Joi-Marie McKenzie, Author of ‘The Engagement Game’, Is A Writing Ass Chick We Love » VSB

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Joi-Marie McKenzie, Author of ‘The Engagement Game’, Is A Writing Ass Chick We Love

Courtesy of Joi-Marie McKenzie

 

If you don’t know, you gon’ learn today. Joi-Marie McKenzie is the homie. Her website, TheFabEmpire.com is integral to anybody trying to navigate the goings on of Washington, DC, Baltimore, NYC, Atlanta, etc., especially during Washington, DC’s annual Black prom, the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference. Joi-Marie let’s you know the low down on it all. On top of being a person in the absolute know, she’s added author to her resume! Today marks the release of her debut book, The Engagement Game, a book I’ve had the pleasure of previewing in advance. And I love it. And I’ll even go out on a limb and say that you will too. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to Joi-Marie a bit about her book.

So without further ado, here’s a chit-chat with a writing ass chick we love, Joi-Marie McKenzie.

P: So, Joi-Marie McKenzie, as a writing ass chick we love around VSB, we know who you are, and lots of folks (especially in DC) know who you are, but for those that might not have the pleasure of being so acquainted (yet), tells us a bit about yourself.

JMM: Well, I’m from Baltimore — born and raised. I eventually graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park and was introduced and fell in love with D.C. nightlife. That led me to create a blog, The Fab Empire (which is how we met!). And I can’t believe that The Fab Empire is almost 10 years old. But anyway, I eventually moved to New York thanks in part to the success of my blog and attaining a degree at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. That led me to my job as an entertainment and lifestyle writer at ABC News. And now I can add author to my resume, which is a dream come true.

P: Well since you mentioned it, let’s go on ahead and jump right into it. You authored the book, The Engagement Game, a period memoir of sorts about your dating life and the quest for “the ring.” First things first, let me say how much I’m enjoying this book. And I mean that from the heart. You wrote a book that name-checks SO many aspects of my twenties and thirties that I feel like I was in many of those places with you. For that, I thank you. It made it that much more of an interesting, and fun, read for me. So let’s start at the beginning; why did you write this book? And for whom did you write this book?

JMM: I honestly didn’t know I was writing a book when I started. I’ve always kept a diary since I was 8 years old and it’s been a way for me to vent my frustrations or celebrate my joys. So I was literally watching “Say Yes to the Dress” on another Friday night — frustrated in my five year relationship that seemed to be stalling — and I just got up to write at my desk. What came out was 20 pages. I ended up sending those pages to my mom for feedback, as I often do because she’s a writer as well, and she’s like,

‘You’re right, this could be a book.’ She sent it to one editor for feedback and that editor ended up wanting to buy it and publish it. So God is super good.

I wrote this book for me, and for women like me who feel like they’re living in stuck spaces. So often we can always point to our man, or our family, or our friends, or the dog — and blame them for why we’re not getting what we want out of life. This book reminds me, and I hope it reminds women (and men for that matter) that oftentimes if we switch the lens around, we’ll find that the only person to remove us from that stuck space is ourselves.

P: That is definitely an “ain’t God good” story! So let’s talk about the actual book. We’ve got engagement chicken, which I ALSO googled and found the Glamour article. We’ve got reflections. We’ve got Adam and Cody and Chinedu, etc. did you ever worry about including some of those relationships in the book? Even if you did change the names?

JMM: Right! I find that the men who’ve read this book are fascinated with Engagement Chicken! So that’s hilarious. But no, I was very intentional about only telling my story — and not the stories of these men whose lives have intertwined with mine. And I tried really hard not to write it like a typical memoir, where often people paint themselves as the angel and their ex is the villain. Or paint myself as the victim. So basically I told on myself. People who’ve read it said at times they don’t know who to root for, and that excites me because relationships are messy. And it’s usually not just one persons fault that it didn’t work out.

IMG_8704P: You know, that’s a good point. I didn’t find myself looking at any of the men with aggressive side-eyes at all. It was the story of young Black folks who typically go through very similar things at this point in their lives. And yes, engagement chicken is GOING to set off all the alarms for every man who comes across it.

