Social Media Week: KC Clark Talks Being @versatilenstyle

KC Clark is just like most 20-year-olds, plus or minus nearly a half-million followers. The Detroit native has garnered his own Instagram legion as @versatilenstyle, all of whom look to laugh at his renditions of everyday life. However, it may escape them that he is an everyday guy himself. He played sports in school. He got teased for being different. He made a lifelong best friend in his single mother. He has dreams. And now, his profile serves as crash course in becoming rich and famous before he actually makes it there. Clark’s social media popularity has made him an Instagram favorite to some, as well as a target of cyber hate to others. But it is all just a testament to how far he -- and the Internet -- has come. -- Iyana Robertson

VIBE: What was your first social media profile, and how corny was it?
It was so corny. It was MySpace. I used to have all the songs on my page. I used to have all the different backgrounds, Jordans, celebrities and stuff like that. It was super duper wack now that I think about it. And then you have your friends in that Top 10. If you wasn’t in that Top 10, you know you really wasn’t my friend like that.

Oh, things got serious over Top Friends.
It really did. It was like ‘Oh, I see where we stand.’ It was super corny.

You started off on Vine before you got really popular on Instagram. Did you go into it wanting to entertain?
I actually was a little late to Vine. I had just moved back home from Georgia, and my brother told me about Vine. He was like ‘Man, it’s so funny. You should look at it.’ So I looked at it and I instantly thought it was really funny. At the time, I didn’t really have no job, I didn’t have much to do, so out of boredom, I just started making Vines and people started thinking they were funny. Before this, I didn’t even know I was funny until I started making videos, because I wasn’t really trying to be funny.

So you weren’t the “funny guy.”
Yeah, it just happened. I didn’t go into thinking ‘Hey, I’m going to make funny videos, and I’m going to get people’s attention.’

And then it blew up once you went over to Instagram. Do you remember when you first started seeing your videos pop up everywhere?
Yeah, when Instagram first got videos, after a while they created this app called the RepostWhiz, and it lets you repost videos that people do. Once I started my reposts on other people’s pages, I was like ‘Oh my God, this is crazy.’

It is crazy. What were you thinking?
I was really excited because before, when I only had a couple of thousand followers, and I was doing videos, people would comment and tell me they were really funny. So I would go on celebrity pages and say, ‘Can you check out my videos? I think you might think they’re funny.’ Then they started posting my videos without me saying anything. People with tons of followers were reposting them, and then I would get tons of followers. I was just like ‘Oh man. This is dope. This is amazing.’

How hard is it to be funny in 15 seconds? It’s such a short amount of time. Does a lot of work go behind putting these things together?
It’s not as hard as people would think sometimes, but other times it is a little difficult. So it has it’s hard times and it’s times when it’s just like nothing. But basically, I just think of an idea and it just blows up from there. I just get my phone and get on Instagram. I’d do the video over like five, or maybe like 20 times over and over until I get the right video that I actually like.

Wait, 20 times?
Yeah, before I actually post it. I’d be like ‘Umm, maybe I should do that part over. Maybe I should do this part over. Ah, I messed up on this part.’ I don’t even write out my ideas or what I’m going to say. I just come up with the idea, like a concept, and then I just go from there.

And where do you get your ideas from? Is it just conversations with people?
I try to base my ideas off real-life situations, whether it’s something that happened to me, or something that I saw happen, or someone tells me a story and I just put my own little twist to it. So someone can tell me a story and I’d just be like ‘I can see that happening,’ and I’ll just recreate it in my videos. Or say I saw a girl act ratchet. I’d say, ‘Oh my God, I gotta do that in a video.’ And that’s where I get it from: life, basically.

A lot of people have criticized men who put on wigs and imitate females as a less-than-masculine way of generating a following. What do you think about that?
When I first started putting on wigs, I knew certain people wouldn’t like it. But I don’t really care. I’m totally far from a judgemental person, so if I wasn’t doing it and I saw someone else doing it, I would just be like ‘Hey, it’s funny’ if it made me laugh. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that that’s making him less of a man or anything. I just think whatever’s funny is funny. As far as how I feel about myself doing it, it’s just all in fun. I don’t think of it as making me less of a man, it’s just all about having fun to me. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. I don’t just walk around the house in a wig all day. I just enjoy having fun. And obviously I’m doing something right.

