Journalist Ashley Oken Elevates Black and POC Artists To Get The Spotlight They Deserve
Ashley Oken is a freelance music and entertainment journalist whose work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, MTV News, Allure, and more. When she’s not writing or catching up on the latest celebrity news, she loves discovering new music, roller skating, and a good bowl of pasta. Ashley is committed to help elevate Black and POC artists to get the spotlight that they deserve through the various mainstream media platforms she contributes to, including The Daily Beast.
We Empower Magazine got an exclusive interview with Ashley.
Tammy Reese: For those who don’t know, who is Ashley Oken?
Ashley Oken: Although journalism is such a huge part of who I am, there’s so much more to me. I’m a kind-hearted person who’s addicted to reality tv, rom-com movies, and true crime documentaries, a lover of old Hollywood movies and science shows, and an expert at the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Tammy Reese: What inspired you to get into the media industry?
Ashley Oken: My love of telling stories and my parents’ encouragement inspired me to get into the media industry. I love telling people’s stories, getting to know them beyond the art they make, and elevating Black and POC artists who don’t always get the spotlight they deserve.
My parents have always been supportive of me going after my dreams, believed in my writing skills when I found that hard to do, and let me figure out my path for as long as I needed to.
Tammy Reese: Describe your Journalism style in three words?
Ashley Oken: My journalism style in three words: thorough, conversational, and uplifting.
Tammy Reese: What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?
Ashley Oken: I enjoy meeting new people and getting to know them on another level. even if it’s only for 30 minutes on Zoom. I also love the impact that journalism has in the community and how music journalism in particular intersects with politics and other topics.
Tammy Reese: What have been some memorable moments in your career so far?
Ashley Oken: The most memorable moment in my career so far is my recent interview with the rapper Hopsin. Speaking to him about abuse patterns in Black families and how his difficult upbringing impacted really stuck with me. I learned so much from him and the wisdom he has now. Initially, I didn’t think it’d have the impact on me that it did.
Tammy Reese: What impact do you intend to make through the various mainstream media platforms you contribute to?
Ashley Oken: I intend to have the art made by Black people and POC be given the attention it deserves. I intend to give women in rock a platform to have their art taken seriously. I hope to give those who aren’t always given room to flourish in the industry some help if I can.
Tammy Reese: When you think of women empowerment, what comes to mind?
Ashley Oken: I think of mentioning names of those you admire and are looking to move up in rooms that you occupy. I think of lifting your colleagues and not being jealous of the success of others. When one of us wins, all of us do.
Tammy Reese: Who are some women in the media field that you look up to? And Why?
Ashley Oken: I think Jazmine Hughes of the New York Times- who’s also a friend- is a pretty amazing writer who’s doing amazing work for the Metro section. She has such a gift for writing and makes me love local politics because of how she covers it. Plus she’s hilarious.
I think that D’Shonda Brown is killing it right now interviewing everyone I’ve ever loved. Her drive and ambition motivate me. I love Ashley C.Ford’s writing and her interview with Kamala Harris is amazing. I’m sure her forthcoming book will be too. Her writing is so crisp and clear and wonderful. It makes me see how to be a better writer.
Tammy Reese: What do you think is the future of the media industry?
Ashley Oken: I think the future of the media industry is digital and one where I hope that more Black people and POC will be in higher positions where they’re running the magazines and sites. We’re already partially there with Zoom and I think it’s here to stay. Black people are demanding their seat at the table and they’ve long deserved to have it. I hope that they’ll finally get it.
Tammy Reese: What other endeavors are you currently involved with?
Ashley Oken: I’m currently in graduate school for my master’s degree in English Education with a Reading Specialist license attached to that and I’m writing a book about my late mother and our relationship. It’s a dedication to her and her impact on my life.
Tammy Reese: What is the best professional advice you have ever received?
Ashley Oken: It’s so hard to pick out the best professional advice I ever received because so many people have given me gems over the years. I’d say that knowing you belong in the industry and not taking a no as a never but as a not now is something that’s stuck with me and I still lean on today.
Tammy Reese: What advice would you have for aspiring media professionals?
Ashley Oken: My advice would be to go after your dream with ferocity and don’t let rejection deter you. You’re more capable than you think and you’re always worthy of your success.
Be sure to check out some of Ashley’s work here: