Kanye Has A Dream: Inside His Creative Agency DONDA

He wants to be a modern-day Renaissance man. And his latest quest for a legacy beyond hip-hop is a mysterious consortium named for his mother. Is this the movement that will propel Mr. West to the visionary status he so desperately wants? Or is this just a fantastical ego-filling dream? In a relentless search for answers, VIBE discovered it could very well be both

By Clover Hope

Illustration By Mat Maitland

BEFORE HANNA CHRISTIAN started working for Kanye West, she was a waitress at The Mercer Kitchen. The exclusive restaurant serves as the cornerstone of New York City’s Mercer Hotel, where West and Jay Z camped out in early 2011 to record their album, Watch the Throne. When West returned in October of that same year to take a series of meetings, Christian, then a 21-year-old college dropout and aspiring visual artist, struck up a conversation. For a week, West picked her brain about everything from architecture to fashion to art. He invited her to a Watch the Throne tour stop in New Jersey. She came back to work the next day raving about the elaborate stage design. Noted visual artist Es Devlin (a frequent West collaborator who’s also worked with Lady Gaga and Rihanna) projected video of sharks and Rottweilers onto enormous cubes that doubled as podiums for West and Jay Z during the show. After gushing about the design elements, Christian went for broke. “I love The Mercer,” she blurted out to Kanye. “But I want to work with you!”

Christian was hired on the spot as West’s personal assistant. And within 24 hours, she was attending the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at the Lexington Avenue Armory in NYC. Three months later, he announced his latest venture, DONDA, an experimental design agency named for his late mother. Christian transitioned to office manager, interviewing applicants and helping to build the company’s early infrastructure.

She's bubbly and effusive when she talks about her big break into the entertainment industry. But when asked something seemingly as innocuous as where the DONDA offices are located, Christian shuts down. “I can’t talk about it,” she says firmly. “It’s in my confidentiality agreement.” A confidentiality agreement with a clause about office headquarters? Sounds ludicrous. But no one does private and mysterious like Kanye West. And for a potential entity born out of one of his legendary Twitter rants, it almost makes sense. Almost.

In January 2012, West laid out a series of tweets, highlighting his plan to create a firm with more than 22 departments staffed by a bevy of experts in divergent fields. He name-checked everything from architects, video game developers and nutritionists to doctors, lawyers and what he called “app guys,” plotting to house them under DONDA.

His master plan reads like a stream-of-consciousness riff that becomes an epically ambitious screed (think Jerry Maguire’s infamous manifesto). There will be summer school programs with filmmaker Spike Jonze! An overhaul of the prison system! Nutritional consultation on achieving energy balance! Amusement parks! West tweeted: “We want to create, advertise and produce products driven equally by emotional want and utilitarian need.”

The kicker was that he intends to not just turn a profit or join the billionaire’s club. He wants to change the world through design and fill the void of late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs. A bit extreme, sure. But Kanye’s bombastic statements are expected. And for a man who secretes naked ambition and pretentious overtones from his very pores, it almost makes sense. Almost.

DONDA may sound slightly absurd, but the idea wasn’t completely random. Even before his Twitter proposal, he fantasized about launching a creative clique to those in his inner circle. In 2008, during a New Zealand press conference promoting 808s & Heartbreak he talked about building art installations. Four years later, he aimed even higher. “I want to work on cities [and] amusement parks,” he said while premiering his short film, Cruel Summer, at Cannes Film Festival. “I want to change what entertainment experiences are like.”

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2020 BET Hip Hop Awards: Watch Performances From City Girls, Big Sean, 2 Chainz And More

City Girls, Big Sean, Jhené Aiko, Brandy, 2 Chainz, and more made the 2020 BET Hip-Hop Awards a night to remember. Hosted by DC Young Fly, Karlous Miller and Chico Bean of 85 South, the socially-distanced event went down on Tuesday (Oct. 27).

Doubling as a sounding board for socially conscious commentary and voting engagement, the show featured several references to Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other victims of police brutality. The night included a statement from vice presidential hopeful and Howard University alum, Kamala Harris, in celebration of HBCU’s.

Although there were more performances than awards given out during the ceremony, the show was full of surprises. Master P received the I Am Hip Hop Award presented to him by former No Limit artist, Snoop Dogg. Rapsody won her first award ever for Best Hip-Hop Lyricist, Pop Smoke was posthumously awarded the Best New Artist trophy, and Lil Baby accepted the Impact Track honor for, “The Bigger Picture.”

YBN Cordae paid homage to Juice Wrld, and Quavo performed a tribute medley to Pop Smoke. The award show also honored other late rappers, including Fred Da Godson.

Watch some of the performances and cyphers below.

City Girls Perform “Kitty Talk” & “Jobs” Big Sean, Jhené AIko and Ty Dolla Sign Perform “Body Language” Brandy, Erykah Badu, Teyana Taylor & H.E.R. Perform Ladies First Cypher Beenie Man, Bounty Killa, Skip Marley & More Participate In Reggae Cypher Tobe Nwigwe Performs “Try Jesus, Don’t Try Me” 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne Perform “Money Maker”
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Chrissy Teigen Shares Heartbreaking Details Of Losing Baby To Miscarriage

Less than a month after losing a baby via miscarriage, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend are being honest about their grief. Teigen opened up about in an emotional essay posted to Medium.com on Tuesday (Oct 27) where she went into heartbreaking detail about the horrific experience.

