Jazzie Belle Discusses ‘Women In Hip-Hop,’ And Rise In The Media Game

On any given day if you’re listening to Jazzie Belle’s Women In Hip-Hop podcast, you might hear journalist Nadeska Alexis from Complex’s hit show Everyday Struggle breakdown what it means to be the only girl in the room alongside co-hosts Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks (Since then, Budden has announced his departure from the show). But you won’t only get her side of the story: Budden has also appeared on Belle’s show to discuss the pivotal role women have played in his career.

For Belle, the podcast was initially designed to quench one’s thirst for knowledge for hip-hop, and feed the fandom that’s attached to it from a woman’s perspective. Yet the media personality affirms men and their point of views on the women in the industry are welcomed with open arms.

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“The thing about the podcast is that I take it from a fan’s perspective,” she says inside VIBE’s headquarters dressed in a black ensemble paired with navy blue jeans. “So when I ask questions it’s from an ignorant or oblivious space because I want to feel what my listeners are feeling from this guest.”

It’s that insatiable passion for the culture that is steadily catapulting Belle into a household name within the entertainment media industry. She’s appeared on The Wendy Williams Show as a guest co-host for William’s Inside Scoop segment, and she’s hit the small screen starring in shows like Law & Order: SVU and FX’s Onion News. Additionally, she’s been a correspondent for the Soul Train Awards, BET Awards, and she’s appeared on Love & Hip Hop: New York to interview cast-member Jhonni Blaze.

But things weren’t always this easy. Along her way to media stardom, the Detroit native faced a slew of hurdles like having to work odd retail jobs, to a brief stint in urban modeling. She even auditioned to replace former 106 & Park host Free but didn’t make the cut. She remembers sleeping on the streets in Los Angeles to make it to the audition, after being rejected in its New York installment.

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“I just felt like I embodied the same bubbly personality I was known for, and she was known for,” she says of Free. “I just felt like it was a home run. But what’s for me is for me, and that wasn’t it.”

Amid the fail, she still kept on going and wouldn’t be where she is today had she not preserved. When she wasn’t given an opportunity, she created her own with JazzieBelleTV and did a stint on a public access channel in New York City.

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VIBE sat down with Belle to get her side of the story. The voluptuous beauty talked about her journey, being in a precarious relationship and her relentless effort to make it to the top.

VIBE: Tell me about your beginnings in the hip-hop industry.
Jazzie Belle: 
Growing up in music hip-hop was my love, and what I gravitated to. So with that being said when I moved from Detroit to New York when I was 19 I was pretty much trying to find my voice. But I went in thinking I would only be out here for a year with all the intentions of coming back. Since I came out here New York beat my a** (Laughs). I didn’t want to go back home as they say with a tail between your legs. So I started to pursue hip-hop, and I wanted to be a female rapper, which a lot of people don’t know. But of course, initially, that didn’t work for me. I just had to find my way as far as how to make money.

That’s when urban modeling came in, which took me about five years to kind of tap into that realm. But it was easy because how I look, and people would always suggest it. I took that route in hopes of making money, but it didn’t work so much as far as being so lucrative.

After sticking with it, and being a hustler figuring out, ‘Okay how much do you guys want to pay me to host a party or be on the cover of this magazine,” I started to think more ahead versus what was presented to me.

What were you doing within those five years?
In between the time of getting into modeling, I just worked odd retail jobs to make ends meet. I came out here with my brother and my best friend at the time. Times got really hard for me because I didn’t have enough money as I thought. I came out here with $5,000 but $5,000 in New York is like $5.00, so I learned quick: ‘You not rich boo, you broke as hell.’

I took my resume up and down Fifth Avenue, and was working odd jobs in Sephora, BEBE—just doing retail, and all of that was a learning experience for me. I ended up dating a guy that wasn’t good for me (Laughs). In between him and having these retail jobs, it fell flat for me. I was by myself really quick. My brother had better luck than me. He ended up following his vibration and doing what was good for him. We didn’t separate or anything like that but he was on his path to greatness, and I was just an adult trying to figure things out. I was struggling, and in a relationship that was tumultuous, and once I left that relationship I found myself broke with no money, but wanting to have a piece of mine.

