From left: Elise Peterson, Marjon Carlos, Saada Ahmed, Christina Coleman, and Diane “Shabazz” Varnie

Christina Coleman, news editor Saada Ahmed, content director, in Isa Arfen CUT-OUT CROPPED TOP in black

Marjon Carlos, arts and culture editor, in Suno CLASSIC TROUSERS in tartan

Elise Peterson, music features editor Diane “Shabazz” Varnie, music news editor From Left: Elise in an Alexander Wang top, Marjon in an Acne top and Suno pants, Saada in an Isa Arfen top, Christina in a Proenza Schouler top and a Jacquemus skirt, Shabazz in an Acne top and XXBC pants  


The Visionary Ladies Behind Solange's New Music Website

BY Mecca James Williams | Tue. November 26, 2013 | 12:00 AM | Culture Club
When Solange released advanced copies of her new Saint Heron compilation earlier this month, she brought the party to Opening Ceremony in a decked out Lamborghini, customized by artist Rashaad Newsome. Ever since, I knew I had to track down the team who was behind the event by any means necessary. Saada Ahmed, Marjon Carlos, Elise Peterson, Diane "Shabazz" Varnie, Christina Coleman, and Armina Mussa are editors, friends, and the team behind, a new website featuring ahead of the curve commentary on music, culture, and politics. 

Since launching in October under Solange's new Saint Records label, has been injecting needed wit and candor into music news, becoming, as the website puts it, "a haven for R&B lovers and listeners to discover music free of marketplace politics." Since launching, the website has featured everything from an essay on the impact of Brandy to an interview with Chicago-based visual artist Nina Chanel Abney to a post on Paula Deen's use of the n-word. As creative director, Solange is giving her peers a platform to fuse genuinely amazing music coverage with culture from different perspectives.

Sitting down with five of the editors last week at the Cleveland in SoHo (Armina, the sixth, was in New Orleans) it was clear they are intellectually thriving. Not that this was your average interview: wine was involved, as was an afternoon spent playing dress up at Opening Ceremony’s SoHo store. Scroll down for our conversation and photos from the event. (And, if you want a full taste of the vibe, listen to Kelala's "Go All Night"––I sure know I did while writing this story.)
Photos by Lina Michal

Buy Saint Heron at Opening Ceremony stores or online HERE.

Mecca James Williams: Alright! So what do you guys do outside of I feel like I see you everywhere.
Elise: Oh god!
Saada: We didn’t know you were going to ask about other stuff!
Mecca: Haha. You got a list of things?
Marjon: I work for, and I am an online personal stylist, but writing is my passion. I am also a freelance journalist. I write for Huffington Post and Lurve, have some bylines for Vogue Italia, and obviously I write for Saint Heron. That’s like my main hustle; writing!
Shabazz: I own my own independent company [Electric Circus]. It started off as a PR company, but now it's a full scale consulting company for artists and creatives. I also do events! Which is what I am really known for. I am known for breaking southern talent, like rap talent, in New York. I did Trinidad [James’] first show as well as The Migos ("Versace, Versace!")
Mecca: Alright now! I’m impressed.
Saada: Nah, wait 'til you get to me.
Elise: Yes! [Saada] does the most!
Christina: Outside of Saint Heron, I am the news and politics editor at Russell Simmons' website Global Grind, and I also contribute to NASA. I was a science writer before I was a news and politics writer. When I can, I do speaking engagements for young black woman.
Saada: Outside of Saint Heron the website, I work with Saint Heron, the actual compilation. And then, I’m also the co-creator of Everyday People, which is a party brunch done once a month in New York and in other cities.
Elise: I am a graphic design student at Parsons and I also freelance write. I work as assistant art director and writer for neonV magazine, which is an art and culture lifestyle magazine based out of DC.

Mecca: So how did you guys all come together? How did you meet Solange? Go ahead and dish on that!
Saada: I have been friends with Solange for a couple of years now. I was project managing on the compilation, and she also mentioned she wanted to create a music website. So, she put me in charge of that, and she mentioned a couple of people she wanted to work with me on that, which are all these ladies.

Mecca: So let’s talk about the trunk sale, and that Lamborghini! How did that come into play?
Saada: It was dope, right?
Mecca: Yes! Who came up with that brilliant idea?
Saada: It was Solange's idea. We wanted to have a “back to the roots” way of getting out there. Things can get saturated with Twitter and social media, and sometimes it’s nice for things to be tangible. People appreciate getting something real. I could download something easily, but [with the trunk sale] I have a memory to take away. Like," Yooo! In 2013, remember that Lamborghini? I went and bought that Saint Heron CD." You know, you have that memory!
All: Right!
Saada: The car came about because the artist Rashaad Newsome said we could use it. He did something with the Lamborghini company where he had his artwork on a car. We did not get [the car] made particularly. Let’s get that straight! It already existed.

