Meet GQ South Africa Magazine’s First Black Editor Nkosiyati Khumalo

What do Lebron James, Future, Kanye West, Idris Elba, and Pharrell all have in common? GQ Magazine. Gentlemen’s Quarterly is an international monthly men’s magazine, featuring mostly fashion, but also articles on sports, food, health and fitness, and even music.

Around since 1931, GQ has been a very well-known and established magazine globally. Despite its longevity, GQ South Africa is yet to have a black editor. However, cue your “Oh Happy Day” playlist because Nkosiyati Khumalo is making history as GQ South Africa’s newest editor effective July 1st.

Khumalo joined Gentlemen’s Quarterly in 2013 as deputy editor but states: ” I remember not seeing too many people who looked like me at senior level” …if you catch his drift. At only 30 years young, Khumalo is aware of the dream come true but also faced with the responsibility and even the pressure that comes along with such a title. His title includes but is not limited to being responsible for the growth of the company through customer relations and products.

His advice to those proceeding him in whatever field that might be, is straightforward: “Bring all of yourself to the table. All of your history, all of your knowledge of heritage, and current popular culture will help.” Yass culture! We can all do the electric slide now in honor of his achievement in Black Excellence.

 

How does it feel to be at the helm of such an iconic luxury magazine like GQ?

A cliché, but its s a dream come true. No dream is achieved without hard work and lots of unseen hours, of course, but I’m honored and elated to put my own stamp on a brand that I’ve been following since I was about 14.

Even after more than five years of working on the brand, it’s still thrilling to see my name near that logo – and it’s always been a brand with lots of personal significance for me.

I’ve always found it as a two-way mirror, meeting me where I am but also introducing me to future-me, showing me not only how to dress with style but how to live with style – in a way that’s always accessible, fun, entertaining, and never too pretentious. It is a special privilege to be able to make that happen for others.

You have taken over as editor from Craig Tyson, who has been the editor of GQ for 13 years. What did you learn in your time working with him?

Craig is incredibly patient and unflappable, and that’s something I strive to carry on. He’s also been an incredible example of editorial integrity, which is especially important to preserve in an industry that can so easily be compromised in favor of advertising revenue or social media hits.

No matter what, we, as content creators, have to keep our audiences as priority one and maintain their trust, and he’s been an ardent protector of that philosophy.

He’s also an incredible writer and really championed finding and retaining that kind of talent, which is core to everything we create, in every format or platform.

Lastly, he’s been great at giving each of us on the team the freedom to grow, experiment, and develop our skills which contributed greatly to my own personal and professional growth.

You have worked as the deputy editor of the magazine since 2013. What did you learn from this experience?

Being deputy was great training for management and big-picture thinking. I was originally the senior copy editor when I started at GQ, and moving up the masthead gave me the chance to feed my curiosity into the rest of the process across the board.

I have a lot of different interests and, through my various roles here, I’ve been able to employ all of them producing events, public speaking, producing video content, and so much more.

It’s a great position because you quickly learn how to distil big, way-out-there ideas into something more focused and powerful, and can share that kind of expertise with the rest of the team and yet, there’s a bit of a safety net, which allows for assessment and re-strategizing where necessary.

I was editor of GQ Style, one of our brand extensions, and that, too, was fantastic preparation for the role of editor it was magazine boot camp, in a sense.

How important do you think it is that you are GQ Worldwide first black editor in history?

For me, there are two sides to that coin. On the one hand, I’ve always worked and pushed myself to be the best to the point that any diversity points etc. that my race would add would be the free gift with purchase, not the main draw card.

It’s also a fair bit of indirect pressure on some level, imagined or otherwise, the fear of making a mistake is almost double because you’re the first, and no one wants to be the guy that ruins it for everyone else. So, on the one hand, I try to ignore that fact during the day-to-day and instead focus on being the best editor I can be, because if I do, the rest will follow.

On the other hand, growing up, I was always a bit of a nerd when it came to seeing who’s actually behind the content I was devouring, no matter the platform “ TV news, radio, magazines, newspapers, everything. So I was always keen to see how things worked and how people actually managed to create these things.

As I grew older and learned more about various structures in media, I remember not seeing many people who looked like me at a senior level. That’s even more true when it comes to lifestyle and fashion titles, not just in South Africa, but worldwide.

Representation at that level is so vitally important for young people, and for our industry. It’s especially important for me to be that in this country where lots of young people see their dreams as impossible to achieve.

If I can put in the work, and I can show them that it’s possible, right here, in this environment, with or without a degree, in an even shorter time frame than I could have imagined, that’s what I consider to be the ultimate blessing.

Apart from that, again, it’s an incredible achievement for me to be part of a global network of some of my own professional heroes, and who truly are the world’s best. I’m quite ambitious, and to be able to have reached that goal before my 31st birthday is a gift and it makes me incredibly excited for the future.

What advice would you give to young, black editors wanting to follow your example?

Bring all of yourself to the table. All of your history, all of your knowledge of heritage, and current popular culture will help.

It’s certainly not an easy task, but don’t get discouraged or give up. Do your research. Be well prepared. Take every available opportunity to learn or use a new skill and, if you’re in a position, invest and make it clear you’re invested and willing to learn.

If you’re in an entry-level position and you’re really struggling, see if your employer will allow you to freelance externally – more of them are open to that these days than ever before. And bring whatever you learn out there back with you.

If you’re a master at creating Instagram stories, for example, use that in your day job I’ve often found opportunities arise when you’ve shown you’re ready for them. Show that you are thinking beyond what’s immediately in front of you, and people will take notice.

What changes do you think the industry needs to put in place to see more black editors and writers into prominent positions?

There are a few different barriers. Entry level jobs in media often don’t pay very highly and don’t often have clearly defined career paths compared to other industries, so for students considering careers, the lack of information is definitely a turn-off.

There’s a disconnect between industry and academic programmers, and I think if those ties were stronger and students were introduced to the many kinds of careers in media that exist from their first year, or even at a high-school level, it would encourage more people to pursue advancement in the field and share that knowledge with their families.

There’s also traditionally been a sort of veil hen it comes to lifestyle and fashion media, and a sort of superiority complex, and I think social media’s basically broken that.

Read full interview at That Aisling Site

Damica Odom24 Posts

Tennessee State University. Future Fashion Journalist. "God is with her, she can not fail"

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