by Joe Siegel
Interview with Publisher and Editor in Chief Gwendolyn D. Clemons
Geographic Coverage Area: 36 U.S. cities ranging from Tennessee to California to Florida
Year founded: 2015
Transgender Correspondent Renae Taylor
Atlanta Correspondent and HIV AIDS Specialist Writer Eddie Wiley
Washington, D.C., Correspondent Rayceen Pendarvis, HRH
Fashion Editor Rashandra Campbell-Clemons
Spirituality Writer Pastor Dr. Darnell Gooch, Jr.
Co-Founder and Writer Dr. Davin Clemons
New York Correspondent and Talent Search & LGBT Influencer Monick Monell
Program Manager Ravell Slayton
Key Demographics: Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi
PPQ: What feature or features of The Unleashed Voice have been the most popular with readers?
Publisher and Editor in Chief Gwendolyn D. Clemons: We’ve been fortunate as a new publication to have landed some great interviews in each issue. Our critics thought we would fail because of our lack of celebrities on the cover. However, we are intentional about the stories we feature. I believe that is our distinction from other magazines.
PPQ: Who came up with the name and what is the inspiration for it?
Clemons: The name is synonymous with one of our mantras “unleashed.” The word “unleashed” means to set in motion forcefully, and we added “voice” because we felt that it was time for the LGBTQ community to be heard. I came up with the name as an off-spin to our 501C3 nonprofit “Relationship Unleashed.” In 2014, we founded this organization to provide programming specifically tailored to address systemic problems in our community.
PPQ: What challenge has The Unleashed Voice had to overcome since its inception?
|Gwendolyn D. Clemons
Clemons: Our biggest challenges have been the lack of support from the Black heterosexual community when seeking to offer advertising services. The stigma of being labeled “a gay magazine” has hampered our ability to grow as fast as we would like. We live in the Deep South and having a “gay publication” floating around the city was not well received.
PPQ: What challenge or challenges is The Unleashed Voice facing now?
Clemons: Our challenge is staying current and ahead of the competition. We are independently owned so everything is done in-house except printing. [Co-founder] Davin [Clemons] and I both work 9 to 5 jobs and operate our businesses as well. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but I am quickly reminded that this is exactly what I prayed for.
PPQ: How has the publication changed since it was first launched?
Clemons: I used to be involved with the creative process and we broke a lot of publishing rules. I rejected the restrictions of what a magazine could and could not do. None of us had any experience and everything was trial and error. We learned everything about this business while I was pursuing my MBA. I had to write a business plan so instead of wasting the research on a fictitious business, I wrote it on The Unleashed Voice Magazine.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
Clemons: I would like to have correspondents from all 50 states. I believe that print media is still valuable and that we can learn so much from each other through genuine story sharing. I love when each issue arrives from the printer. I get a rush from seeing the excitement of the person featured for the first time in a publication. I would change the reports that print media is dying and social media is the new way.
PPQ: What has been the biggest news story or stories The Unleashed Voice has covered?
Clemons: Our biggest story was having Academy Award Winner Mo’Nique on the cover of our 2018 November-December Issue. This in my opinion changed the way a lot of individuals looked at our publication. The biggest question about this interview was, “How did you all get her?”
PPQ: On the Kinsey Scale of 0-6 (exclusively straight to totally gay), how gay is your publication?
Clemons: Our first commitment is to our LGBTQ community, but we do not want to be one-dimensional in our stories. On a scale of 0-6, we rank a 4½.
PPQ: Do you see yourselves as “activist journalists”? If so, in what way?
Clemons: Yes, we see ourselves as activist journalists. We do not shy away from the tough questions or issues of the day. We pride ourselves on being unrestricted about what we want to write about or cover. We do not have to ask for permission from anyone.
PPQ: What’s the most surprising feedback you’ve received from a reader?
Clemons: I was surprised to find out that many in the LGBTQ community lacked general knowledge about gender identities and transgender issues.
PPQ: What advice would you give to anyone who may want to launch their own LGBTQ publication?
Clemons: I would encourage them to properly secure at least two years of funding. Also, find a mentor to help with the publication business. Learn as much as you can about this field because it is more than pictures and articles. I had to learn paper weight, dimensions for ads. The print world had its own language, graphics designers have their own language. Learn how to use the color spectrums, practice how to properly conduct interviews, and develop a keen eye for detail. In addition, make sure you brush up on your grammar because editing is a whole business in itself. You most definitely will need an English scholar on your team.