Throwback: Amanda Diva Interview W/HipHopDX Fashion

12 Jul

I interviewed journalist/radio personality/emcee/wouldbe wifey Amanda Diva a while back for HipHopDX’s Fashion Section. With the Fashion section being axed for TheEvilCollector, after the revamp, my piece was tossed to e-oblivion. Luckily, I kept the piece, and upon my new Amanda Diva Tribute on my DX blog, I thought I’d repost it here. Enjoy.

Perhaps the only thing that’s more commendable than Amanda Diva’s resume is her sense of style. The 20-something beauty is all about now with her presence in journalism (MTV, XXL), satellite radio (her own show on Sirius) and music (performances on Def Poetry Jam, a DJ with The Aphilliates), but she takes a nod from the past with a b-girl style that was popularized in the 80s. In an interview with HipHopDX, Amanda Diva talks about what she rocks and how she rocks it, along with letting us in on her paintings and her Still Sucka Free mixtape.

HipHopDX: What would you say is your favorite facet of b-girl style?

Amanda Diva: I would definitely say sneakers. I’m a sneaker fiend, that’s actually a problem [laughs]. Not to take anything away from the Kangols and the earrings, but I just love kicks. All flavors, all shapes, styles. So that’s my favorite.

HipHopDX: How many pair would you say that you own?

Amanda Diva: Oh, over 100.

HipHopDX: Out of all the ones you have, tell me about some pairs that are real unique, whether it’s how they look or how you got your hands on them.

Amanda Diva: Well…[pauses, whispers] did I get those there? I have a pair of Air Max 180s, they’re the Paris style. They were only made for Paris, and they have bright yellow laces, a red check, they’re purple, and camouflage, a whole lot of stuff going on. Q-Tip is a sneaker fiend, and every now and again, I get roped up into his, “Yo, let’s go get some sneakers.” But this particular day, he took me into this place in the city where you had to get buzzed in. It just seemed very undercover but then you go in, it’s just a whole world of sneaker fiends. So that pair always stands out to me. But I always get compliments on it too, so it’s a good look.

I don’t really have any anecdotal sneaker stories. I’ve had fun times and capers in my numerous pairs of sneakers [laughs]. I have a pair that my stylist from MTV2 gave to me that I hold near and dear to my heart. They’re a pair of Chuck T’s, but they come up to the calf and they’re embroidered with a dragon. I’ve seen a couple people with them now, but I was the first to be rockin’ em, so never forget that.

HipHopDX: Sometimes people have their own style, and it doesn’t always catch on very quickly. Do you have any stories where you went out on a limb and did your own thing, and didn’t get received as well as you wish you would’ve been because you were different?

Amanda Diva: I know what you mean, but I’m never that outlandish with stuff. I think that the best part of having style is knowing how to flip it for different occasions. I’ve never been shunned for wearing kicks to an event where everybody else has on stilettos or anything like that, or vice versa. Usually, if you believe in what you’ve got on, then people are going to rock with you [laughs]. But if you’re going out questioning it, you more than likely will get questioned. … If anything, I’ve been in situations where I was out and I felt like maybe I should have dressed up more, not been so plain. But the reality is that if you’re you, then that’s going to shine all the time. What you’re wearing is just an enhancement of that.

HipHopDX: Do you see yourself maintaining the B-girl style when you’re older? Or will Amanda Diva be rockin’ Adidas and tracksuits at 60?

Amanda Diva: Oh I definitely don’t see that. I’m a very big believer in evolving and changing. A lot of times in hip-hop, people look at change like it’s a bad thing, like you’ve got to be the same all the time. And that’s getting a lot of people stunted; because with experience, you’re going have changes and you’re going to want to dress differently, you’re going see different aspects of you that shine through that you want to express in your style in different ways. For instance, right now, my hair is straight. At first, when I got my hair blown out, people were like, [yells] “Ohhhh myyy goddd,” like it was a bastardization of Amanda Diva. And I got a Louie for Christmas, and people were like, “You can’t have a Louie, you’re Amanda!” I’m like, “Y’all can just back up.” [laughs] There’s no reason why I can’t like fancy shit, and there’s no reason I can’t have my hair on some grown and sexy shit sometimes. But you’ve got to give yourself room to do that by just doing it. You can’t keep yourself in the box by saying, “I only look this way, I only dress this way.” There’s a certain expectation that people have of me, but overall, what trumps that expectation is the fact that Amanda does what she wants. If she wants to switch up and give us a different look, that’s respected even moreso than the Kangol.

HipHopDX: You obviously have your own sense of style. You’ve made your mark in areas that involve a lot of creativity—music, journalism, radio, and you also paint. Do you ever see yourself getting your own clothing line, or getting involved with fashion more closely?