Leaving him was a little of me always being ambitious and kind of feeling like I wanted to show and prove my greatness. Because it looked so easy, what is so hard about taking pictures and being in music videos? Then again you think things are easy until you get in that position until you realize there is no money in it, and it’s overly glamourized. It’s not lucrative at all.

I had to figure out myself how to make this work for me, and being from Detroit and a natural born hustler I just found my way and ended up doing parties. People wanted to pay me $1,200 to host a party, but I was like: ‘What are you getting?’

What do you think is the biggest misconception of women who model for videos and hip-hop magazines?
That they are f****ng everybody. That they are f****ng all the rappers, or anyone on set just to be the lead girl in that video. It happens I’m sure, but in my time in doing it, I didn’t witness that. I think that’s the biggest misconception that I could think of. I’ve always been mindful of that when I was there because I think I had that misconception. I’ve heard stories, and I think I made a conscious effort to be that girl that wouldn’t even think about doing that.

What are women like in the urban modeling industry?
Naturally, women are competitive. I don’t even like to say that the real word is catty. Again, I never wanted to subscribe to that being the case, but unfortunately, it is. Now if you’re talking about women within that culture like the video vixen culture, yeah. To me, the most disrespect came from other women. 

Everyone is different because of their upbringing. Just me having nine siblings growing up with them, it’s easy for me to adapt to different personalities even if you don’t want to. I was forced to. You learn to control your emotions, so that situation is a test. I look at every situation in life as a test. When I was doing urban modeling the biggest test for me was to co-exist with other females knowing that they aren’t the way that I am as far as their mindset.

Switching gears to Women In Hip Hop, what’s the criteria for anyone to be featured on the show?
The biggest misconception about Women in Hip Hop is that you have to be a woman to be on it, which is not the case at all (Laughs). Let me put that out there so men can be on there as well. The premise of the show is to shed light on the influence, the impact and the talent from women within the culture—especially for women who are doing great in a male-dominated industry to tell their story, and to inspire other women to inspire other women. I am sure you’re inspired by Oprah, Ava DuVernay, or Michelle Obama. As a man, you can still be inspired by these women because a success story is a story. Somebody who’s listening to this can be inspired, male or female. It’s all about pushing through.

Who are some of your dream guests?
Well, I just landed one (Laughs). Wendy Williams was one, and she just recently did my show – she was on my bucket list. So I was very ecstatic to have her on there, so that was huge. Lil Kim is on my list, she’s number one. I don’t know, stay tuned, working on that (Laughs). Queen Latifah as well. I love her story, and I would want other women to hear her story who haven’t. Also, Foxy Brown and Lauryn Hill are on my list.

What do you think about new artists like Cardi B and those who have been in the game longer like Nicki Minaj?
I f**k with all of it. I am not in a position to talk down to these women. For me to turn another person down that’s doing it in the culture that I love so much, and there isn’t much representation of it—how dare I?

Like the whole Paper Magazine cover with Nicki Minaj, it’s like: ‘Let shorty live,’ you know what I mean? Let her live, because she has to be in a position where she learns from her own mistakes or not even a mistake she just has to learn from her own experience. You’re going to criticize her and judge her for her story and her path, okay let’s talk about your story and your path. Was that sh*t all gravy, are you proud of everything? No.

One thing I will say is that she’s been consistently Nicki Minaj. Back in the day when you saw Lil Kim squat down with all the fatness down there, it was one of those things that my dad did not understand why I loved her so much. I got my Hardcore CD broken in half.

To him, I idolized her in a way that I wanted to be her, which wasn’t the case. He didn’t understand I could love this woman because of what she represents – strength, confidence, dominating in a field that’s male-dominated. She was in a field that was full of men, and she was the f****ng star.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Five years from now I see more established in creating something, and actually being great at it. I see me creating a dope a** concept as far as a TV show or a film—being a boss in front of the camera and also behind the scenes.