Meet 10 of the most exciting writers, podcasters, YouTubers and and web-entrepreneurs working today -- and check out the wildly diverse ways they redefine the theme of our April issue: the American Dream.
Photo by Kathy Lo; Ta-Nehisi wears a coat by Burberry Brit and a shirt by Tom Ford; Styling by Jessica Zamora-Turner / Grooming by Alexis Williams at LVA Artists using Chanel Cosmetics and Aleksandra Sasha Nesterchuk using Kerastase France; Styling Assistant: Jordyn Payne; Location: Dune Studios
Ta-Nehisi Coates One of our country's most crucial conversations was reignited last June by journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates' 16,000-word article, "The Case for Reparations." In the piece, he reviews our country's systemic racism in regard to housing policy and proposes a national reckoning with the hard truths of our failings.
Raised in West Baltimore, Coates was a self-proclaimed "knucklehead" and college dropout before the late, great David Carr hired him as an intern at the Washington City Paper. "The long artistry of his life is what a lot of people want America to be," Coates says. These days, he is a national correspondent at the Atlantic, which ran his groundbreaking article; his second book, Between the World and Me: Notes on the First 150 Years in America, comes out this October.
For all of this country's faults, Coates still feels a deep love for the States, and in particular his current home. "People don't really think [New York City] is American, but I think it's the most American place," he says. "It's ultra America -- the incredible amount of diversity and crazy shit you can see walking down the street." [Emily Warman; read her extended interview with Ta-Nehisi here.]
Photo by Stella Berkofsky; Ruba wears a jacket by Undercover, a shirt by Acne and shorts by Juun J;
Styling by Tiff Horn, Grooming by Hayley Farrington, Location: BOXeight Studios
Ruba Wilson Impeccably turned-out YouTube star Ruba Wilson has successfully moved into reality TV via the OWN docu-series Flex and Shanice. With his easy smile and lightning-quick charm, Wilson was made for prime time.
But Wilson hasn't foresaken the Internet. The 24-year-old was there in YouTube's early days with The Jahruba Show, a series made with friends and cousins. Soon enough, agents and publicists were contacting him with guests and Wilson was rocking red carpets. Today, he specializes in personal vlogs where he reacts to music videos, shows off his keen fashion sense -- e.g. the "ring party" on his fingers -- and offers DIY tips.
With the charisma and canny instincts for celebrity typical of his generation of social media stars, Wilson shows every sign of growing into a household name. It's fitting that his American Dream is so relatable: "doing what you love and being successful at it." [Liz Ohanesian]
Photo by Elise Bergerson
Sarah Koenig Every once in a while, you get to see the hard meat of journalism -- rarer, though, is the chance you'll be moved by it. As the host of NPR's Serial podcast, journalist Sarah Koenig buried herself in the 1999 murder of a Baltimore teen to find out what really happened. Blowing the dust off old documents and prying open conflicting testimonies, Koenig carefully presented the facts in each episode as she herself sussed them out -- accruing more than 60 million downloads and one Peabody Award in what was her first foray into the format.
Mamrie Hart Mamrie Hart's You Deserve A Drink series catapulted the comedian to Internet-fame for its crucial blend of pop-culture commentary, comedy and guerrilla mixology. Hart raps, dances spastically, admits she hates books -- all the while teaching you how to mix excellent drinks. Between her Amy Poehler waffle-flavored "Parks and Wrecked" and her Dunham-friendly recipe for "Not That Kind of Earl", she's got our drink order covered. We'll have what she's having. [MB]
By some crazy fate, I've found a way to have fun as my job. And I just had chilli and wine at an airport at 10 a.m., so if that's not an American dream, I don't know what is.
-- Mamrie Hart
Photo by Matt Sukkar
Alexandra Marzella Model-turned-artist Alexandra Marzella cannot be censored. Already on her sixth Instagram account (@Artits6666), the fashion-meets-art-world anti-darling is not afraid to show nudity, blood, zits, sex, sweat, fat, bad food, hair or a little narcissism to make us cringe and question the limits of self-expression -- and somehow feel like we've brushed against beauty at the same time. [Kate Messinger]
Casey Jane Ellison Whether it's her vocal-fried mock-fashion commentary on her super-arch What the F*shion YouTube series for VFiles, which puts the stereotype of the vapid fashion hipster on steroids, or her all-female online talk show Touching the Art for Ovation, performance artist and comedian Casey Jane Ellison confronts our relationships with art, fashion and the Internet with irreverence, wit and ultimate attitude. [KM]
Chris Miles Feeling secure about your life accomplishments so far? You won't once you hear 15-year-old rap prodigy -- and preternaturally gifted social media navigator -- Chris Miles. Discovered after his America's Got Talent audition tape went viral, and propelled along by some strategic tweets, the Long Island teen has already signed a fat contract with Warner and released three mixtapes. Worst part? He's actually really good. [KM]
Julieanne Smolinski We didn't need another reason to love the deeply hilarious Julieanne Smolinski (aka @BoobsRadley). Her sex writing and culture commentary for The Cut, GQ, and The Awl is always brash and hilariously honest. But now that the writer is bringing her talents to television, writing for the new Netflix series Grace and Frankie (starring -- hold your breath -- Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda) we're all ears and eyes. [KM]
I have some pretty dumb tattoos in highly visible places on my body, and yet I have a steady job and a stylish compact Nissan. I like to think that's what my Grandpa was thinking about while he was surviving Pearl Harbor.
Bradford Shellhammer When the instant success of $900 million flash-sales retailer Fab.com bubbled over, co-founder Bradford Shellhammer swiftly changed directions, starting his own creative consultancy and in March launched Bezar, a purveyor of design-wise homeware, jewelry and art. The brand's virtual pop-up shops often feature vendors he's spotted on Instagram, all of them in line with his singular flair for colorful, elegant style. Reinvention seldom looks this good. [JM]