In telling your story and sharing your own truth, did you learn anything about yourself or come to any epiphanies about who you are in relationships? Or even more deeply, who you are when not in a relationship?

*mind blown*

JMM: I had several epiphanies, but I think the main one for me is that I realized that I didn’t love myself as much as I thought I did. Because if I did I wouldn’t have changed and shape-shifted so easily for a person that I loved (you know, play The Engagement Game). I changed willingly and gladly; I didn’t even fight for myself to exist. And so I learned that despite my faults, I am enough. And I had a problem with seeing myself through the lens of men so I placed my value in if they deemed me worthy, or girlfriend material, or wife material.  That’s dangerous. So now, even if no one else tells me I’m worthy, I don’t really need them to, because I know it in my bones.

And what an amazing question — if I learned more about myself when I’m single. Absolutely! And it goes back to, again, not needing that “person” to tell myself or tell others that I’m good. I am good whether they come or if they go. It’s powerful to know that not one person has the ability to shake my core happiness — and it took me 29 years to get that.

P: Alright, let’s get a fun question in here. There’s a lot of humor in this book, probably intentionally and unintentionally. What was the most fun part about writing it?

JMM: Reliving experiences like my girls trip to Istanbul, Turkey. To actually vacation there was one thing, but then to sort of trace my steps again in the book-writing process was fun. Because that trip was so surreal. We got to enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences like meeting the owner of Suada, which is essentially an island in the middle of the Bosphorus River, and take his private boat to another nightclub he owned, Reina. Like, stuff like that doesn’t happen to girls from Baltimore. And it’s so funny because someone recently asked me, ‘Did that really happen?’ I’m like yessss. It’s a memoir. It happened. And I’m especially glad I wrote about that experience because Reina has been in the news recently after a gunman opened fire inside. That was really heartbreaking to hear, especially when the owner was so lovely and so hospitable to us.

P: That actually sounds dope. I’ve always felt like one of the dope parts about being the writer of the crew was that I was documenting the shared history of all my friends. Alright, let’s start to wind this up; I can really go on for days. What do you want people to take away from your story?

JMM: A lot of the book plays with the idea of shame and how it will make you hide parts of yourself and shape-shift to get people to like you, and it will tell women to be ashamed because you’re still single or because you want to be married and so that means you’re desperate. And so I hope this book helps people identify how shame is affecting their own lives, and then free themselves of it. Remember, if you have to change who you are to get it, it’s not really yours.

Ultimately I want to remind people, especially women, with this book that they are the authority of their own lives. If they’re frustrated, if they feel stuck in their relationships, on their jobs, with their dreams and their goals that they have the power to get exactly what they want. Turn inward, clarify what it is that you want and then have courage to act.

P: You better preach, sister girl! I really like that direction. We all need a reminder about personal agency on occasion. And if it’s wrapped into a great story about, well, all the better. Consider how well this book and story are put together, I’m sure people will get at least that much, plus some. I’ve held you here long enough, so let’s wrap this up and let people know where they can pre-order the book, find you, etc. Tell everybody what they need to know so they can go out and get, get, get it! Also, is there anything else you want people to know about you, your book, or, I don’t know, about anything? The floor is yours.

JMM: You can buy the memoir wherever books are sold, or go to my website JoiMarie.com. Also, follow me on TwitterInstagram, and on Facebook. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts — well, only the good ones. (I’m a writer and I’m sensitive about my shhh!)

Yes, one more thing about the book: It also includes some of my celebrity interviews from my time at ABC News. So I take readers behind the scenes on my interviews with Spike Lee, Kerry Washington, Jennifer Hudson and Jill Scott, which is my favorite.

That’s it! Thanks so much for this.

P: No problem! Thank you for being a writing ass chick that we love, and thanks for sharing your story with us here at VSB! Good luck with the book. I look forward to hearing and reading all the good things!

