When the hip-hop and R&B station 103.5 The Beat flipped to 103.5 Super X this past May, many fans were left bewildered and utterly confused. Clear Channel claimed the switch was based on Miami's growing Hispanic market, but few bought the "cultural emergence" argument. Before the flip, South Florida boasted at least six Spanish-language stations on the FM dial (including Clear Channel's own Mega 94.9) in comparison to the hip-hop market's three. With the end of The Beat, now we're down to a measly two.
Caught in the crossfire was the Beat's former music and marketing director and sassy mid-day voice, Vanessa James. Her love of sky-high stilettos and a naturally classy demeanor made her a fan favorite. Once The Beat got the boot, fans feeling the Vanessa void immediately took to her Twitter and Facebook to express their devotion.
She explained that the Beat's staff was just as bewildered about the sudden format change as the fans. 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. "It's a loss of the hip-hop, R&B, and Caribbean voice that South Florida so desperately needs."
And while some competitors were glad to have the station gone, James says she's actually overwhelmed by the industry's show of support. "Some people said, 'Of course we are happy, we have one less station to worry about,' but many have told me they miss the friendly competition. They miss wondering what I was going to play compared to what some one else would play and so on," she says. "For every few people who are happy I'm gone, 100+ have my back and are supporting me with the transition."
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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.
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"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 thing. 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 mic, to mixing and mingling with guests. Despite her Dr. Scholl's-worthy, sky-high heels, she never missed a beat.