Raised in the inner western Sydney suburb of Burwood, Simone ‘Boss Lady’ Amelia is no stranger to hustling hard for what she wants. What she wants is to be a boss. What she has become has exceeded even her wildest dreams! Since moving to the Empire State some six years ago, she has taken over New York City as one of the hardest working Hip Hop music journalists, radio personalities, celebrity- wrangling, sneaker designing moguls in the making, juggling it all whilst strutting in her red bottom Louboutins. She has come a long way from her humble upbringing in a home of strong willed women, raised by her mother and grandmother in keeping with her proud Lebanese and Cypriote culture.
She broke ground for the Australian hip hop community by creating and spear-heading one of the first hugely successful commercial urban magazines, Urban Hitz, gaining a legion of beloved readers and filling the much needed gap in the hip hop music magazine world. Her efforts were noticed by heavyweight US hip hop fashion distributors DrJays and she quickly went from editing her magazine in Sydney to steering the helm as Online Content Manager of DrJays.com in Union Square NYC.
From Burwood to Harlem, Simone has been fearless in her approach to living her dream and making her mark in the world of Hip Hop. As she launches her own ‘Boss Lady’ sneaker with Reebok in the US and takes to the mic as radio co-host alongside DJ Green Lantern on Sirius Radio’s Hip Hop Nation, Simone’s story is one of dreaming big and living bigger……and she has only just begun!
Congratulations of the launch of your new Boss Lady sneaker with Reebok! What an incredible opportunity and blessing. How did this idea come about and how has life changed for you now as a sneaker designer becomes a part of your growing resume?
“Thank you! It’s truly how you described it, an incredible opportunity and blessing. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Reebok’s marketing team through one of my career inspirations (and now friend), longtime hip-hop journalist Sacha Jenkins. After I sat down for a brainstorm session with the brand they came back to me weeks later with a new program called the “Classic Beat.” The campaign would feature five female entrepreneurs (including myself) designing their own limited edition sneaker to be sold worldwide, plus $10,000 donated to our non-profit of our choice. Life hasn’t so much changed for me due to the experience but knowing those much-needed funds have gone towards the young people my mentor organization Youth At Risk serves is the best outcome I could have wished for.”
You have been in New York for six years now and your career has truly morphed into a mini empire! How would you best describe your journey to date from when you first landed in NYC as a wide eyed journalist in search of hip hop truth?
“January 2013 makes six years of living here in the city never sleeps. At times I beat myself up for not being further along in my career (as a Virgo, I’m a perfectionist in every sense of the word) but I’ve learned slow and steady wins the race. Jadakiss was telling me a story once about how Jay-Z told him he only has true respect for those who put in serious grind time; not the other fly by night, flash in the pan variety. I’ve paid my dues in this industry (having worked in it since my teenage years) and to be able to still do what I love after so many years is testament to the quality of my work. I’ve learned to combine my Australian qualities (being straight to the point and no nonsense, but never taking myself or anything too seriously) with a relentless hustle and eye for opportunity that only New York can teach you. I’m at a great place in this journey and just want to keep working hard and keep exceeding mine and everyone else’s expectations.”
The differences between Aussie hip-hop and American hip-hop are varied in the extreme, yet at the same time some similarities ring true! As a surveyor of both countries’ urban talent what would you honestly say their greatest strengths and weaknesses would be and why?
“Hip-hop from Australia has always been such a sensitive topic, hasn’t it? It’s an infant whose growth has been stunted, a child unable to grow because essential nutrients were missing to enable and enrich it in the first place. One of its weaknesses seems to slowly but surely be eradicating and that’s the sheer confidence of the artists. For example, they used to shy away from rapping in diverse accents due to criticism by local purists; now they’ve put those worries to the side to concentrate on the actual cleverness of their lyrics and quality of their production. I applaud that because now more than ever international rap is being embraced and there’s no time to waste. If you’re not comfortable rapping in your natural accent, your audience won’t be comfortable hearing it. Rappers often spend years working on their voice, searching for that delivery where their words will hit with the most impact, and I’d like to see more of our artists do the same. In addition to this, great hip-hop is born from collaboration and inspirations so I hope to see our local artists really utilize and leverage the easier access they have to U.S. artists more nowadays.”
You live in Harlem NYC, an area rich in cultural, ethnic and musical history. How has living in such a historical part of New York helped shape the way you live?
“It’s funny ‘because I knew I was moving to Harlem before I even landed here. Even as a kid growing up in Sydney, I memorized the street maps and landmarks (talk about focus!). Once I got here I immediately felt at home and while it can get a little crazy at times (having a gun to your neck during an attempted robbery is never fun, something that happened to me a couple years in) the creative and social cultural history is undeniable. The vibe of Harlem (part inner city, part neighborhood) is unlike any other part of New York.”
You not only report, research, develop, write and design but you are also a mentor to a very special organization – can you share your experience as a mentor and how giving back is just as important as receiving?
“If I wasn’t a journalist I was definitely going to work full-time with young people, just like my sister does in West Sydney. It’s something we were raised to do: be thankful for our blessings and always give back. There were times growing up I could have easily become one of those kids so I’ll always do anything I can for them. I work closely with a grassroots organization here called Youth At Risk, where I mentor at-risk teenage girls (many whom are single mothers) that need guidance and support. I’ll have them in my apartment, we’ll go to a movie, we’ll work on their school stuff, anything where we’re just hanging out and bonding. The most crucial part of the program is for me to always be there for them, something they’ve never had from anyone in their unstable lives.”
What do you do to stave off the homesickness pangs that often creep up when home is abroad? What do you miss the most about living in Sydney?
“I miss my family and friends and I miss the weather. I don’t get homesick often but when I do, phone calls and Skype help a lot (not to mention my mum still writing me a letter per week). I miss Banana Paddle Pops, Deep Spring Mineral Water, old school pineapple donuts, Burger Rings, TOOBS, Chicken Twisties and most importantly, my grandmother’s Lebanese food! I count down to everything before every trip back (which I do twice a year).”
You have interviewed so many celebrities over the years and asked too many questions to mention. However is there any one question you’ve asked that has either led to the best answer you’ve received or one that has not been so warmly received? How do you best prepare for your interviews?
“I usually freestyle the questions and formulate them to fit the personality of the talent I’m interviewing. As I became more comfortable with it, I started veering away from my prepared questions and adding ones that would pop up during the conversation. One question I was taught to use by an old mentor of mine that’s always a goodie is, ‘When was the last time you cried?’ That often gets an interesting response where you can hopefully delve deeper, depending on the person.”
What are your plans for 2013?
“Next year I’m focusing on my site, BossLady.tv. I’m crafting a business plan for it right now that revolves around growing my YouTube channel and producing various types of original content. In addition to that, growing the section of the site dedicated to Australia and New Zealand (a throwback to my original publication, Urban Hitz) and other elements. I’m also hoping to expand my radio career here and ideally, look towards television. A ‘media empire’ is quite daunting but it really is what I’m (not so secretly) striving for.”
Your top five hip-hop artists to watch in 2013
“Meek Mill and Kendrick Lamar will continue to blow next year and I want this next generation of female MCs to really start becoming household names, particularly Snow Tha Product and Reema Major. I’ll throw in Jay Rock too; he’s also signed to Kendrick’s TDE label and he deserves his time to shine.”
What is your mission statement?
“Work hard, play hard and give back where and when you can. I want my career to always represent where entertainment meets empowerment.”
For more information on Simone ‘Boss Lady’ visit: DrJays.com
Radio: Hip Hop Nation ( Sirius/XM)
Always Hip Hop