 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • Hugh Akston

    Cool story…

  • Engagement chicken sounds like that bull$hit. It reminds me of those Leap Day proposals.

    • Val

      Leap Day proposals?

      • No anniversary for four years?

      • Legend has it that St. Brigid of Kildare, a fifth-century Irish nun, asked St. Patrick,
        the patron saint of Ireland, to grant permission for women to propose
        marriage after hearing complaints from single women whose suitors were
        too shy to propose. Initially, he granted women permission to propose only once every seven years, but at Brigid’s insistence, he acquiesced and allowed proposals every leap day. The folk tale suggests
        that Brigid then dropped to a knee and proposed to Patrick that
        instant, but he refused, kissing her on the cheek and offering a silk
        gown to soften the blow. The Irish tradition therefore dictates that any man refusing a woman’s leap-day proposal must give her a silk gown.

        • Val

          So, like a Sadie Hawkins dance for marriage proposals.

          • The story of Sadie Hawkins is kinda messed up too.

        • Roz

          So if a man (or woman truthfully) rejects said proposal, do y’all just go back to being bf/gf or is the relationship over? I’ve always wanted to know.

          • miss t-lee

            I would think it’s over. Like, where else are you going after that?

            • Roz

              Does the reason for the rejection matter? I know a couple who got married 2 years after he initially proposed and she said no. He proposed a year later and she said yes. I’m just wondering what the norm is.

              • miss t-lee

                IDK. I feel like if y’all been together a while, talked marriage, the person proposes and you say no–that should be the end of things.
                How much longer is the person supposed to wait to marry you?

                • Roz

                  I think so too, but I’ve seen people “move past it” and get married later. I just don’t get it.

                  • miss t-lee

                    That’s good that they were able to do that.

                  • DG

                    I think this can happen if the “no” is conditional…like the proposer has some real life sh it that he needs to take care of first before moving forward with marriage. If the potential fiancé recognizes this beforehand, makes total sense for them to decline said proposal unless certain issues can be addressed first. Truth be told, some people propose when they have absolutely no business proposing. You worried about losing her? Wrong time to propose. Still getting over your last relationship? Wrong time to propose. While getting some {redacted}?……………………….

                    Wrong time to propose.

                    • Roz

                      If marriage is the goal in the relationship (I reckon it is not for some), why wouldn’t you just say yes while the proposer works through the issue. I mean couldn’t the proposer say “well you didn’t want me when I was “broken” so why want me when I’m “fixed’? I don’t know, maybe my past experiences left me somewhat jaded, but I don’t like the idea of “come back when you’re fixed”.

                    • DG

                      I feel you, but the proposer may not be inclined to work thru the issue if s/he hears “yes.” And yes, the proposer could be on his/her Mike Jones steez, but I think that’s the chance one takes. To me, that’s still on the proposer to know whether that person is interested in marrying him/her. Assuming marriage is the goal, I think it pays to talk to your partner about it well before you propose, just to gain a sense on where s/he stands. Personally, I wouldn’t propose to a woman unless I’m at least 95% certain that she’ll say yes

                    • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

                      100% chance that she says yes or I, not proposing.

                    • Roz

                      I agree with you. Ultimately it does boil down to communication, I don’t the question of whether or not we should get married should be a ‘surprise’.

          • A.K.O.O.

            I mean if the check was good. I think you could still date each other.

            • Roz

              You said date…that doesn’t always mean exclusive/committed relationship.

              • A.K.O.O.

                I mean i’m not saying it will be a courtship forever. (I mean he/ she did say no.)

                But a couple more months of angry distraught chex aint bad…I don’t think.

            • DG

              Yeah, but that only works if we (men) propose…we can get rejected, be hurt up and still be down for some bomba$$ chex. Let a woman propose and get turned down, tho…

              • A.K.O.O.

                Hmm…

          • Rewind4ThatBehind

            Hmm.

            *sits patiently & waits for Roz to propose*

            • Roz

              *hands Rewind the Engagement Game to read*
              #MINUSWELL get comfortable. That is a thing I can say will never happen.