Mecca: There were three locations for the trunk sale: the Studio Museum in Harlem, Opening Ceremony in SoHo, and Habana Outpost in Brooklyn. How did you guys choose the locations?
Saada: We had to go to Harlem, to, you know... represent! Then SoHo was Opening Ceremony, as Solange has a relationship with OC, and then Habana Outpost [in Brooklyn] was close to our listening party at MoCADA [the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts].
Christina: I also think that Brooklyn just embodies everything that Saint Heron represents.
Elise: We are all Brooklyn girls! You know.
Saada: Oh yeah, we all live there! I didn’t even think about that.
Marjon: A part of the fact is that in essence Solange really represents Brooklyn. I mean that borough had so much love for her. Like, the outpour [at Habana Outpost] was insane.
Shabazz: We were overwhelmed!
Marjon: Yeah, we were overwhelmed! We were selling the records; literally, like taking cash and all of that. And I felt like it was a really great way to engage with the product. In art today, things are thrown at you and it's like always, "Next! Next! Next!" So you don’t really get to feel or love things. 
Christina: No one does face time anymore!
Marjon: No, that’s what I’m saying.

Mecca: So tell us the difference, just to clear it up, between Saint Heron, the compilation album, and Saint Heron, the website.
Saada: Saint Heron the compilation is an annual new age R&B compilation with several artists. This year there are 11 different artists that participated. They are not signed to Saint Records, but they had songs that were either already made or produced especially for the compilation. And Saint Heron the website is a music, news, and culture source. 
Shabazz: To add on the website side of things, you'll notice a lot of artists have their own websites. Like, Drake has October's Very Own; Chris Brown has Mechanical Dummy. I think that Saint Heron is going to be that hub for Solange to premiere all her in-house stuff. It's a source for her to break her news in-house instead of going to a publication.

Mecca: So who are your favorite artists?
Saada: That’s a difficult question!
Christina: I knew that question was coming.
Saada: I’m just going to say Aaliyah.
Elise: In terms of R&B, I never update my iPod with new music. I love listening to new music, but when it comes to what I want to hear everyday, D’Angelo is always on repeat. Jamiroquai is always on repeat. Erykah Badu is always on repeat. Little Dragon is always on repeat.
Saada: I listen to a lot of 70s and 80s R&B. I listen to Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, and Donny Hathaway. I really like South African R&B. I do like new music but on the day-to-day I like my old shit.
Christina: I think we’re very 90s R&B girls!
Elise: No, I’m not! You know what’s really funny about that. I always felt like the black girl that was out of the loop, because I am not a 90s R&B girl. I mean it’s cute, but when it comes to R&B music or soul music, I would much rather hear music from the 60s over anything. I like Curtis Mayfield. Like soul music is what I’d much rather hear versus 90s R&B. I might get crucified for that.

Mecca: What do you all dream of doing in New York?
Saada: Well, I want to continue with Saint Heron. And Everyday People, my monthly party brunch. I would like to move it forward and have it become like a multicultural Soho House. Soho House is a lot of rich folks. They have memberships. They help each other, the old boys club! We need to build that type of thing for ourselves; we need to help each other. So, I think it'd be nice to have an environment like that in different cities, not only here, in Africa too, and Europe. Because, we’re over there, we’re everywhere. My main thing is I want to contribute to society in a positive way.
Elise: Absolutely! I think that's the overall goal for all of us. Ultimately, my heart and my passion is in education. It’s also in the creative realm;  I am really trying to hone it with a background in graphic design. I hope to be an art director or creative director of a brand or publication. I hope to continue to write. I hope to meet my husband. I'm trying to get married, to jumpstart my career, and start a family!
Saada: I wanna get married too! FYI, we're all available!
All: Haha, yes!
Marjon: I agree. I definitely want to continue writing. And really I want to continue to impact people with my writing. Create my own magazine, write a book or two, that would be nice! I definitely see myself with a baby, a brownstone, and a French Bulldog, with the right dude. 
Shabazz: For me, it’s very simple. I just want to be like a female Diddy; everything I basically love to do is in music. I want to get into A&Ring [talent scouting], artist management, and creative consulting. And of course get married and all that, but I can't even foresee that right now.
Christina: This question is always really tough, because I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. But the constant in my life is writing. Since I was young I would recite stories I made up off the top of my head to my sister. Then it went to newspapers; I majored in journalism in college. But yeah, so Marjon kind of stole my life, because I want the baby, the bulldog, and the ...
All in unison: Brownstone!
Christina: Yeah! The brownstone. Really, I just want to affect people with my writing. I want to make people think. Also, to be an ally for women, overall, especially black women. We are our advocates, so yeah.