Amel Monsur, former Creative Director of VICE Media
How long have been here in Brooklyn?
I lived in Brooklyn for five, Harlem for four.
Where were you born?
I am an immigrant, a naturalized citizen. English is my second language. I have major FOB tendencies that come out, like cool mom syndrome where I’ll try to translate a euphemism and it’s just not working. Or when I’m sick, my cravings are totally African things.
What did you study in school?
Business, entrepreneurship, public health. I just was like, “I need a degree.” My parents didn’t let me go to fashion school. I’m glad they didn’t.
You’ve been at VICE since 2014?
Yeah. For a year before that I was at Al Jazeera America, which was a hot mess, and before that I had one client, so I was independent for six years with that specific client for three-and-a-half.
Do you feel like there are other companies or publications doing it the way you guys are doing it at VICE and Broadly?
Not in the way or the tone. Broadly is all original editorial, no aggregated content. We don’t publish something unless we can add to the story. We did a documentary about maternity leave, how the U.S., while one of the most developed countries, has it the worst . . . Would you just let women’s tits leak all over the place in the office?
There is still opportunity for [Broadly] to explore different ways of telling stories. People are surprised that women are comfortable discussing everything that everyone else isn’t. What’s nice about VICE is we’re our own target so we put ourselves through the litmus and say, “Is this interesting to you?” And a lot of times the men are just, “I had no idea, I shared this with a friend.” Also the self-discovery that you are inherently misogynistic and had no idea . . .
You’re in this position to really effect culture.
Nothing worries me more about squandering the opportunity. It’s a real, real burden. Not in the way that it’s a dead weight, it’s just, how do I make sure I maximize on this, and whether it’s exploring and getting people in an industry that is very homogenous and safe, they think they’re doing something edgy . . . tampons . . .
There are a whole lot of layers I have to unpack for someone to trust me. First, I’m a woman. Within that, I’m a woman who’s black. I have an afro. I have a loud voice, a really ugly laugh. I have a name that maybe TSA might have an issue with on the regular.
For a long time I stifled myself in any situation where I felt angry because I didn’t want to be angry black woman, and then I realized I’m just an angry person. So deal with it. You may assume I’m gonna roll my neck—and there might be a couple neck rolls in there—but f*ck it. It’s me.
I’m trying to work on strengthening the fabric of VICE, and they’re very committed to that too, which is great. If they set the bar for the rest of the way the U.S. does media at least, then maybe other places will realize you can’t just be a place that has a token. You have to have a full representation of di erent ideas. Diversity comes in socioeconomic class, education, gender, sexuality. It’s not just race.
As girls, we get to puberty and become really self-conscious. You have all this body stuff you’re dealing with, and you’re finding your voice amongst the boys in the class, and who knows what’s going on at home. Then you have all these images you have to keep up with externally, and by the time you get to places like a media company run by men, made by men, all your tools have been stripped away. And that’s hard.
It’s so hard. There’s this constant assessment and reassessment, then layering in, “Okay, I’m a daughter, I’m a girlfriend, I’m a sister, I’m this employee,” I think it gets very tough and I wonder if men don’t have to deal with those things.
They’re allowed this multiplicity, and we’re not, although we’re expected to do it all. No one ever asks a man, “How do you feel now that you have children? Have you considered taking time off ? What made you stay at work?” A man’s life, unless he’s active, it doesn’t change.
It doesn’t. Their body hasn’t changed, nothing’s changed.
We still have gender roles, which is okay. We have a lot of primal things about us, like maternal instinct or paternal, but don’t ask me if I considered stopping working after I have kids. Did you? We still have a lot of work to do. Women’s voices, we have to feel more supported. But there’s a lot of momentum right now, and people realize the value of having different voices. So it’s good.