              • Rewind4ThatBehind

                I aint say me.

                I just wanted something fun to watch.

                Besides you owe me a Dawson’s Creek marathon.

                • Roz

                  O it’s not you hon, just in general. I’m too “shy”…lol. Besides we’re already married…dems the Dawson Creek laws!

                  • Rewind4ThatBehind

                    lmao

                    You shy? I’m shy too. This is about to be trouble.

                    But ok the Creek is the official ring so you stuck with me.

            • Eyendasky

              Time to move on

              • Rewind4ThatBehind

                Roll Out like Ludacris huh?

                • Eyendasky

                  *Bell rings* we have a winner collect you r prize

            • AKA The Sauce

              Good luck

              • Rewind4ThatBehind

                I’m getting hit by an asteroid first. Trust that.

          • Val

            Depends on the reason(s) they said no, I suppose.

          • Me no know.

          • NomadaNare

            Depends on how and why they were rejected

            I have seen it more than I care to admit

          • Janelle Doe

            Once at a Chinese restaurant I watched a proposal get declined with a “I said no, pass me the chicken balls”. It was quite sad and yet…

            • Roz

              See…she chose chicken balls over you, how do you go back?

              • Janelle Doe

                Agreed. I’d have walked away but this dude stayed put and paid for the meal after all that.

    • AKA The Sauce

      I don’t think we are supposed to understand it.

    • Mika

      its on ibooks?!

      • Mmhm! You can find it in the little store thingy. I’m not very tech savvy.

  • Siante?

    I just downloaded & read the free sample to this book on to my kindle (it’s slow here at work) & now I have to download the whole thing. I love her writing style. Makes me feel like I’m listening to (and laughing) with one of my girlfriends.

    • I’m 3 pages in and I’m loving it all!!

  • Jeanette Johnson

    It sounds like a strange and interesting book. I will have to read it.

  • The day I forget to bring my kindle to work…I’ll definitely be checking this out when I get home. Sounds like my kinda book.

  • Hugh Akston

    I find the idea of folks still thinking about getting married as romantic idea…the cost and burden that comes along should deter folks but humans are a walking contradiction so there is that…get engaged get married I’ll get in the booming divorce industry lol

    • Keep hope alive, Hugh.

      • Hugh Akston

        You have hope when believe a different future is possible

        Don’t have that view in regards to human romantic relationships at this point and that won’t be changing anytime soon

    • Digital_Underground

      Actually, the number of Americans getting married has dropped quite a bit compared to years past. These days marriage is more about social class than romance. Well its always been more about social class. Its even more so now.

      • Hugh Akston

        But that’s the point despite everything that we know about marriage people are still selling that idea…and when you question it or refuse to engage in it…you are cast aside or people wonder what is wrong with you

        It’s a routine for me at this point lol

        • Digital_Underground

          I guess it depends on where you live. Here out West no one cares. In fact, its probably in style to not be married. But I can see how it may be an issue in some of the smaller towns in the South and Midwest.

    • Freebird

      How old are you Hugh?

      • Hugh Akston

        Late 20s

        Y?

        • Freebird

          You speak like a man who has seen the best and worst of the dating game. I said similar things about marriage at your age. Still not sold on it but I’ve been close.

          • Hugh Akston

            I’ve been called an old man

            Trust me I’ve been through enough when it comes to relationships and observe others who are in them

            It is precisely because I’ve been through relationships that I decided never again

            My fan is still not sold on me either…but like I’ve told them what benefit does marriage bring that I cannot get on my own?

            Marriage Itself is a financial transaction nothing more nothing less and as a man living for now in the us I would be insane to get myself into one

            But kudos to all those what have their hopes and get into one…cant say no one warns you though

            • Freebird

              Youre not wrong.

  • Roz

    O yay! Sounds like a good read on a long flight. Will definitely be checking this out.

  • miss t-lee

    I just looked up a recipe for this “engagement chicken”.
    It looks just like any other roasted chix recipe I’ve seen.

