Meet Nadirah Simmons, the NYC writer and producer you need to know! When Nadirah went to university for journalism, she could not predict the career trajectory that lied ahead of her.
Currently, she is the social media manager for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as well as the CEO, founder and Editor in Chief of The Gumbo (@thegumbo), a platform that covers hip-hop and culture as lived through the experience of women of colour. Nadirah has made it her mission to bring black women behind the scenes in hip-hop and journalism to the forefront of the movement.
Nadirah joins us today to talk personal style, fashion in music as it relates to fem rap and hip-hop and her take on the industry as it stands today!
Shifter: Hey Nadirah, thank you so much for chatting with us at Shifter Magazine! So tell us, who was Nadirah Simmons in 2016, at the start of 2020, and now post-pandemic?
Nadirah Simmons: In 2016, I was fresh out of college, still living at home in Jersey, and trying to find myself and my voice. I was nervous to be quite honest lol. At the start of 2020, I dealt with a bit of imposter syndrome. As the year went on and the pandemic started, this forced me to really look internally at who I was and what I wanted from the world, especially with in-person interactions and other exterior factors being virtually non-existent. We’re still dealing with the pandemic now, but the biggest thing I’ve noticed about me today is that I move with much intention, power, and boundaries. I’m firm in what I do and don’t want, what I will and won’t do, and what I’m capable of.
Shifter: And how would you describe your personal sense of style?
Nadirah: Comfy! There’s nothing in this world I love more than being comfy, lol. One day I can be very dressed up in a fitted garment and heels, the next day I could be wearing a baggy shirt and sneakers. If I can put on a fit and not worry about something showing or falling out, my feet hurting, or something being too tight, I’m good.
Shifter: Where do you pull inspiration to do what you do?
Nadirah: Toni Morrison. There’s an interview where she said she “writes to tease and complicate her world, not to convince others it is valid,” and that’s really it for me! In everything I do, my goal is to celebrate, honour, and historicize my experiences and those of people like me.
Shifter: You have a strong background in media, entertainment and news as it pertains to hip-hop and rap music. What are your thoughts on the state of fashion and hip-hop today in conjunction with social media?
Nadirah: There’s so much I could say because the relationship between fashion and Hip-Hop has always been a tight one. And social media plays a big role in how we consume music, fashion, and culture as a whole today. Historically people have rapped about and shouted out brands in songs who didn’t even rock with or support Black people, so I love when I see artists rocking clothes or carrying purses made by Black-owned companies – especially when they post the items on their social media! On the other hand, I believe social media has placed us in this interesting stage in a time where people are wildly nostalgic. That’s not to say nostalgia hasn’t existed before now, otherwise, the word wouldn’t exist. But you can’t open any social media app today without seeing a picture from 20 years ago almost immediately. That has influenced a lot of the looks we see as well, with a good amount of references, callbacks, and homage showing up in Hip-Hop videos, shoots, and on carpets.
Shifter: Throughout your career, you’ve written and worked for major publications and networks, and you now have your platform The Gumbo. What did you access working for these media outlets that you can’t access working freelance, and how do you bring that insider knowledge to The Gumbo?
Nadirah: What I’ve learned throughout my career is the importance of communication, teamwork, and never being afraid to ask for what you want. I realized that a lot of success comes from taking risks and actually doing the things you think you can do, instead of constantly thinking about them. That means sending that email, talking to that team, and working with that person. Going after everything without the fear of failure or the word “no.” That’s how a lot of these places have developed and maintained success. That’s how I operate The Gumbo.
Shifter: Alright now let’s play a game I like to call “Name A Few” where I ask you to list a handful of people, places or things. Ready?… Name a few artists whose style you personally like most!
Nadirah: Rihanna and Solange hands down. I love how Rihanna might mix a tight crop with baggy jeans, a big furry hat, and some heels. And I love how Solange puts together monochromatic fits and loose, flowing ensembles. Two women who push boundaries with their style and often introduce me to new styles and designers.
Shifter: Name a few artists who have surprised you the most in the last 2 years.
Nadirah: If I get to the root of the word “surprise” and how it represents something unexpected, two people I would have to say are Doja Cat and Cardi B. When it comes to music and fashion, Doja is constantly reinventing herself and giving you something unexpected at every turn! I also say Cardi, because you literally never know what she’s going to do next. What’s her next song going to sound like? What’s the video going to look like? What fashion look will she pull off next? She keeps me on my toes!
Shifter: Name a few artists who came up in the last 5 years and are now taking the industry by storm.
Nadirah: There are so many I won’t even be able to name them all! Off the top of my head, you should definitely be paying attention to Meg, Doja, Cardi, Su’Lan, Dream Doll, Flo Milli, Armani Caeser, Lakeyah, KayCee Shakur, Ivy Sole, Jean Deaux, Omeretta the Great, Monaleo, Saweetie, City Girls, Charmaine, 7xvethegenius, Miss Kam, KenTheMan, Nata, Jucee Froot, Latto, Tierra Whack…yeah this list will never end. Just make sure you’re following The Gumbo so you can stay in the know!
We cannot get enough of Nadirah Simmon’s opinionated and empowering pieces over at The Gumbo! Be sure to head over to their website and follow their socials, @thegumbo on Instagram and Twitter.