Rae Witte or Bae Witte as some call her is what you would consider one of a kind. If she’s not tweeting out links to the newest music, she’s somewhere hanging out in New York grinding it out.
Witte has written for many different platforms including Hypetrak, and sat down with some pretty cool people such as Skepta, D.R.A.M, and many more. What’s intriguing about Rae isn’t her rap sheet but rather her new role as Managing Editor of Style and Sneakers at Complex. Although the sneaker game is predominantly marketed towards the male audience, that definitely doesn’t stop Witte from killing it. In fact working in a predominantly male market makes Witte thrive. Her newfound role in the fashion and hip-hop culture is something she knows she’ll succeed at. Her witty banter and knowledge as a whole makes her the ultimate girl boss. Have a look at our conversation on what inspires her, her advice for other female writers, and of course her favorite sneaker.
What made you want to start writing?
Two things, efficiency and I needed an outlet. Thanks to my mom, I love to share. What’s the point of holding good things to myself? That’s where efficiency came in. I am confident my friends were getting tired of me sharing every time I found a song I loved or that our favorite site to shop was having a sale, so initially it became a way to mass share things I loved. Secondly, when I planned to leave Miami for Brooklyn, I gave myself a year to plan. In that year, in addition to calling all of my friends to book their flights and turning my house into a hotel full of non-stop visitors, I started to pick up side projects and figure out what I really wanted to be doing. I switched my blog from Blogger to WordPress, self-taught myself enough HTML and CSS and just started to write about things that fell within industries I wanted to work in. I joke about it constantly, but the honest to God truth is that the two most fulfilling things I’ve ever done for myself were start writing daily and get a dog.
You seem to know your music, in fact I go to your Soundcloud for the new stuff. How do you keep up?
I appreciate that! Honestly, I just know what I like. Prior to copyright infringement shutting down your favorite SoundCloud account, I had the most expertly curated list of accounts I followed in like 2013. I could let it play through for hours. But years before this even, I was always the one tasked with making the playlist or the mix cd for every road trip and occasion. In college, I used to go to the mixtape shop and pick up the new R&B mixtapes from my favorite DJs. It isn’t a chore or something I even consciously keep up on. I haven’t had cable for over two years. I always have music on. It’s just part of my everyday. I find some of the best music in my favorite producers’ or up-and-coming artists’ SoundCloud Likes.
How do you prioritize your life?
My relationships first, but as I am single I mean strictly with my family and friends. After freelancing, I tried to work with friends as much as possible so there is a business aspect to this as well. Work second. Not that making money isn’t important but, if a girlfriend texts me with something devastating or my mom calls, I am responding. I also have zero issues working around the clock, so it’s not like I’m neglecting work. I just value my people. And I am there for my colleagues as well. I found out one of my best friends was pregnant while I was at work one day (clearly a phone call I had to take), and I was also one of the first people a former boss came out of the closet to. The people I hold close to me mean a lot. Maybe my alone time after those but everything and everyone else comes after. I’ve been known to burn the proverbial candle at both ends but I am big on time management and planning, so I will make time for whatever/whoever is most important to me and I think people know that.
Being a working woman, and all around hustler, how do you spend the free time that you do get?
With my friends! As I mentioned, I am a planner. I recently found a cheap night at a hotel in Midtown with an indoor, rooftop pool that has views of Central Park, so my girlfriends and are going on a little Bae-cation. Primarily I spend it supporting friends’ shows and work stuff, dinner and drinks, seeing live music or making plans.
I know you previously wrote for Hypetrak. What was one of your favorite pieces you did for them?
I love doing interviews and I really prefer to do them face to face rather than over the phone. I do my research and make it a point to ask something that I didn’t find in other interviews. I’d have to say my pieces with D.R.A.M., Harry Hudson, Skepta and Melo-X are by far my favorite. They were all my pitches; I was able to get in touch with each artist through my contacts or relationships; and I was able to hire friends to shoot each which offered an added level of trust between each of them and me making for great energy during the interviews.
