It’s The Stacks Book Club Day! Novena Carmel, musician and cohost of KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, joins us again to unpack Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop by Danyel Smith. We talk about Danyel as a cultural icon, what it takes to be a superstar. and the joy of disco as a threat to whiteness.
Be sure to listen to the end of today’s episode to find out what our June book club pick will be!
*Due to the nature of podcast advertising, these timestamps are not 100% accurate and will vary.
Traci Thomas 0:08
Welcome to the Stacks, a podcast about books and the people who read that. I’m your host Traci Thomas and it is me book club day. We’re welcoming back DJ and musician Novena Carmel who is the cohost of one of my favorite radio shows KCRW’s flagship Morning Becomes Eclectic. We’re talking today about our May book club pick, Shine Bright, a Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop by Danyel Smith. We talk about the erasure of black women, the people who suck the light out of the joy of black woman, and we talk about disco, my favorite. If you liked what you hear today, be sure to go back to last week’s episode with author Danyel Smith for even more juicy goodness on shine bright, quick reminder, everything we talked about on each episode of the stacks can be found in the link in the shownotes. If you love the show, and want more of it, join The Stacks pack. That’s our exclusive community for all of you book lovers out there. We have an awesome discord channel monthly virtual book club conversations bonus episodes. Plus you get discounts on merch and a lot more. And I cannot overstate this enough the stacks is an entirely independent podcast. Everything I’m able to do with this show is because listeners like you support the show by joining the stacks pack. So if you like what you hear head to patreon.com/the stacks to join. And I want to give a special thank you to our newest members, Tracy Richardson, Emily Williams, Lauren Woodard, Amy herring, Michelle and Andrea. Thank you all so much. And thank you to the entire stacks pack. You all are the best. Okay, now it’s time for the stacks may book club conversation on Shine Bright by Danyel Smith with the incredibly lovely Novena Carmel.
All right, everybody. It’s the Stacks book club day and I’m very excited to talk about shine bright by Danyel Smith. And back with us again is DJ musician, all around lovely human being. Novena Carmel Novena. Welcome back to the stacks.
Novena Carmel 2:08
Thanks for having me back. I am really excited to talk about this book.
Traci Thomas 2:12
I have so many thoughts. I will get to it. But we always start in the same place for these episodes, which is like, generally, what did you think of the book?
Novena Carmel 2:23
Oh my God, okay. I’m like, yeah, like, where do I start? So first of all, it caught me by surprise a little bit, I thought it was going to be more like a series of essays where she analyzes different stories or comparisons of black women and pop music or something like that, which I was down for. But then I loved it even more when I saw how much of her own personal stories. She intertwined with it. And yeah, I loved it. What can I say? I mean, yeah, I love the book. And I didn’t want it to end. That’s how I felt about it. That’s a great starting place. So my general takeaway of the book was, I really, really liked it as well. I was really taken by how many or how much of the stories I didn’t know of women that I thought that I knew, right right. Like the Janet Jackson chapter particularly comes to mind of like, Wait, what was going on with Janet like, we wait until I’m Yeah, I love that, like Hidden History or whatever. And I loved how much she was in it. And I love her writing style. Like there was so much it was just like so juicy and lovely to read. minds such it was like a masterclass on writing to integrate to like, phrasing things in wholly unique ways. I mean, there was one I mean, I don’t know if I should give away lines in the book. It is no, no, we can spoil this if there’s but there’s not much to spoil. But we can say whatever you want. It was like something she said like the halitosis of swallowing your own humanity, like, oh, or like the room smelled like butter, and, you know, conversation or something like, yeah, she had so many good descriptions. I always am impressed when people write about music, because I’m like, you’re using a totally different set of senses to write. Like, it’s like eyes, and it’s like you’re touching, and you’re writing, but you’re explaining something that we hear. And like, it’s I’m always interested in how the best music writers explain like the sound of someone’s voice or like the sound of the music or the percussion or whatever. Especially because a lot of the times in this book, it’s songs that we know. So it’s like you’re talking about I want to dance with somebody or whatever. And like how you explain it has to really resonate with the reader because we all know that song. Like, it’s not like you’re introducing us to, you know, let’s hear it for the boy or whatever. Like, right. And so I’m always really impressed. Because when When authors can do that well, because I think it’s hard. It’s like explaining what food tastes like. It’s like, yeah, sweet. And yeah, even when she’s not introducing a new concept, she’s constantly introducing a new way to look at it, which makes it feel new again.
Traci Thomas 4:58
My only thing about this one that I didn’t just like totally head over heels love was that I wanted it to go closer to contemporary pop music. Like I wanted it I like sort of ends with I think Janet or Mariah. Mariah? Yeah, and I was like, I would love to hear her thought process around someone like a Cardi B totally yes I think that like that. I mean, I think it’s sort of a different conversation like because it’s it’s getting to like the current so it’s not so much like the history of black woman and pop but um, even Beyonce even a Rihanna like I just would have loved her take on what’s happening now.
Novena Carmel 5:35
Totally. And it kind of ended at a point where black women are still ruling the pop industry which has changed a bit so I was interested to see her take on the comparison to now do you think who those sorry naming who those black women are now and then like, who the women is? Are that are sort of the current thieves?
Traci Thomas 5:56
Who do you think that culture is ruling the pop charts now? Really pop now I shouldn’t say the charts but just generally I don’t
Novena Carmel 6:04
I mean, I don’t really listen to a lot of pop music like that. My brain goes to like Ariana Grande. I feel like there’s a ton of female pop stars now that have names that sound like they could be Latina, but they’re actually not like Ariana Grande
Traci Thomas 6:19
Or like a Dua Lipa if you will.
Novena Carmel 6:21
Yeah, I mean, she’s, um-
Traci Thomas 6:23
She’s Israeli or something-
Novena Carmel 6:26
I think she’s like Lebanese. Yeah. But it’s like, they’re like, yeah, they’re trying to like make it appeal to more people by seeming like they’re not just straight up white. Right. Know what I mean, right. I don’t know. You know, what the reason is behind things. It’s it was interesting to reading the book, because it’s like, from Danielle’s perspective, there was so much destructive intentionality behind why things went down the way they did. And in my brain, it’s almost like, I don’t want to go there. So I’ll be like, Well, no, it can’t just that’s can’t just be that. Like, they’re just because she’s black. You know what I mean? Yeah. But she made such a case for it. And so many circumstances that it kind of made me again, yeah, start looking at the current day, but we didn’t get to go there with her.
