February 4, 2021

Bevy Smith: Queen of Harlem

Ambassador Digital Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Musa Jackson has an in-depth Q & A with the award-winning media personality, host, and author Bevy Smith. Let’s go on her epic journey from Little Brown Bevy to Queen of Harlem.


We begin with her early days Uptown, then tag along for her rise during Hip Hop’s Golden Age when she became a senior director in luxury and fashion advertising and an executive at Vibe and Rolling Stone Magazines.

We’ve been watching her incredible climb as she eventually left those high-profile positions to follow her passions and chart her own destiny. With the A-list Dinners With Bevy, co-hosting the groundbreaking Bravo’s Fashion Queens and the hit Page Six TV and now Bevelations, her runaway best seller and hit talk show on SiriusXM Radio,

Smith truly epitomizes
“it gets greater, later!”


MUSA Bevyyyy! It's so good to chat with you, my dear. The first line of business is, we would like to hear in your words what was it like growing up in Harlem for you.
BEVY Growing up in Harlem was a magical place for me. I learned so much just walking the streets of Harlem, knowing that there were avenues named after great Black leaders and icons to going to school with Black teachers. Everyday going into the classroom that was papered with Black history lessons, not just in February, but every single day. Then of course, the fashion flair of Harlem.

Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s and seeing people be bold and fabulous in their apparel. The first fashion show I ever attended was on the streets of Harlem. Growing up in Harlem was really a charmed thing even with the scourge of drug addiction that happened when I was a kid, then later on when I became a teenager with the crack epidemic. But, I always felt like we as a people were going to make it. One of my favorite blocks in Harlem is Strivers’ Row. For me, Strivers’ Row, The Flash Inn, Copeland’s, these were places I looked at and I said, “Wow, these are Black folks in my community. These are people and places that represent better.” That’s what Harlem meant to me. It rooted me in Black culture, in my Black ethnicity. I was never ashamed of where I came from. It gave me a sense that I could strive for more. (Continued)

Bevy Smith for Ambassador Magazine 2021
Bevy Smith for Ambassador Magazine 2021
Bevy Smith for Ambassador Magazine 2021
MUSA You’re a woman of style who loves fashion. Who were your style icons coming up?
BEVY My mother first. My original style icon. She always was and still is. She is very well put together... Meticulous! It starts in the home. In my book Bevelations, I explain how my mom would do full on fashion shows in the house. (laughs) My father would be the photographer; this was pre-Instagram. My mother was changing outfits, wigs, the whole thing and have my father take pictures of her. Then it was women in my community. It was the barmaids in the Dunbar Tavern and they were fabulous, the hair, the nails, the shoes, the furs, the jewelry. All of it. And outside of that, in pop culture, it was Lola Falana, Diana Ross, anyone who was a brown skin woman on TV or in the limelight. I gravitated towards them. Seeing dark skin women having the ability to shine in big, public arenas definitely fueled me with lots of confidence and that was in addition to my mother.
MUSA How did you land the position as the senior director in fashion and luxury advertising at Rolling Stone Magazine?
BEVY It came about because they approached me. It wasn’t a big deal for me. They came to me. It was very much, “will you come into the office for an interview.” So I did. We only had one meeting and they offered me the job. While it was a big thing for many people in the culture, I wasn’t impressed, because I didn’t feel like Rolling Stone was more important than Vibe Magazine. As a matter of fact, they were the past and Vibe was the future.
We’ve been watching her incredible climb as she eventually left those high-profile positions to follow her passions and chart her own destiny. With the A-list Dinners With Bevy, co-hosting the groundbreaking Bravo’s Fashion Queens and the hit Page Six TV and now Bevelations, her runaway best seller and hit talk show on SiriusXM Radio,

I didn't feel like
Rolling Stone
was more important than Vibe

MUSA Speaking of the groundbreaking Vibe, you were there during the iconic ‘90s. Tell us about that?
BEVY It was definitely a life changing moment. It was the first time in my career I ever worked with Black people in that capacity. I was used to being the only one in the room or maybe one or two more Black people. At Vibe, the entire operation was fueled by Black people, Black creativity and Black culture; that was a game-changer for me.

