By Andrea Cirillo
At Vicissitude Magazine’s “Dark & Wild” Event on October 16th, at Inc Lounge, I had the pleasure of catching up with John Shumate, AKA Mr. Vicissitude himself. It’s been over a year since we were able to get inside the head of the man behind the magazine. After an incredibly successful 12 months, we wanted to see what Mr. Vicissitude’s thoughts were on the present and, more importantly, the future of his namesake publication.
If you know Mr. Vicissitude personally or simply follow him on social media, you know that he has one thing in common with Joan Rivers (God rest her fabulous soul): like the late, great fashionista, Shumate is well-known for expressing what other people are too scared to say, and I believe that has a great deal to do with his – and the magazine’s – success.
Ms. Rivers’ direct quote was “I succeeded by saying what everyone else was thinking.” Well, Shumate has a way with words and a tongue as sharp as a butcher’s knife, and this all contributes to the respect and honor he’s gained the past few years. He’s doesn’t cut corners, he doesn’t sugar coat, and he definitely doesn’t put up with mediocrity.
It’s quite apparent that people will always have something to say, and Mr. Vicissitude welcomes the bad talk as if it were wrapped as a gift and topped with a bow.
“All of the hate adds fuel to my fire and pushes me to be greater,” Shumate declared with a smile, as we chatted in front of the step-and-repeat banner, with video cameras rolling and flashbulbs going off by the second. “I had doubters and haters, mostly disguised as friends, telling me that I can’t do it. But look at me now, so many issues later. Sixty-eight and counting.”
With so much competition in the magazine industry, to have a six-year reign like Shumate’s is quite remarkable. These types of success stories in this cutthroat business arefew and far between. So, in order to make it for this long, Shumate had to have been doing things right. Or, as I prefer to say it, doing things so wrong that they are just so right!
Vicissitude Magazine prides itself on being different. So it comes as no surprise that it’s getting more recognition as the days pass. Even the name of the magazine is different and exciting. Shumate could have picked some cheesy, typical name for his publication, but Mr. Vicissitude is anything but ordinary.And as the brand itself continues to increase in relevancy, no one will ever forget the name of …Vicissitude.
When I asked Shumate if he expected this immense amount of success, his answer was simple and to the point.
“Of course I expected this success,” he said with a laugh. “And that’s not me being arrogant – although I don’t care if people think I am or not. Everyone knows me to be a bit of an a**hole! But, as far as I’m concerned, you’re only being arrogant when you expect success for doing nothing. I, on the other hand, expected success because I was busting my butt every day, every hour, every minute, in the name of Vicissitude. And the more the magazine grew, the more it attracted high-quality people to the team.”
Mr. Vicissitude continued by adding that he and his team work hard and put their best into everything to see not only what they can do better, but also what they could do different.
“Everyone knows I don’t accept ‘average.’ If you want that, don’t buy our magazine. And certainly, don’t expect to work for our magazine. But the people I’ve surrounded myself with share that same attitude. They don’t settle for anything that isn’t great, and most importantly, unique – different from the rest. My creative director Joe Nunez, my editor-in-chief Neem Basha, all the photographers and writers we work with, all the make-up artists, hairstylists, EVERYONE who is involved with this magazine brings a level of greatness to it.”
So, does that mean that Mr. Vicissitude has never picked a bad apple from the big basket known as the fashion and entertainment industry?
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, there have been people we worked with who are mediocre. But see the past tense there – WORKED with. Those people lasted for one issue. Or two issues tops if there were good at concealing their mediocrity. But the people that bring greatness to the magazine are the ones who are here to stay. The mediocre ones are gone and, in most cases, they are rarely heard from again in this industry.”
Rarely heard from again? I asked Shumate if he was responsible for the career tailspin of these wannabe Vicissituders.
“Well, sometimes their careers go down the drain after I publicly blast them, like I did to some folks at our anniversary event in September. I only blast people who have wronged me and taken money out of the pockets of my hard-working staff. These are people who are completely unprofessional, so I feel like it’s my responsibility to publicly share my experiences, so others in the industry know who they should NOT be working with. But on the other hand, there are times where I don’t have to do anything but sit back and watch: their lack of talent manifests itself, and they fall on their face without me having to say a damn thing!”
With the chances John has taken thus far, he’s seen first hand how beneficial it is to do things differently. It hasn’t just gained a little recognition — it has put Vicissitude firmly on the map (and boy do we look good!)
Over the past year, there have been a number of events that continue to bring in more and more potential affiliates and clienteleincluding models, photographers, writers, and most importantly, new readers. Mr. Vicissitude recognizes the importance of holding so many events for the magazine.
“First of all, we love having events because we like to have fun, and so do our readers. So, why not have a great time together? How many other publications give you a monthly pass to come out and meet the publisher, the editor, the creative director, the writers, the whole team? And if you’re in the industry, these events are invaluable networking opportunities, because we always like meeting new talent, for either side of the camera, to feature in upcoming issues.”
Shumate added that the parties allow us to showcase what we do best: fashion.
“Our fashion shows are second-to-none,” declared Shumate proudly. “Our models are comfortable because we work with designers that respect what we do, and respect what the models do. We don’t put on shows simply to have women parading around half-naked or to exploit them in tasteless ways. We showcase real style, real fashion, and raw creativity.”
John “Mr. Vicissitude” Shumate came into the industry with little experience, and many people said that “this kid from Philly” won’t survive a year. News flash: he’s not only “survived” a year, he’s thrived for six years – and counting! He may have been new to the industry when he started, but he didn’t come without a vision.
“I wanted to create greatness. I wanted not only to create a magazine, but a brand. I wanted something recognizable that could only grow into bigger and better things. I started small. And I built that brand. Like my editor said at our anniversary event, Vicissitude is rapidly becoming a household name. There’s no stopping us now.”
Indeed, Mr. Vicissitude has built a brand. And this brand is turning into an empire that will eventually become a dynasty.