It’s the holiday season in Houston, and Tracey Ferguson has brought her family back home for a bit of respite from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Her magazine, Jones, landed on shelves in the fall of 2005 – but it wasn’t until launching it nationally and concurrently with her Centric/BET reality show Keeping Up with the Joneses in 2010 that people all over took notice. Originally created in Texas, Jones has relocated its headquarters to NYC, the center of media.
This petite powerhouse has taken a sabbatical from running the magazine as Editor-in-Chief to manage her daughter Kendall’s budding music career as a newly signed artist to Atlantic Records. Both Tracey and Kendall plan to set the industry on fire once the debut is released in 2014.
We are set to meet at a new foodie spot in Houston’s posh uptown area, Adair Kitchen. As I await her arrival, Tracey enters with a warmth and graciousness that is both delightful and unexpected. She dons designer duds from head-to-toe: a Michael Kors pullover, an embellished skirt by Gryphon, and European heels by Ledue. One would only expect that from the founder of the quintessential shopping + lifestyle guide for the discriminating women of color. She’s the epitome of the Jones woman – a well-traveled, sophisticated, ambitious, fashion-forward tastemaker. “When I founded Jones, birthed by an idea amongst my book club girlfriends, I felt like there was something missing from the shelves for our demographic,” says the uber-stylish entrepreneur. When comparisons to Essence, Honey and Vibe Vixen glossies come up, she quickly addresses the differences from other publications. “Jones is more focused on fashion…not apparel. [We are] very designer and Fashion Week-oriented. It’s all about exploring and [being] adventurous, and ‘fashion forward’. And we are a guide so there are just briefs on style, travels, food, and no long articles – just in and out.” She makes it known that Jones magazine clearly articulates that African-American women and other women or color are multi-dimensional and multi-faceted. “I got tired of reading articles about foreclosures, the dating dilemmas [for us], and so on. All of us are not experiencing that. Some might say that our magazine is lofty and elitist – but what is [considered] lofty now? I don’t apologize for lofty...high-end. We have a black president now – come on.”
This type of ‘straight – no chaser’ talk is an aspect of what makes Tracey who she is – but does not completely define her. It’s crystal clear that her drive and laser-like focus could be a source of intimidation to others, including staff. “It’s hard when it’s your brainchild. I still maintain that I know what’s best for my magazine. I think there are talented people [you can hire] that can pick it up but it’s still my passion, my concept. [There’s a] passion for sharing things with black girls who want to step it up a notch.” Tracey’s eyes dance as she explains this passion – the passion to ‘know better, do better.’ “You want to go beyond – to create more tastemakers [because] it makes everyone [around you] better when surrounded by people with good taste,” she says.
This thirst for sharing with others also touches on the philanthropic side of Tracey. “It’s good to give back and pay it forward.” Tracey prides herself on giving new designers, artists and product creators a platform to reach the masses. Jones hosts invitation-only exclusive events to introduce new brands, products and style trends to Jones devotees. “Our next event will be in February or March 2014 – ‘Spring Best in Beauty’. We gravitate towards those who think outside the box - [once again]...the new, the new, the new. [But we] only endorse products that we know will work for us.”