Exactly. But what do you think it is about you and your videos that you followers love so much? Because there are other people who do it too.
I think I make myself more relatable than a lot of others do. No shade, or whatever. I just think I’m more relatable in my videos. I feel like when you see one of my videos, you’d be like ‘That happened to me,’ or ‘I saw that happen to this person.’ I think it’s just that I base my videos more off of reality, unless it’s a really strung-out story that I was being silly about. I’m just a regular person. Just because of Instagram, I don’t consider myself a celebrity per se. It’s just really Instagram.

Social media has given people a new way to chase their aspirations, though. There’s a new way to share your talents. Are there pros and cons to this?
I totally agree with you on that. Before Instagram or Vine, I was trying to do my dancing and i was trying to do my acting and it didn’t work out. So I was in the midst of chasing my dreams, and I feel like Instagram has given me a really great opportunity and a really great stepping stone to get a little bit closer to what I’ve been trying to do for a minute. But I think the pros and cons of it all is just that it is on the Internet, so there are some people who hide behind their keyboards and say mean and rude things, that’s the negative side of it all. The pro of if it all is the same thing, it’s the Internet. Anyone can see it, anyone can see your face. You don’t know who’s following you, you don’t know who’s liking your videos. You just never know. It’s exposure, but it’s exposure in a way that can bring hateful people to you.

How have you dealt with the negativity?
Oh, I’m the best person when it comes to ignoring stuff. I can ignore anything. I don’t even respond to people who comment stuff. I just block you and delete you, and that’s that. I’m not about to argue with you. Period, point blank. I don’t even bother at all.

You also have posted things about your reality being different from your videos. What misconceptions do you think people have about you?
Well, the biggest thing is, people think I’m a comedian when really I’m just an aspiring actor. People run up to me like, ‘Say something funny,’ and I’d have nothing to say but ‘Hi.’ [Laughs] So people just think I’m instantly hilarious, like as soon as I walk in a room I’m like ‘Knock, knock, here’s a joke.’ I’m really just a cool, laid-back, silly type of dude. I’m not really a comedian.

Is there ever a time when you just feel like this funny Instagram guy, and that people don’t really care about anything else?
Yeah, I do feel that way sometimes, like all they want is the videos. I don’t think nothing’s wrong with it, but I just think you also have to remember that I’m living my life just like you. You have things to do throughout the day, so sometimes I just don’t have enough time to make videos. And some people get annoyed by that. I could go three days without making a video and people would be like ‘Oh my God, you haven’t made a video.’

But there is another side to it too. You’ve shared your personal life on your page as well. Do you feel like you have a new, sort-of extended family?
I really do. When my grandma passed, she didn’t have any insurance, so she didn’t have any money to pay for the funeral or just to get things together. And I just immediately thought of Instagram. I was just like, ‘Hey, it would be nice if you guys could help me out.’ It made me feel really special when people were actually helping me out. Someone even donated like $500. And that was a blessing, it was truly amazing. That warmed my heart for me to be able to help out my grandma. It really meant a lot to me. I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.

What is your ultimate goal as an entertainer?
My ultimate goal, I’ve been saying it since I was little, I really wanted to be rich and famous more than anything. But to get to that point, I want to be an actor, and I also want to be a dancer. So maybe like on Broadway. And I’m also into fashion; I want to own my own clothing store one day. I want to be “the face” of something.

Listening to you talk about you dreams and knowing that something like Instagram can help you get there, is still insane to me.
It’s truly amazing. I was just having this conversation with my friend. Aaliyah was on the radio and I was just like, ‘Do you know how much of a better opportunity we have than they had back then?’ She became a singer and there was no Instagram, no YouTube, no nothing out back then. So she really had to grind, really had to work her butt off. Now in this day, we have YouTube and Instagram, people can see you from anywhere, all over the world. But back then, they didn’t even have that so I know they had to have been busting their ass trying to get somebody to see them. It’s amazing that we have these opportunities. We still have to work hard, but I don’t think we have to bust our ass as much as they had to bust their ass back in the day.

