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Joi-Marie McKenzie Went From Blogger to Author With Hilarious and Heartbreaking New Memoir, ‘The Engagement Game’March 21st, 2017
Written by: Mia Fields-Hall
Philanthropist, socialite, writer and “lover of all things fabulous” are just a few of the words that come to mind when describing Joi-Marie McKenzie.
From the outside looking in she arguably has it all. As the founder of The Fab Empire and a journalist, she hobnobs with some of the biggest celebrities in the country. She is the big sister in our head and the writer whose interviews we’ve always loved.
We have to admit we were surprised when McKenzie announced that she would be coming out with a personal book, The Engagement Game, based on her dating life.
The very private McKenzie shared with her readers that she wanted to write a book specifically for women like her — women who were trying to figure out the next step in their relationship. The Engagement Game, in bookstores nationwide today, explores why McKenzie said no to marriage and yes to herself.
The Fab Empire: Your readers, some who have known you socially for 10 years, would say you seem to live the dream life with an amazing job and a popular website of your own. So what made you want to write such a personal book?
Joi-Marie: I had no idea I was writing a book when I first started. I’ve kept a diary since I was 8 years old and so writing for me is instinctual and cathartic. It’s what I do to relax. So one Friday night, I was watching yet another episode of “Say Yes to the Dress,” and was really frustrated in my five-year relationship that we still weren’t engaged. So I just started writing out my feelings. I wrote 20 pages and sent them to my mom to get her feedback — as I often do since she’s a writer as well. She sent those pages to an editor, who just so happened to want to buy it and publish it! Writing a book was definitely by the grace of God.
When readers read this book they’re going to learn so much about you. What’s the one thing you think people will be surprised by?
Wow. I’m not really sure, but I think we do live in a time where we’re able to curate our lives and filter our lives. But the reality is life cannot be curated like social media. You can’t just purge the negative experiences and highlight the positive ones. This book details those moments that aren’t pretty, aren’t tweetable, aren’t shareable. They’re real.
We do live in a time where we’re able to curate our lives and filter our lives.
Without giving too much away, what was the hardest scene for you to write?
Opening up about my depression after my break-up was by far the hardest part to write. By the time I was writing that portion of the book, the clouds had lifted and I was already on the other side…but to write it in an accurate way that was truly reflective of the experience I had to take myself back to those feelings and those thoughts. That wasn’t fun, but I felt it was necessary in order to tell my story so I challenged myself to revisit that dark period.
Do you remember the last book that made you cry? Do you think The Engagement Game will have a few people in tears?
You’ve read the book so, you know, I don’t really like feeling emotions. So no, I don’t think a book has ever made me cry. But the last time I cried while consuming art was during a screening of “Fences.” I was actually sobbing. It speaks to the power of August Wilson’s universal story of trying to love the unlovable — something I know a lot about.
I’m not sure if The Engagement Game will make people cry. That definitely wasn’t the goal, but as long as people feel something — sadness, laughter, empowerment — I think then my job is done.
I only saw myself…through the lens of men.
Did you have any ‘aha moments’ while writing the book ? If so, what’s one lesson you can share with us.
Absolutely! I had several. My biggest ‘aha moment’ came when I realized that although I felt stuck in my relationship, I already knew what I needed to do to get what I wanted…I was just deathly afraid to do it. I kept asking God for signs and God was just patiently reminding me, ‘Well, I’ve already told you…’ and ‘Remember when I whispered this to you.’ So for me, knowing that I already had the answers to solve my mess was life changing. I just needed to gather up the courage to act.
Why does marriage matter so much in your opinion?
It doesn’t matter to everyone. It certainly matters to me. You have to realize, I grew up in a household with two parents who truly loved each other, and had a partnership. My parents have been married for nearly 50 years. And so to grow up with that, you want to replicate that in your own life. I’d be amazingly lucky if I had a covenant relationship like theirs…and I do think it’s possible.
There are lots of women out there who are in relationships where they’re frustrated because it’s not moving to the next level. How do you think your book can help them?
