CL Mayers meets Kemi Fatoba and Joe Von Hutch, the founders of Berlin-based, Black-owned and inclusive publication DADDY
“Everyone has this idea of Berlin being this super progressive, forward-thinking bubble and there are those bubbles, but then there’s also the reality check,” Kemi Fatoba, DADDY’s co-founder, begins. “There is a lot of casual sexism, racism and homophobia coming from people of all ages, but I was particularly shocked to see it coming from young people. That is how the idea of starting DADDY formed.” Between co-workers who would casually throw around racial slurs, to progressive left-leaning groups who love their cultured neighbourhoods yet chastise the people of colour who make it so, there was a glaring disparity between the expectation and the reality of Berlin.
For Joe Von Hutch, DADDY’s other co-founder, who is American and quit his job at a corporate law firm after a Trump-voting client prompted an introspective look at his life and career, the magazine has been fulfilling a necessary outlet. He looks back on those previous years and that Trump-championed client meeting as a moment that provided a solid grounding for the “radically transformed” life he has built for himself. “I quit that job in 2017, moved to Berlin and became a freelance writer. [Kemi and I] met at a house party and she was, like, ‘What do you do?’ And I was, like, ‘I’m a writer!’ I had this thought of myself as a writer but I hadn’t been published anywhere,” he recalls. “So that’s how I started; my first publishing ever was with DADDY. I have spent my time in Berlin as a Black and gay man, immigrant, foreigner, English speaker, married, in an interracial relationship [and we have] a chihuahua. My life moving through this society … everything impacts it.”
DADDY, is a culmination of all these experiences and feelings, realised as a magazine not only producing but championing “inclusive, intersectional and sexy content.” The Together Issue, its inaugural offering, was released at the tail-end of 2020. Here, alongside Felton Kizer’s story for the issue, CL Mayers speaks with Fatoba and Von Hutch about all things DADDY.
CL Mayers: I think it’s important to note, your motto: “inclusive, intersectional and sexy content”. I was reading articles and jumping between topics such as: super saiyans, ASR technology, smut talk, the Vietnamese experience in Germany and Pride in India. Joe spoke with Diana [Arce] and she mentioned the importance of championing all marginalised groups. This piece closes the magazine and I think she summarises the importance and necessity of inclusivity so succinctly but I would love to hear why you believe it is so important?
Kemi Fatoba: We wanted to tackle it for everyone: representation for Black people, people of colour, queer representation, trans representation, and all of the overlaps. That is a huge conversation in Berlin – that queer people are seen as white – which is obviously not the case. Queer people come in all shapes and forms. That’s why we thought it would be good to look at all of these angles and perspectives. I feel like [the team has] a bit more Black representation than other representation but it just came naturally. We tried to address that when we had our corporate pitches because we really want to hear from all of our followers, and all the different communities out there. I think we did quite a good job – we had Asian representation, disabled representation. There is a broad spectrum.
“Everyone talks about embracing diversity and welcoming intersectionality, but we are actually doing it” – Kemi Fatoba
CLM: You’re also consulting with different corporate brands working to make a change from within established structures. You do this while simultaneously building your own structure that does a fantastic job in being the change you want to see. This is all under the DADDY media group umbrella, right?
Joe Von Hutch: Yes, we are trying to do a lot of things with it. First and foremost, once we decided to be a company and pay people, we had a financing model. We had to make sure we had revenue coming in that we could use to pay people. When we weren’t sure we would be able to cover the costs of the magazine from magazine sales alone, we needed to make sure we had something else backing that up. So that was one way. We made sure we could support the publishing through these other income-generating streams. For us it’s about how you’re invested long-term in learning, educating and implementing policies that will help retain staff. Supporting them through their development in terms of changing the DNA of the entire organisation. We try to partner over the long-term with people who we can implement our vision, and it’s not just a box check. We’re working to change the actual culture at companies so that issues that have arisen don’t happen again. We are limited in what we can do as it’s the two of us but the hope is that as DADDY grows, we can keep pursuing this with more people helping us out.
KF: I happened to meet one of the cofounders of OTV two years ago. I knew them, and from there we have become really good friends. Now we have collaborated on a couple of occasions. Brave Futures was the biggest collaboration we’ve done with them. There was an award ceremony, people got monetary prizes, and distribution deals. It wasn’t just a nice thing to do, it wasn’t just ’paid by exposure’ but it was getting paid and having exposure as well. It was a really fun experience. We love collaborating with people with shared views who are also community-focused.
CLM: The importance of community seems central to DADDY. I wanted to discuss that because yes, there is a lot of labour in building communities but it is a beautiful process and should be rewarding then there’s this beautiful outcome.
JVH: I come from this hardcore legal background so it’s the fact that we have founded this company as a Black-owned publishing company, because if I’m not getting invited to the table I will build my own. Going back to Brave Futures, what I love getting is the positive feedback from my community, seeing my community giving themselves positive feedback.
KF: I think of DADDY as a testing ground for a lot of things. DADDY occupies a lot of my time but then the other 50 per cent of my time, I’m a freelance writer. I work for lots of white-led publications, and there are certain things I can write about, talk about and then there are things I can’t. There are things that I can’t realise in that kind of sphere but we can realise with DADDY. Everyone talks about embracing diversity and welcoming intersectionality, but we are actually doing it. Now that we have our fifth anniversary coming up, we recently thought about what we want to do next. How about creating a film? Or an exhibition or whatever! There is so much talent! This huge radiant network of diverse creatives, we can do everything. It’s not a question of talent, it’s mostly a question of money, and getting the funds but we can do everything, and our community is happy to support us which is brilliant.
“There is no lack of talent, there is no shortage – we just need more opportunities” – Kemi Fatoba
CLM: In another article about Smut Slam Cameryn Moore was speaking about people’s fears of their own desires. There is something in that and I wanted to get your opinions on that notion.
JVH: I know Cameryn because she does these erotic storytelling open mics which is exactly what it sounds like. The only thing is it has to be your story. It has to be something that’s happened to you, it can’t have happened to your friend. I try and live my life by breaking the stigma, and I think that’s what she’s doing. People feel the most alone when they feel like they are going through something that no-one else experiences. Smut Slam is great! It’s an in-person event, now it’s online but it’s this experience where people can be there for each other. We are human, we have to express ourselves. All-natural. It’s all about breaking down that stigma and feeling proud of that, and proud of yourself, and finding community. I love Cameryn’s work, especially for the kink community. What I also want to note is she brought in an older perspective to the magazine. She is of an older generation, and I appreciated that. We couldn’t get everyone’s viewpoint in there, but we tried to be as broad as possible.
CLM: What can we expect from you guys in the future?
KF: I think the most important thing is to make sure that we don’t go broke overdoing DADDY. We have bills to pay, and I want to be able to pay people – we can pay a humble fee. We want to expand our influence. It would be nice to expand our partnerships with people who aren’t actual gatekeepers and start trying to change the structures by changing these sustainable partnerships and relationships. And we want to prove that representation is everything. It doesn’t just matter, it’s everything. The mission for the future is to change everything. I want us to have not just a seat at the table but a huge banqueting hall. Everyone is invited. I want all of us to have the finest treats because we all deserve to be there. There is no lack of talent, there is no shortage – we just need more opportunities.