I do have a piece coming in the Complex February/March issue I am really excited about. It’s personal essay about a topic I’ve never written about and only ever shared with people in real life. However I know through my experiences, I have a unique perspective. Pick up that issue and check it!
Now you recently became the Managing editor of Style and Sneakers at Complex (congrats.) How did that come about?
Prior to joining Complex, I was writing for Hypetrak but I was also doing freelance projects with multiple companies working on their branding, content strategy and social strategy, as well as training one client’s internal employees on how to utilize their own social to support the brand. With one of my contracts coming to an end I started to look for new projects but also put in a few applications for full-time work. A best friend of one of my close friends was an editor at Complex. I reached out to him about an editor position for one of their owned and operated sites and after seeing my background (which beyond writing for Hypetrak, he had no idea about), he let me know he needed a managing editor on his team. I went in for an interview and was offered the job within two days.
Can you go a little more in-depth about your role at Complex?
Along with my deputy editor, together we run both the style and sneaker channels, two separate channels with separate goals that often have content that crosses. In addition to the social editor that does both as well, we have a small team for each one and we oversee the news operation and manage the content.
I know you moved from Miami to New York. Do you think that move has helped your career not just with Complex but in other ways?
First and foremost, I would NEVER be where I am today if I stayed in Miami. I have to give a lot of credit to friends and contacts when I was looking for freelance clients and jobs and I simply didn’t have the support in Miami. When I was there I was living with a boyfriend at the time, and we dealt with a lot of heavy relationship issues. I sometimes think of all the progress I could’ve made if I had moved to New York sooner but I have to remind myself that had I done that I wouldn’t have the level of maturity and focus I moved here with. I can only imagine the trouble I would’ve gotten into if I moved sooner. I think my path, Miami for a few years and then New York, has been instrumental in where I am now.
Do you think some people may not take you serious as the Sneaker editor due to you being a woman?
Absolutely, I’m positive there are individuals that do not take me seriously. However, despite knowledge of sneaker culture being invaluable, other skills are instrumental in running any channel. One thing I found that has actually worked towards my advantage in the position is my lack of emotional investment in sneakers. I’m invested in the culture and the stories behind the brands, and the designers, what is causing disruption in the industry, etc. So when we’re putting together a list of the most influential people or a ranking a list of best signature sneakers, I can ask questions and execute more objectively to make sure we put together the best piece of content. I obviously have sneakers I love or hate but I do not really sweat owning them ever and my personal opinion doesn’t cloud what is best for our work. Anyone that still has an issue with me being a female in a male dominated industry after they take the time to speak to me or get familiar with my work can play in traffic because I don’t have time for it.
As you know, it’s hard to be taken serious sometimes as a female writer. What advice would you give to other aspiring female writers?
Don’t sleep with anyone that can help or hurt your writing! I found it so strange that producers and artists would mention how great it would be to date a writer, obviously to write about them (vanity anyone?) but when they inevitably do something dumb, what do you think you’ll want to write about them? But really, a skill I think has been really valuable for me is staying aware of your data and being able to analyze it. A lot of writers aren’t or never needed to be however with my unconventional path into the industry I think that being conscious of how to navigate Google Analytics and social engagement data backs up the fact that I know how to speak to my audience with numbers to prove it. And build with your team. So many people are against working with their friends but I’ve found it to be so rewarding. Presumably, you trust your friends and if you all bring different things to the table, you can support each other. One of my roommates is a publicist and the other is a producer, vocalist and DJs. We all send each other leads, contacts and support all the time.
Now this may be generic, but you got to let me know what your favorite sneaker is.
It changes. I don’t have one I’m married to however; I strongly prefer to wear classics. White Uptowns, Vans Old Skools, and Chucks have been heavy in my rotation. I’m on the hunt for a gum-bottomed sneaker currently. We’ll see what I end up with.