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P Diddy promotes his new Diddy Dirty Money single 'Coming Home' and his headphones DiddyBeats at HMV, Oxford Street on January 20, 2011 in London, England.
Photo by Matt Kent/WireImage

'The Last Train To Paris' Turns 10: Revisit Diddy's Aug./Sept. 2010 VIBE Cover Story

YOU EVER WATCH a control freak mellow out? It’s fascinating. When said micromanager is Sean “Puffy” Combs, it’s an enlightening ordeal altogether. Sitting at trendy Asian eatery Philippe Chow in New York City, two days before LeBron James announces that he’s taking his show to South Beach, Combs has talking points: impact and legacy. “This ain’t a regular run,” says Combs of his two-decade laundry list of accomplishments. “I’m saying that in the most humble way possible. I’m me and I’m seeing it. Most times the impact of what you do you don’t even live to see it.”

He’s the only patron seated for the evening, lounging at a table that comfortably seats eight. This is clearly a Sean John zone. His voice remains even, but the arrogance skyrockets. “It trickles over into sports. It goes into the way the free agent negotiations are going. [Athletes] have that belief. But that level of confidence as Black businessmen wasn’t really there. Unforgivable swagger. That shit wasn’t there.”

Translation: Sean believes that his ambition has been infectious. In his “humble” opinion, his drive has taught the have-nots that not only can they have, but they can be gluttonous and acquire wealth rather than riches. Will it ruin his day if people don’t agree? Not really. But he’d still like the legacy to be accurately documented. His reactionary reflexes have given way to him thinking long term, which could be why he’s unfazed by trivial shots like 50 Cent’s claims of having nude pictures of his artist Cassie. He’s more interested in guiding careers—Rick Ross, Red Cafe and Dirty Money, among them. And really, he’d like to do square biz and have your kids’ kids respect him like his contemporaries admire Warren Buffet. That would truly be money in the bank. In the meantime, he wants to mellow with a plate of chicken satay and talk Diddy legacy.

VIBE: You have said that rap’s heavyweight class consisted of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Drake. Do you still believe that?

Diddy: Definitely. I feel like Drake is somebody that entered professionally in the heavyweight division. He didn’t come in as a middleweight, he didn’t come in as a light heavyweight, he came in as a heavyweight. He’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with for a while. He is the definition of a new age musical rapper . . . going forward a lot of rap artists are going to have [singing and rapping] in their repertoire.

What’s the ranking in that heavyweight division?

Jay, Kanye, Wayne, and Drake.

Jay still No. 1?

Hands down as far as worldwide impact and due to this last album [The Blueprint 3]. He’s moved up in the rankings.

People don’t realize that you two are friends and not just industry acquaintances.

Over the years as we’ve grown, Jay and I have needed each other. We’ve needed to be able to pick up the phone and call somebody that can understand what each other was going through. We needed each other to motivate each other; we needed each other to push each other. We needed each other to support each other and also to challenge each other. He’s definitely been a great friend to me. There’s never been anything that I’ve asked him to do or he’s asked me to do that we really haven’t done for each other.

Give an example of when you had to pick up the phone and call Jay for assistance.

I wanted to do something game-changing with Sean John. And I just picked his brain. I did [a fashion line] before him but I think that business-wise he did a lot of things better than me. He picked the right time to get out and get his check, to sell his company. We sat on the phone and talked about itŃput our egos in our pockets. I didn’t see Sean John versus Roc-A-Wear. I just saw that my man over here is doing it [and I had] a couple of offers for Sean John. It was a beautiful conversation, ‘cause we’re sitting down at this restaurant and we’re talking about apparel. We’re not talking about music. It was a beautiful moment. Two quarter-of-a-billion dollar companies—just getting advice from your competitor. It was something that you heard rich White boys do.

Dr. Dre said that the last beat that floored him was “All About the Benjamins.” How does that make you feel?