Traci Thomas 7:13
Yeah. I think it’s funny that you were like, I don’t know what the intentionality is behind, like an Ariana Grande, you know? And I’m like, did you read the book? No. She told us, she told us why. Why would you say why? I would say, I think, I think like, almost exactly the opposite of Marilyn McCoo. Right. And like, if you present and sound like you’re black, then we can, we can mark it you as such, and we can, but without having to make you quote unquote, unpalatable by being black. You know, like, No one says Ariana Grande is like high maintenance or a diva or whatever. But like, she sounds just like Mariah Carey, you know? And it’s like, so what’s the difference? Do we really think that Mariah Carey, some sort of a monster and Ariana Grande is just this lovely young woman like, no. Clearly, like an palatability, if you will, of what Ariana Grande looks like and who she is. But they also know that black music sells. I mean, she talks about it from jump, like she talks about how the majority of male star musicians are tenors. And that’s because there’s like something about trying to sound like a really interesting, so incredibly, never noticed that. Yeah, never knows that. I was literally like, Yo, yeah, like, it’s, I mean, she makes the point basically, from like, I mean, she does from page one that like, it’s all this. It’s all this hard work that everyone else is doing to erase black women from this place where they belong, and are the best and thrive and are the heartbeat of this thing. And like, Yeah, I mean, I think I think an Ariana Grande is a good example, because she sounds so much like briah, right, like, It’s wild. And so I think that it’s like an easy comparison. I also think that like, Ariana Grande has had some really unfortunate things happen in her life that make her like, easier to root for, you know, like in her like her relationship with Mac Miller obviously, that’s a very tragic story, you know, with his death and like, the fact that she was on stage at that, like huge shooting in in Manchester. I think it was like, there’s like these little parts of her story that make it easier.
Novena Carmel 9:21
But do you feel like people more easily root for her because she’s not black?
Traci Thomas 9:25
Of course. 1,000% Yeah, I think her whole thing is that she’s black, but not black. You know, like she’s doing everything the black woman are doing, but guess what? She’s not black.
Novena Carmel 9:33
So then they throw in like an ambiguous last name. Like maybe she’s Latina.
Traci Thomas 9:38
Yeah, I do think that’s her actual last name because I know her brother. But I think it’s like Italian or something. Yeah, it’s Italian. I mean, yeah, his name is like Frankie Grande. But I just can’t have finished reading Danielle’s book and be like, it’s something else. Like it just feels. I mean, I’m with you. I do that all the time. I’m like, especially when I was younger, I used to pick it’s not racism. like any other, it’s it’s society, it’s class and like, Sure, it can be all of those things, but like, it can’t be all of those things and not also be racism.
Novena Carmel 10:09
Yeah, totally. And something about her, her freakin memory for things. Oh my God, because I think that’s what makes even more of a case for what she’s proving is her ability to remember how it all went down. Yeah, cuz she was there. She was there and she has the receipts in her brain. Like, I can’t even remember stuff from last week. You know? I was like, like, the song that went with the thing where she was with the friend and I’m just like, Wow, you really? She was set up to be a writer. Yes. She was collecting all of these memories from the time she was young.
Traci Thomas 10:44
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think like, aside from what the book is, and how great the book is, I think that Danielle Smith is just like, an icon like I just, she’s, like, so important to the culture. And like her writing is so incredible, but like the fact that she was there like, I mean, she doesn’t talk I wish she also talked more about hip hop because I know she’s like was so has been so important to hip hop like becoming accepted by you know that institutions or whatever you want to call them like she was she I listened to her podcast, black girl songbook. And on the episode I think it’s about Lauryn Hill, she talks about the Grammys, and like, she talks about going somewhere and like Biggie and POC were there and she like said hi to them as she was leaving or going in or like she just does like the Forrest Gump of, you know, black music since Yeah, certain time. Like, she’s just everywhere. She knows everyone. Like being in the room with the Whitney and Bobby story. Like, it’s just so like, she’s so important. She’s like, one of the most important people we don’t think about in pop music, like cuz she’s not the musician. She’s not the producer. She’s not the drummer should not the manager but like she is how an other music journalist or how we think about and see black music or music period.
Novena Carmel 12:04
Yeah and while she’s telling the story of all these women, she’s telling her own story at the same time. And the whole point is to be like, you need to know who these people are. And she’s kind of saying why we need to know who she is. Yeah, yeah. Do Yeah, we will. I mean, I never knew who Danielle was. Okay, personally, yeah.
Traci Thomas 12:21
I only knew about her because I knew about her podcast. And so I’d like and I’d heard her on some other shows, talking about other things like in the last few years, and so I’d sort of started paying attention to her. But I’d never heard of her. But then when you like, go back and dig through her archive, and like you look at her stories, and you listen to her talk about her life, you realize she really was just everywhere. Like always, every room, every party. She knew everyone she knows everyone like in music. I just think she’s like one of those people.
Novena Carmel 12:51
Yeah, definitely. And at the end, I mean, I know you were saying you wish she talked about hip hop and stuff more. I feel like she wishes she could talk about everything more.
Traci Thomas 12:58
She She says that.
Novena Carmel 12:59
Yeah she was like I didn’t mention this. And I didn’t mention that I didn’t like it was like a flex kinda. And I’m just like, yeah, you could write books on books on books. And you have to start she’s like, I don’t want to end now. But I have to end out but also this, but I’m gonna end up.
Traci Thomas 13:11
Yeah, I mean, it is you’re right. It’s such a flex of like, Don’t worry, the time that I had champagne with Mariah Carey like, in Sonoma. I’m like, Don’t worry, these other things. Like, I’m just waiting for her tell all book where she names the names that she didn’t name in this book, because there’s a few sections where I was like, I’d love a name here.
Novena Carmel 13:30
I know you remember it?
Traci Thomas 13:33
Definitely and I wish she could do the same book just for black women and hip hop. Like I like Missy, Mary J, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj. Lil Kim, like, I just love because you know, they have some probably fucking insane stories.
Novena Carmel 13:48
Oh, my God. 100%. Yeah. Mary J. She mentioned her a little bit in the end, I think.
Traci Thomas 13:53
When she was on the sacks last week. And she mentioned that was one of the people that if she could do more, she wouldn’t put more Marian. But yeah, sorry, you were gonna ask me something. What did I think?
Novena Carmel 14:03
Okay. So I was wondering while I was reading it, I was like, this is very close to home, literally. First of all, she’s talking about living in Los Angeles on streets that are like two blocks from where I currently live. Which was just so funny. And then obviously, the Bay Area and we both are from the bay and where are you from?
Traci Thomas 14:21
Originally in the bay? San Francisco. Okay. Okay. from Oakland. So I was like, yeah, yeah, hi.
Novena Carmel 14:28
That was okay. Also, can I just mentioned like a few other weird serendipitous things for me reading this book. Okay. So a few months ago, I came across this article about the oldest park ranger that was retiring at 100 years old or something like that. And she just stuck out stood out to me. She was a black woman, and beautiful in her park ranger outfit in the article that I saw on like NPR or something. So I looked her up and I grabbed photos of her and I posted her on Twitter and I also found out that she founded a record store in Berkeley called Reed’s rack words. And Danielle is related to her. She mentioned it in the beginning of the book, like, oh my god, I was just like, obsessed with her. And then another day, I had the book on my table, and I was playing Wordle and I was like, Okay, what’s my first guests gonna be on Wartell today, and I looked around, and I saw the book on my table, and I said, shine. And that was the one and only time that I got the word UL on the first try.
Traci Thomas 15:25
I love this. This book is for me. I love this so much. That’s my one and only Wordle first tried correct answer was moist. And I’m embarrassed to say it.
