue his dream of being a singer, wishes I’d taken the risk.  But the Mary Jordan–my mother–in me who has never lived outside of North Carolina, assures me that all things happen for a reason.

Right now. I don’t feel like Keith or Mary.

I just feel lost.


Heather A. Faison is a multimedia journalist and award-winning graphic designer.

After graduating from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in 2007, the Raleigh, North Carolina native received the Ford Foundation Black Press Fellowship. Heather is currently a copy editor and regular entertainment contributor at The Philadelphia Tribune, 2008 NNPA newspaper of the year.

Just two weeks ago, Heather was hired as the first official Contributor to Look for her to cover music and entertainment. Her initials are H.A.F. So Aliya has dubbed her ‘Haftime’. She’s not particularly fond of the nickname. But it’s too late. It sticks.



Dear readers: Yesterday, I was so caught up in my own grieving for Vibe that I didn’t think about what it means to scores of writers who dreamed of writing for the magazine.

I have several “dream” magazines that are still on newsstands right now. Will they close down too?

Tell me about your dream publications, online or print. Where do you want to see your byline in the future?

Haftime and I would love to hear from you…

25 Responses to “Be My Guest: Heather Faison”

  1. Dionne Says:

    Once upon a time Vibe was my dream magazine, and it folding kind of feels like somebody dying, or maybe it’s just a part of a dream dying. But I’d love to seem my byline in O, Essence or Latina.

  2. ketchums Says:

    VIBE was my dream publication. I had the opportunity to write for them a few years back, but I couldn’t do it: it was a story in Detroit, and I didn’t have my car to make the hour-plus drive. And I had some school obligations that weekend, anyway. I ended up getting the editor to pass it on to my homie in Detroit, who knocked it out.

    Now, I wish I would have borrowed someone’s car or something. I consistently pitched to them, but I never landed anything. At one point, an editor said she liked all of my ideas, but she said that they didn’t have the budget to get freelancers. I always hoped they’d recover, but no dice :(

    My dream publications at this point include The Source (if I can get paid, or if my other income is steady enough for me to do non-paying work and not feel bad), GQ, and possibly, Giant. And it’d be dope to do some work for MTV, too. Otherwise, I’m blessed enough to have written for everyone I’ve wanted to.

  3. Michael A. Gonzales Says:

    …cool post. Though I thought I wouldn’t care when this day came, I’ll admit the news hit me hard yesterday. Forget the fact I’d just got an assignment the night before (lol), it was a little like watching my old school burn down. In addition to writing a few stories that I’m proud of, I met so many wonderful people during my Vibe years; folks who will be friends forever. Though I sometimes had my own issues with the mag, I will always cherish those great memories, cool assignments and, perhaps most of all, those talented writers and editors I now consider fam.

  4. clove Says:

    this is a great reflection Heather. I also studied hip-hop mags relentlessly

    I wrote a comment about this on your Onward and Upward post. about how young writers are losing a dream publication. It breaks my heart cause it’s sort of a loss of hope. they need to see magazines they can see themselves working at, something that reflects them and I worry that urban is losing out so much more in the print vs. internet war (mixed with the bad economy) than the mainstream magazines. we’re marginalized

    Vibe was my dream publication and I’m soooo glad I got to jump that hurdle and to see my byline in print. I hope it’s resurrected at some point.

    My dream pubs right now are GQ, New York and Wired

  5. Belle Says:

    “he way Jay-Z struggled over rapping like Common Sense or making cents, ”

    Great line.

    I haven’t cried, but heart is broken too. I expanded on my rant from yesterday (with a shout/apology to Aliya) on my site.

  6. Abina Says:

    Vibe Vixen came out my senior year in highschool. Three years later, my sophomore year of college, it folded. Vixen spoke to me! It really was a mag of firsts, and I could really relate to that. When it folded I wasn’t devastated, but it was one of the first “big” magazines in which I aspired to have a byline. However, reading your blog has taught me to move onward and upward. Do whatever I can to do what I love to do: write!

