There’s a piece of advice Danyel Smith received her first day on the job as editor-in-chief of Vibe that’s resonated with the writer-slash-editor-slash-author ever since: You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. It came from her mother, delivered in that simplified, stripped down, yeah-it-really-is-that-easy manner that momfolk have. Creatively and professionally, it freed Smith in what has culminated into an enviable, 20-year career at major titles — among them, Time and Billboard — which has solidified her spot on the list of editorial doyennes.
A 2013-2014 John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University brought that initial nugget of mama wisdom full circle. “I have higher expectations of myself to not do stuff because I should. That’s easy to forget,” she confessed. “Someone there said, ‘Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do exactly that. You can do other things.’ That’s why Stanford was so amazing.” Feeling reborn is part of it. Now wholly submerged in the anticipated publication of HRDCVR, a culture magazine she co-founded with husband and fellow journo Elliott Wilson, she’s exemplifying it. “It’s a good feeling to be working for something that you really, really believe in,” Smith beamed.
Here, she talks professional reinvention, new platforms and more.