Break the Rules Like ... Christina Lee
Not all Wonder Women wear capes, and not all Unladylike role models need to sit in the C-suite to spark change. Each week, we're introducing y'all to rad women and nonbinary folks we admire. They'll offer up pointers on how we all can #breaktheruleslike they do and help them make the world a better place. If you have a role model to shout out, send hot tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Introduce yourself: Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?
I'm Christina Lee. I lived in Maryland (Gaithersburg, Frederick, College Park and Silver Spring) until I graduated college to the recession and took an internship at Paste magazine in Decatur, Georgia. Today I still do music journalism, albeit mostly on hip-hop, with a focus on the South if not Atlanta specifically, and using it as a lens upon which to view the world.
2. When did you first realize this was the right path for you?
Even though I knew music journalism existed, I hadn't thought of it as an actual career path until I actually started freelancing. This was yet another move out of necessity — after I wrapped my internship with Paste, I still couldn't find a full-time job. But I was figuring out my POV, and I was connecting with folks who were actually interested. Some of my first assignments in town were for Tim Song, photographer and now owner of Gaja, when he was running an independent online Atlanta culture zine called Purge (where I met Cristen!). Tim introduced me to Chad Radford, then a staff writer at Atlanta alt-weekly Creative Loafing. And even though I didn't know the first thing about freelance writer etiquette (i.e., don't just write "I want to write for you" emails a billion times over), editors at national publications assigned me stories if only so I could actually write about Atlanta hip-hop while being out of Atlanta. Sometimes I wish that I can be one of those writers who can write just about any topic with authority and gusto. But I do think it's telling that, given my niche interests, I wake up each day with more ideas than time to execute them.
3. What’s unladylike about you and what you do?
I speak my mind, whether that is through my work or even in the daily negotiations. I can be polite, but I also can't stand bullshit, and I will let you know that.
4. Which of your heroes or role models would you immortalize in bronze?
I've always thought that if I didn't go into journalism, I'd be doing the sort of work I'm doing now in an academic setting. Regina Bradley is doing precisely that but with far more competence than I ever would. To understand the greater cultural implications of OutKast's music is one thing, but then to teach that to the youth — because the children are the future — is incredible. Pay teachers more, but especially pay Regina more.
5. What was your feminist aha moment?
I can't pin down an exact moment, but learning about the feminist legacies of Missy Elliott and Riot Grrrls definitely informed my perspective.
6. What’s bringing you joy right now — or at least keeping you sane?
Rico Nasty's Nasty, CIFIKA's Intelligentsia, Noname's Room 25, Cardi B's "Bickenhead," Lil Baby and Moneybagg Yo's "All of a Sudden," Sheck Wes' Mudboy, Zaytoven's instrumentals for Future's Beast Mode, Neoncity Records, Jeezy's The Recession and Leikeli47's "Girl Blunt." Lizzo on flute. The Janelle Monae episode of Song Exploder. The holy trinity that is Leah, Amalah and Nayely of New Father Chronicles,
7. Aside from keys/wallet/phone, what do you never leave home without?
Stainless steel water bottle and either my planner or a notebook.
8. How can unladies help you and/or your mission?
Join Women in Music, if you support them and want to connect with them, period, no matter your gender identity. Last year I helped launch the Atlanta chapter with six other incredible women, and we've since hosted mixers, a panel and our first music publishing workshop. If you're into hip-hop, subscribe to Sum'n to Say, a podcast I co-host with Jason "Jah" Lee and Yoh Phillips, on SoundCloud and Audiomack. Finally, editors: Hire Atlanta writers to tell Atlanta-based stories, about music, culture, food/drink, sports politics, literally whatever. Get at me if you need recommendations.
More from Christina
More about women in music journalism
The World Needs Female Rock Critics (The New Yorker, 2015)
The World Doesn’t Need More Female Music Critics (Fader, 2015)
This Is My Reality as a Woman Music Journalist (Noisey, 2015)
Women in Hip-Hop (Part 1): Writers (DJBooth, 2016)
How a Group of Journalists Turned Hip-Hop Into a Literary Movement (Pitchfork, 2018)