    Thanks Aliya! By the way, two of my favorite copies of VV were the Fantasia issue and the Tracy Ellis Ross issue. When I found your blog, I went back and reread your articles..falling in love with the celebrities and your writing all over again! lol Thanks for that!

  7. Mignon Says:

    I have such mixed emotions over Vibe folding that I really haven’t been able to put them into words. I feel deflated, moved, emotional… but through all of that I’m trying to stay optimistic.

    I just recently wrote a list of publications I wanted to pitch to — my dream magazines if you will. Vibe was at the top of that list. It’s kind of scary to cross it off without being able to say I succeeded. Is my future being taken away from me one magazine at a time?

    I’m smart enough to see the shift that journalism is taking and I embrace that. But, that doesn’t make me ignore the yearning I’ve always had to see my byline on one of their pages. I’m optimistic that those other magazines on my list (Essence, Upscale, Sister 2 Sister, Heart & Soul and Dance Magazines) will give me the opportunity to live a dream. In the meantime, I’ll continue to absorb and hone my craft and keep the dream alive somehow!

  8. Whitney Says:

    Great post Heather (Howard class of 08 stand up!). It’s a huge loss for me too…when I read the Mimi Valdez interview of Beyonce (in like ’03? maybe ’02), it made me want to be a writer like that. When I was in my Vibe-reading heyday, It was the only pub that sought out urban youth, but didn’t dumb down the message. I hope that all of these great blogs and Websites can help to fill the void.

  9. basementelevation Says:

    Great piece Heather. VIBE was the sole reason I became a journalist. I dreamed of working there one day and semi-accomplished that goal when I became an intern last summer. I was lucky; I was asked to come on as a contributor and have been contributing online ever since … well, until yesterday. I got my first official in-book byline in the recent June/July issue. I am more saddened, however, that the wonderful people I know at the office will without jobs. But I think VIBE’s closing poses a challenge to all of us as well: Time to step your game up. Pitch harder. Be relentless. I have never been more excited about writing, and approaching the field, than I am right now. Cream rises to the top. I hope to see you all there.

    Current dream publications: Esquire, Los Angeles, LA Weekly and FADER. Though, I’m always thankful to any publication that runs my work.

  10. Del Says:

    I subscribed to Vibe magazine when I was 12. It was my very first magazine subscription. I saved my allowance for 2 weeks to pay for it. I would read the stories and then pull the pictures out and tape them to my wall.

    A couple of years ago, I got the chance to walk the halls of Vibe and meet Danyel Smith. It was a full circle moment for me. I’m getting closer and closer, I thought.

    Then yesterday, when I heard Vibe folded, I saw my dreams of getting a byline in that joint fade away.


    Thanks for writing a post to represent us newbies who will never get the opportunity to add Vibe magazine to our resumes.

    My dream publications are Entertainment Weekly, Psychology Today, Esquire and well…Vibe.

    Sniff. Sniff.

  11. Michael Says:

    Great piece, albeit side-note: I’ve never contributed to VIBE.

    How cute at giving her a middle she doesn’t like, but since it’s already put out there it shall stick. Ha.

    Like many other young writers of color, VIBE was my dream publication. That dream died years ago, though, and I no longer really have ‘dream’ publications that I long to write for per se.

    I’d just like to write for outlets that will pay me & get more people interested in me & my work. And have my own show, book deal.

  12. Media Assassin Says:

    […] favorites, or even ones they’d received as fans of the mag before working there. (If Mase’s Oct. 2004 cover, right, is really Heather Faison’s most loved, as former staffer …, well, it was still on the wall when I left yesterday. Hurry […]

  13. hfaison Says:

    Ahhh my bad Mike! Got my pubs mixed up.

  14. golianopoulos Says:

    Dream publication is/was Play. But they too are gone. I think DFW’s “Roger Federer as Religious Experience” can be found online. Please, please read it.

  15. phalary42 Says:

    im at a lost for words…

    ever since i was a little girl. i dreamed of moving to new york and this past january i did just that. i was offered an internship at vibe magazine. i left my whole life behind (im from ca) and took my life savings to live that dream. it was such a blessing to be able to intern at vibe. ive learned so much about the industry as well as myself. everyone at vibe was so positive and down to earth. danyel is truly an icon.

    im rethinking my move to ny and i wonder if its even worth it anymore.

    my dream is to one day write for fader.

