by Joan Allison Focus | Mid-South Managing Editor and Creative Director
Focus was born of a passion that our publisher, Ray Rico, wanted to bring to fruition. ‘Rico,’ as he is called by most people, is a Latinx man who is gay. When I first started at Ray Rico Freelance, the publishing company of Focus Mid-South magazine, I thought I was signing on to be its senior graphic designer. That was in November 2014. But as 2015 got going, I started hearing Rico talk about an idea he had for a magazine that would focus on the Mid- South LGBT+ community. I thought, ‘That’s cool. Who’s going to do that?’ And then he told me…’YOU’RE going to do it.’
It made sense. Of our four employees, I was the one with the journalism degree. But, it just so happens that I am straight and had very little insight into LGBT+ interests. What on earth was Rico thinking? On top of that, I was worried about where this might go, as in, ‘skin mag.’ LOL. Not positive what I was thinking on that point, but I knew that there were LGBT stories that needed to be told. I told Rico from the get-go that I would be the editor, with one requirement: we’d deliver content in a dignified way, with a PG13 rating so that adults and youth could read it. I wanted the magazine to serve as a ‘look book,’ if you will, into the hopes and dreams that people in the LGBT+ community have. I wanted to show that LGBT+ persons have the same hopes that we all have: to be happy and loved.
Former MGLCC (now known as OUTMemphis) director Will Batts agreed to be our first-ever cover story. Will’s smile was the face that began Focus magazine’s
journey. And here we are, going strong, FIVE years from that first issue in September 2015. That’s a long time in magazine years
It has NOT always been easy. In the early days, on top of the hours of prep work, I’d clock about 60 hours, balls to the wall, in the week leading up to my deadline. Now it takes about half that to complete production.
We have a bigger team too, and that definitely helps. Daphne Butler has been our ad guru from day one. See a beautiful ad? She did it (I do only the editorial design). Rico sells ads. Chellie Bowman produces our podcast. Randall Sloan is our distribution manager. Leila Hinkle handles the money.
And none of this could have been done without YOU, our readers. You are the heart and soul of the magazine. There are also the people places and businesses that have offered up a story. It’s their willingness to be vulnerable, and out, and allies, that has driven our success.
I also have a dedicated team of volunteer writers and photographers who help get interviews, write the stories, and take beautiful photos. Without their help, the magazine simply wouldn’t get done.
We’re also so grateful to our advertisers. Without them, we could not pay the bills. I hope that you pay attention to them when you look at the magazine. They’ve made this dream come true, and they need YOU!
I look back at each cover, remembering each face with admiration. I know the courage it takes for anyone to be featured in print…talk about being out!
So. Happy 5th Birthday to us! I hope you know, always, that you have an open invitation to the Focus magazine party.