Someone You Should Know: David Bridgeforth

Indianapolis native David Bridgeforth is a writer, essayist, motivational speaker, and next generation leader of the LGBTQ community. At the age 16, Bridgeforth began traveling nationally with his friend and mentor the renowned motivational speaker Les Brown.

In 2011, Bridgeforth founded David Bridgeforth Quarterly (DBQ) Magazine, a nationally distributed bimonthly lifestyles publication. Bridgeforth gained national attention with an appearance on Good Morning America with Robin Roberts. PrideIndex talked to Bridgeforth about the success of DBQ Magazine, the words of wisdom given to him by poet laureate Dr. Maya Angelou, and the one thing he wants readers to take away from his experiences.

PRIDEINDEX (PI): It is good to finally get you on the telephone, Mr. Bridgeforth. How are you doing today?

DAVID BRIDGEFORTH (DB): I am doing real well. I’m really blessed. I watch the television news, and I see all of these people affected by natural disasters – people still affected by Hurricane Sandy, and I am up here in New York and I think that I am really blessed.

PI: You’re in now residing in New York and not Indianapolis?

DB: Right, I live in New York, but I still have my office in Indianapolis.

PI: Let’s talk about your David Bridgeforth Quarterly (DBQ) Magazine, what was your inspiration for it and when did you get started?

DB: It was two or three years ago while I was working at Indiana’s Black Gay Pride, where I used to write reviews on drags shows, parties, events, and vogue balls some of which were online on Facebook.  I had a conversation with a father figure of mine, Mr. Stanley Bennett Clay, who suggested to me that I ought to do a magazine because at the time there really was not a national magazine for gay people of color. Although in Indianapolis there was a gay newspaper, however, rarely did it show faces of people of color. Later on during the summer or fall of 2009, I started to think about it, so I raised some money and made calls to everyone that I knew who owed me a favor and I put together this little magazine.

PI: What is your circulation and where is DBQ Magazine distributed?

DB: It started off with 1,000 issues with readers in Indianapolis only.  Afterwards, we expanded into cities in Ohio and Chicago at Black Gay Pride. We later expanded into Atlanta and places in Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Texas.  We got calls from people across the country asking if we could send magazines to their city for pride and their events. So a year later, we were distributing our magazine in 50 cities, 49 states with around 25,000 readers.  We are doing very well – better than we could have ever expected.  We could not have planned for this kind of popularity in this short amount of time so soon.

PI: My friend that lives in Indianapolis told me about DBQ Magazine.  We discussed DBQ Magazine and “another national black gay magazine” [name withheld]. We talked about the content to advertisement ratio and challenges each one faces, etc. He had nothing but good things to say about DBQ.

DB: The funny thing about that “other national black gay magazine,” [name withheld] is that in the beginning I was really chasing after them.  I really wanted to be just like “them.” After our first issue hit Chicago, a man by the named Reggie Wells, who is a very famous makeup artist that does Oprah’s make-up, Beyonce, Whitney Houston, and Aretha Franklin’s make-up, got the magazine and he called me and said he wanted to help me with the cover. He said that he’s Oprah’s makeup artist and that he had done make up for the cover of Essence and Ebony magazines; he explained that he wanted to be a makeup assistant to me and take the magazine to the next level.  At that time, DBQ magazine was not branded like it is branded now.  I was looking for someone else to be on the covers. I asked Reggie Wells if he knew any black gay people who were doing something big that I could put on the cover.  He said to me, “Darling, why would you do that?” And I said that I just wanted someone who was doing something interesting and hot to feature them on the magazine. He said, ‘That has already been done before… go not where the path obviously leads, but go where there is no path and leave a trail.” When he said that, he followed up with “you could put yourself on the cover.”  And I said, “Well, it was not in the plan, but I did that and when I did that I knew that I no longer needed to compete against that other national black gay magazine” [name withheld]. And I guess that’s why folks compare us to being the gay Oprah magazine.  And I have been blessed to understand that I did not need to find another celebrity to put on the cover to gain another 20,000 readers.  It was going to be me on the cover, nobody special just me having conversations about what the issues I thought would be interesting to the community.

I don’t want to compare myself to other gay magazines; I think that everyone has their niche, population, and demographics.  I want to expand to double our current circulation.

PI:  DBQ is a quarterly magazine.  Do you have plans to expand into a bi-monthly or monthly magazine?

DB: It’s so funny that you ask that because we are in conversations right now about that.  If I can get the national advertisers to come on board, maybe we could be a bi-monthly magazine sometime in 2013.

PI: What about adding some of your print content to your website?

