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When hip-hop and R&B station 103.5 the Beat flipped to 103.5 Super X this past May, many fans were left befuddled and utterly confused. Clear Channel claimed the switch was based on Miami's growing Hispanic market, but few listeners bought the "cultural emergence" argument.
Before the flip, South Florida boasted at least six Spanish-language FM stations (including Clear Channel's Mega 94.9) in comparison to the hip-hop market's three. With the end of the Beat, we're down to a measly two.
Caught in the crossfire was the Beat's former music and marketing director and sassy midday voice, Vanessa James. Her love of sky-high stilettos and a naturally classy demeanor made her a fan favorite. When the Beat got the boot, fans feeling the Vanessa void immediately took to her Twitter and Facebook pages to express their devotion.
New Times chatted with James on a recent Tuesday at Grass Restaurant & Lounge about the launch of her company, Vanessa James Media. She explained that the Beat's staff was equally bewildered about the sudden format change.
About six months prior to the flip, she says, the Beat's staff met to discuss elevating the station's overall writing, but nothing ever really came from it. "Then I came into work one day and I could not access things I normally would. It was the first hint that something was up," she recalls. No briefing, no real explanation.
And while some competitors were glad to have the station gone, James says she's overwhelmed by the industry's show of support. "For every few people who are happy I'm gone, 100-plus have my back and are supporting me with the transition," she says. In fact, among the high-profile supporters at her Grass launch party were reggae singer Shaggy, 99 Jamz host Felisha Monet, and NFL star Vontae Davis.
Though the overnight change at 103.5 left dozens scrambling for jobs, James took it as a opportunity to expand her versatility. She built upon a decade's worth of loyal fans, contacts, and clients to take herself to the next level. "While working at the station, I would get asked to do a lot of fashion events and other hosting gigs that I couldn't say yes to because they weren't music-based," she says.
Take a look at her schedule now and it's clear that is no longer the case. She just wrapped work on an American Airlines Arena/Maxwell concert promotion, for one. Now Mercedes-Benz Swim Week, the American Black Film Festival, and a sponsorship deal with VP Records are all on the agenda. "I'm excited for my new chapter, and I'm so thankful to South Florida for being there to watch me grow," she says.
After our chat, she moved energetically at the event, from interviewing on camera, to being interviewed on camera, to hosting on the mike, to mixing and mingling with guests. Despite her towering heels, she never missed a beat.