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Culturs Magazine: Uncovering & Celebrating The Hidden Diversities That Exist In A Global Society – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine, Founder & Publisher, Culturs Magazine & Faculty Staff Member At Colorado State University…

February 14, 2019

“We were actually digital first. We’ve been online for five years, print just happened last year. And with the print we started…we had the online magazine first, the digital magazine, which includes a mobile magazine for the iPad and handheld devices. So, we were digital first, I feel in this era you have to be digital, there’s no question. You have to have an online presence. But to me, print takes it to the next level. Our stature has grown a thousand percent by going into print. People are mistaken in thought when it comes to print being dead. Teaching at university I see that. Print is growing more than ever. If you go to any newsstand you’ll see that there are more magazine titles now than ever before.” Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine (On why she is doing a print magazine in this digital and global age)…

A globally mobile Afro-Latina and first-generation American who has lived on five continents and identified with seven cultures by the age of 19, Donnyale Ambrosine, or Doni as she is called, is passionate about creating community for cross-cultural populations. She has presented around the globe as a Keynote, at conferences, universities and in media as a lifestyle expert focused on entrepreneurship, marketing, branding and cross-cultural identity. With this background, she developed university curricula for global culture identity at Colorado State University, where she is on faculty.

And Doni has also created a brand that includes Culturs, a global multicultural magazine that intends to celebrate the unique perspectives of cross-cultural people. Global Nomads, Third Culture Kids, and racially-blended and culturally-blended people can read lifestyle articles and research from their point of view. One that shows a new-world order — a new normal that affects not only our lives, but the lives of those around us.

I spoke with Doni recently and we talked about the digital-first, print publication brand that she is so passionate about. Doni uses her global, multi-cultural background, academic training, and career experience in media, management and business to position Culturs as the first-ever, digital-first print publication and product marketplace of its kind – one that addresses global and mobile cultural identities, with emphasis on hidden diversity. And it’s that hidden diversity that gave Doni the spelling of the name of her brand – hiding that last “e” as many diversities are hidden.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very delightful and informative interview about a woman and her brand – two very diverse and captivating individuals that will definitely get you thinking about true understanding of global distinctiveness – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine, Founder & Publisher, Culturs Magazine & Faculty Staff Member At Colorado State University.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she decided to do Culturs: I grew up internationally and when most Americans hear that, they hear privileged. And there were parts of that which were very privileged and there were parts that weren’t. When you think of people in globally-mobile situations, often they could be refugees, immigrants, military brats, missionary kids; so there are very nuanced reasons for people to grow up in a global situation. In my case, it was four continents and an isthmus or five continents if you want to call Central America a continent. So, five continents and seven countries or seven cultures that I grew up with. And that formed who I am and how I see the world. There are 288 million-plus people who live outside of their passport countries today, and a number of them fit the category, actually all of them fit the categories that we talk about in Culturs. And then beyond that we have people who straddle race and ethnicity every day. It is one country, one culture. So, that’s why I created the magazine, because I wanted to have a community for those people who don’t really have others or feel like they have others who understand them and sometimes feel like the outsiders.

On why she left a letter out of the logo and spells the brand’s name Culturs: Everything we do has a meaning. Our colors; our logo; the fonts we use. Culturs is spelled without the normal “e” toward the end. The “e” is hidden and that stands for the hidden diversity of our population. We are a population of people who straddle or are in between culture, race, ethnicity, nations and locations.

On why she is doing a print magazine in this digital and global age: We were digital first, I feel in this era you have to be digital, there’s no question. You have to have an online presence. But to me, print takes it to the next level. Our stature has grown a thousand percent by going into print. People are mistaken in thought when it comes to print being dead. Teaching at university I see that. Print is growing more than ever. If you go to any newsstand you’ll see that there are more magazine titles now than ever before.

On whether this journey has been a walk in a rose garden for her or there have been challenges along the way: I have to say that I planned a lot of it out, so it was easier than most people would imagine. But it’s a very large operation with a lot of people; it takes a lot of people. And once you get into the distribution of it; we’re in Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble, Sprouts, Books-A-Million, independent bookstores, and university bookstores. And that’s a lot. My intention actually was to next go into airport kiosks and airport bookstores, but I decided to slow down a little bit, because that’s been the most daunting part.

