Born and raised in Sydney’s culturally diverse Inner West and of Lebanese and Cypriot heritage, Simone Kapsalides AKA “Boss Lady” is the perfect example of someone living out their dream. Starting her professional career in journalism at the age of 17 Simone went on to become the Founder/Editor of “Urban Hitz”, Australia and New Zealand’s longest running urban music and culture magazine.
After relocating to the New York she is now the creator and host of the leading online street fashion retailer DrJays.com’s entertainment channel, DrJays.com Live www.live.drjays.com interviewing some of the biggest names in the music and fashion industries.
Who were your influences growing up? Did you always want to be a journalist?
“I wanted to be a journalist for as long as I can remember. I remember coming up with a family newsletter when I was about 10 years old, reporting on the goings on in my crazy, extended family. I also started a school newspaper when I was in the sixth grade (or Year 6, as we say in Australia). As for my influences growing up, I’ll definitely say The Source magazine was a huge influence on my editorial style. When that magazine was in its prime, it was the perfect mix of music and relevant political coverage that spoke to my generation.”
How did you make your start in journalism; were you writing about music right away?
“While I’m extremely passionate about news and current affairs, I was always drawn to music journalism – Hip Hop and R&B coverage, specifically. During my last year of high school, I was fortunate enough to get a summer internship (or work experience, as we say in Australia) at Juice magazine (a now defunct pop/rock music magazine) thanks to the editor at the time (one of my mentors, Lisa Anthony). They were commissioned by Sony BMG to produce a special “urban” music promotional magazine and I basically wrote half of it. It was my first published work and I still have copies to this day.”
Describe your time as founder/editor for Urban Hitz Magazine. What were some of the highlights for you and how do you feel when you look back on that part of your career?
“Founding and editing Urban Hitz magazine in 2003 is my proudest career moment to date. Prior to it I had worked briefly on Request magazine (a free street press publication) but when I said I was ready to start Australia’s biggest hip-hop and R&B publication—a magazine you actually had to pay for—people looked at me like I was crazy. Not only did people not believe the country was ready for it (especially when American magazines like VIBE and The Source were readily available) they also doubted me as a woman, as an ethnic woman from West Sydney, and so much more. I made the magazine the most successful urban music publication to come out of Australia and New Zealand to date, so I look back on that part of my career with extremely fond memories.”
Whilst running the magazine what challenges did you face?
“I faced countless challenges. Building awareness of the magazine with basically no marketing or promotional budget was a big one. I worked my butt off organizing events, building relationships and making sure my ‘word of mouth’ game was strong! I was basically a one-woman team so it was extremely tough. I also had limited support from the major record labels, whose staffs didn’t understand hip-hop and R&B music and therefore felt no need to promote it in Australia. This was a crucial factor and it truly stunted the magazine’s growth. There was (and still is, from what I understand) little support for people like myself attempting to be an advocate for the culture.”
How does an inner West Sydney girl end up working for one of the biggest urban lifestyle brands in the industry right in the middle of New York City?
“After three great years with Urban Hitz magazine, it was time for me to make another dream come true—move to New York City. I had started a relationship with New York-based online clothing retailer DrJays.com through my magazine; I pitched an advertising and marketing deal to them because their brands (Sean John, Rocawear, Akademiks, etc) were popular yet unavailable in Australia at the time, and they shipped internationally. We worked really well together, so one day I told them about my dream to live and work in New York. They were coincidentally looking to expand their site and add content and lifestyle elements to it. The co-founder and CFO of the company, Jean Patrick Charles, interviewed me over the phone, liked what he heard, and had me on the first plane over to New York for an in-person job interview. I was in New York for two whirlwind days, met everyone in the DrJays.com offices and went through a grueling introduction to the company. Upon arriving back in Australia, I called them to thank them and they told me I had the job. It took me about a month to organize my visa and prepare for my new life. With two suitcases and a dream, I left Sydney for the next step in my career. Three and a half years later, I’m still here.”
Describe your role at DrJays.com. What’s a typical day for you?
“A typical day consists of many things, but the majority of my days include writing articles for DrJays.com Live (the site I created www.live.drjays.com, editing my contributors’ articles, going out to do on-camera interviews (mainly with artists and fashion designers), creating and executing celebrity-oriented fashion campaigns for both DrJays.com and DJPremium.com and working on sitewide contests and promotions. Also various company meetings, staying on top of countless emails and other administrative tasks.”
Why do you call yourself Boss Lady? What’s the meaning behind it and being that it’s an American term; how have they reacted to it?
“Everyone in hip-hop has a moniker, so I when I started Urban Hitz I thought I’d create one too. I came up with Boss Lady because it was strong and straight to the point. I tell people it’s what I call myself because I’m always in charge and always a lady (in public, most importantly – ha!). I started a company called Boss Lady Entertainment years ago, then I heard Snoop Dogg’s wife Shante not only called herself that name, her company was the same too. When I moved to the US, I met even more females who use the same nickname, which is fine with me. If you truly consider yourself a Boss Lady (not a ‘Boss B*tch,’ another term used frequently here) that’s great—it’s a beautiful way to look at yourself. Make sure you live up to it.”
How are you finding working in a mainly male dominated industry—do you get support from other women or is it just really competitive and its everyone for themselves?
“This business is ultimately everyone for themselves, whether you’re male or female. Women in particular can be very cut-throat and extremely jealous and as much as it hurts when they reveal that side of themselves, you’re always grateful to find out before it’s too late. Coming from Australia, a very much what-you-see-is-what-you-get environment, I’ve had to learn to take things with a grain of salt here and just keep grinding no matter the amount of fakeness that comes my way. For every shady person I encounter (and there are many) I’m always thankful to meet someone truly cool and humble soon after.”