Well, I’m very clear about this. It’s actually on the first page: The Engagement Game is not a how-to book. It’s simply my story, but I do hope women can see themselves in my story and then decide for themselves what’s best for them. I’m not an authority on relationships; I honestly don’t think anyone is and I’d be completely skeptical of anyone who calls themselves a relationship expert because interpersonal relationships come with so many variables. But I do hope it empowers women to do the hard work of figuring out what’s wrong and then give them agency to fix it. Because you don’t have to live out your life in frustration. Frustration is meant to prune you, educate you. It’s not meant to house you.
Frustration is meant to prune you, educate you. It’s not meant to house you.
What’s the best advice you can give to the people out there who feel stuck — stuck in their relationships, in their jobs or in life in general?
Turn inward. So often we blame others, blame the dog, blame momma, blame Tyrone, blame God. The reality is often times we already know the answers to our questions. We just have to be still enough to hear our gut or hear the voice of God instructing you to act. And at times, at least for me, it took serious effort to hear what God was telling me to do and then when I heard him I didn’t want to do it — it seemed too scary, too hard. But it’s hard work.
What’s your ultimate goal for The Engagement Game?
To empower people to become the authority on their lives. And for the memoir to become a blockbuster film.
Joi-Marie McKenzie is an entertainment/lifestyle writer for ABCNews.com. Her critically acclaimed debut memoir, The Engagement Game: Why I Said ‘I Don’t’ to Marriage and ‘I Do’ to Me is on sale now.
Photo credit: Tayo Ola
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For one night only, Common will perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2700 F Street NW) with NSO Pop and Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke.
You guys know Common. He’s the Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe–winning Chicago rapper, actor, film producer, activist, and poet. Whew! That was a lot.
Concertgoers can expect to hear selections from his latest album, “Black America Again,” as well as hits spanning his career.
The performance starts at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22. Tickets are going quickly snag yours here.
Can’t make it? Catch the livestream on Tidal!
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Join us as we celebrate the debut memoir of The Fab Empire creator Joi-Marie McKenzie on Wednesday, March 29 inside Barnes and Noble Tribeca (97 Warren Street New York, NY 10027). It’s called The Engagement Game!
The evening, hosted by her publisher Hachette Book Group’s Center Street, will be moderated by Essence’s relationship editor Charreah K. Jackson.
The Engagement Game recounts how Joi-Marie thought she had it all — thanks to her plum job at ABC News, tight-knit group of friends and a loving family. But when her boyfriend wouldn’t propose, she decided to play the game, The Engagement Game.
The Washington Post called it “friggin’ hilarious,” while Essence magazine deemed it a book “every woman should read.”
Join us and other New York socialites as we fete our very own.
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Join us as we celebrate the debut memoir of The Fab Empire creator Joi-Marie McKenzie on Tuesday, March 28 inside Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street NW) on U Street. It’s called The Engagement Game!
The evening, hosted by famed bookstore Politics and Prose, will be moderated by Emmy Award-winning reporter and anchor of “Good Morning Washington” Jummy Olabanji.
Described as “frank and spirited” by Politics and Prose, The Engagement Game recounts how Joi-Marie thought she had it all — thanks to her plum job at ABC News, tight-knit group of friends and a loving family. But when her boyfriend wouldn’t propose, she decided to play the game, The Engagement Game.
The Washington Post called it “friggin’ hilarious,” while Essence magazine deemed it a book “every woman should read.”
Join us and other D.C. socialites as we fete our very own.
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August Alsina is out with new music and he met up with his Las Vegas fans this weekend. The R&B singer performed at Drai’s Nightclub inside The Cromwell in Las Vegas.
The New Orleans native performed his new singles “Wait,” “Lonely” along with older hits, such as “I Luv This Shit.”
Photos: Courtesy of Woody Hugh/Tony Tran Photography
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In honor of Black History Month, AT&T invited more than 500 people to its “Humanity of Connection” event, honoring political strategist Judy Smith, inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture (1400 Constitution Avenue NW).
Before the program, which was hosted by actor Hill Harper and MC Lyte, D.C.’s politicos and socialities mixed and mingled at a cocktail reception. It featured Isiah Thomas’ Cheurlin champagne, a macaroni and cheese bar and a doughnut station.
Along with honoring JudySmith, who was the inspiration behind Scandal’s Olivia Pope, the event honored NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. Al Sharpton and poet Cleo Wade were among those to give remarks to the audience, who were also treated to a short film from Keith Clinkscales.
