Jessi Noel & Ray Neutron
of Typical Mag
What was the process for starting Typical Mag?
JN: I don't think we had some epic process for starting. We were both feeling there weren't a lot of publications we could see ourselves in and from there we started brainstorming which turned into therapy as we shared stories of our childhood and where we grew up and the impact of art and conversation. I believe from doing this it became clearer what we wanted to communicate. As far as the future, I would say our hope is to still be doing this. It's easy for projects to start off strong and then fizzle out so if TYPICAL is still a name in 10 years, even 5 years, I would be happy.
RN: Yea, I echo Jessi on that. I remember the night she suggested we started this and I looked at her like she was crazy and went about my business on the iMac. Then she said, “No, I’m serious” and the rest is history. We’re in a strange time where we’re seeing some our most beloved publications drop like flies. We want to be here.
It seems almost by chance, the manner in which I happened upon TYPICAL. It was through a recommended search on Instagram one evening that brought me to their profile and I was instantly enthralled. I was immediately drawn to the manner in which they visually shared stories through the online publication. The manner in which they bring light and voice to the everyday stories of those around them is compelling and insightful.
TYPICAL is the brainchild of Jessi Noel and Ray Neutron. Despite growing up in different places, the duo share similar backgrounds, traveling widely with their families throughout their childhoods. They now proudly share their home in Harlem.
What do you want your audience to take away from TYPICAL?
JN: We originally created TYPICAL because we were struggling to find glimmers of ourselves in other publications, and we knew if we were having a hard time, others were as well. Like most people, we wanted to see something honest that accurately portrayed people's lives. We're having conversations about art, culture, social justice, race, science, etc. often among our circles and there's no reason a publication can't to do just that. Just like the names communicates, TYPICAL is very aware we aren't originating anything—we're not the first ones to be bored with what is available to us. But what we are trying to do is create spaces for those who feel the same way. Our content really is motivated by conversations we have with family and friends. Some conversations are serious and some aren't but through this we're able to brainstorm on the topics that stand out to us and go from there.
RN: The sooner we realized the ideas were in the people and conversations we were having on a daily basis the better off we were. And once one of us decides to turn those conversations into ideas in brainstorming sessions, no matter what the other person thinks, we entertain it. Like I said, never kill an idea before you at least entertain it—offer ways to enhance it. If it dies after that, at least you tried and in the process did not kill the confidence of your partner.
“We originally created TYPICAL because we were struggling to find glimmers of ourselves in other publications, and we knew if we were having a hard time, others were as well.”
What's the best piece of advice you've ever heard?
RN: “Don’t despise small beginnings”. It may not be the best but given the subject matter of the interview it feels most applicable. Somebody reading this needs to read that.
JN: The other day a friend said to me "God don't waste a struggle." I swear I have been thinking about it everyday since. It can be really hard to get up and feel super motivated to make things, especially when you have to go to work to make rent. But remembering those words have helped to believe I'm not doing everything in vain and something will actually come from all this hard work and lack of sleep.
What have been some of your biggest strengths and struggles during your career so far?
RN: Connecting with people is one of my strengths. I like them. They’re full of experiences, emotions, and insight. A weakness includes poor time management, which can sometimes be the downside of my strength.
JN: My biggest strengths are keeping things organized and meeting deadlines. My struggles are asking for help and thinking I'm never doing enough.
Who are some artists that you feel have impacted your own practice?
JN: I feel I'm impacted the most by all of my friends who are losing sleep and trying to making rent as well, and being married to someone who is pushing just as hard as I am. I'm thankful to have so many people in my life who are more talented than me because they stay inspiring me. As far as outside of art and design, I would say the women in my family inspire me because they're badasses and just get things done.
RN: Gordon Parks. He could be documenting segregation in the deep south one week and shooting a fashion spread the next. There’s value in being able to document the world as it is and then turn around and create art for art’s sake. Range is rare. Everybody doesn’t have it.
I also like to think that some of the best artists/people out there are in my contact list and have dinner at our place from time to time. True story. If I’ve ever FaceTimed you, you impacted me.
What project are you especially excited about right now?
JN: I have to stay excited about TYPICAL otherwise I would get nothing done, ha! Outside of TYPICAL my close friends have been working on projects that are coming from a place of not caring about the attention of others, and that realllllyyyy excites me.
RN: TYPICAL because I’m all in.
What's in your margins?
RN: Actually doing it. Too many ideas are killed in our minds before they get a chance to take their first breath. Like, I almost killed TYPICAL the first time Jessi mentioned it.
JN: I don't think artists should ever give their process away but I do make sure to nap when I can, and to surround myself with black loved ones because it keeps me healthy. I also listen to a lot of music and read fiction.