On that that bright, shining moment when she knew she was making a difference: When I started the digital I felt like I was doing something. And I continued that for four years and we have thousands of articles, they’re all free. Even articles in the print edition are also on digital, so anyone can read those. Again, there’s a different experience when go to print. Just the photos were very visual in the print magazine. And it was just such a great experience to feel the paper, it’s such high quality paper with a soft touch to it. So, I felt like I made a difference when I went digital, and then I started to feel like I wasn’t. Going to print, I felt like I was making a difference.

On her link with Colorado State University: I teach in the Department of Journalism. I actually teach a course called Media and Global Cultural Identity. I have to give props to the Department of Journalism and Media Communications because the head of that department was the first one to really get this. To really see the value of what we’re doing and understand the difference it can make in the world, and who was championing it from the beginning. And he’s offered to do a number of things, and so I developed the curriculum for that class.

On anything she’d like to add: I’m excited to see large corporations understanding what a difference this makes. I told you about the show “I Am the Night” on TNT. I was impressed with them and Turner Network and Warner Brothers, I was a consultant on the show. And it’s about someone who is a friend of mine, she is culturally fluid. She’s a white woman and she grew up thinking she was black. There’s a lot to that story; a lot of layers there. They brought me in as a cultural consultant because of our connection and to make sure that they were hitting the cultural note right. And that’s what a lot of corporations are missing.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: I’m going to say something that came to me recently. Building this, I get so focused on how important it is, that often I forget along the way to enjoy it. And not let the pressure get to me. So recently, I said that I want to bring the best of myself to everyone around me, because I don’t feel like I’m giving them my best at all times right now. I want to bring out the best in the people around me by giving them the best of me.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her: (Laughs) Let me find just one. I’ll encapsulate them all into I’m not what people expect. I still haven’t figured that out; I’ve figured it out to a level, but I’m not sure what people see when they see me. They expect me to be much more intense than I am. They expect me to be, I think, more hysterical than I am. (Laughs) Now, can I be that way? Of course, and maybe that’s what they see. They look at me, depending on the situation, how I’m dressed, or how I present; someone said once, how I show up, because I mentioned I’m an introvert and she said that I show up as an extravert.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You would probably find me lifting weights and then coming home and having a hot bath in the Jacuzzi tub. Then sitting by the fire and reading a magazine.

On what keeps her up at night: Nothing really keeps me up at night. (Laughs) I’m that tired. I think what keeps me up at night; again, back to the wanting to do it so right. Doing it like it is so important and doing it like it can make a difference for so many. So, with limited resources, sometimes I feel like I made the wrong decision. And that’s only a recent thing, I never really had that happen to me before, because I would make a decision and then I would move on.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine, Founder & Publisher, Culturs Magazine & Faculty Staff Member At Colorado State University.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to do Culturs?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: I grew up internationally and when most Americans hear that, they hear privileged. And there were parts of that which were very privileged and there were parts that weren’t. When you think of people in globally-mobile situations, often they could be refugees, immigrants, military brats, missionary kids; so there are very nuanced reasons for people to grow up in a global situation. In my case, it was four continents and an isthmus or five continents if you want to call Central America a continent. So, five continents and seven countries or seven cultures that I grew up with. And that formed who I am and how I see the world.

My mother is Trinidadian and my father is Costa Rican; I’m very proud of that. And proud that they gave me such a wealth of experience and background by the day I was born, just by being who I was and having them as my parents. So, growing up in all of these places: Turkey, London, Spain; I went to the University of Germany and of course many places in the U.S., it really affected how I see the world.

There are 288 million-plus people who live outside of their passport countries today, and a number of them fit the category, actually all of them fit the categories that we talk about in Culturs. And then beyond that we have people who straddle race and ethnicity every day. It is one country, one culture. So, that’s why I created the magazine, because I wanted to have a community for those people who don’t really have others or feel like they have others who understand them and sometimes feel like the outsiders. Who feel like they need a place, especially if they have a number of the dimensions that I’ve mentioned.