It’s humbling. I was in the studio with Dre the other day. He started working on a record for me. Watching him as a producer is watching greatness. We had a lot of similar traits. It was like looking in the mirror. He would ask questions like, “How you feel about this?” People don’t really understand true producers want to know how you feel about things. We are some of the most observant people on the planet.

You’re a lot more into the music now than the last time we spoke.

I was waiting to get a lot of inspiration from the outside and it just wasn’t coming. And I’m not knocking anyone’s hustle that’s out there. I just come from musical history that musically people gave more of themselves . . . I was able to go back and listen to all the great records that I made. I ain’t do it on purpose. Like sometimes I’d be in a club and the DJ was just throwing tributes and would go deep in the crates. I would be like, “Damn, I forgot that I made that one.” It just gave me a deep connection and another level of confidence for me to do me.

Are you feeling more comfortable writing on your own?

Yeah. I learned a lot more. I feel a lot more confident and free. On this album, I wrote like maybe two or three records by myself. But I still like writing with somebody. It helps me. Not using it as a crutch, but I get better results from co-writing; having my own feelings and thoughts, and, you know, getting some help with it. I love the feeling of collaboration, community in the studio. I don’t like being the mad scientist and being in the room by myself.

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Desus & Mero Bless A Bronx Bodega With A Year's Worth of Rent

You know them as the hosts of the hit Showtime series Desus & Mero, aka "the greatest show in late-night history, featuring only illustrious guests." These days you might catch them chatting with President Obama, but  Bronx natives Desus Nice and The Kid Mero have never lost touch with their roots as the Bodega Boys.

"On our first podcast me and Mero used to have to ride the train back afterward," recalls Desus. "And basically our conversation on the train sounded exactly like the podcast. And somebody was like, 'Yo, they sound like two guys you hear in the bodega.' Which was true, because when you hear guys in the bodega, they talk very passionately about things. They may not have all the facts, but they're talking with their hearts."

"Their confidence is strong!" adds Mero with a laugh.

"That's just us," says Desus. "We're raised in bodegas. Probably 90 percent of the food we grew up eating was either our mother's cooking or chopped cheese sandwiches."

"Facts," Mero confirms.

Ever since the pandemic hit, New York City's community bodegas have served as a lifeline by providing New Yorkers with daily necessities, especially in neighborhoods where door-to-door gourmet food delivery is not an option. But staying open hasn't been easy—the daily risks of doing business under threat from a deadly virus—not to mention a spike in robberies and violence—has made running a bodega very challenging, to say the least. But day in day out, in good times and bad, they find a way to keep their doors open.

"If your block is the solar system, the bodega is the sun," says Mero. "The hood orbits the bodega."

So when the makers of Pepsi cola decided to give back on the bodega owners who provide life-giving sustenance and ice-cold soda to NYC's five boroughs, they reached out to the Bodega Boys as their official goodwill ambassadors. Today Desus & Mero appear in a short film called The Bodega Giveback, which highlights the way one Bronx bodega overcame extreme hardship—and the way Pepsi is helping them keep going after 2020 comes to an end.

For Juan Valerio and his son Jefferson, the proprietors of JJN Corp Deli & Grocery in the Bronx, 2020 has been a horrible year. Juan still remembers when he came to America with his father in 1990. "To buy a bodega at that time was well over $100,000," Juan recalls in the short film, which you can watch above. "It was a dream that seemed unreachable. I never thought I would achieve it. And now this is what I do. My whole life is here."

Then in April 2020, tragedy struck when Juan's father lost his life to COVID 19. For the first time in three decades, the bodega had to close its doors down briefly. "It’s something very powerful to lose what you love the most in a split second," Juan recalls with emotion as his son comforts him with a hug. "Life goes on. And I decided to come back because he always taught me to work. To stay closed was disrespectful to him."

"He had to shut down for a little bit," says Desus. "But then he reopened cause the community needed him. Cause the lockdown a lot of stores closed down. And in the Bronx, you can't really get stuff delivered. And he's the hub. We heard stories of what he did, so we were like, how can we give back to him? Shout out to Pepsi with the Bodega Giveback. And just giving him a year's rent—that's the most amazing thing you can give a bodega owner. Shout out to Juan and his son. The look on their face when they really get it—you see the appreciation."