MUSA Give us a taste of what it was like working with Vibe and helping to change the culture?
BEVY here were really amazing, seminal moments. First of all, working with Emil Wilbekin, Fashion Editor then Editor-in-Chief of Vibe was incredible. Emil has such an eye, a very distinctive point of view rooted in Black excellence. His editorials were not only groundbreaking for us as a people, but as a culture. It was something that much of the main stream media really looked at and honestly, stole from. It was a normal occurrence for them to come to our events, for them to tear through the magazine and see what Emil was doing. It was the way we rolled...rolled as a really fabulously fly crew. When you think about the feeling you have when you see Michelle and Barack Obama step through the doors of the White House or the Capitol and you see that Black excellence on display because of the way they handle themselves... Well, they’re not just people who have Black skin, it’s also the vibe about them. That’s what made Vibe special. It wasn’t just us covering Hip Hop, we were Hip Hop. We walked through every door with that sensibility.
I am not going to suffer
MUSA Most people would have ridden that until the last hinge fell off, but you decided to leave that high-profile gig. Why did you do that?
BEVY I just wasn’t happy. I’m not the type of person who’s going to suffer in silence. I’m not going to suffer in luxury and I’m not going to suffer because people look at what I’ve been able to accomplish and say “that’s a dream job”. I know that being at Vibe and Rolling Stone was a dream job, but I wasn’t interested in living in something that looked like a dream to someone else and I’m living a nightmare. Once it became clear that most of my unhappiness was stemming from my career, I had to make the choice to leave that behind and I did.
MUSA Although it makes perfect sense you being the hostess with the mostest, how did Dinner With Bevy come about?
BEVY Dinner With Bevy came about after I left Rolling Stone. I had a lot of money saved. I hadn’t taken into account that I literally hadn’t been paying for anything in my life really. My entire life was expensed, working at corporate jobs that gave me expense accounts. I didn’t pay for meals. I didn’t pay my cell phone bill. I didn’t pay for travel, so when I quit, I didn’t calculate the fact I was going to have to start paying for those things. I took my own Black version of Eat, Pray, Love. I traveled around the world for three months. I went to Brazil, South Africa, Zambia, Costa Rica and then I came back and started taking acting classes, improv classes, writing classes, photography classes and DJ classes. Anything that I was interested in, I took a class to learn more about it. Then I started going out to L.A. on my own dime. I wanted to get acclimated with the idea that I wanted to be a media personality. All those costs between the travel, the classes and going to L.A., trying to forge a path there, I ran out of money. When I ran out of money, I realized I could go back and get another job, but I had actually been able to be successful at everything I set out to do.
I was writing for
I was also doing VH1 and BET, E Entertainment and all these things. I was making money at those things, so I knew I was on the right path because everything I quit my job to do, I was actually doing. I just wasn’t paid well for it. I created Dinner With Bevy because it was something I had at my fingertips. I want to point out that often times when you’re older and you’re changing careers, people feel that they need to throw away everything they’ve had, everything they’ve learned, all they’ve acquired from their old life to get into their new life...Well not me. What I learned and the relationships I had been a part of and gleaned from all those years...I had relationships in fashion and entertainment, I put those things together and created Dinner With Bevy. That was a game-changer for me. Not only did it actually give me some income, but more importantly, it gave me really solid relationships with celebrities. I had dinner with everyone from Kerry Washington to Idris Elba to Pharrell. I had everyone as my guests, like Charlize Theron to Quincy Jones. I mean it was A-list experiences. Those dinners, relationships and experiences are the reasons why I’ve been able to be so successful at having an entertainment career.
MUSA Tell us how Bravo’s Fashion Queens happened?
BEVY Fashion Queens came to me because a few years prior I met with Andy Cohen about being a part of Tim Gunn’s Guide To Style Show. I was selected to be a part of that, but the contract was bad. Andy was like, “we will work together.” And for like seven years, Andy tried to find different projects for us to work on together. It finally came together with Fashion Queens. So it was one of those magical things where I didn’t even have to audition for the job. That was an amazing part of my career trajectory because it was my first job as a host on a TV show and at a premium network like Bravo. It really set the tone for me and it was really quite an amazing experience. It was made even better by my co-hosts Derek J and Miss Lawrence, both of whom, I feel in my spirit will be my forever co-hosts. We just bonded and I love them so much. They actually started calling me “Mutha”. I got a lot out of Fashion Queens.
MUSA What’s the best part of hosting Bevelations on SiriusXM Radio?
BEVY Before this book, I was only able to show one or two sides of myself on TV. For Fashion Queens, I’m there as fashion and pop culture expert and then for Page Six TV, I’m there for pop culture. There is a chance to show all that you are, all your interests and all your passions, especially when you get a show that’s your own with your name on it. One of the things I asked Andy when he offered me the position at Bevelations, I said, “Andy I don’t want to do a fashion show.” He said, “No, no, no, you don’t have to. I imagine it being like your Twitter feed.” That’s the best part of it. I get to show my radio listeners my love of fashion, but my love of art, architecture, soul music, rock music. They know my original crush was Benjamin Franklin! (laughs) They know these things about me that I’ve never been able to show before and that’s the greatest thing about Bevelations. I get to show all of me.

Get the AMBASSADOR Newsletter

and receive Special Offers delivered to your inbox.