Novena Carmel 15:41
Oh, my voice was actually a first try way. That’s yeah. Okay.
Traci Thomas 15:44
No it’s my only one. Yeah, no, there’s, I mean, this book definitely felt close to home for me for sure. Like Oakland, LA, she talks about, like, being in the music man. And that was like the first professional show I ever did. Like, as a child and like, just like little tiny things. And just there’s like, so there’s so I think I’ve said this, in the conversation with her. If I didn’t say it on air. I said it to her afterwards. But like, one of the things that I think really encouraged me about Danielle’s story was that like, what she’s been doing for black women in music is like what I’ve been trying to do for books. And like, seeing her career up to this point, obviously, she’s still working and still writing and like, has a long career ahead of her. But like seeing all that she’s done, and everywhere that she’s been, and how much she’s meant to music, like that was really sort of encouraging for me personally, in a way that I wasn’t expecting. Because, you know, you’re creative. Like, sometimes when you’re a creative person, and you work for yourself, and you hustle all the time, like, you feel like quitting, or like, you feel like what you’re doing isn’t having an impact or like, you feel like you’re not doing enough. And I feel that way, always, because not only am I a person who talks bad about themselves to themselves, which I know I should stop doing. But I’m also so competitive. And like I’m also so such a perfectionist. Like I never feel like what I’m doing is enough. But reading Danielle and reading how much of an impact her story had on me. I was like, okay, maybe I am doing even a fraction of what she’s done. Like, maybe it is meaningful. And like, maybe if I’m doing it now, in real time, these authors in the future won’t have to have a book written by the future, Danielle to be like these people existed. So I don’t know. So that was like really meaningful to me about this book, for sure.
Novena Carmel 17:33
Totally. I felt the same way. There was something that she said like I kind of wrote it down at the end. She said if, as a black woman, if you’re not going to encourage my creativity, if I’m not going to feel reciprocity, if you’re not going to help me on my journey to becoming well known for my talent and hard work, well, then I will make my own way. And that I was thinking about you. And I was thinking about me and like, how I was like, Yeah, I feel like I do that. Like, are you going to help me and not like in a selfish way, but like, okay, just kind of having to gravitate towards the folks that are helping you? And if they’re not just keep moving? And staying focused on your what motivates you and your purpose?
Traci Thomas 18:16
Yeah. And I feel like it’s hard to like the little reminders like that sentence that you just read and like, the book in general, and like, just even seeing someone like Danielle in the world, like, that’s really encouraging for me. Yeah, yeah, definitely. Because like when you’re when you are making your own way, when someone isn’t helping you, or encouraging you or nurturing you, and then you have to go do it yourself. That’s like, painful work sometimes. Like because you have to motivate yourself and you have to do the encouraging and the nurturing, and the all of that you have to be your own reciprocating being, you know, and like, it’s exhausting. It is humbling, and it also like feels shitty sometimes. And you know, sometimes it feels fucking great. You’re like, Fuck you, you don’t want to help me and I did it anyway, it’s like, suck it. But like, until you get to that like victorious moment, it can feel really hard. So like, reading her experience, like was just, it was that like reciprocity. It was that encouragement that I feel like I often, like need. And so I think I’ll forever like be grateful to her for her work.
Novena Carmel 19:20
There was other things that you related to, like, just in different worlds that you’ve been in doing work, and it gets less credit because you’re a black woman? Yes.
Traci Thomas 19:30
My this entire podcast is basically that’s the thesis statement of like, I mean, I don’t I don’t tell a lot of the stories on the show because I don’t I still work with a lot of people that are are horrible to me. If you’re listening to the show, but like, I can count so many times like so the way that it works in the book world is like if I want to have someone on the show, I have to reach out to their publicist. And every publisher has a publicist for like the Big Five publisher, the Big Four publisher, and so A lot of the times I have to reach out to someone and be like, Hey, I’d love to have novena on the show and like, sometimes your publicist is lovely. And it’s like, Great, fantastic. Sometimes your publicist is awful. And like says no. And sometimes your publicist basically just ignores for like, five emails. And then it’s like, oh, yeah, sure. So like, that happens to me a lot, where I end up having to like, slide into people’s DMS, and be like, Hey, would you come on the show? I’m sorry that no one thinks I’m important enough to actually do their job around me. You know, it’s like, that happens to me a lot. Which, at this point, now, I just, I’m like, fuck it, like, I’m used to it. But it is bullshit. Because I know that they don’t do that to a lot of the white women who have podcasts about book and a lot of the white women in the book space. And, and the thing that, you know, I think, for me, that is really upsetting. And I think this is similar to Danielle, is that like, I’m not trying to write about Steve, I’m not trying to talk about Stephen King’s books. I’m not trying to have Jody pico on the podcast. Like, I’m not trying to have these like huge white, famous authors. Like I’m trying to have black women on the show. I’m trying to have queer folks on the show, I’m trying to I’m already my audience, or the people that I’m interested in, are already the people who have lower marketing budgets, they’re already the people you think aren’t going to quote unquote, crossover or aren’t worthy of this and that, and so to be shit on like, doubly is like, I’m coming to you asking to do this free publicity, right? For your author whose job it is for you to get publicity for. Yeah. And you’re basically like ignoring me, or telling me they’re not interested, when I just know that you didn’t ask them. I just know you did it, you know. And so like that all of that’s like, really hard. And that’s discouraging. And that’s the sort of stuff where I’m just like, sometimes I just want to quit, like, I don’t want to work so hard to do my job. When my job is already, it’s already hard to read a book and come up with a question, you know what I mean? Like, I’m already doing the job. And then it’s like, you have to make me feel like shit every time. I’m like, Hey, can I please speak to Danielle Smith? No, her team was lovely.
Novena Carmel 22:04
And even the way you approach it, I mean, I could relate to the elements of like, if someone is treating you shitty, and you don’t want to, like, clap back too hard, and then seem like a quote unquote, diva right with how you’re handling it. Whereas if it was like a white guy, and he came, you know, he responded in the same way, it wouldn’t be considered that, right. So it’s like, it’s not only getting the borderline disrespect, then how you respond to it, right? It’s something that has to be considered as well, right?
Traci Thomas 22:31
Because it’s also, you know, like music, it’s an overwhelmingly white space, like the publishing industry. And so it’s like, they don’t have interactions with black women every day. Which is unbelievable to me as an industry that’s based in New York City, but like, whatever, go keep doing your your great job polishing, but like, so it’s like, yeah, I don’t want to be a diva. I don’t want to be part of the reason they don’t is because they don’t welcome it. Exactly. Well, right. Exactly. I mean, they don’t because it’s on purpose. It’s not an accident. Yeah. But like, yeah, so it’s all like, I definitely could relate to a lot of these stories. And I think it’s probably even, you know, again, I really relate to Danielle’s part of it, because she’s sort of doing similar work. But like, when I think about the authors that I’ve worked with, who have these same stories that sound more like the stories of the of these women musicians, like, where their work isn’t being valued. And then all of a sudden, they end up on the national book award list, or like, they’re a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. And you’re like, and you’re telling me you, I couldn’t book you on my show, even though you did no publicity, like, your, like, your team didn’t value you from the beginning. And your work was greater than whatever they thought you were, or whoever, whatever they could see in your work. And like that reading about, you know, people like Whitney Houston, who’s like, you know, like, it’s just, it’s devastating to think that someone like Whitney Houston had to fight so hard when the talent was there, and the skill was there. And the discipline was there. And like, not that this should matter, but it does because it’s pop and it’s Hollywood and whatever. But like, the beauty was there. The body was there like she the use was there like she was every everybody’s dream of a pop star, except she was black. And so then it becomes infinitely harder, right? Like, if Whitney Houston is mad, if Madonna could do what Whitney Houston could do. Imagine?
