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By Jewel Wicker • Issue #14 • View online

Welcome to As Told To. I’m Jewel Wicker, a freelance entertainment and culture reporter whose work has appeared in Billboard, Atlanta Magazine, Pitchfork, GQ, Teen Vogue, etc. Every other Wednesday, I publish this newsletter, featuring my most recent work (as well as a behind-the-scenes look at my reporting process), and timely commentary on what’s going on in entertainment and media. I’ll also include a list of music, books, recipes and other content I’m personally engaging with.
Well, it’s certainly been a year hasn’t it? I’m not even sure what adjective would be appropriate for that sentence. I’d like to say I’m happy the year is coming to an end, but we have no indication that 2021 won’t also be a dumpster fire so there’s no need to rush into the future.
This was certainly a strange year to be a freelance reporter. There was a period of time earlier this year when most publications had halted assigning stories because of COVID-19 where I was in a full-blown panic and convinced I’d have to get a new job. Things really turned around during the second half of the year, but it was a reminder of how precarious this industry is. It especially feels important to celebrate the victories in a year such as this one.
  • I added 15 new publications to my list of clients this year, including LA Times, GQ and BET.
  • I curated a pop-up exhibit in New York that was attended by more than 7,000 people over two days.
Here are my top 5 bylines from this year:
Ann Friedman broke down her revenue streams in her newsletter earlier this year and it was really insightful for me. (Also, she made $186,000 last year so she’s very clearly goals.) Seeing how she diversified her income allowed me to set goals for myself to do the same. With the state of media, I know it’s not smart for me to put all of my eggs in one basket (or to make a majority of my income from one publication, for that matter). With that in mind, I thought I’d share a breakdown of the work I did this year, too, for anyone who might find this helpful.
  • 70% of my work came from print and digital journalism. 21% came from writing sponsored content or partnering with brands like Spotify on editorial projects.5% of my work came from radio and podcasting projects. I categorized 4% of assignments as other. This included panel moderation, writing artists bios, etc.
The last newsletter of the year will include a list of my favorite 2020 articles from other writers.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT (a few of my bylines from the past two weeks):
BET: Living and Thriving with HIV in Atlanta for BET
I profiled four amazing advocates in Atlanta for this series, which was pegged to World Aids Day. I learned so much writing these As Told To pieces and I hope you’ll read them all, if you have time.
What was it like when our lives weren’t consumed by the Georgia runoffs? I don’t even remember anymore.
Saweetie’s - Back to the Streets ft. Jhene Aiko
Saweetie - Back to the Streets (feat. Jhené Aiko) [Official Music Video]
Saweetie - Back to the Streets (feat. Jhené Aiko) [Official Music Video]
Jhene has already secured her spot at the top of R&B right now, but she absolutely slidessss on this verse.
This podcast is essential listening for freelance writers. Listening to them talk about how much time they took off this year while meeting their financial goals was a great reminder that I need to prioritize this, too. Also, Wudan Yan talks a lot about working about 30 hours per week and has been a great reminder to me that I don’t have to work a traditional 40 hours to be productive.
Between the World and Me (HBO)
Filmed during the pandemic, this features phenomenal acting and is a worthwhile adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 memoir. and subsequent stage play.
How Venture Capitalists Are Deforming Capitalism by Charles Duhigg for New Yorker
This article is absolutely maddening, but an essential read about the state of venture capitalism through through the lens of WeWork.
This is a fun read about every Black girl’s auntie Patti LaBelle.
But LaBelle is more than someone who exhibits a mastery of soul and gospel; she is “church,” a style of singing taken from Black Pentecostal and Baptist musical traditions, where gospel music is unfettered by the business of religion and soul is unfettered by expectations of the music industry. LaBelle’s rendition of the ABCs on “Sesame Street” in 1998 is just one example. She begins in a slow, bluesy style, accompanied by a piano, and as a congregation of Muppets joins in, the song is transformed into a sanctified shout, performed with a fervor no one had ever had for the ABCs — and perhaps never will again. It was church.
Trigger Warning: This is an article that delves into suicidal ideation.
My friend Fiza is amazing in general, but her newsletter Foreign Bodies is an ESSENTIAL read on mental health amongst immigrant communities. In this piece, she shares her own struggles with suicidal ideation and speaks with an expert about what others should know about the subject.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Jewel Wicker

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