If you’re globally-mobile or even if you’re domestically-mobile as well as race, culture or ethnicity, every one of those layers adds more complexity to your personality, to your identity. And when you mix those moves as you’re forming your identity as a child, then that makes a difference in who you are. You can understand all of the people with whom you share those dimensions, but not everyone of those people can understand you because you contain all of those dimensions at once. So, that’s why I formed Culturs.

Everyday has been a gift and every time I think that this is such a long and daunting road, why did I choose it, that doesn’t last 10 minutes, because I get calls and emails from people, crying and telling me what a difference we’ve made in their lives and how they finally feel that somebody gets them. How they feel like they have community. Someone texted me recently and said it was the first time in their life that they felt seen. I’ve heard from so many people who just don’t talk about it, because no one cares. And when they talk to me, they’re shocked that not only does someone care, a lot of people care. And there are a lot of people who share the same experience.

Samir Husni: What’s the reason behind the logo? You’ve left a letter out of the logo and spell it Culturs; can you tell us why?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: (Laughs) Yes, sure. Everything we do has a meaning. Our colors; our logo; the fonts we use. Culturs is spelled without the normal “e” toward the end. The “e” is hidden and that stands for the hidden diversity of our population. We are a population of people who straddle or are in between culture, race, ethnicity, nations and locations.

So, those combinations , those dimensions provide a hidden diversity where what you see isn’t always what you get, so people look at you and when they look at me they think I’m African American. They listen to me speak and they think I’m African American. But I’m a little bit different; there is something wrong with me. (Laughs) I’m not quite what they pictured, because I’m not African American. I’m an Afro-Latina and Caribbean American. And that makes a difference, knowing my background and my culture.

It’s still going to be confusing, because I have so many of those dimensions. What you expect to happen with me, to come from me, is really unexpected. You can’t have any expectations because I didn’t grow up in one place, so that’s the hidden diversity of it. So, the missing “e” stands for that hidden diversity.

Samir Husni: Here you are creating a global magazine about global people, and yet you chose print as your vehicle. Why are you doing a print magazine in this digital age and in this global age?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: (Laughs) We were actually digital first. We’ve been online for five years, print just happened last year. And with the print we started…we had the online magazine first, the digital magazine, which includes a mobile magazine for the iPad and handheld devices. So, we were digital first, I feel in this era you have to be digital, there’s no question. You have to have an online presence. But to me, print takes it to the next level. Our stature has grown a thousand percent by going into print. People are mistaken in thought when it comes to print being dead. Teaching at university I see that. Print is growing more than ever. If you go to any newsstand you’ll see that there are more magazine titles now than ever before.

What you’ll notice is the ones that are thick, the ones that are large, the ones that are growing are the ones that have a niche population that they pay attention to. The ones that are shrinking are general magazines that try to hit everyone. So, there is a place for print. And the experience for print is completely different.

Now, first of all, digital is great; I love my tech and I love my digital, but I need some downtime. When I want downtime, I might play some games, but I’m not going to grab my phone and curl up with it. I might go get some tea and a magazine, something in print that I can put my hands on and that feels good, that creates an experience for me and that calms me down. And I think most people are like that.

We have so much information coming at us, I can’t remember exactly, but I think the data is that in one day now we have as much information as someone in the 15th century did in their entire lives, or some astronomical sum like that. But we have so many things to distract us, and so much information coming at us and so many things to remember, it really is important for us to take that time, pick up something tactile, something that makes you feel good. And something that makes you slow your brain down a little bit and come back to who you are. And I think print does that.