DB:  We need to do a much better job on that.  We did not expect for the magazine to take off; we had a business plan and goal to take be in just Indianapolis. We’re now in Alaska, and it’s hard when you have staff of 32 interns that include editors, makeup artist, photographers who have signed on to help for free.  At present, no one at this magazine gets paid as staff because the magazine is too young to be paying salaries. We’re all busy doing other stuff and what we failed to do is keep our online magazine as current as our print edition. Right after each issue comes out and I have shipped it to different cities, I am so busy out there at the parties and events promoting it and then I work on the next issue.  What I do plan to doing for the magazine in 2013 is putting together an online app so that it can be delivered to people’s IPad, IPhones and Android phones and they can subscribe to it and possibly receive a text message to their cell phone. I am working on that because I recognize that is the future.

PI:  Tell me a little bit about your background.  Your website says that you are a writer, poet, and a public speaker. If you could put your finger on just one thing, what is the one thing that best describes you?

DB: I would say that I am a communicator which encompasses all of that. When I was fifteen, I met a famous motivational speaker named Les Brown. I heard him speak, and he later heard me speak and he invited me on tour with him while I was still in high school. I got a unique experience of touring and being exposed to corporate America and traveling all over the country and meeting other motivational speakers like Anthony Robbins, Stedman Graham, and other celebrities and being exposed to those kinds of people and I saw that it was not hard to make money in the motivational speaking industry and seeing what black wealth looked like.  What it did for me was to teach me how to communicate effectively. Les was a mentor and still is my mentor. He taught me how to communicate.  I was very heavily involved in the church as a youth pastor, and I believed that I would be a preacher; I remember telling Les that I was going to be a preacher. I remember he told me “You’re not going to be a damned preacher; you’re going to be a communicator.” At first, it offended me when he’d first said that but I now see what he’d saw in me. My calling and my mission in life was bigger than being in church or a pulpit; it was a lot bigger than that.  I am not saying that being in the church is not something big, but my plans were going to be even bigger than that. What it taught me was how to speak professionally, how to speak in front of large audiences, and I started making money as a speaker while still in high school while I had no bills at all.

PI: How did you transition into writing?

DB:  While I was in college in my first year, I was interested in writing. I was in a writing class and I fell  in love with poetry. I would read poetry all the time, and I did not think that I could write poetry, but I loved poetry.  I had to write some poetry for one of my classes, and one of my professors said that I was an awful writer. Around the same time as that I was reading Mayo Angelou’s book I Would Not Give Nothing For My Journey Now. Les Brown saw me reading her book and he said, “Oh you like Maya,” and I said “I love Maya she is amazing,” and he said that of we will go and see her that shocked me because I did not know that Les Brown knew Maya.  I did not understand that black people of wealth and power knew others like them; I was naive and simple minded.  While on the way to North Carolina to see Maya Angelou, I was feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I was going to meet her. I wrote my thoughts down which turned into a poem and by the time we checked into our hotel, I told Les that I wrote a poem and he said, “Oh Great!” He did not know that I wanted to be a writer as well.  We spent six or seven hours at Maya’s house interviewing her; we had both lunch and dinner. Later towards the end of our meeting, Les Brown told Dr. Angelou before we leave David Bridgeforth would like to share with you his poem he wrote for you.  I was not prepared to read the poem to her; I probably would have simply emailed her the next day.  Dr. Angelou stood up and said, “You wrote a poem.” I said, “Yes, I wrote a poem while on the plane.”  She said, “it’s not finished, darling,” and I said, ”Alright, but I think I wrote all there is to write.” She said, “Everyone thinks they are a poet, but there are very few poets on the earth.  She said it takes me weeks to months and sometimes a year to write and you wrote yours in a day?” Then she said, “You can wait till it’s finished and then send it to my assistant. Something told me to read it anyway to her which I did. Les Brown looked at me as if I were crazy and had this look like don’t you dare embarrass me and read it anyway after she told you it’s not done.  I sat in front of her as nervous as I could be and read it and noticed half way through the poem Les Brown began to cry.  By the time I finished reading the poem, Les Brown said to me, “David that was amazing.” Dr Angelou interrupted him and said “Mr. Brown, be silent! Everyone please be silent. I need to take this in.”She began to weep over the poem, and said that I was a special poet and that I need to be published.  What made that special to me was that it was the first time my writing was validated.  I was in school for communications and English, and my professor of English and writing said that I was an awful writer, and the next day I fly off to North Carolina, and I am sitting in front of one of the greatest poetry writers that ever walked the planet Earth! And she cried because I am a writer; it built my confidence.  That love of poetry forced me to write down my thoughts which turned into writing reviews in an interesting, comical way. Those reviews online became very popular and that later turned into a magazine.  And that’s my calling to speak and write, and one day I will have a television show.

PI: In one sentence what would you like people to take away from what you do?

DB:  I would like for people to look at my life and then look at their own lives and know that it is possible whatever it is.