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Meet Quincy Newell of

Today we’d like to introduce you to Quincy Newell.

Quincy, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born on September 14, 1967, in New Orleans, Louisiana. My mother, Sharon Ann Jones, was eighteen when she gave birth to me. During this time in New Orleans, there was intraracial discrimination between Creoles and so-called darker skinned blacks. My family is of Creole heritage. Louisiana Creole folks are mixed race blacks that descended from the inhabitants of colonial Louisiana during the period of French and Spanish rule.

My family’s heritage is a mix of French and Spanish Creole, and because of the discrimination prevalent among blacks in Louisiana during this time, in which darker-skinned blacks were treated differently based on the social meanings attached to their skin color (or colorism as it was referred to by Alice Walker), my grandfather did not approve of my mother being with my biological father merely because he was a darker-skinned black man—and more importantly, not Creole.

My grandfather was half Italian and half black. His mother, an Italian woman, put him up for adoption because her family did not approve of her birthing a black child—he was viewed as a disgrace to her family name. That knowledge, that reality scarred him for life, just like it did many others throughout history. My grandfather was a proud and influential man and was extremely protective of my mother. He was a musician—a pretty accomplished one at the time—and traveled often with his big band to perform. There would be times he would be gone from home for months.

During one of these long travel periods, my mother found out that she was pregnant and, with the support of my grandmother, married my biological father, a dark-skinned black man. My grandfather had no idea this was taking place, so when he returned and found out, he became furious and immediately went to find my mother. He went to her home and forced her to pack her belongings and leave. This all took place while my father was at work. He had no idea that any of this happened. When he came home, he learned that his wife and newborn son were gone. My grandfather vowed to “put him in the ground” if he ever showed his face around our house again. I didn’t see my father much at all after that incident.

Our bond was broken forever. I was not even a year old at the time, so I don’t have much personal recollection about this incident—only what my mother, my father, and my family told me. But needless to say, despite not remembering anything about that period of my life, the ripple effect of being torn away from my biological father—and as a result, growing up without a constant presence of a father in my house—affected me and lives with me until this day.

My mother was a strong woman, just like her mother. She raised me the best she could and she taught me everything she felt was important for me to know to be successful in life. But as a single mother, with a mother who was also working hard to raise and keep food on the table for her five children, it was hard. There were many things I’m sure she would have done differently if she could, but she did her best with what she had.

My grandfather never truly got over the idea that my mother did not marry a Creole man. Even more, he never got over the fact that her child, his grandchild, was a “mixed breed,” as he called me. Ironic, right? As a result, he would often say that I’m not fully part of his family, and he treated me that way. I was that bastard child in his family of “pure Creole blood.” Whatever that is. From an early age I was told that I was not good enough—that somehow, because of this destructive and self-hating social and mental construct prevalent at that time, I did not have the skills or the pedigree to live up to my grandfather’s high standards.

When I was three, my mother met another man who would ultimately become somewhat of a father figure to me, even though my mother never married him. They were together until I turned twelve years old. He was a young handsome man and an old high school flame and was on his way to France to play in a professional European basketball league.

He asked my mother to come with him, and she did. So, when I was around four years old, my mom and I moved to Europe. We traveled around Europe, first living in Strasbourg, France, and then in Amsterdam. My experience traveling outside the United States was priceless. I was able to see that the world is a big place and that there is much more to life than what I was seeing in the deeply Southern heritage of New Orleans; my experience abroad gave me a very different perspective early on in my life. I credit that time for opening my mind and understanding that not everyone sees the world in the same way… it was my enlightening period.

During my time traveling in Europe, I saw interracial couples, blacks that were not American, and the N-word was not commonly used as it was in America. It was a vastly different experience for me. While living in Strasbourg, I attended a bilingual school, which taught lessons in English and French. I learned about the history of Europe, French culture and I also got to learn about United States history from the perspective of a European… an outsider. I was four years old, at the age of discovery where your heart and mind have not been so polluted and you’re open enough to receive new information without any pre-context. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was changed.

I no longer believed that things were the same everywhere. I didn’t believe one person’s point of view was law because I saw that life existence—customs and culture—were different in other parts of the world. That led me to question everything and to always understand that a person’s point of view is just that: their point of view. We returned home from Europe when I was seven. As you can imagine, my newfound way of thinking got me into a lot of trouble while I was growing up, especially in the South. I was always questioning, always challenging ideas, and always trying to carve my own path because I believed it was possible. I guess you can call me a rebel or inquisitive but some called me a troublemaker.