Samir Husni: Since you started this project five years ago and this being your first anniversary for the print edition, has it been a walk in a rose garden for you or have you had some challenges along the way? And if so, how did you overcome them?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: It is our first anniversary for the print edition. Thank you for recognizing that. I have to say that I planned a lot of it out, so it was easier than most people would imagine. But it’s a very large operation with a lot of people; it takes a lot of people. And once you get into the distribution of it; we’re in Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble, Sprouts, Books-A-Million, independent bookstores, and university bookstores. And that’s a lot. My intention actually was to next go into airport kiosks and airport bookstores, but I decided to slow down a little bit, because that’s been the most daunting part.

The industry itself is changing daily. People are consolidating, companies are being bought out, censors and distributors, and there are different levels of that, from local to regional to national and international. So, every time there is a change, it changes almost everything with the industry, especially if you’re international. That’s been the toughest part.

Same with our printers. The printers are consolidating and buying each other out. And every time that happens that makes a difference with your print order. And then you have to get it to them sooner, every day’s delay is almost like a week’s delay to get to the newsstand. And those days count, especially when you have big marketing budgets, or in my case, I think I mentioned to you that the director of Wonder Woman and her family are on the next cover, and you always want to be timely with your magazine coming out. But you also have these plans for marketing, digital marketing, traditional marketing, and every time something changes that changes a number of other things as well. So, no, it hasn’t been a walk in a rose garden. (Laughs)

But my passion takes me through. We’re a philanthropic organization; I’m not doing this to line my pockets. I’m doing this to make a difference; I’m doing this for the people who need community or who may be finding themselves or who is just now maybe seeing that there is something different about themselves and they’ve figured it out.

When I interviewed the director of Wonder Woman and her family about this new show on TNT – “I Am The Night” that came out recently, we talked about her upbringing as a military brat. And it turned out that her husband is a cross-cultural kid, in terms of his upbringing as well. And then the two of them together have a son who is growing up in London and in Los Angeles because of Wonder Woman, which was filmed in London. So, they’re a family of cross-cultural people.

And it turned out her mother is a military brat as well, so that’s three generations of cross-culture. And you would expect that, because when you look at them they look like they’re a regular American family and they’re not people of color. But what makes the difference is how they see the world because of how they were brought up. And that’s what we talk about in this next issue.

Samir Husni: When was that bright, shining moment when you knew you were making a difference? Was it when that first issue came out or when you started the digital magazine?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: When I started the digital I felt like I was doing something. And I continued that for four years and we have thousands of articles, they’re all free. Even articles in the print edition are also on digital, so anyone can read those. Again, there’s a different experience when go to print. Just the photos were very visual in the print magazine. And it was just such a great experience to feel the paper, it’s such high quality paper with a soft touch to it. So, I felt like I made a difference when I went digital, and then I started to feel like I wasn’t. Going to print, I felt like I was making a difference.

And then in between there’s so much work that happens and people remind me that we’ve done so many things. We just came back from the Sundance Film Festival and being able to cover films about refugees and immigrants and the sectionalism of different people. There was a movie called “Hala” about a Pakistani girl who is merging her Pakistani parents’ wishes and culture with her American self.

There was another one called “Luce” that has Octavia Spencer in it and it’s about an African child who is adopted and used to be a boy soldier, and he’s adopted by a white couple from America and as he’s coming of age he’s getting these incendiary thoughts that are shocking everyone around him because he’s an A student and he’s an athlete. He’s looked up to by everyone and his teacher is the only one who saw something brewing inside of him.

So, these are the things that happen to us as we’re forming our identity. We’re growing and they come out, so I’m happy to champion all of these stories that other people are bringing to life. And every time that that happens, I realize I’m making a difference. And it’s important. People bring me back to that, because I’m so busy doing the work that sometimes I forget that we’re actually doing something great.

Samir Husni: What’s the link with the university? I know you’re the director of marketing at Colorado State University at the student center.

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: Yes, and I teach in the Department of Journalism. I actually teach a course called Media and Global Cultural Identity. I have to give props to the Department of Journalism and Media Communications because the head of that department was the first one to really get this. To really see the value of what we’re doing and understand the difference it can make in the world, and who was championing it from the beginning. And he’s offered to do a number of things, and so I developed the curriculum for that class.