Novena Carmel 24:22
Well, a good example, was when they mentioned Adele in one right Grammys, you know, one year of Grammys was was nominated for more Grammys than what Whitney was nominated for in her entire career.
Traci Thomas 24:36
It’s just like, when you say it out loud, when you read it off the page, like it hurt like hurts, like it hurts me, like so mad. Because also like, I’m sure I mean, I can’t speak for you, but I’m assuming we’re around the same age like Whitney. Mariah Janet, like those women. Were the music of our childhood, huh? Like, those were the women. I just, I know that there are people who didn’t listen to pop music. I know there are people who didn’t listen to black music at all or black artists at all. But like, for me, the idea that Whitney Houston is not considered number one in everything ever in the history of the world is like, it’s just, it’s crazy to me. Like I. Yeah, it’s so frustrating. I like can’t even think like my brain. I literally I just had like, where do I go from? Yeah, no. Okay, wait, did you have any? Did you have a favorite chapter or favorite artists that you sort of centered in a Chapter?
Novena Carmel 25:43
Ooh, that’s a good question. Um, I mean, the Whitney chapter really stood out to me, but it is like, it’s hard to even say it was the favorite. It was just the most memorable not for great reasons. Yeah, I’m not because of how she wrote it. But you know, just because how difficult it was.
Traci Thomas 25:59
Same with the Whitney Aretha Section. Part two, was just like so. So good. So much. I mean, I think Janet was a close story, too.
Novena Carmel 26:11
Yeah. Yeah. A lot of juicy details that I wasn’t aware of. Yeah. Because you don’t think of her like that. I mean, actually, I was like, part of me was thankful because she was saying, you know, she was getting certain labels at one time. But I think in retrospect, we see Aretha as being something greater than even like, human. She’s like, Oh, Raisa, right.
Traci Thomas 26:35
Yeah. I think some of that’s because she lived a long time. Yeah, totally. You know, like, I think that white people value black women, elders, in Hollywood and in music in a way that they do not when they’re in their prime because of like racism and things. And I think because Aretha sort of lived long enough to sing at Obama’s inauguration, like live long enough to give us some, like hilarious memes about gowns. Like, I think, I think that she has been restored some of her flowers, because she lived into her 80s. Right. Whereas if she had died in her 50s or 60s, I think she maybe would have been forgotten. Or not, or not not forgotten. I don’t think, forget Aretha Franklin. But like, I think she might have been reduced down to just being like the woman who sings respect, you know?
Novena Carmel 27:33
Yeah, that’s an interesting idea. Definitely. Also, Ella Fitzgerald, a moment that really stood out to me was where I think it was Ella and she was like mentioning, this love that she couldn’t have and it was just like, brushed over and I never thought thought of her. I don’t know, it was just interesting at that time thinking of how she was trying to share something that showed more of a spectrum to who she was as a person. And it was just sort of shunned. Mm hmm. You remember that part? I don’t. Yeah, it was there was like an interview. I think it was it was Ella that she was having with somebody. And he’s like, Hey, how you been doing or whatever. And then she was like, my memory is not that great. But it was she was just like, well, I something happened to me. And it was regarding someone that she loved or something like a man. And he kind of like kept it going or whatever.
Traci Thomas 28:31
Oh, I do remember that. Yeah. He was like, oh, yeah, yeah, I do. I do remember that. Yeah, I mean, that’s the other thing that Daniel does so good in this book is like, give these women their humanity. Like, yes, they’re superstars. Yes, they’re the voice of an entire, like, country, essentially the music of a country, but they’re also people. And like, I mean, I think she does that really well in the Whitney and Aretha sang section. But she does it for all of them. Like for Diana Ross, where she talks about how Diana wasn’t even her name was supposed to be her name. And so her wanting to be called Miss Ross. Is that so wrong? Oh, my God.
Novena Carmel 29:07
Yes. All of that is so good in the book. It’s so context. Yes, she does. I noticed I started noticing that in the Whitney. And it was a weenie and Aretha chapter but when she was talking about Ed levert, and she does this really cool thing where it’s kind of like, I was picturing, you know, in those detective shows where they have like a whiteboard on the wall and figure out like-
Traci Thomas 29:30
They’ve done it or whatever happened there, like their lives in this neighborhood, like how many strings connected?
Novena Carmel 29:35
And it was like that. It was like one moment, we’re talking about Whitney, and then it’s like, Bobby, and then it’s like Ed levert. And then she goes, Ed, le vert was born. And I remember I think it was like Mississippi or Alabama or something like that of home and where this was happening at the time and immediately you get all this context to understand why in that moment, he’s he’s holding himself the way that he is and how that’s specific to his up ringing. Yeah. And it even made me think about seeing. I mean, I suppose I already do this to a certain extent, but being around anybody, we can easily just judge like, why they’re behaving the way they are in those circumstances. But when you start understanding the context of why they’re approaching the situation the way they are, it’s really interesting to take a moment and think everybody has that story that got them to where they are in that moment, even when we’re all in suits like having, you know, champagne and, and unseasoned. She says, hors d’oeuvres
Traci Thomas 30:34
Yeah, no, I, you’re right, she does such a good job of like, again, the context that humanity like placing placing us in the world of the moment, and like making it make sense, because some stuff doesn’t make sense. Now, because we do things different now. Even then, like 9095, you know, like, some of it, like, I know, this wasn’t really in the book, but like asking Whitney Houston, if she does crack, like in an interview, that’s just not happening in 2022. Like, in that way. Like the disrespect of that, like I know, people really revisited that with the with the Britney Spears stuff recently, of like, how, like Diane Sawyer talked to Britney Spears, and like, the slut shaming and all that, like, I don’t, I think some of the things that they endured, like just aren’t happening now. Not that other horrible things aren’t happening now that in 20 years, we’ll think are different. But like, Danielle does a good job of reminding us where we are, and what is happening in the moment and who the people are at the time of these incidents. Because it’s easy to think, like, it’s easy to think of Mariah Carey now, but it’s harder to remember Mariah Carey in 1992, or whatever, you know, it’s harder to remember Mariah Carey, you know, with the blowout in the flannel shirt, you know, like, that’s a we don’t I don’t think of my like that now. I think I’m Ryan like sequined gown, like saying, I don’t know, her singing Christmas songs once a year, like, you know-
Novena Carmel 32:04
You notice this is related, but unrelated. There’s a couple of moments in the book where she brought up people that were like, at the beginning of their careers, like Rihanna and Beyonce, and there was like, whether it was her or Clive Davis that, like, they knew immediately that person was a star. They just had it in them, which I will give that to them because they are stars. But that’s like, easy to say in retros. Yeah, like, how many people were they saying that about that? Didn’t know that had like one song and then yeah, you know, it’s just just funny to think about that, like, all the time.