MUSA You have now become an author of the runaway bestselling book Bevelations: Lessons from a Mutha, Auntie, Bestie. What were some of the Bevelations you discovered for yourself writing this book?
BEVY You know, I didn’t really get a lot of Bevelations writing the book, other than to confirm that I was really living in my truth. That I had really done the introspective work on myself. One of the biggest parts of the book I hope people will really take into account is that I continue to dare to dream. This book is the fifteen year journey from Rolling Stone to becoming the media personality I am today. It’s not an easy journey because there literally is no one else who has been able to do that. You will see people who can do reality TV. I’ve never had to do reality TV; I’ve always been a host. I’ve always been able to get these jobs and opportunities based on my skill set and without having to tell anything about myself that I wasn’t willing to talk about. That’s something I’m very proud of. There is no template for what I did. There was no template for what I did at Vibe Magazine, what I did at Rolling Stone. One of the biggest things I realized was, I am a maverick and more importantly, I am continually able to do these things and be successful at them. I don’t do these things for money, but I’m very proud of the fact that any career I’ve ever endeavored upon, I’ve actually been able to make not just enough money to survive, but to thrive. I think that’s something that needs to be said. I don’t like the idea of a starving artist. You are giving art and pleasure to the world and you should be able to live well. For me, I would love for your readers to take away that we can follow our passions, that we should never do anything just for money and we should never allow anyone to short change us because we have a gift that enables us the ability to do something. That means that’s a skill and you should be paid for it and paid well for it.
MUSA 2020 will go down as one of those life changing years in all of our lives. I know personally that family is very important to you. You lost your beloved father Smitty. Can you tell us one thing you learned from him?
BEVY My father taught us so many great things. He gave me my love of travel. He’s the reason why I’m a world traveler, the reason why I’ve been to every continent, except for Antarctica. A man with a fifth grade education taught me about the world. The last thing I took before he passed away...I was in Ghana for the beginning of the new year 2020 and when I came back home, he was in his rehab facility. He was like, “Oh yeah, my daughter came back. She was in Ghana. She was in Casablanca.” He was so proud that I travelled and saw the world. That was one of his passions as well. He served in the navy during WWII and he loved, loved, loved geography. He loved travel. The other thing my dad gave me, which is something I live by, “You only get out, what you put in.” That’s a Smittyism. He told me and my siblings that when we were kids. As an example, we had a neighbor who was not married, had no children and my father said that our neighbor had positioned his life that way because he didn’t want to be bothered with other people. He didn’t want to think about anyone but himself and when that neighbor got old, there was no one really there for him, except his neighbors... My father said, “He put himself in that bind. You can only get out what you put in.” And that’s the reason I’m so blessed with all the relationships I have. I put a lot into my relationships and my friendships and I get so much out of them. You don’t go in thinking, “what am I going to get out of this?”. You go in thinking “what can I pour into this?” and then you find when you need to make a withdrawal, there are a lot of deposits there. I learned that doing this book. The amount of love and support I’ve received is just awe-inspiring and I’m someone who knew I had a lot of big relationships. Writing this book has shown me what Daddy taught me has served me well. I put a lot in and I’m getting a lot out.
I was writing for
MUSA You support many well known organizations. You’ve won several awards and you give back by doing lots of philanthropic work. You must be approached so often for your help. How do you decide which organizations to give your time to?
BEVY That’s actually pretty easy for me. I lean into HIV/AIDS charities. I work with Housing Works and Harlem United. I love anything that has to do with children and young women. I work specifically with WEEN, which is an amazing organization that works with young women who want to be a part of the entertainment industry. Another great organization called Cool Culture is about giving children and their families free access to art institutions and education. These are some of the things that really resonate with me. Anytime, any charity in Harlem needs me or wants me to be a part of something, I show up for that because this is my community that made me and fostered me. I look at what the mission is and how I can be of service. There is always time to give back, so I make the time to do that.
MUSA What would Little Brown Bevy who grew up to be the Queen of Harlem tell the next generation of young women entertainers?
BEVY Oh wow! For one, it gets greater later! Dare to dream big. Dare to dream your biggest dream and do not put any restrictions on your dreams. I would tell young women that you and you alone are in charge of your happiness. Do not give that power away to anyone. Not your mother, not your father, not your husband, not your boss. The art of getting to happy is a solo project. Only you and you alone can do it. Now you can share in that happiness and people can add to that happiness, but to truly get to happy, that’s the work you have to do for yourself on yourself.

-Musa Jackson
Founder and Editor-in-Chief:
Musa Jackson @iammusajackson

Creative Director & Photographer:
Paul Morejon Paul Morejón

Makeup: @kevinmack42

Hair Steven Rice

Stylist @billyhendrixLLC

Copy Editor: Marcia Fingal @marciafingal

Look One
Dress: ba&sh (Courtesy of Bloomingdale’s)
Shoes : Gucci

Look Two
Dress: Rachel Roy
Fur Coat: Helen Yarmak (Courtesy of Garmento Lab)
Shoes: Tiannia Barnes

Look Three
Fur Coat: Helen Yarmak (Courtesy of Garmento Lab)
Necklace: Gucci
Shoes: YSL

Look Four
Dress: Reiss (Courtesy of Bloomingdale’s)
Fur Wrap: Duckie Confetti
Shoes: Tiannia Barnes
Hat: Anthony Maxwell
Shot on Location at the home of Dard Coaxum @harlemgatsby @harlemamerican