Christina & Courtney Long
Ages || Christina, 31; Courtney, 28
Company Name || #Blkgrlswurld ZINE
Job Titles || Christina, MFA, Creative Director; Courtney, Senior Editor
Company Start Date || Summer 2013
Years Living In New York || 5
Social Handles || @blkgrlswurld_zine, @wonderzoning
Company Website || Blkgrlswurld
What did you want to be as a child?
Christina: I wanted to be an animator, more famous than Walt Disney. I was constantly drawing from a young age.
Courtney: A veterinarian, I love animals.
What’s the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting #Blkgrlswurld Zine?
Courtney: Stay true to yourself! We were always reminding ourselves to stay true to who we are because that is what draws our audience that we are authentic, out there enjoying shows.
Christina: I agree with Courtney. Don’t be intimidated by other entrepreneurs who seem like they have everything together. Just take your time and do what’s right for you.
How do you define success?
Courtney: Being able to take care of yourself, and enjoying your favorite parts about life at the same damn time. This is really hard to do. Being able to come home, put your stuff on the ground, look yourself in the mirror and be happy with what you see there.
Christina: Celebrating our passion for heavy metal means we get to geek out about this stuff even when no one is taking notice. My favorite moments are when other young women of color discover our work and immediately identify with our personal stories of being in the underground music scene.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned since starting out?
Courtney: Young people need an outlet, evidence that what they are doing is not weird, strange, or unusual.
Christina: Yes! Representation matters! I love the impact our Zines and books have had on local youth.
What is your go-to motivational quote?
Christina: Let your freak flag fly free!
What made you interested in starting a zine?
Christina: Well, I have a Masters degree in fine art for traditional Printmaking and hand-made books. Zines were a fun way to ignore all that formal training, make books faster and get them out to young readers at a low cost. The east-coast zine community is quite strong and ties into the underground music scene. Punks are still recording their own albums, printing their own shirts, and self-publishing Zines.
Why did you choose to focus on women of color involved in heavy music genres?
Courtney: Because that’s us! We would go to shows and realize we were the only ones there.
Christina: Right, we wanted to air out the fun times and the hard times of what it’s like being the only WoC at a rock show with hundreds of people. We soon discovered other girls across the country were having similar experiences.
Do you have a personal motto?
Christina: Do it for the music, the youth and the culture.
Which women inspire you?
Courtney: Actress, writer and director Issa Rae.
Christina: Yeah, I’ll support anyone who’s down w/ the jack-of-all-trades approach to life. I run the small-press, play violin in a couple of orchestras, go to metal shows and love classical opera.
How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?
Courtney: By getting inspired! Some easy ways we have found to get inspired are by finding new bands to listen to, going to a concert, visiting our local art museum, or buying a new book. Looking at what others are doing, and seeing them enjoying it can make me want to do something with my hands to capture those emotions in my own art. Sometimes it is also helpful to go back to your own old work, page through the things you have already done and watch the progression. Our work evolves as we do. Remembering how you felt making that first piece of art can inspire you to do it again for your new pieces.
What is the hardest part about being your own bosses?
Courtney: We have to poke and prod ourselves to get projects going, if we say something is coming out soon it better come out because our readers are waiting for it. When we run into hard questions about production, distribution, content, we have to seek out the answers ourselves, we can’t delegate that to anyone.
How do you handle situations where you feel overwhelmed?
Courtney: I take a step back. At the end of the day, it ain’t that serious sis. Dim the lights, take a bath, and pull out the book with the worn cover. Dedicate the evening to yourself. Take a breath. Then, I like to wake up early and attack whatever was causing the feelings. Sometimes in the thick of things its hard to remember that everything can be broken down into steps. You just have to choose to start at step 1 and not step 25.
What is your workspace like?
Christina: Living in NYC, my workspace is a mobile/compact set up I can toss up and take down in my living room. When printing and editioning Zines, sometimes I create a printshop in my apartment, other times I pay for hourly access to one of the print shops in Manhattan.
What has been the most rewarding thing since starting the zine?
Courtney: It’s cheesy, but the people. This includes the people we meet through these opportunities, people we have featured in our zines. It’s really great to find people who want to be a part of the project. One of our favorite memories was hiring models for our photobook zine. The best part was when we were hanging back from them, talking about the next shoot and we saw them all start to become friends. People who would have otherwise never met! It’s amazing to know we are playing a part in expanding this community. The fans themselves, are also very rewarding. We can be kind of shy, because we are so blown away that people are really getting that sense of community out of our zine. They come up to us and tell us they feel heard. They feel seen. They are finding and connecting with our work. It is a powerful connection, and we are honored to have it.
What are some of your goals moving forward for #blkgrlswurld Zine?
Courtney: We really want to expand our business and give more people access to different types of #blkgrlswurld products. We have also had a lot of fun attending other zine fests. In 2018 we sold Zines at over 20 events across the east coast. It’s starting to roll around in our heads, what would it look like, feel like, be like, to host our own zine fair? We also looking into hosting an intimate music fest that features women led metal bands. There’s that representation again!
What advice would you give to other women trying to enter your field?
Courtney: Stop hesitating! When you are first starting out, the only one telling you no is yourself. Ask the question why not me? Why not right now? Why can’t I just try it? The zine world is also exciting because it can be made in the comfort of your own home. All you need is a printer. You can find that at Office Max. Just do it! Still scared or unsure? Go to your local zine fair. See what others are doing and get inspired!
What is your creative process like?
Courtney: It’s literally all about the music. There would be no fiber art, paper art, nothing, without music. Music comes first. We started the zine from our love of raw live music, and that is what continues to fuel it. We do our best brainstorming on the way to a show, just after a show or, in Christina’s case, right after twiddling out something on her mandolin.
How is it working together as sisters on #blkgrlswurld Zine?
Courtney: Just like doing anything with your sister. We heckle, we nag, we finish each other’s sentences, we argue, and we do a lot of laughing at and with each other. We literally can’t turn it off, even in public events, so we are used to people laughing at our antics. Unlike in a business where you aren’t family, its really hard to ghost your sister if you are late on a project. If you haven’t answered her and she has called you three times, she will get your mama to three name you. Mom doesn’t really understand the zine, but she understands hurt feelings!
How have your backgrounds helped you with this venture?
Courtney: I’m a biologist and an occasional freelance writer. A lot of my drawings reflect that science background, and I like to contribute short personal essays, stories, or poems in our zines. It’s a way for me to get my creativity out by playing with paper and word placement in a way I probably couldn’t with a traditional book.
Christina: For the longest time I hated my business degree, I longed for art school and just didn’t see the point of it. Now that we’ve tapped into the missions, personal values and passions we care about, that business knowledge has been a great resource to lean upon.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.