Traci Thomas 32:36
Yeah. When people are like, Oh, they’re a star like, okay, new hits. Who else were you? Were you saying tweet was a star also? No shots that tweet. Yeah. I love Oops, oh, my Okay, big fan. But like, I feel like, you know, Ashanti would have been a person like, and I guess she was a star for a while-
Novena Carmel 32:52
But like, she has a she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Traci Thomas 32:56
She does. Don’t you buy those? That’s probably our bank. You have to be nominated by one. Yeah, I think it was like nominated, but then usually pay like $40,000. Yeah. Which I would gladly pay if I was nominated. Like to be like, because then if someone on a podcast was like a shot, it was like Tracy it’s like, well, she has a star like Yeah, right. Yeah. I’m honest.
Novena Carmel 33:17
There’s probably a discount? I mean, thinking about like, people buy monuments and buildings and stuff. Yeah. Are 40k That’s no big deal.
Traci Thomas 33:25
Yeah. Especially if your star worthy. And you have the funds, like, you know, honestly, 40k is like, I’m finding this out the most horrible way is like how much children’s private school costs in LA. Yeah. So for one year of for one year, for one year of second grade? Yes, I will take a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Thank you very much. I’ll take out old student loan if I need to. Okay. Joe, forgive the student loans. I want to talk about something that comes up in the book a lot, a lot. We’re talking about the abuse and the violence against black women. It’s constant in this book. These women’s stories are filled with men who abused them physically, mentally, emotionally take their money. Like make them small. She talks about it. When she asks Whitney Houston, about Bobby and Whitney says to her you should ask Lena Horne about this. Hmm. And Lena Horne is like there are men. I’m not quoting this exactly. But she says something along the lines of like there are men who love to see women in the light. And all they want to do is like dim that light or something along those lines. And holy shit. If that’s not an Aretha story, Whitney story, Janet story, huh? Danielle’s story and I mean, obviously Danielle’s story that also fucking sucks and makes me sad and hurts in a different way than what we were talking about earlier. But like, I don’t know.
Novena Carmel 35:16
And why is it like that? And are we better now? No.
Traci Thomas 35:20
Do you think we’re better? No, I don’t think so. I mean, look, if I can Rihanna didn’t hurt ASAP, just break up because he was cheating on her while she’s pregnant or some shit.
Novena Carmel 35:29
Oh, I don’t know. I that might be a rumor was that there was the Chris Brown thing-
Traci Thomas 35:33
Obviously, the Chris Brown stuff. I mean, even Beyonce was publicly cheated on and wrote a whole album about it. Like, I don’t, I don’t know that Jay Z. Is the same as Bobby Brown. Certainly, like, I’m not saying that. But I am saying that like these public humiliation, and like these men who take for granted these women.
Novena Carmel 35:56
But you know, what I have to add, though, is, what part of it is that we know, as far as like celebrities go, we know the stories more about Black couples, because that’s the whole point of media is for us to look at them more poorly. Like, what white couples? You know what I mean? Are we not hearing about where the where the woman is being abused?
Traci Thomas 36:18
That’s true. Because also like, I think about what is them? Like when it is a white woman? Often it’s a black man, like I think about Kanye West, obviously, like, with Kim Kardashian. You know, but you’re right. It’s not, it’s not as prevalent to talk about white women.
Novena Carmel 36:36
My brain always goes there. It’s such a like, it’s like a double edged sword or catch 22, one of those things, because it’s like, when there’s something that I’m aware of like that, like what you just mentioned, but then I go, Well, how much of what I think I know, is purposely being told to me that way. Especially when it comes to media. Media is very, it’s a filtered out source of information. And there’s certain folks with certain interests that control it. And it’s much like a record label, in a sense, you know, where it’s, like, owned by a handful of rich, old white folks half the time, you know, right.
Traci Thomas 37:19
And they own like, they totally they just own like, one thing. It’s like they own CBS, Viacom, which Yeah, which means like, they also own Simon and Schuster. And like, they all Yeah, exactly like Janet, like Les Moonves. Like, it’s, there’s an interest in seeing, you’re an artist that you have, you know, some sort of relationship to financially, because of the business, there’s an interest in seeing their story be told a certain way.
Novena Carmel 37:46
Totally. And there’s an interest in seeing black men as violent, right, and like, shady, or whatever, you know, and so like, on the other side, when it’s the black man who, you know, did the thing. So, but I feel like it’s true all around. What I mean, like, I think it’s true, that black women are not valued in this country, but then it’s almost like, I don’t want to internalize that message too much. Because sometimes I don’t know. It’s like, when you state something over and over, it’s powerful as well, you know-
Traci Thomas 38:14
But I think what I think what is interesting about this book is like, sure, we all know Bobby and Whitney, right? Like we all knew that was happening. But like, I did not know about the Aretha stuff. I did not know about the Gladys Knight stuff. And so it’s sort of not, it’s sort of the opposite of your point, which is like, a lot of these women were carrying this burden, these pains, this trauma, as they were putting on their makeup and their wigs and their gowns and getting ready, you know, taking the beat before the curtain opens. And like, here it is, Stop in the name of love. I’m Diana Ross, I’m, you know, I’m your dream girl. And you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, and like, it only comes out later. Not in Whitney’s case. But in a lot of these cases, like the media didn’t even care to sensationalized these women, like they weren’t even worthy of the drama and some of these cases.
Novena Carmel 39:09
Wow, that’s really interesting. Yeah, good point.
Traci Thomas 39:11
And I think some of its probably like the time, like the media is different. And maybe, you know, these women were doing things to protect these men, because they didn’t want it to be Iranian center. You know, like, I’m sure there’s a lot of context that I don’t know. But I do think it’s interesting that like, I had never liked the way she talks about leaving on a midnight train to Georgia. She talks about like, Gladys Knight story, like I’d never thought I’d never even heard the song and the way that she presents it, you know.
Novena Carmel 39:42
Yeah, and it ties together so well with the concept of a woman being a diva and like, why anybody would have to seem that way, based on just having to simply survive the circumstances that they’re in, like you said, back then. Having to get on stage coming from all of that. It’s like, um, just to be able to perform, you have to demand some things. And I think it’s still that way for celebrities, there’s so much demand on them, especially women, where people try to take ownership of you in different ways. And really, it’s just like creating boundaries so that you can actually survive in the world
Traci Thomas 40:29
and like, do the work that you have to do to like, do that.
Novena Carmel 40:32
You have to do the work. Yes. It’s like we all need, you know, some people need an office and a computer. And it’s like, if you’re about to get on stage, you need to have the setting right to do the work that you’re gonna do.
