As Danielle Prescod climbed the masthead and became a fixture of the magazine industry over the last decade, so too did her growing frustrations with the lack of representation, and respect, she saw for Black women. Her debut book, Token Black Girl, delves into both her eyebrow-raising and eye roll-inducing experiences (putting it lightly) she’s had to stomach since childhood, and the larger societal implications of the media’s narrow view of fashion and beauty content. Prescod has since been busy on a whistle-stop nationwide book tour, finishing up with a reading, signing, and panel discussion at Hampden boutique in Charleston, South Carolina. We caught her for a moment to get the backstory and to hear what she’s cooking up next…
Where did you grow up and what type of career did you dream of?
I grew up in Westchester County about 30 minutes outside of New York City. I wanted to be a lot of things when I was younger—first a librarian, because I loved books so much, but then I found out that librarians don’t make a lot of money. For a minute, I wanted to be a photographer and that didn’t work out because I have no patience and am somewhat of a control freak. I abandoned all of these things around my freshman year of college, and I went into school thinking that I would be pre-med and come out a plastic surgeon. But writing was way easier than my bio labs, so I became a writer!
Were you always into magazines?
I loved reading magazines so much. I read a lot of Teen People, YM, and then Teen Vogue, Vogue, Elle, etc. I was not conscious that there were jobs at magazines besides writing, so I was so thrilled to learn that there was such a thing as a fashion editor or beauty editor.
Can you pinpoint a moment or opportunity that got you started in your career?
I will never forget I got offered a Teen Vogue internship on my birthday the year I turned 20. I had wanted to be an intern there the year before and I applied and interviewed and did not get it. I was so devastated, but I didn’t give up and I went through with the process again and got the email on my birthday. I worked there for the next year and it singlehandedly changed the trajectory of my career.
Your book delves into some of the beauty/hair treatments and fashion choices you felt you had to make—can you tell us more about that period and its effect on you?
Honestly, I feel that it’s an ongoing battle. White supremacy forces Black people to show up as perfect, or at least malleable to the white standards as a prerequisite for respect. There’s so many testimonials of people being denied service at restaurants, being unable to work in offices, or dismissed simply because someone finds their hair, body, or clothing to be “unacceptable.” This is not something that is over for me or over for people of color in general.
During your time as an editor, were there people that you did look up to who you could relate to? Or mentors from outside the industry who helped you navigate your career?
Of course! Taylor Tomasi Hill gave me my first shot in the industry and still takes care of me now. There are so many. Shiona Turini was my boss, who turned into my mentor and friend. I have also been extremely lucky to have peers who also help me through so much, which is why my acknowledgements section is so long!
You launched 2BG in 2020—tell us about the premise of the consultancy firm. What are some projects/initiatives you’re most proud of to date?
2BG helps fashion and beauty brands on their anti-racism journeys. We are very invested in making sure that our clients fulfill any pledges or promises that they make. We have worked with many companies across the industry. but the best feeling is when singular Black employees at these organizations thank us for lifting a burden they have had to carry alone.
How long were you working on your book for?
I worked on this book for my whole life, more or less, but I really started putting things down on paper in 2018. By 2020, I knew I was going to write a non-fiction book, and by 2022 it was published!
What do you want to inspire in all readers?
I guess my biggest hope is that people really understand that white supremacy is harming us all at the same rate. It is not something that only effects people of color. It is poisonous and toxic to us all, so we all have a responsibility in combating it.
Would you ever want the book to become a show? Who would play you if so?
Haha! Oh my God, I have not thought about the book getting adapted like that. What is Kiki Layne up to?!
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What are five things that always get you through the day?
Meditation, Matcha, horseback riding—if I can do it but if not, any exercise is fine!—Real Housewives, and TikTok.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully writing another book and doing more public speaking!
Order Token Black Girl here.