The model and host was hospitalized last month for partial placenta abruption. After multiple blood transfusions, doctors concluded that the baby, whom the named “Jack,” would not survive. Teigen had hoped to carry the baby until 28 weeks, which was described as a “safe zone.”

She was forced to deliver him at just 20 weeks.

“After a couple nights at the hospital, my doctor told me exactly what I knew was coming — it was time to say goodbye,” she recalled. “He just wouldn’t survive this, and if it went on any longer, I might not either. We had tried bags and bags of blood transfusions, every single one going right through me like we hadn’t done anything at all. Late one night, I was told it would be time to let go in the morning. I cried a little at first, then went into full blown convulsions of snot and tears, my breath not able to catch up with my own incredibly deep sadness. Even as I write this now, I can feel the pain all over again. Oxygen was placed over my nose and mouth, and that was the first picture you saw. Utter and complete sadness.”

Legend and Teigen’s mother photographed the moment at her request. The Grammy winner “hated” taking photos of her in the hospital, Teigen said. She also hit back at people criticizing her for posting the images on social media. “I cannot express how little I care that you hate the photos. How little I care that it’s something you wouldn’t have done. I lived it, I chose to do it, and more than anything, these photos aren’t for anyone but the people who have lived this or are curious enough to wonder what something like this is like. These photos are only for the people who need them. The thoughts of others do not matter to me.”

 

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A post shared by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on Sep 30, 2020 at 8:58pm PDT

Teigen, 34, and Legend, 41, have two other children, Miles, 2, and Luna, 4. Later in the candid easy, Teigen opened up about the harrowing moment that baby Jack was delivered. “My mom, John and I each held him and said our own private goodbyes, mom sobbing through Thai prayer. I asked the nurse to show me his hands and feet and I kissed them over and over and over again.”

The newborn’s remains were cremated. His ashes will be buried near a tree at the couple’s new home. Teigen is still working through her emotions, and admitted to bursting into tears at times, and getting upset with herself for “being too happy.” She said that she often forgets that she’s no longer pregnant. Although the loss of the baby has left a “hole” in her heart, the empty space has been “filled with the love of something I loved so much. It doesn’t feel empty the space. It feels full.”

“I wrote this because I knew for me I needed to say something before I could move on from this and return back to life, so I truly thank you for allowing me to do so,” she added.

“Jack will always be loved, explained to our kids as existing in the wind and trees and the butterflies they see. Thank you so much to every single person who has had us in their thoughts or gone as far as to send us your love and stories. We are so incredibly lucky.”

Click here to read Teigen’s full essay.

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Jamie Foxx Expresses Heartbreak After Death Of Sister, DeOndra Dixon

Jamie Foxx and his family are in mourning after the passing of his “beautiful loving sister,” DeOndra Dixon. The Oscar-winning actor paid tribute to Dixon in a moving Instagram post on Monday (Oct. 26).

“My heart is shattered into a million pieces... my beautiful loving sister Deondra has transitioned,” he captioned a photo gallery of Dixon. “I say transitioned because she will always be alive... anyone who knew my sis... knew that she was a bright light... I can’t tell you how many times we have had parties at the house where she has got on the dance floor and stolen the show.”

Foxx joked that Deondra’s dance moves even gave her “boyfriend” Chris Brown a “run for his money.” Brown also posted a dedication to Deondra on Instagram last week in a post that has since been deleted.

Foxx continued, “Well I know she is in heaven now dancing with her wings on...tho my pain is unbelievable I smile when I think of all of the great memories that she left me... my family... and her friends.”

The father of two went on to recall dancing with Deondra in the “Blame It” music video and at the Grammys one year, and her becoming the ambassador to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation.

“From sliding down my stairs with a grin as wide as the rio grand...to serenading us with all of her music...Deondra you have left [a] hole in my heart,” admitted Foxx. “But I will fill it with all of the memories that you gave me.

“I love you with every ounce of me... our family is shattered but we will put the pieces back together with your love,” he wrote in closing along with, “y’all please keep my family in your prayers” and several broken heart emojis.

According to People magazine, Dixon passed away on Monday, Oct. 19. Dixon was born in Dallas in 1984, and competed in the Special Olympics for nine years, beginning in sixth grade. She moved to Los Angeles to live with Foxx in 2002.

Read Foxx’s full post below.

 

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My heart is shattered into a million pieces... my beautiful loving sister Deondra has transitioned... I say transitioned because she will always be alive... anyone who knew my sis... knew that she was a bright light... I can’t tell you how many times we have had parties at the house where she has got on the dance floor and stolen the show... even gave her boyfriend @chrisbrownofficial a run for his money... well I know she is in heaven now dancing with her wings on...tho my pain is unbelievable I smile when I think of all of the great memories that she left me... my family... and her friends… from dancing in the blame it video… to Dancing on the Grammys… And becoming The ambassador to @globaldownsyndrome... from sliding down my stairs with a grin as wide as the rio grand... to serenading us with all of her music... Deondra you have left A hole in my heart... but I will fill it with all of the memories that you gave me ... I love you with every ounce of me... our family is shattered but we will put the pieces back together with your love... and y’all please keep my family in your prayers... 💔💔💔

A post shared by Jamie Foxx (@iamjamiefoxx) on Oct 26, 2020 at 1:55pm PDT

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