Traci Thomas 40:44
Right, right. I mean, you’re a performer to like, do you have, like specific things that you do or like something, a way that you focus your mind, like before you step out on the stage, or to go on to the microphone, or whatever performance you’re doing?
Novena Carmel 41:00
Will part honestly, Tracy, part of the reason that I shied away from continuing to perform on stage is there’s so many factors that can like fuck up how you feel, once you’re on stage, like little things, that that to me was just so draining, to try to control all of that to make sure that I was feeling my best once I got on stage. Whether that’s something personal, like, what am I eating today? Like, is it gonna be dehydrating is you know, have I talked too much today so that my voice is hoarse. And then you know, someone may be trying to talk to you backstage, and they think, Oh, it’s just me. But that’s another person and they’re bringing their own energy. Even little things like just you know, how comfortable you feel in a situation, I feel the most comfortable getting ready at home with all of my things, knowing where this isn’t that but when you’re on tour, you have no home, your home is like a traveling tour bus. And every time you pull up somewhere new, all your shit is put away and pulled back out again. And it might be different humidity in the air elevation, you know what I mean? Like, all of that. And again, it’s like, then there’s the pressure of doing a good performance, because you’ve signed up to do this thing that you’re doing. And it’s a lot. So yeah, I don’t even know what your question was. But I get it, you answer that?
Traci Thomas 42:24
Well, I think that also speaks to like, this idea of like, being high maintenance or being a diva is like, I mean, I can speak for myself again. But you sort of touched on one of the things it’s like when you’re performing. And, and for people listening, I consider doing the show performance though I have performance experience and a lot of like live things previously. Like when you’re performing live performance, especially, there’s only so much you can control. Yeah, there’s only so much you can rehearse. There’s only so much you can be prepared for. And also being prepared to be unprepared as part of it. But like, if someone touches your shoe for your quick change, that destroys your whole show, like then you’re 30 seconds late for your quick change. And you only had 30 seconds in the first place. Right? Right and like, so I understand how a person who is at the top of their game? Who is Diana Ross, who is Beyonce, that part who has stadiums full of people who are counting on them to be perfect because of their brand is perfection because black women cannot be less than perfect. Oh, if you’re if you’re to pay for their services, I can understand how if Diana Ross’s zipper is broken or something or her wig is misplaced, or someone calls for the wrong thing, I can understand how she would be quote unquote, considered a diva because you know what, I’ve planned every single thing down to the fucking last drop and you other person who is here who I’m giving a paycheck to, you fucked up the shoe. All you had to do was make sure the shoe was on the spot and you fucked it up. And like, I think that people don’t understand how taxing live performance is because of all these little things, right? Because like maybe you’re in Colorado, and you are at the Mile High Stadium. And so it’s less elevation, the air is thinner or higher elevation, the air is thinner, you’re more exhausted when you’re dancing, because you just came from Arizona, and you weren’t an elevation and you were there last night and like all of these little tiny things become things that you need to think about and plan for as you’re on your tour or whatever it is. And like I just think that people don’t understand what goes into being perfect. And I think that people don’t appreciate that black women often don’t have the opportunity to be anything less than that.
Novena Carmel 44:52
Totally. And all of those examples you just said are like extreme as a performer at the top of your game. Right right making like lots and lots of money. But that happens in microwaves too, just like a normal workplace environment where you have to work harder to prove that your opinion on something is valid. Or if you do mess up, there’s a larger wait for oh, like, or even just as a woman, you know, oh, it’s because she just had a baby. So she doesn’t have like, the energy, like all those things that people can fall back on, to try to take away from what you do. So then it’s like, Okay, I like function in this environment. Right.
Traci Thomas 45:33
Right. Right. No, it’s like, the pressure to be better than expectation, you know, is like, it’s debilitating. I think. And I think, you know, for all, all of us who’ve experienced that, but especially for people who experienced that in the public eye, on the level of a Whitney Houston, yeah, because here’s the thing. And I don’t I don’t know other people know this, but I know this to be true. To be a great at something for a long time. You have to be a perfectionist, you have to be obsessed with your craft and your skill. And your if it’s a physical thing like singing with your body, right? Like you don’t just accidentally become a Beyonce. Like, you don’t just accidentally become a Michael Jackson like that the level of work and focus and discipline to get there to stay there to be there always in the conversation. Like, you know, it’s like Michael Jordan, people understand that Michael Jordan worked really hard to be good at basketball, right? Like, you understand that it takes a million trillion shots, will Beyonce does the same thing with her choreography, and I think she’s more public about it than other superstars have been. Right. But like, I understand why people who are considered divas are the way that they are. Because I’m like, You can’t do it. Otherwise, you can’t be the top and be sloppy, especially if you’re black, especially if you’re a woman, you know, like it’s just not possible. And the fact that like, that’s what’s held against these women like Diana Ross or Mariah Carey, like the, the thing that people don’t like about her is that she’s has boundaries. And like, is mean, maybe to someone, like allegedly, according to a person whose feelings got hurt, like, I personally have like, famously in my family, and my life like very high standards. Like I’m, I’m super perfectionist and like, I get annoyed when things aren’t how I like them. And I can only imagine if I was in charge of 100 million dollar World Tour, how I would feel about things like I’m just like that with like, how I like my groceries put away. So like, I just, if I ever became an important famous person 1,000%, I will be called a diva every single day. You know, and like, that’s just outside judgment and like people who are mediocre.
Novena Carmel 48:15
And I think it’s really important is people truly understood all of this a lot deeper, because I think that we are constantly mistreating the people that bring us so much joy. Because they get these labels based on something that we see the end result of all of these things that they’ve gone through, and then it becomes this like joke about them as though they’re just a product, or something like on a television show that we can consume and throw away. And that really pisses me off. Yeah. And I think I personally have more investment in that because I have relatives that are musicians and celebrities and well known right. And I see different jokes, you know, about my dad, not a black woman, but a musician. And a black man, a black man who, you know, there could be a whole book written about that, I’m sure as well. And they just it reduces all of their hard work and all of the joy they brought you to the equivalent of a meme. So like, I think of Lauryn Hill, for example, and like she was late to some shows, and then now every time she’s announcing that she’s gonna have, you know, a show or be on tour, or hope she’s there if she shows up at all, and it’s like, shut the fuck up. Like, don’t talk about Miss Lauryn Hill like that. And like, and I’ve also heard, you know, negative things. I’m not even gonna say them, which may be true, but it still doesn’t like give the society as a whole to like, throw her away and be so disrespectful and at least understand the context. Yeah, like, Do you know why? She was late. Do you really know? Right? Do you know that maybe, you know, it’s a promoter that’s not that promise to pay a certain amount and they haven’t filled their ended this contract. And they’re like losers perform anyways. And they know the pressure that she’s under, because she wasn’t on time last time. Right. Right, you know?