  16. M. Jordan Says:

    As the mother of one crushed, but positive journalist, your pain is as real as if you were laid off your job with a 1.5 million dollar mortage payment. Reason being, writing for this magazine was your dream and that dream was like food to you.As your mother I want to absorb your pain but as your mother you know what I always say, God has something bigger in store for you. He had to reroute your dream to fit His plans.
    The pain will only may be stronger. When it does not exist, create it.
    Your resume may not include VIBE, but your life and the way you live it does. Love you Baby. Mama Bear

  17. Tanisha Says:

    Two words. Charter Subscriber. Thats how long I’ve been down with Vibe. The full 16 years. I KNEW from the first time I caught a glimpse of Treach on the cover, and it wasn’t the Source, I just had to peek inside. I’ve seen so many great writers I’ve admired in its pages; from Bonz, Cheo, Mimi, Aliya, Kevin Powell, Laura C, Aliya, Thomas, Serena, Clover,..and on and on. Memsor’s styling? 20 Questions? Damn, I’m going to miss Vibe. XXL, New Yorker, Giant, Upscale, Essence, & Rolling Stone are still on my dream publication list. But honestly, being published is a dream come true everytime it happens no matter where it happens. What writer doesn’t enjoy seeing a creation that originated as a great thought for a piece and seeing the final creation?

  18. Sister A Says:

    Good job Haftime!! LOL

    As much as I love the feel of a book in my hand, I no longer read mags in print. I only collect them for the memorabilia of their covers. Print quality, in terms of content, has really gone down in Black media. The best content is now on the web.

    The future is now–but papers will be our life blood of info once again if and when our technology fails us. We’ve put too many eggs in one basket.

    Chin up. Create your own VIBE–online with a print copy on reserve. ;)

  19. theprisonersiwfe Says:

    GREAT piece. i feel the same way, about the industry as a whole. mags that i once loved are leaving me (remember Honey? remember the spreads dream hampton used to write for Vibe? remember Bonz Malone? CLASSIC!!). i’m waiting to see what the rebirth of the magazine will look like (is it the blog?).

    my DREAM publication? Essence. i’ve been an avid reader since my freshman year in HS & i’ve dreamed about writing cover stories for them. we’ll see if i scale that mountain.

  20. Cheo Hodari Coker Says:

    Great piece, Heather. And I feel the same way that you do about VIBE. It will be missed.

  21. Kennedy Nicole Says:

    Heather, your story is awesome! Looking forward to reading more posts.

    My dream publication was Vibe. I sound like a broken record, but it’s true. When I was 14 or 15 I subscribed to Vibe. There are issues that I still have for keepsakes because they mean so much to me…the first one being the 1995 Jodeci cover (Devante’ had a rose in his mouth). I was and had been obsessed with Jodeci since their debut in 1990. I read that story over and over and over. Reading it I felt like I was right there with them.

    The stories in Vibe taught me how to write before I even knew I wanted to be a writer. The scene of the interview was set and described so clearly, I could SEE what was happening, instead just reading it.

    When Vibe Vixen was published, I was estatic because it was my “new Honey” but with more of an edge. I was blessed enough to write two peices for VV (shout out to Shanel Odum). Just as I was pitching her for the print version, they folded. I was hurt.

    My other dream publications are Essence, Glamour and Marie Claire. They have great investigative stories and editorials. I really hoped it’s revived as an online mag. Even though I prefer print, I’ll take what I can get.

  22. Kennedy Nicole Says:

    ** I meant Vibe Vixen Online. My bad.

  23. paulcantor Says:

    I did something years ago for I guess that counts.

  24. End of An Era « A Shot of Incilin Says:

    […] at Vibe for one semester but it was by far the most rewarding and fulfilling job I ever had. Some touching tributes have already been written and a great obituary (of sorts) appeared in the Times, but I do have a […]

  25. Roy59 Says:

    ABC, which announced their intention to put a refueling station everywhere you might want to buy gas. ,

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