Since moving to New York you’ve sat down and interviewed some heavyweights in the music and fashion industries. Do you ever get star struck if so, how do you overcome it?
“I’m always a little nervous before any of my interviews, which is cool ‘cause it lets me know I’m still very much excited by what I do. I’m a pretty fearless person so no matter how fast my heart is beating or how scared I am to sit down with someone, I calm myself down and get the job done. I’d say I was most nervous with Mary J. Blige and Diddy. The day I interviewed Diddy I was extremely sick; I honestly thought I was going to throw up during the interview, it was horrible. I got through it somehow! With Mary, my stomach was in knots. She’s such an incredible person and her aura is amazing; I just kept praying I would do the interview justice and I hope that I did. I still haven’t sat down with Jay-Z yet—he’s my ultimate interview subject.”
Who has been the best/worst person to interview and why?
“I’ve been extremely lucky that the majority of my interviews have been on the positive side. Early in my career I interviewed Afeni Shakur over the phone; I remember we were both in tears as we talked about Tupac. I listen to that audio to this day. I also interviewed Aaliyah over the phone a month before she passed and she was as amazing as I always thought she’d be. Wyclef’s always great to interview, as are T.I., Nelly and LL Cool J. I honestly can’t think of a really bad interview—whoever thinks they see one, let me know!”
Are people surprised that someone from the other side of the world is doing what you do and when people ask you about Australia (as a country and what the scene is like) what do you tell them?
“I’ve definitely been hit with the ‘How the hell do you know that?’ question a few times, especially when I come out with an obscure music fact or I recite movies line-for-line. As for people asking me about Australia, it happens all the time. If people haven’t yet visited Australia, it’s high on their to-do list. I tell them it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth and even though the flight is a killer, for a holiday [vacation] you can’t go wrong.”
Do you think growing up in Australia has been a benefit or a hindrance in helping you in your career?
“That’s a great question. In many ways, it’s been both. It’s a benefit because being different is looked at as a refreshing positive here, especially when you’re credible with an innate understanding of, and respect for, local history and culture. The only hindrance I see at this point is I’m not quite where I could be in terms of exposure due to my late start, but I’m working overtime to correct that.”
What are the main differences between Australian and American people and their ways of life? Which do you prefer?
“Australians in general are much more laidback, but then again my friends from California are too. It’s New York that’s probably the most intense city in the world; lots of uptight people here. The Australian sense of humour, which I love, is raw and crass whereas Americans are usually much more serious and get offended easier. I honestly don’t prefer one or the other though. At this stage of my life I’m happy to be in New York in the rat race, but as I get older I’m sure I’ll lean towards a more chill lifestyle.”
What are your thoughts on Australian Hip Hop/R&B acts? Are there any that you are a fan of?
“I’ve loved Jessica Mauboy since she was on Australian Idol. She does R&B music extremely well, she’s a young female and she’s Aboriginal—she should have EVERYONE supporting her career right now. My girl Prinnie is also an extremely talented artist (she’s doing Electro Pop now) and is another unique product of Australia, with her Tongan and Maltese background. In terms of hip-hop I’ll say my favorite rapper from back home is probably Phrase, especially in his early career.”
Can you ever see the day an Australian artist is riding high in the Hip Hop/R&B Billboard Charts?
“I can. I think Jessica Mauboy has the ability to do it, with the right team and support behind her. Music is becoming more international every day—Canadians and Brits are all over the Hip-Hop/R&B charts here, so Aussies should hopefully be up next. Can’t forget what my brother Savage from New Zealand did here also; his ‘Swing’ single sold over one million copies on US iTunes.”
What could Australia learn from America in terms of improving our music scene?
“America’s industry actually faces lots of the same issues we face in Australia, but the population is on a bigger scale and opportunities fortunately reveal themselves much more often. One thing I will say is that practice makes perfect—if you’re an artist, you have to live and breathe your craft. You have to be surrounded by other artists and vibe off each other. There’s obviously a culture of music here in the States that we don’t have in Australia and that needs to be cultivated.”
Are there any new artists making noise in the States that people should be looking out for?
“Cam’ron’s new protégé Vado is making a lot of noise here in New York. Anything associated with the Dipset movement is always going to get a lot of attention and I think people are waiting in anticipation for the next New York rapper with commercial and critical appeal, so Vado might be it. In terms of pop music, Alexis Jordan is adorable. She’s this incredibly cute 16-year-old sensation. As for R&B right npw I’d have to go with K. Michelle, whose voice is pretty much unrivaled.”
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to live out their dream?
“Living your dreams could be the most simple or difficult thing to do, depending on your life and situation. One thing I do know is nothing comes without blood, sweat and tears. You also have to have an inner strength to rely on when negativity comes your way. I haven’t stopped working since I was a teenager and have been blessed to stay focused and motivated. The old adage of ‘success equals preparation meets opportunity’ pretty much sums up everything.”
What do you miss most about Australia?
“My mum, my sister and my grandmother—I miss them more and more every day. The weather, the beaches and the food, especially my grandma’s Lebanese home cooking.”
Finally what’s your definition of Grindin’?
“My definition of grinding is making the impossible possible. Putting in good ol’ fashioned hard work to achieve your dreams. It’s realizing that long-term success doesn’t come overnight and making the necessary moves to achieve it.”