Traci Thomas 50:17
Yeah, I think the thing about celebrity is that people, I feel like people who aren’t celebrities, the normals like me, there’s an expectation that you are to be entertained. And that you the, the consumer should be happy and pleased at all times, by all things that your celebrity of choice is doing or has done. And I think that, again, what Danielle’s done so on this book is she’s made these people human, and she’s given their lives context. And she’s made it make sense in a way that no one or not knowing but that people haven’t cared to do in the past, especially for these women. But I think like, with social media, now, there’s an access to celebrities, that makes them feel even less, like elevated and like they’re even more accessible in this way that you feel owed something by them or like, oh, their attention or their time, and that compounds with people who are like, lower, not to, like make this hierarchy but like lower level celebrities who are on social media, who you can get in touch with and you can DM and they will reply, and then it’s like, oh, so and so’s a bitch because she doesn’t respond to DMS, or like, she doesn’t have you know, I couldn’t tweet at her. She blocked her. She, you know, silenced her chat or whatever, you know, it’s like, it’s like, fuck you. You’re not owed anyone’s time or attention. Like, just be fucking grateful that the album slapped. Okay, just grateful.
Novena Carmel 51:46
And if it was only one album and 2014 your wealth, your wealth You’re welcome. Yeah, if you don’t like all the other ones afterwards, you’re welcome.
Traci Thomas 51:54
Still, even if you only like a song. Let me tell you a great song is hard to find. Right? And it’ll last you a whole fucking lifetime.
Novena Carmel 52:03
It’ll last you a lifetime.
Traci Thomas 52:04
You only need one I think Danyel said this in our conversation. She doesn’t like like or maybe she said in the book about like one hit wonder she’s like they said all they had to say in one song. Like that’s exactly right. And you know what? Some songs it’s done. You did it. It’s it’s a perfect song. Perfect track. Like I can’t I can’t say anything else. Really want to talk about disco really quickly because I love disco. Yeah, you love disco, right?
Novena Carmel 52:31
Yeah, but I think I think I will go ahead No, no, you got I won’t hear because because because I mean that she touches on how like disco was considered corny or something like that at one point. And I think that even rubbed off on to like my perception of it even though I wasn’t alive during disco too. You know? It lasted that impression of it. And then as I got older, like I’ve come to really appreciate how awesome it is. And I think actually, it’s like, people in general I’ve noticed discos made a comeback like in clubs, you know, people like love Abba. And, you know, all that kind of stuff. And Diana Ross, like every you know, all all the disco people. I don’t mean to say Abba is like the disco person, but I just Abba is a group that I wouldn’t think would, or the Beegees would be like requested by me as a DJ at a club. Like when I first started DJing.
Traci Thomas 53:20
Yeah no, I had a similar thing is like when I was younger, it’s like a discus sucks discus. So dumb. Like, boo. Like, you know, do the dance from Saturday Night Fever. And like, exactly, this is so dumb. But then even in that same time, there were songs that I loved that I still love that I’ve always loved. That were disco. I just didn’t know them as disco because I was like, this is a great song. Totally, you know, like, you’re not going to tell me that bad girls isn’t one of the greatest songs of my life. But I when I was 10 and I thought disco was corny. I didn’t know that was disco. I just thought this was a great throwback song. Like what did I know about what time frame music came out? I wasn’t alive yet. Like yeah, how was I didn’t know that this didn’t come out in 86 versus 74 or whatever you know, like, now I know what disco is more and like I love it. But like one of my favorite songs is Barry White. Can’t get enough for your love babe. Oh, it just like disco like to me that is like all I see is the ball and the white. And like, and like flowing white clothes. Yeah, exactly. Just like people grooving you know, shake your groove thing that’s a disco song but to me that’s just like a barbecue outside summer, you know, old person song that I love and so like, but it makes sense also that like, of course people hated that shit. Of course white people just fucking couldn’t handle black queer brown women having to live fabulous. Wearing the outfits, the hair, doing the drugs, having the sex just fucking being alive. Of course. To handle that people can’t like these people can’t even handle strangers potentially having an abortion. Like, it’s like you think you’re gonna be able to, you can even handle people like in the worst moments of their lives in some cases, doing something that they feel is absolutely necessary. So of course you’re not gonna be able to enjoy them fucking getting it and having bright shining light being pleasure dancing, being together, like mixing of community like it’s all the things that the people who hate disco, of course we’re gonna hate. And I just I don’t it makes me love it even more. Yeah, and like I think there’s a lot of like sad stuff that happened in that time and like I think like Donna Summer having to go overseas to like become Donna Summer to like be loved and seen is like, obviously really sad. And I think also like, the emergence of AIDS and HIV really changed what disco probably could have been longevity wise, because it changed what the social scene was in major cities, which of course, like trickled down to me. You know, that’s probably a whole other book that I would fucking love to read. But like disco in discos moment, to me is like what would you do to just fucking walk into Studio 54? Just like, looking your best. feeling your best on like a hot summer day or just sweaty and gross. Like, in your fucking outfit with your fucking shoes. Give that to me?
Novena Carmel 56:28
Traci Thomas 56:29
Ah, it’s a dream. We’re like, so close to being out of time. So we have to do like, Okay, we have to do one more topic that I have to talk about. And then we have to. We have to talk about the story of Janet Jackson and scream with Michael Jackson.
Novena Carmel 56:45
Yes. That was so detailed.
Traci Thomas 56:51
Michael, how could you? That’s your sister.
Novena Carmel 56:55
That was just straight up competition.
Traci Thomas 56:57
So we I promised everyone I would tell the story how we knew each other. We didn’t. But we’ll quick we’ll do it quickly. But my brother Brady, who’s my who I say as my best friend. But he told me I am not his best friend, which is so cruel and evil. So iconic of him. Honestly, I was like Brady would do this to me. He would fix me bad. He would say my people can mix me and then he would mix me bad.
Novena Carmel 57:22
But over and over and like, Michael I don’t know what happened.
Traci Thomas 57:26
I don’t know what I don’t know what happened. Guys fix it for Janet fix it Sure do. Yeah. No, I don’t think Yeah. I just I have to go back and listen to the song and I haven’t listened to it again. Since I read it. That’s what I meant to do. I meant to do it too.
Novena Carmel 57:43
The whole book, it took me longer than I expected because every time she mentioned a song, I stopped reading on the stand. And I was listening to music.
Traci Thomas 57:50
I’ve already told people this. But Sharda who’s part of the sax pack she has as she’s been reading, she has been creating a Spotify playlist with every song that’s mentioned in the book. So I’ll send you the link to that, but I’ll put it in the show notes also for everyone along with everything else, but that fucking story, Michael, how could you? How could you Michael?
Novena Carmel 58:10
But also, again, Janet, kind of sucking it up. I can get up for someone else. Yeah. Like he needs this.
Traci Thomas 58:18
I know. Well, because it’s like you think of siblings as being one thing but sort of to our point of like the perfection and like the level of discipline and like care it takes to be Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, the sibling part of it sort of becomes less important. Oh, yeah. At least at least it’s feels like in that story are not maybe not less important, but as important as some of the other stuff.
Novena Carmel 58:41
Yeah, and I mean, that’s truly being committed to your craft like this. This has nothing to do with it. Boo. Yeah. Like I know you’re my sister is like, look-
Traci Thomas 58:49
Yeah, he’s like, Yes, I need this bad. It’s the only good song on this entire disc. I need it. Okay, it’s a two disc album. The first out first disc is great. The second disc it’s basically this okay, well, yeah.