I wasn’t a great student in high school. Let me rephrase that… I was smart and very capable but did not do well in applying myself academically. I was always getting into trouble—my mom called it being adventurous. I hung out with the “troublemaker” crowds (that’s parent-speak for “cool kids”) and didn’t focus on my studies as I should have. This always disappointed my mother because she wanted the best for me, and she knew that I was capable. She believed wholeheartedly that if I applied myself, I could achieve anything I wanted. She tried hard to be a mother and a father figure to me, but she was a single parent and had to work to put food on the table. She couldn’t always be there to make sure I was doing the right things.

I was left alone quite a bit—a latchkey kid, as they called us—running the streets, getting into things I shouldn’t have, finding new ways to add stress to my mom’s life… Not too different from most teenagers, but probably more trouble than she needed. What made it worse for her, though, was that I was a bright child; I had a higher than average IQ and was deemed “gifted” at an early age. I was placed in advanced classes at every school I attended… but for some reason, I wasn’t interested. I found it much more exciting running against the grain, pushing back against the system, and charting my own course.

My mother died of pancreatic cancer in 1984, when I was seventeen. She was only thirty-five years old. Her death changed me forever. It scared the shit out of me. This was a really dark period in my life. It shook me to my core.

There were points where I thought I wouldn’t make it… that I was doomed to end up in prison or dead. I was really at the edge, being self-destructive, surrounding myself with dangerous people, making bad choices that could’ve altered the trajectory of my life in a terrible way. I thought she would always be there… my mother was the only person in my corner no matter what. She was my everything, my teacher, my safe haven, my protector, and my shining light… I didn’t know what I was going to do without her. But, thankfully she taught me to never give up and always put one foot in front of the other—and if I did that, I would eventually reach my destination.

So, after some very dark and painful years, with that lesson in my head, and with pain in my heart, I finally took my first step and started walking. I floated around a bit after my mom died, sleeping on couches at friends’ homes, living in various apartments, guest houses, rented rooms. My grandfather and his new wife wouldn’t allow me to live at his home with them; I was told that I wasn’t welcomed. I had no other immediate family in Los Angeles at the time so I had to resort to taking charity from friends and taking care of myself the best way I knew how.

Thank God for friends, though, because without their warmth and support I literally would have been relegated to the streets, living in cardboard boxes as a teenager. This period in my life confirmed to me that God is always watching over you and that what you put out in the world truly will come back to you. I say this because the friends that offered their help and their homes did so because of the legacy that my mother left.

Because of the person she was to them. You see, she was a bright spirit and a very caring person. Her life existence left ripples in the world that benefited me. Everyone that stepped up, even though they were not my blood relative, did so because of the type of woman my mother was. Her goodwill reflected on me and they honored her memory by honoring me.

I had some tough years but I also had some pretty good ones. The road was difficult—I’m not going to lie—but with the help of some very special people I call my “angels,” God’s blessings, and a little bit of good fortune, I was able to navigate the road before me and avoid the common pitfalls that so often trap young black men along our journey in life. I could easily have been a statistic: fallen to drugs, gang life, crime, gone to prison, or possibly been killed—all of which were highly probable scenarios for me and other young black men growing up in the 1980s and ’90s.

Despite the challenges I faced, I was able to steer clear of any serious trouble, work my way through college, obtained a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s degree in business, and then navigate my way into law school to obtain a Juris Doctor degree. I became a father to two beautiful children (Sierra and Taja) and then a stepfather and mentor to two more wonderful souls (Justine and Moses). I made it my mission to be dedicated to fatherhood and committed to supporting my children and my family no matter the costs, challenges, or circumstances. I would do all I could to make sure they did not have to experience the hardship that I did. I have also been blessed with a lovely wife who supports and encourages me no matter what circumstances we face.

I’ve been blessed with a lucrative and fun 30+ year career in the entertainment business, first starting in music and then transitioning into film. I’ve served as a senior executive at industry-leading companies like Rhino Records, Universal Music Group’s Vivendi Entertainment, Codeblack Films, and Lionsgate. I have produced over fifteen film and made for TV projects including two of Kevin Hart’s breakout stand-up comedy concert films Laugh At My Pain and Let Me Explain and two critically acclaimed documentary films, one of which was directed by Hollywood legend Robert Townsend and was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival, Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy, and another commissioned by Showtime and executive produced and hosted by the late Joan Rivers, Why We Laugh: Funny Women. I have also been nominated for an NAACP award for my role as producer on T.D. Jake’s Woman Thou Art Loosed on the 7th Day.