    • Ess Tee

      OK. I was wondering as well, and after I Googled, I was like, “That’s it?”

      • miss t-lee

        *daps*
        I’m glad I wasn’t alone out here.

    • Same.

    • panamajackson

      But it sounds more magical.

    • MsCee

      I’m so done with these stories (see:lies) that I’m reading about this basic a$$ chicken leading to an engagement.

      • miss t-lee

        GIRL.
        I’m like…it’s a roasted chicken, it isn’t beef wellington or something complex.

      • cakes_and_pies

        Or sandwiches leading to you becoming a wife. A man should want more for himself besides fancy mustard and artisinal bread.

    • AKA The Sauce

      We sure Steve Harvey didn’t come up with this recipe?

      • miss t-lee

        I linked an article downthread which talks about the origins of this “engagement chicken”.

        • AKA The Sauce

          I guess…but is getting engaged really THAT big of a deal. You COULD always go to the courthouse.

          • miss t-lee

            What does engagement have to do with the courthouse?

            And yes, to folks who want to be engaged it’s a big deal.

            • AKA The Sauce

              For y

              • miss t-lee

                Why are you asking me?

                • AKA The Sauce

                  I just wanna know why it’s a big deal to get engaged when the courthouse is RIGHT there. Engagements seem like a waste of time

                  • miss t-lee

                    Not everyone wants to get married at the courthouse.

                    This isn’t hard to understand…I promise it’s not.

                    • AKA The Sauce

                      It’s not hard…but they should

                    • miss t-lee

                      I was talking about you.

                  • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

                    Getting married is a lot more than just signing a piece of paper.

                    • AKA The Sauce

                      Who side you on…(don’t tell Future Mrs. OG)

                    • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

                      If you skip all the pomp and circumstance, you are shorting yourself just as much as the bride.

                      ETA:. Getting married is a big fucking deal. Treat it as such.

                    • AKA The Sauce

                      Geez kas I’m joking

                    • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

                      Sorry

            • **twisted face with a side of side eye**

              • miss t-lee

                What?

                • Long drawn out engagements aren’t necessary.
                  #getmenowwhileImstillaskin

                  • miss t-lee

                    I didn’t say they were. However, if you’re planning a wedding you will be engaged for a whole second.

                    • Me: “I’m tired of jumping up and leaving when your gran (with dementia) wake up, and come back like i wasn’t here.”
                      Me: “Lets get married.”
                      Her: “Ok.”

                      Time lapse: Jan – June

                      #truestory

                    • miss t-lee

                      I mean…it doesn’t take forever to know these things.

      • cakes_and_pies

        It wasn’t covered in his special brand of bacon with Paula Deen as an endorsement, so “No.”

        • AKA The Sauce

          LOLOLOLOLOL I hate/love you for that

    • NonyaB?

      Thought it was just me. Looked it up and thought the spicing rather bland.

      • miss t-lee

        Folks so hungry for actual home cooking a roasted chicken recipe has folks hype.

      • miss t-lee

        Definitely needs more love.

    • cdj

      That’s what I said. I made it for myself back in the day, and I wouldn’t marry someone over it.

      • miss t-lee

        HA!

  • AKA The Sauce

    Hmmmm…this is interesting. Engagement Fried Chicken……what will they think of next?

    • I really wish it was engagement head or something. That would be worth further study.

      • SoonToBeMrs

        Lmaoo.

      • Head is very overrated.

        • **waits**

          • No need to wait. No one can convince me otherwise. Just gimme the paynus because thats what I’m here for.

            • Alrighty then.

            • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

              Interesting

            • Lex

              “Just gimme the paynus because thats what I’m here for.” Co-signed.

        • Roz

          Oo..

          • These are the facts Roz. Maybe it’s awesome for those individuals with a paynus but I’m not impressed as a person with a vag.i.na

            • Roz

              “it’s awesome for those individuals with a paynus” – dems the facts I’ve heard.

            • cdj

              I think it’s fun! I like the control I have over the guy.

        • Maybe, but engagement head would be a whole nother level.

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