Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Marquita Harris

Marquita Harris walks up to me as I’m sitting outside of The Chipped Cup in Harlem and all I can think is “YASGODDESSQUEENYASGLAMAZONOMG!” But I feel like that’s an inappropriate thing to say to someone I’ve met just once, so instead I just say, “You look beautiful!” And I definitely mean it. Her dark hair bounces in elegant curls and big, round black sunglasses rest on her face. Slim golden hoop earrings grace her ears. She wears a marigold ensemble that pops underneath a worn yet chic denim jacket with black open-toe heels and a matching black leather bag. She owns the sidewalk.

A writer and editor, Marquita--pronounced “[mar-kee-tah]” as she writes on Instagram--currently works as the Contributing Features Editor at Essence but has also worked at Refinery29 and Modern Luxury. She has a Master’s Degree in Fashion Journalism from the University of the Arts in London. Marquita was also the Editor in Chief and Co-Founder of Top Rank magazine, a Brooklyn-based publication celebrating the voices of women from diverse backgrounds. Inspired after a Beyoncé concert, Marquita and her co-founder came up with the idea for Top Rank. While they only made a one issue, it was star-studded from the start, with icon Janet Mock on their first cover. Their work on Top Rank also showed what Marquita could do as a writer and editor, something she could present to potential employers in the future.

Marquita has lived in Harlem for the better part of a decade and loves her neighborhood. We find a spot outside at The Chipped Cup and Marquita kindly gets us some iced coffees. She asks me how I like mine, but worried that my usual “half and half, two Splendas, light ice” is too demanding, I tell her not to worry about it. She cocks an eyebrow at me and smiles--she knows better--and I relent.

She takes a seat across from me and we talk writing and writing and magazines and magazines. Like me, Marquita is a magazine nerd, and she has a special place in her heart for independent publications. In particular, she waxes poetic about Trace, the magazine that taught her to love magazines. Everyone has one, she says with a knowing nod (mine was ElleGirl). She’s hoping to do more writing in the future and even has a book project in mind.

Marquita moves her hands expressively when she talks, fingers bejeweled with silver rings twinkling as she gestures. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s famous crown symbol is inked on her forearm. Tilting her head toward the sky when she’s thinking, the sun catches her brown eyes with a perfect light photographers spend ages in studios trying to master. I’m surprised to learn she doesn’t like to have her picture taken because she’s a natural in front of the camera.

For a quick bite we move from The Chipped Cup to Bono, an Italian spot nearby. We nibble salads, talking about boys and men. Sophisticated and independent, she rightfully has no time for the former.

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