Amanda Diva: I would love to, but it’s just so oversaturated right now, you wonder, “OK, what’s the realism of that?” Everybody and they mama—literally, when you look at Beyonce and her mom—has a goddarn clothing line! So I would only want to do it if I could bring something to the marketplace that’s completely unique. That’s the only reason that I started going hard with the music, was because I had reached a point where I did bring something to the table that isn’t there in any shape, way or form other than me bringing it. It would have to be the same way with the clothes. If it isn’t unique, and it’s not special, then I’m cool.

HipHopDX: I just heard that you painted a mural for Swizz Beats. Talk about that, and how you got into painting.

Amanda Diva: Well, I was commissioned to paint the mural. I haven’t started the mural yet, but he just had a baby, so I painted him and (wife) Mashonda a piece especially for (that). He was like, “Yo I’m framing that shit like it’s a Basquiat, son!” Hilarious. But Swizz and Mashonda are really good friends of mine, and Swizz is someone who really loves and respects art, so we have that connection outside of the music.

I started painting when I was 16. I spent the night at a friend’s house who was a teacher, she was an assistant for this woman who teaches art classes to kids on Orlando. This was before I had a car, and she wanted me to come, so I went with her. I ended up playing around with the paints that day…and the rest is history. I came back and from then on, I started painting. … It’s to the point now where I paint speakers for people, like Chali 2NA from Jurassic 5, and other people in the industry have asked me. You name it, I’ve painted it. I’ve painted bags, murals, spools, sit-ons, sneakers. I painted blinds in my mother’s kitchen one day and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t get in trouble; and I didn’t, cuz it was hot! [laughs]

It’s a different kind of outlet for me. The thing about painting is that I don’t judge it the same way that I judge my music, I don’t judge it the same way that I judge my poetry, it’s really on its own scale. And it comes from a different place, I think, too. People are telling me that I should be selling my paintings in galleries, yadda yadda yadda, but it’s just not something I’m chasing right now. It’s still a hobby, and I think that’s what keeps it as prolific and as light as it is. It’s still a hobby, and it doesn’t have that pressure behind it being a career thing.

HipHopDX: Let’s talk about your mixtape, Still Sucka Free. Where do your musical inclinations come from?

Amanda Diva: I actually come from a musical family, and I have always loved music. I’ve been a big fan of music, of all kinds, and I’m the type of person that if I really love something, I want to be a part of it; I don’t want to sit on the sidelines. I did start out in poetry, and even before that, I was doing musicals in high school. It’s always been a definite musical root to what I do. My poetry has always been that hip-hop flavor to it that people have always acknowledged, that it’d always seem like there was a beat that was there, that I had a rhythm to it. I think that I’m also musically inclined just because I’ve been around so many MCs and musicians, especially for the past couple years. Interviewing them and working with them has brought me even closer to the music, and how it’s created. … I’ve been able to peep the good and the bad, and see where I’m at with it.

HipHopDX: One thing about the mixtape that I found interesting was that even though you have some A-list artists on there, none of them really overshadow you on the tracks. You’ve got Q-Tip, Chamillionaire, the remake of the Lupe joint. Which ones did you actually go into the studio with them and record with, and was a it a conscious thing to not have them overshadow you on those songs?

Amanda Diva: I mean, I’m no slouch. I think that’s what it boils down to. You don’t ever want to do a song where one person outshines the other, it’s supposed to be symbiotic. You’re supposed to compliment each other, that’s just the way that things are supposed to work out. I’m glad that that was achieved, because I think that’s something that’s really important to making a good song. Those are A-list artists that I’ve known for a while, too. They appreciate what I do, and I think that goes along with it. They trusted my creative vision with shit, and they just fit into place with it, as opposed to trying to overpower. There are other artists I brought stuff to, and they said, “I don’t like the beat, I don’t like this.” I’m kind of like, “This is my shit! How are you dictating that?” Those types of collabos didn’t really work, but for the ones that did come out, I feel like it was based on respect and them actually liking what I brought to them enough for them to make it sound hot and sit in the pocket with me.

HipHopDX: You’ve got your hands in a lot of things—journalism, radio, art, music. Which one gives you the biggest challenge?

Amanda Diva: I’d definitely say music. Music is just a huge, gigantic mountain that you’re climbing blind. You can’t see it coming. With journalism and everything else, it’s a grind, but I feel like I see where it’s going. With music, I have no clue what is in store for me. Even though I’ve been lucky enough to be in the game and have experiences and be exposed to things so that I’m not completely naive, or blinding by what’s out there, it’s still a world of [whispers] mystery. [laughs] It’s definitely much more with work and grind for me. Also, I think I have more invested in it—be in money-wise or just creatively. There’s just more it leaves to me.

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