And it’s made a difference actually in quite a few students’ lives. It’s been interesting too. It’s been an interesting teaching assignment for me because there are some students who have a hard time grasping the information, because if you grew up in a home without this situation; you’ve never really moved anywhere; you haven’t been around people who are too much different than you, it’s difficult to think outside of that box. And it’s really interesting to watch people want to do it, they like it and they like the information and they really want to get it, but they have a hard time grasping it.

So many come to my class and they learn so much about themselves. Every issue has a major global destination that we feature. And this last one we had London, and one of my former students is a master’s student in London and she wrote the intro about what that city means to her and what it feels like. She’s from Shanghai. Students like her, I have a number of them, and they find out about themselves, question their answers for them. Again, that’s another milestone for me, because that is the purpose of the magazine.

Samir Husni: Is the magazine separate from the university or is it part of the university?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: It is separate from the university. The university is just a great partner. The Department of Journalism and Media Communications is our major partner. The President’s Office, Enrollment and Access, and Adult Learner and Veteran Services and External Relations, they also have been great supporters.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: I’m excited to see large corporations understanding what a difference this makes. I told you about the show “I Am the Night” on TNT. I was impressed with them and Turner Network and Warner Brothers, I was a consultant on the show. And it’s about someone who is a friend of mine, Fauna Hodel, she is culturally fluid. She’s a white woman and she grew up thinking she was black. There’s a lot to that story; a lot of layers there. They brought me in as a cultural consultant because of our connection and to make sure that they were hitting the cultural note right. And that’s what a lot of corporations are missing.

A lot of places, and the universities are one; they’re starting to get it. It’s not just about visual diversity, what we see, even though that’s important. It’s also other diversities that a number of people have that needs to be seen in people. So, I am very excited about that.

Recently, Amazon reached out for me to work with them. We’ve been working with the World Bank and the United Nations, and Coca-Cola. So, I’m really excited to see this making a difference, to see that people are getting onboard.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: That’s a good question. I’m going to say something that came to me recently. Building this, I get so focused on how important it is, that often I forget along the way to enjoy it. And not let the pressure get to me. So recently, I said that I want to bring the best of myself to everyone around me, because I don’t feel like I’m giving them my best at all times right now. I want to bring out the best in the people around me by giving them the best of me.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: (Laughs) Let me find just one. I’ll encapsulate them all into I’m not what people expect. I still haven’t figured that out; I’ve figured it out to a level, but I’m not sure what people see when they see me. They expect me to be much more intense than I am. They expect me to be, I think, more hysterical than I am. (Laughs) Now, can I be that way? Of course, and maybe that’s what they see. They look at me, depending on the situation, how I’m dressed, or how I present; someone said once, how I show up, because I mentioned I’m an introvert and she said that I show up as an extravert.

I think the biggest misconception is people think they get where I’m going with something or what I want to do, or who I am. And I think 95 percent of the time, people are wrong. And I said that to my classes. I told them not to try and anticipate what they think that I want. Give me what you want, because if you try and guess what I want to hear from you, I guarantee you that you’ll be wrong.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: You would probably find me lifting weights and then coming home and having a hot bath in the Jacuzzi tub. Then sitting by the fire and reading a magazine.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: Nothing really keeps me up at night. (Laughs) I’m that tired. I think what keeps me up at night; again, back to the wanting to do it so right. Doing it like it is so important and doing it like it can make a difference for so many. So, with limited resources, sometimes I feel like I made the wrong decision. And that’s only a recent thing, I never really had that happen to me before, because I would make a decision and then I would move on.

But recently I made a huge decision where we were placed in a slot in the Barnes & Noble stores and I had to do some big things to get that. And it came at a great personal sacrifice. Then I thought I made the wrong decision, because it didn’t work out as I expected. One night I was up all night, kind of kicking myself and asking myself what I was thinking. And whether I had thought it through. But I got over it.

And I kept asking myself what was wrong, because I never do that. But again, it’s just that I believe it is so important. I really feel like this is the direction that the globe is going and that people need to pay attention. So, I want to do everything that I can to get there so that I’m ready for the ones who need us.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

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