The internet is a strange place; we all know this. It’s the reason why many choose to keep their guards up, speaking very little about their personal lives and strictly using the internet to talk and learn about their interests. However some see opportunity in this weirdness. They see the internet as a chance to relate to people going through the same experiences as they are, to discuss personal issues and problems; so they put everything out there. Erika Ramirez falls somewhere in the middle, often giving her 25 thousand Twitter followers a quick peek into her heart, but nothing more.
It’s very fitting that my first introduction to Ramirez as a writer was her Rolling Stone Artists To Watch feature on The Weeknd back in 2011; both of them sensitive and guarded simultaneously. Since then, she’s served as a senior editor at Billboard and has published works for MTV, The Fader and Vulture. In February, Ramirez launched ILY Mag, a digital magazine about love in every form. We talked to her about leaving Billboard, starting her own media outlet and relationship tweets.
Your online persona comes off as very sweet and sensitive. When did you stop caring about seeming vulnerable online, and are you the same way irl?
I don’t know how to be anyone but me. What you read is what you see. I’ve always been an emotional casserole, both IRL and online. I think that’s why I’m sensitive and try to be respectful of other people’s feelings. I was also raised—by seeing those around me—to be considerate of another person’s feelings, perhaps to a fault (putting others before me).
I don’t know how to turn my emo-ness on or off for socials. I tend to tweet (or post) as if no one is watching, and I think I’ve always been that way. I’d rather be seen as too much by being myself, than being enough as someone else. I try to live by a “love me or leave me” mentality because it’s liberating. I also respect those who are who they are online and offline. If it was the other way around, I’d want them to show me their true colors: the good, bad and the ugly. No mind fucks, no games, no filter—no one has the time or energy for that. Life is deeper than social media. Also, if I’m going to win I’d like to win by being who I inherently am, and by capitalizing on what makes me me: FEELS.
Between your music opinions and retweets of memes, your relationship tweets get a lot of engagement and the responses pile up in your mentions. Have you learned anything about yourself via these Twitter conversations?
I’m always curious as to how others handle similar situations or feelings. Most of the times that I tweet about relationships or love, it’s me looking for a soundboard or needing to get out of my own head. I’m looking for a lifesaver or floaties to then navigate through my feels. And, what always ends up happening, which I love, are online Oprah sessions. (I call conversations I have with people about feels Oprah sessions, where you just let it out.) We end up being soundboards for each other, and it’s a ripple effect.
You had a great job at Billboard but decided to leave to start your own online magazine; what inspired you to do that?
Ah, there were many factors to me leaving Billboard and starting ILY. I had been at Billboard for almost 4.5 years when I quit. I felt like I reached a ceiling. I couldn’t grow, creatively. I also wasn’t fulfilled. I wanted more. I think if you aren’t happy, if you think you aren’t doing everything you can and want, than nothing else really matters, at least not for long. I had to fuck with happiness. I was also about to turn 30, and all of a sudden what I cared about I cared about more, and what I didn’t care about I lost all fucks for.
Also, I needed to take a step back from the hustle of internet rap writing, or what it began feeling like: daily blogging. After writing about music for 10 years, the transition was a bit of a mind fuck. My life became about other people’s lives, and mostly about the part of their lives that I didn’t care about: gossip, beefs, arrests. I felt like I was assisting in people also caring about negativity. I get why media outlets touch on such topics; it feels as if majority of the e-generation is intrigued by it. It’s about clicks and conversation, but I‘d rather try to focus on the latter than the former and hope it all falls into place.
I had been thinking of building a medium where me and others could talk about love since forever, but I got serious about it in December 2013. Ever since I was knee-high, the one thing that’s always intrigued me is love: What the fuck is it? When do you know it’s love? How can I hate something I long for? etc. (Music was my comfort.) ILY became something I couldn’t stop thinking about. I wouldn’t sleep, just thinking about making it happen, and how I’d make it happen. I’d be excited to get home from work, in order to give my passion project some lovin.’ I
couldn’t really ignore my inner ear any longer. It really came down to me asking myself, “if not now, when?”
I should also say, I’m an insatiable person when it comes to creativity. I always want more. I run off passion. I mean, I moved from Tracy, California to New York to write, with only two bags. I knew no one in New York, and I made it. I feel like after that, I can’t really say I can’t do something or it’s bullshit. (And my family and close friends will call me out on it, as they should.)
A lot of people are starting online magazines and many are making old school, small print zines. what is special about ILY Mag?
I hope ILY, or I through ILY, becomes a channel for people to freely express themselves about love. I don’t think there’s a place where we can just talk about love without shame or bias, or a place where you can see yourself in stories about love. I’d love for ILY to be that place. As I mentioned in my editor’s note for February: ILY is for the non-believers and hopeless romantics. ILY is a safe haven where you can come to hate love, or love love. ILY is for the sour patch kids like myself who want to kick love in the chin one minute, and then sweeten up at the thought of its magic. (God that sounds cheesy huh?)
On a scale of 1–10, what activity (any activity) would you rate a perfect 10?
Ah, let’s do day and night: I’d wake up early, at 7 a.m., go for a run. (A short one, because I haven’t run in a minute and I have a tiny heart condition). Make chai latte or a shake. Find the spot in my apartment with the most light, and work on ILY and freelance work. I’d take a mini break and have lunch with Clover Hope. I’d have my best friend, Steven Brown, come over and work from my apartment as well. I look to him for motivation and inspiration. I need pep talks now more than ever, because the entrepreneur life (which is new to me) can be scary as fuck, and he helps me with that. I cook a good ass dinner and FaceTime with my family in California. I’m excited though, to add someone special into the mix, because I end up making a meal for two (quality wise) and end up eating all of it.