"It really hit home," said Mero. "Cause it's like, we're children of immigrants. So that could have been us—if we didn't get seen by the right people and put in the right positions, we coulda been workin' alongside our dad at a bodega. And then watchin' your grandfather pass away and then comin' back because you know how important you are to the community. Like, that's really selfless. It's just a dope story. And those stories occur all over the place, it's just people don't see them. Cause they don't get exposed on a national level. But a brand like Pepsi can put that on a national stage and be like,  "Yo, look—this is a mom and pop establishment for real. And these are the small businesses that you supposed to be supporting."

The release of The Bodega Giveback kicks off a larger holiday giveback from Pepsi this season that includes cash gifts to bodega owners and consumers across NYC's five boroughs.  “Pepsi has so many longstanding bodega partners in New York City,” said Umi Patel, CMO of North Division, PepsiCo Beverages North America. “They are not only pillars of the community, but they have gone above and beyond to take care of their loyal customers during the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have worked around the clock to stay open, filling shelves to ensure their customers, friends, and family have the essentials they need to stay home and stay safe. They have even shifted their businesses to meet the needs of the community, offering new delivery options, adding crucial items like masks and gloves, and more, all while dealing with their own personal challenges of the pandemic. We are proud to do our part in giving back to these unsung heroes.”

From now until December 20, Pepsi will also be surprising customers at local bodegas across the five boroughs by gifting pre-paid credit cards of up to $100.00 per customer.

As Juan says in the film, "one hand washes the other, and with both, we wash our face."

Check out our full convo with Desus & Mero above and the short film, The Bodega Giveback.

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Level Announces Their 'Best Man 2020 Awards' Featuring Entertainment Elite to Everyday Kings

It is a hard feat for media brands to survive the content landscape these days. To pull off the incredible undertaking of informing an audience as a new publication in the digital space is damn near impossible, yet the team at Medium's Level has done just that. To celebrate making their mark as a one-stop information shop for black men with their one-year anniversary this week, the team of bright and witty editors has launched their first annual Best Man Awards 2020.

The plan to honor the brand that started in December of 2019, focused on the interests of African-American males, has expanded into encompassing the efforts of a few good men during this mess of a year that is 2020. In doing so, those that broke through barriers of personal pain, new business frontiers, and support of others are highlighted and given the rightful pedestals to gain well-deserved props.

Of the 12 awards, esteemed gents like Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and D-Nice are saluted as Quarantine Kings for their Verzuz and Club Quarantine (respectively) social media music creations that entertained the masses during the dogged days of our universal shut-down. There is also a heroic soul of a man who protected a black woman and her family from the surrounding presence of racist neighbors on his own time and dime. They have an award for Father of the Year, where former NBA all-star and champion, Dwyane Wade shines as a glowing example of understanding and ushering in new ways of parenting in today's society.

With the awards being a noble move towards giving Black men some much-needed praise in 2020, Level made sure to round up the last 365 days with themes on "The State of Black and Brown Men" as well. Essays that cover the realms of political ideology, coping with covid among Blacks health care workers,  how Black men fell short of protecting Black women, and exploring what Black men see when they look in the mirror (a piece that is a user-generated content driver/audience-led convo). All hard topics that need to be detailed, yet are rarely in a space for deep-dive convo.

Helmed by former VIBE editor-in-chief, Jermaine Hall, Level's editors explain their thoughts on the special coverage and celebration of their one year old brand:

“With the Best Man Awards, we wanted to lean into people who are doing incredible things to support society and publicly thank them. Anthony Herron, Jr is a hero. He stepped up to protect someone he didn’t know because, as he saw it, harassment is unacceptable. LEVEL wanted to make sure he received a nod for his heroics. But there are also several celebrities who are doing things outside of their jobs. D-Nice, Swizz, and Timbaland helped us cope through music. And it wasn’t a paid gig for any of them. They responded because people needed help healing so they provided care. That’s a strong attribute of the LEVEL man. It’s certainly is the definition of men being their best selves."

Click here to read about these individuals and learn more about the Best Man Awards 2020. Excelsior to Level.


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