Novena Carmel 59:02
And it wasn’t just the mixing. It was like even the vocal register that yeah, the melodies were written in and the whole thing that really was interesting, I never but it’s also one of the things where I’m like, maybe I kind of felt that at the time.
Traci Thomas 59:13
Because I don’t think of that as being her song. I think of it as being his song and she’s on it. Yeah, and that’s a song I Love. Now when I think about the music video, I feel like she’s not even lit as well. Like when they’re doing the choreo I feel like he’s really got like a bright light on him and she but I have to go back and watch it.
Novena Carmel 59:31
Let’s go back.
Traci Thomas 59:32
Do you remember they had those little like those little like bouncing vibrating balls? Do you know I’m talking about they like had like, kind of like, I wish I remember what they were called. But they had like little things that stuck out and they sort of like bounced on the ground and they’re in the video.
Novena Carmel 59:45
Yeah, kind of vaguely.
Traci Thomas 59:46
Anyway, so when we go back and watch it, you will see them they were so weird. Okay, quickly. Here’s the story of how novena and I know each other, but I don’t even know if I tell right? You are the same age as my brother. This is sorry, as my brother told to me, you and my brother are the same age and you all were looking at colleges at the same time, and you were like in some college looking thing, and my dad and your mom were like outside, and they met and started talking and when you embrace it came out. They were like, Oh, you guys should know each other. And then you guys like became friends. Is that true?
Novena Carmel 1:00:16
Yeah, that sounds accurate. I don’t even know if I knew the part about the parents. But I don’t think that sounds like it could be true. That’s what Brittany said. Yeah, we were on this, like college tour thing where we were checking out some colleges in LA. Yeah. And we both it was like, I think it was like, specifically for students of color in high school. And we both like started at UCLA. And then we both were going to USC, I mean, to visit it. Yeah. Same week, or weekend or whatever. Yeah. And we stayed in touch. And I was seeing this the other day, like, we stayed in touch during a time where I don’t even think like, you know, cell phones were not even that much of a thing, maybe a little bit, but you definitely weren’t sending photos over text, or even email attachments. He would like we would print out photos. I’m like, send me some photos of you like just to have on my like, yeah, you know, board of friends. And he’d like printed, like, collected a couple of photos of himself and like mailed them to me and I still have them.
Traci Thomas 1:01:12
Yeah, that’s what he said. You guys just like write letters. And feel so 1945. But it was really 2002.
Novena Carmel 1:01:20
I’m writing you by oil lamp.
Traci Thomas 1:01:24
Hope the Pony Express delivers. But yeah, so that’s how we know each other. It’s such a weird roundabout story, but I love it. Yeah. Okay. So we always wrap up in the same place pretty much, which is the title and the cover. So do you have any thoughts or feedback or feelings about the title and the cover of this book?
Novena Carmel 1:01:46
I like it because it’s colorful. You know, it’s pretty literal. It’s like there’s a woman with a mic. There’s a record. There’s flowers, give her flowers. All of that. Yeah, that’s how I feel about it.
Traci Thomas 1:02:00
I love the cover. It brings me so much joy. It has the right feeling for this book of like, let’s celebrate this thing. Even though there’s like awful stuff in here. Like let’s have a good time. Let’s vibe. Yeah. I also love the title sheep says it early on. She says shine bright is a mission statement and a command. Yes. And I love that. I thought that with the title. It was gonna have more Rihanna in it just because I think like shine bright like a diamond. Yeah. But I’m assuming that that she was using or saying shine bright perhaps before but my pop culture reference just put in every on her mind. Interesting, but I don’t know. Maybe she wasn’t.
Novena Carmel 1:02:38
Yeah. It’s all connected, though, as she would say, you know?
Traci Thomas 1:02:42
Yeah, I think it’s a great title. I think it’s a great cover. I think it’s a great book. Like I just I’m so happy we did it on the show. I wasn’t sure. But I was like, this might be fun. And I it’s was so much better than I was expecting the book to be same here. I have so many bullet points on my piece of paper that we didn’t even get to like there’s just a night so I can relate to Danielle there. There’s so much we couldn’t even get to it all. But anything else you want to say about the book before we are done? Done?
Novena Carmel 1:03:11
Oh, Lord. Yeah, I think the book made me want to read more Danielle’s just to see how she writes, the way she describes things for me, I’m not I wouldn’t call myself a writer, but I have to write things occasionally. You know, like about artists and stuff. And, and yeah, it was really inspiring in that way, how to take us into and I also really loved how she’s clearly really, really smart, sophisticated, talented, but and I don’t want to say but but it didn’t have to be written in a way where she’s like, I’m smart. And I’m writing like, I’m such this. I’m like, this smart person, or I have to write so you can see that I know, like, big words and long sentences. You know what I mean? It was like, relatable and interesting, and you could hear so much of her voice. But it was brilliantly written. Yeah, I would say
Traci Thomas 1:04:08
I agree. I’m like such a huge Danyel stan now that like she’s the goat to me, like I just think like what she was able to do with this book. And we get you’re right, it’s so approachable. It’s so readable and she gets her point across without being like I’m better than you are. I’m smarter than you or I know more than you even though all of those things are true she’s clearly better smarter and knows more than me like times a million Yeah, and she felt like a friend you know like she knows.
Novena Carmel 1:04:34
She knows so much, Traci, like she knows so much.
Traci Thomas 1:04:38
I know, we need to she’s in LA the three of us need to get together so we can just like pick her brain and be like didn’t know how do you do that? How do you do this? We love you- tell us everything.
Novena Carmel 1:04:47
Biloba? Like what do I need to do to retain-
Traci Thomas 1:04:51
A journal or something? Write it all down as it happens. Anyway, everyone. Thank you all for listening. Novena, this was a dream. Thank you so so so, so much.
Novena Carmel 1:05:02
Thanks for having me. Thanks for listening. And hopefully we get to do more fun things together soon.
Traci Thomas 1:05:08
Let’s do it. Okay, everyone else we will see you in the stacks. Ciao.
Thank you everybody so much for listening and thank you again to Novena Carmel for being my guest. All right now it’s time for what you’ve all been waiting for the stacks book club pick for June is White Negroes: when cornrows were invoked and other thoughts on cultural appropriation by Lauren Michelle Jackson, and we will be discussing the book on Wednesday, June 29. If you love the show and want inside access to it, please head to patreon.com/the stacks to join the stacks pack. Make sure you’re subscribed to the stacks wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you’re listening through Apple podcast, be sure to leave us a rating and a review. For more from the stacks follow us on social media at the Stacks pod on Instagram and at thestackspod underscore on Twitter and check out our website the stocks podcast.com This episode of The Stacks was edited by Christian Duenas with production assistance from Lauren Tyree. Our graphic designer is Robin MacWrite. The Stacks is created and produced by me Traci Thomas.
To support The Stacks and find out more from this week’s sponsors, click here.
The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.