There are some people you come across that inspire you without them knowing. You see their vision as soon as you step in the room, and you just know it will be successful. That’s exactly how I felt a couple of years ago during Suspend Magazine’s first issue release party. Before arriving at the party, I was communicating with the editor Diane Abapo. She’s a woman who is a go-getter, observer, hustler, an achiever, and more than you can imagine. I’m not trying to kiss-ass but state facts.
Starting the year right with presenting Diane Abapo, the woman behind Suspend Magazine for the column WWW: Women We Worship. Suspend Magazine has grown quickly in an independent way. She has gone out of her way by captivating images of artists and telling their stories from digital to print. A woman who went from interning at FLAUNT Magazine, graduating from UCLA to curating her magazine, she’s a big inspiration to everyone in the Los Angeles scene and around the world. Aside from being a self-taught photographer, an editor, she’s also a woman with a sharp voice. She gets close and personal, giving us an insight into her experiences as an entrepreneur.
As I got ready to interview her in her DTLA loft, I knew it was going to go smooth. Music starts playing, took a sip of my water, and we started laughing into the interview:
What are some challenges that you may have?
It’s digital versus print. The internet has made information so accessible to read. The way we consume, information is real quick. You just check it out once. On social media or Instagram, you scroll through, and that’s it. You don’t realize that what you are scrolling through may be a piece of art. That someone might have spent two years on that. It is because that is how much information is out there. Is it good or bad? That’s something for each to answer. Sometimes, when I have this conversation about technology, some are put-off by it. They’re not about technology. For me, it is an excellent medium. It is a good way to advertise my magazine. It is on how you package everything. I am 50/50. The internet is here but when I have the website content is different than print. What’s in the issue, we spend a lot of time with it. Same with the website but it is more of a smaller capsule. When it is in print, it’s more of an in-depth content. I want people to pause when it comes to the magazine. That’s what I want. Some people are like, ‘Why are you trying to get into print?’ I’m like because there is still people that read articles. If you are in a waiting room, people want to read something. Yea, people are on their phones, but your eyes get tired. With these magazines, they are here to stay. Every day is something new. You are never going to be done learning, and there is so much to know about having a magazine. You have to be always reading the news, reading trends, and stay up to date. That just goes back straight to sociology. You need a real good support system. They can tell you about others vibes.
Did you decide one day to leave your full-time job?
I was doing a desk job, 9 to 5. I was commuting from Downtown Los Angeles to Orange County. It was difficult, but I love every place where I have been employed. I always learn something from my bosses, but I did not want to continue working for someone else. Making someone else wealthy. I would sit at my job, and I know I was doing a good job. I should be happy with the chunk of change I was making. I was not happy and from the minute I clocked in I would be thinking about the magazine. It was to the point where I was getting super depressed. I would sit in 2 ½ hours of traffic and would get upset about not working just on the magazine. So, I was talking to Leslie about it, my girl who was super supportive for this whole thing. She would tell me that I do not want to be 35-45 years old and never take the chance to do what you love. Just fucking do it and whatever happens, you will deal with it then. If it were not for Liz, I would still be at my job. Sleeping on probably 3 hours or less. Trying to squeeze in all these shoots and interviews. You can’t do that with a magazine. It is a 24-hour thing, and it motivates me. Now I am free whenever and it’s so refreshing to wake up working on my entire venture. My magazine, my business and not many people can say that.
Do you think your readers have changed now?
Before I did not know whom my readers were. Before it was just me picking my friends and asking them, if they wanted to do a shoot. Do you wish to wear some clothes and I will put you in a magazine? All of a sudden I was blindly just doing it because it was fun. I like taking photos, and I like taking pictures of people wearing clothes. All of a sudden when we started talking about advertisers, expanding the magazine, etc. I kept hearing, who is your reader? I kept hearing that. My answer would change every time. Now that I have been doing this since 2011 I got it. I also use analytics to see who is looking at the magazine. So, our reader is permanently male. 60% fluctuates and it goes from 60% male and 40% female. I never thought it was going to be like that. Other times it is more split with guys and girls. Our reader is into outdoor activities, clothing, Hip-Hop music, and entertainment. That is my readers. That is pretty much myself because I like that too. It’s nice that I can embody my readers in me. I want to keep this genuine for my readers.
How do you select features?
It is a combination of people that have been approaching us and reaching out to people. A lot of it is through people that we know. They tell me they have someone for me to meet. I always have to have something that excites me. I am not going to put someone in the magazine because they have a ton of followers. That means nothing to me. I rather know what aura that person puts out. Someone that can inspire people and could they inspire me? I regularly email or text my girlfriend asking what she thinks of all these artists. A big one is whom we put on the cover. That is a big one. We go back and forth a lot. It has to be someone you like. His or her artistry, someone cool, but you have to think further than that. Can they help you push readers or can they put you on a different platform? -It is going to be how I can maximize your shit and maximize my magazine’s name. It shouldn’t be only about exposure. A lot of people that are so hungry to be famous they go and take that route. They just want to be famous and want to be everywhere. That takes time, and it’s not about getting to the finish line so quickly. You have to maneuver yourself slowly into that direction in a way that makes sense to your readers.
