One of the hottest and most prolific wordsmiths on the lifestyle, travel and entertainment journalism scene, Danielle Pointdujour writes for some of print and digital media’s biggest outlets. While most future journalists had their start in the high school newspaper, Pointdujour’s abilities as a scribe started to get notice while she was still in elementary school. She wrote her very first book when she was a fourth grader and launched it to her classmates on her birthday.
A bookworm growing up, Pointdujour was taken by many novels, but in particular Toni Morrison’s classic The Bluest Eye. She can still recall how she was moved by the classic novel. She credits The Bluest Eye for being one of the books that helped her carve her own writing style and develop an eye for good writing. “Every page of that book made me feel something and helped me connect with the characters,” she observes. “I could see every scene in my mind. Even today when read books, if I can’t feel something or visualize the moment, I can’t finish it. It needs to grab me. When I’m not writing on a specific topic, I like to write in the same format. I want you to feel my words and relate.”
Relate is definitely something readers tend to do when Pointdujour writes. She’s known for her introspective, analysis-filled articles on outlets like Egypt Said So, Clutch, Ebony and Jet. One of the most highly debated articles of the journalist’s career, was an article she wrote for Clutch entitled “Pots, Pans, and Non-Cooking Women”. The article went in on girls of this generation who aren’t active in the kitchen. With that article, Pointdujour didn’t assume the patriarchal society-minded tone of other articles on the subject. She didn’t castigate or ridicule young women for not being “wifey material”, but rather emphasized that cooking is a much-needed skill for survival.
Pointdujour has also written a series of “As Told To” confessionals for Ebony, in which interview subjects trusted her to tell their personal stories about everything from post-quarterlife virginity to paternity and marital secrets. The series is one of the most read and looked-forward=to columns for the publication’s digital arm, drawing plenty of commentary and discussion.
Time after time, Pointdujour shows her ability for knowing what will resonate with readers. Here’s the Howard University alumni, Brooklyn-born daughter of a Guyanese mom and Haitian father, discussing her journey as a scribe…
Did journalism chase you until you had no choice but to embrace it? Or was the attraction always mutual?
Nope, the attraction was always mutual. I love to write and I always seek opportunities to do so. From being on the year book staff, to writing for the school paper…I’m always trying to put pen to paper.
Do you think that in years to come the line between advertising and editorial will become grayer and grayer until finally it’s nonexistent ?
I don’t think the line between advertising and editorial will ever be non-existent, but like most things, it will evolve. The world of journalism isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago, or even 5 for that matter. It changes as the world changes. The line may be gray now, but that’s just because of change. Will the two areas have to find a way to co-exist, especially in this tech-heavy, instant information world we live in? Yes. But there will always be a line between the two—in my opinion.
As the American-born child of two Caribbean parents, were you told that journalism and being a writer wouldn’t be practical as careers? If so, how did you manage to convince your parents that you would be a success at it?
Fortunately no! Well, at least not by my parents. My father and mother always encouraged me to be whatever I wanted to be…as long as it didn’t land me in jail lol. They both encouraged my writing, as a matter of fact, my father probably has everything I’ve ever written, even the digital pieces. My grandparents, however, could care less about my writing. They enjoy it, they like to read it, but my grandmother on my Haitian side would’ve preferred me to be a nurse. And married…with kids. [Laughter]
As crazy as it sounds for a child from a Caribbean family to say, I’ve never really cared about or followed anything my family has wanted for my life. I usually tell them what I’m going to do, not ask for advice or permission. I live for me and do what feels right for me. My father never micro-managed my decisions; he raised me to be independent and to trust my own gut from a very early age. Unless it was something like behaving in school, doing my chores, had to do with life or death or combing my hair—I hated combing my hair—I was free to make my own choices. If I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t, and if I did…I did. Because I was taught to trust my gut, I’ve never made a choice that took me down a wrong path or shamed my family. If I fell, I knew how to get up before they ever noticed I was down. I may not be a millionaire doing the writing thing, but I love it and my family just supports and rolls with it. [Laughter]
Have you been to Haiti?