I also wrote and published a book titled “Insights: If Boys Never Learn, Men Won’t Know”. From my life experiences, I identified a set of insights that served as guideposts in navigating my life and helped to serve as a foundation for my life choices. I felt that I had a duty; as a man, father, husband, member of society, to pay it forward and do some good no matter how small it may be. I also felt compelled to offer something positive to the world with the hopes that it will assist in the fight to stand up for those that may not feel that they have a voice because of their circumstances.

I have to admit, I was a bit uncomfortable sharing this book because I figured, what do I have to say? Who cares about my journey? I’m no celebrity or super successful personality. But then I thought about what it means to pay it forward and how I had to ignore my “ego” and put myself out there and just do what I could to make a difference, no matter how small. If I can help just one person see something that could improve their lives or their journey, then it’s all worth it. So, I pushed past myself and put it out. Not for me, but for my son and the other young men out there that may need to hear something that could just give them a glimmer of hope…a strategy to be an effective life warrior.

It’s been an incredible ride thus far; I have been blessed with the incredible opportunity and numerous life experiences people only dream about… and I get paid to do it. Further proof that God is always guiding you if you listen. Like they say, you have a plan, but when God sees your plan, He just laughs because there is only one plan—His plan. I like God’s plan much better. All I have been blessed with throughout my journey thus far is due to God’s favor and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. It was often difficult for me to learn those lessons because, you know, I’m a bit of a hard head, but they ultimately sunk in and have served me well in my life.

That brings me to the reason I am compelled to share my story: I have been blessed. God has been good to my family and me and I have received invaluable life experiences and lessons that helped me to navigate my place in this world. I don’t know if I’ve earned what I have received thus far or if I have just been blessed by God with insights and lessons… tools.

Either way, they’re not mine to keep. I feel that those to which much is given much is expected. So, I do my best to share whatever insight I have gained with other young men, who may feel that they are alone in this world and may believe that they amount to nothing because their community, their family, society—the world at large—told them so. I feel it is important to put something positive into the world and believe we all share a responsibility to share what we’ve learned with others.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s been a very difficult road. My mother’s death, being homeless at the age of 17 years old. Not knowing where my next meal would come from… whether I would live to see another day. It was very difficult. Nonetheless, I would not change a thing. I know that, but for the experiences and the hardship, I would not have become the person I am today.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about – what should we know?
I am a partner in a premium ad-supported and subscription streaming video-on-demand service REIGN a First World Media company. Reign is set to launch in October ’18 and will deliver the best selection of curated African American and urban culture themed content available and a slate of original shows that speak authentically to the African American experience.

I serve as the company’s Chief Content Officer. I am responsible for managing the Los Angeles office operations and overseeing, coordinating, planning and directing the content and programming strategies for the streaming platform. I also oversee REIGN’s annual acquisitions and original productions budget. I am responsible for developing REIGN’s content and programming strategy and continually improving upon the strategy through regular performance and analytics assessments to obtain the optimum ROI trajectory for the company.

I oversee the sourcing, identifying, licensing, development and production of all programming for distribution and exploitation on the REIGN streaming platform and the distribution platforms of its affiliates and partners. I also oversee, direct and manage all business affairs functions related to acquisitions, rights licensing, development and original production for REIGN.

I also work closely with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to ensure that the programming strategy established for REIGN aligns with the organization’s brand and marketing communications so that the programming and brand create an emotional connection between REIGN’s brand positioning and consumers.

I create and oversee systems and policies that will allow the REIGN content and programming team to track and manage acquisitions and to manage the multiple rights that REIGN acquires ensuring that rights do not expire unintentionally.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My family…. no one achieves anything by themselves. My amazing children… Taja, Sierra, Justine, Moses.

Everything I do is with the hope that I can be a father and a role model that they can be proud of and to show by example, that we can achieve what we believe you can ….

And my amazing and beautiful wife, Iliana Karina…. she pushes me to be the best version of myself everyday… she is strong, patient and supportive…. she believed in me even when I didn’t. I am forever grateful for her encouragement, her nourishment and her love.

And my mother, who passed away from Cancer when I was 17 years old. A beautiful woman… a single mother… the strongest, wisest person I’ve ever known. Any wisdom I may have was her gift to me ….

And finally, God for watching over us and for all of the blessings he has bestowed on me and my family. I am so grateful… so, so, grateful. I’d also like to give credit to Reign’s CEO Keith Clinkscales. He has been a great supporter, leader, mentor, visionary and friend.


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Image Credit:
Arnold Turner (@ArnoldShots), Quincy Newell

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