The Fab Empire spotted many of our favorites at the event, including Andre Wells, Jawn Murray, Nicole Veneble, Jamishia Smith, and Desiree Barnes. Also spotted were Jesse Jackson, Rep. Joe Kennedy and Lynda Johnson Robb.
Photo credit: Tony Powell
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If you’re still looking for the perfect Valetine’s Day gift, look no further! The Fab Empire is giving away two tickets to see Lauryn Hill when she stops into D.C. at the Warner Theatre on Feb. 16.
Enter to win a chance to see the singer (let’s pray she’s on time!) right now:
- You must follow @thefabempire and @dcfab on Twitter.
- Tweet us saying: “I want to win @DCFab‘s tickets to see Lauryn Hill! @TheFabEmpire Hook me up!”
We’ll pick the winner from our mentions on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 1 p.m. Good luck!
And if you don’t want to do all of that, click here to buy your tickets now!
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Ava DuVernay found the perfect weekend — Martin Luther King Jr. weekend — to film her powerful Netflix documentary, “13th.”
Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos and retired U.S. Ambassador Nicole Avant hosted a reception and special conversation at their home in Los Angeles.
The conversation was moderated by none other than Oprah Winfrey, who collaborated with DuVernay on her other TV series, “Queen Sugar,” and featured DuVernay herself with CNN political commentator Van Jones. The three not only discussed the criminal justice system, but also race relations in America post election.
The Fab Empire spotted many guests, including many Netflix stars such as Lorraine Toussaint, Samira Wiley and Chelsea Handler. We also spotted Quincy Jones, Laura Dern, Courtney B. Vance and Compton mayor Aja Brown.
Photo Credit: Netflix/Eric Charbonneau
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Celebrity hairstylist and “LA Hair” star Gocha Hawkins celebrated the launch of her new book Gocha’s Blueprint to Business 101 at her midtown eponymous salon.
Many came out to support Hawkins’ launch, including fellow author and reality star Toya Wright, among others.
While enjoying Hawkins’ new book, guests also sipped on specialty cocktails and listened to a panel discussion centered on the hair salon business.
Photo Credit: Kayla MaDonna
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The Peace Ball is returning to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, bringing with it a safe space for activists to truly celebrate the United States of America.
And thankfully, Andy Shallal‘s ball will include performances by the likes of Solange, an open bar, and the opportunity to rub shoulders and exchange high fives with Angela Davis, Danny Glover, Alice Walker, Van Jones, Esperanza Spalding, Ben Jealous, and Melissa Harris-Perry.
Shallal, a good friend of The Fab Empire, told us earlier this week that he started planning this year’s ball last August for those who “don’t get a chance to celebrate around this time of year” because “they’re always on the outside.”
And to top it all off, the ball will be held inside the new holy grail of blackness in the not so chocolate city — the National Museum of African American History and Culture (1400 Constitution Avenue NW).
“That location has become a symbol” for those who were born “with a lot of pain, but out of that pain came lots of resilience and hope and…celebration,” Shallal explained, “and it really speaks to who [we] are; to be able to go through hell and come out on the other end stronger, better, more resilient and more able to fight injustice.”
“It’s not an anti event at all. It’s really about a celebration of accomplishment over the years.”
“It’s not an anti event at all,” he continued. “It’s really about a celebration of accomplishments over the year.”
Shallal added that this year, activists can celebrate on issues such as marriage equality, voting reform, reproductive rights, climate change issues, labor issues, and healthcare issues.
The owner of Busboys and Poets (which is the location for The Fab Empire creator Joi-Marie McKenzie‘s D.C. launch party for her memoir, The Engagement Game, on March 28 ::shameless self-promotion::) said that although politics has “taken strange twists and turns,” and “we’re still at war all over the world,” the Peace Ball is being held to “celebrate progress. It’s not all drudgery and heartache.”
Shallal said he’s inviting “anyone who believes that there’s a better world out there. It’s not about a republican or a democrat — we don’t do party politics — it’s really about movements that have shaped us throughout the world.”
Furthermore, Shallal said this ball is for the people not the powers that be.
“Politicians are followers. They’re not leaders.”
“So I think it’s important for us a to recognize that we cannot wait for a single politician to lead us into the promise land,” he added. “We have to lead ourselves there.
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