No, and my grandmother is somewhere praying for the correction of that tragedy in my life as we speak. The side-eye I get every time I go to Abu Dhabi or Thailand, but not Haiti, is unreal. She has a huge home in Haiti that she built piece by piece since I was a little girl and I’ve never been there. Actually, out of 9 grandchildren only one has been, but we’re working on taking a family trip there soon. I’ve seen so many beautiful pictures of Haiti; it’s definitely on my list!
That’s definitely something to look forward to….Do you think that the media has the power it had say earlier this century, or even in the last century?
Media definitely still holds a lot of power! Especially since today media outlets are literally at the fingertips of the world. It has the power to broadcast breaking news at lightning speed and because of all the technology we have access to these days, I feel it is in the middle of an amazing transformation. The downside to the power and transformation however, is that media outlets are being less careful. The race to be the first to break on outlets like Twitter, has caused false info to be released and journalistic integrity to be compromised. Everyone with a keyboard thinks they are media these days. Also. because of things like reality television, false images are portrayed all over the globe and it’s hard to decipher what people and countries are really like. It’s a tough balance.
You write for a great many publications. You’re very versatile. One minute, a Danielle Pointdujour article on relationships appears on Vibe Vixen, and the next minute you’re writing about travel for TravelNoire, or about health and fitness for Frugivore or women’s issues for Clutch. How did you get to be such an all-around reporter and writer?
I think you have to be when you’re a writer. You can most certainly have a favorite subject, for example mine is travel, but you have to be flexible enough to go get and write the story no matter the topic. I’ve written about nude pantyhose for Coco + Crème – I can’t tell you the last time I wore pantyhose [Laughter] I’ve written about makeup – never worn it. But at the end of the day, whatever I’m writing isn’t about me and my preferences, it’s about the audience. So long as I believe in what I’m writing and who I’m writing it for, I can write pretty much anything.
What journalistic piece do you feel is your crown and glory in terms of what you had to put into it, and the satisfaction that it gave you, as a professional and woman of the pen?
Wow, that’s a tough one. My crown and glory piece would have to be a little article I wrote at Howard for our newspaper The Hilltop. I did an interview with publicist Marvet Britto. She was my idol! I had never interviewed anyone important before and I reached out to her honestly not expecting to hear back. She contacted me for the interview and I remember being so nervous! When the article was printed I sent her a copy, she loved it so much she offered me an internship with her company The Britto Agency. I was beyond excited; it felt like validation that I was on the right path because someone I admired respected my work. I remember while interning for her I wrote a bio for a client she had named Ralph Jacob, it was the first celebrity bio she let me write. Ralph called Marvet to tell her how much he loved it and she was so proud that she gave me $100 cash straight from her wallet. Best money I ever earned.
Wow…Do you think a college degree is still a big requirement for those who want to get into publishing and journalism?
Definitely. Unfortunately these days everyone and anyone with a keyboard and the ability to write a decent sentence thinks they are a writer and journalist. The reality is writing is a skill. You can’t just wake up one day and decide that you are now an ace in the field. You need to learn basic writing styles, editing, research and fact-checking skills, reporting, etc, and you need to have your most prized piece broken down to the marrow and drowned in a sea of red pen before you are even close to being a writer and journalist. And even then you’re not done honing your craft. Even the best people in the field are still learning, growing and perfecting their craft, because that’s what it is, a craft.
What’s next for you in your career? Or can I guess…a novel, becoming an editor, going for another degree…
Honestly, I have no idea! Currently I am the Content Editor for TravelNoire.com and a freelance writer for Ebony.com and JETMag.com. A few people have told me I should write a book based on experiences I’ve had during my travels, but I haven’t sat still long enough to even figure out where to begin. I’m really big on luxury travel and enjoy reviewing the amazing places I’m blessed to visit, so I’m hoping I can partner with tourism boards, hotels, resorts and restaurants in various countries very soon. Maybe the Haitian Tourism Board will give me a call!