What advice would you give entrepreneurial women, wanting to start a magazine?
I think it is very important to have a message. Especially with people having so many different projects and ventures. In which that is all great. Individuals now are so smart with technology and so quick to judge bluntly what you’re putting out there. For example, I get a lot of submissions with clothing lines wanting to be featured. I will quickly archive them if I see that they do not have a package or they haven’t spent time on them. You have to have a clear, concise idea of your project. Have a message that makes you stand out from everyone else. If not, you are just going to be a clone. Unfortunately, I do not think you will stand out being a clone. You also need to have a business plan. That is probably the number one thing because a lot of money goes into this. From marketing, website design, to all the equipment that you need. You also need to be dedicated to the point that before you go to sleep to when you first wake up that it is all about perfecting your craft. Staying hungry is important. You need to know that you can always improve because the moment you think you’re done that’s not good. All of these ventures and projects are always shifting and evolving. You need to stay on top of it. Some people just don’t want to do research and know about other people in their space. I do not understand why. I think it is important to know the other players in the space you’re in. You have to do your research and what other magazines are out there doing. What you like about them and what you do not like about them. I encourage friendly competition, and I think it is smart. It’s smart to know and be a master in your category. Do all your research, have a plan, and be unique. That is my advice.
Do you feel that your background or culture influenced the magazine?
So, I’m half Filipino and half Chinese. I don’t think that played a part. If anything, I have always been more of an observer. I moved a lot growing up and also have other things that I went through growing up. Just like coming out and that’s a whole other story. My dad was a big inspiration. I was a pop-culture fanatic growing up. Going to my grandma’s house, she had a stack of tabloid magazines, TIME and National Geographic to balance it out. I would just read because I didn’t have anyone to talk to when I was younger. I loved Hollywood. I loved the idea of fame and celebrity of 1920’s-1950’s. That influenced my photography style.
Do you feel it is more difficult staying in the industry because you’re a lesbian?
I completely feel that it is irrelevant. I honestly believe that who I choose to come home with has nothing to do with the content on my pages. It’s like Pluto. It’s not like when I meet an artist, and I tell them my name is Diane, and also I am a lesbian. It’s so irrelevant to the point that people don’t even know or need to know. I don’t put it out there. It also took me some time to get comfortable. It is nice that I have not been in a situation where it matters. If was put in that situation, I would say peace!
Do you still work with the same individuals whom you started the magazine with?
Arthur is probably the biggest key player. Who I first started the magazine with I am no longer with that individual. We don’t work together because she went on to doing something else. We are still friends. There have been a lot of people that have come and gone with the magazine. Arthur is the one that kind of put that message in my ear about making it into a magazine. That was four years ago. We were doing the magazine for a little bit and then we branched off. He went a little bit away from the magazine and recently he’s back in full force. He is my eyes and ears. He’s my creative director. He’s the one I go to about what is out in the streets or what is big right now. I will not know about it until later. Everyone he has told me about and predicted has become someone. So, we had a lot of opportunities to put certain artist that now are huge. Since I didn’t know and I was second-guessing it, I did not feature them. That was my biggest mistake because there are about 3 or 4 artists that are big now who could’ve been featured. I’m learning that you need be more confident.
Do you feel people have changed with you now that Suspend Magazine is branching out?
Some people really would not give me the time and date before. Absolutely. People that I wanted to photograph before will not respond to me. Now because we have more people that we know and work with, it’s like it makes sense now. I do not have any hard feelings. We are all human, and I get it. I don’t even know if they saw my email.
Growing up, did your parents support you when you came out?
It has been a journey. We are at the best place we have ever been. As long as they love me and support me that is all that matters. Some moments get difficult. I am sure it is just not me but also for them. I’m just trying to look at it from their point of view. I just think that when it comes down to your kid having a passion for something, do you want to separate yourself from that because they were not something you thought they were going to be? You thought that society would be a little bit harder to them. Or do you just want to support them? Me, coming out, is also difficult because they also have to come out. It takes time, but I am happy where we are right now. Other things are more important.
How do you feel about being featured on WWW: Women We Worship?
I don’t even think that it has hit me. I am such an ordinary person. I am very happy that I am being featured, and that is super cool. I am so behind the scenes. I’m having more of a conversation than anything else.
Last words: If I didn’t have my parents support with the magazine. I would’ve quit doing the magazine. If they told me they didn’t like the magazine, I would be heartbroken. It would be hard to me. It’s a great feeling to be an individual and have that family support. You have to push on.