Kevin Sessums, the former executive editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview and former contributing editor to Vanity Fair is crafting his next chapter in life, an eponymous online magazine that launched in September. According to San Francisco Chronicle, the site, KevinSessums.com, will be "a culmination of everything the native Southerner and longtime New Yorker loves, from celebrity to art — cultural anchors that held him but that he eventually lost, when he veered into methamphetamine addiction soon after he wrote his first book, the 2007 memoir Mississippi Sissy."
Sessums first forays into the digital realm came about via his robust Facebook following where he has lively political debates. Sessums who was our former cover star and most one of our 75 Most Amazing HIV+ People of 2016, spoke to Plus about his new magazine and how it came about.
Sessums: I was in the hospital with kidney failure in April and when I lay down in the hospital bed that first night I read by email that I had been let go of my job as Editor at Large at the Curran here in San Francisco. After a good cry, I thought to myself: OK, you can either give up and die or you can finally own who you are and create this magazine. Lying in that hospital bed — named for Mark Zuckerberg, of all people — I decided not to give up and began mapping out my plan to create this new online presence that builds on my large following on Facebook. But this is not a blog. This is a true magazine.
What have you learned about the digital media landscape since starting it? It's the hardest I've ever worked — and I've picked cotton and hauled hay as a boy back in Mississippi. A sissy picking cotton, and hauling hay? I know: incongruous. But I always try to find the sweet spot to incongruity — to me that is where everything lies: style, the intricacy of any argument, even the sacred. I set out to do something old-school in a newfangled way re: the digital media landscape. I am trying to divine a kind of digital elegance and expand the digital cultural discussion beyond clickbait and snark. I am not only targeting this new magazine to a culturally astute audience of those 50-and-further but also younger readers who want to be as cool as we Furthers are. I call these younger readers Furthermores. The tagline for the magazine is "Often artful, sometimes tactful," but I am hopeful it is always engaging and compelling. I know it is guided by a keenness to its aesthetic.
The magazine is gorgeous, and feels both new and like a throwback to the glory days of Interview. How's it the same and how is it different? Well, I think I've answered some of this in your previous question. It's the same because Baby Jane Holzer is interviewed by me. It's different because she's now 76 and instead of being a bauble in Andy Warhol's jewelry box she is a real estate mogul with one of the premier modern art collections in the world worth hundreds of millions of dollars — including a shitload of Warhols. Brigid Berlin once told me when I worked at The Factory as Executive Editor of Andy's Interview not to be a lifer there, to use it to infuse my other endeavors but to be sure to move on at some point. I think this site is the culmination of Brigid's advice in many ways.
Will you be as political as you are on Facebook? No. I have made a choice to make this more of a cultural site. I will have a feature called the Morning Memo where I will hold forth but that will basically be the only place for it. I see this as having a broader cultural audience.
Who's the archetypal reader in your mind? Me. I think any editor would say that if he or she were being honest.
Will you be addressing personal issues or activism around HIV? There is a section called the Meta-Memoir and I will be doing that there I am sure. Also, I am writing a Tales of the City-like fictional serial called "In the Land of Start-Ups," that will be rolled-out in weekly chapters and some of those issues will be addressed as part of its storyline.
Check out Kevin Sessums here.
Photo above by Matt Edge.