Publicity

Alarm in US as ‘gangsta bible’ goes mainstream
The Daily Telegraph- UK

By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
10/31/2005An American magazine about gangster life that was originally aimed at prisoners is selling so well that it is to go on sale in major stores.

To the alarm of those working in crime prevention, Don Diva, which calls itself “the original street bible”, has become required reading in many inner cities.

Don Diva’s controversial ‘children and firearms’ issue

It features interviews with convicts, and includes tips on where to hide drugs and buy the best diamond-studded gold teeth and money-counting machines.

Critics say the glossy quarterly – which carries the warning, “Parental Advisory: Gangsta Content” – glamorises and promotes violent gangland lifestyles. Its supporters say the coverage reflects the reality, and consequences, of crime: perpetrators end up in prison or dead.

“I do get a lot of complaints from people, but nearly always they have never read the publication,” said Tiffany Childs, 34, founder and editor. “When they write, I bombard them with issues and, nine times out of 10, they will see the value in the genre.

“There are people out there for whom this really does have a positive impact.”

Launched six years ago, Don Diva now sells 165,000 copies, and Mrs Childs said each issue reached an estimated one million readers.

Initially, nearly all its subscribers were in prison. Today only 10 per cent of its readers are inmates, and the magazine will soon be on sale at large retail outlets such as Tower Records and Borders.

Mrs Childs was inspired to launch the magazine by the prison experiences of her husband, Kevin, a Harlem gang leader who served 10 years for dealing cocaine.

A recent cover showed a 12-year-old toting a gun to illustrate a story on children and firearms violence. “It was a very scandalous cover,” she said. “But if I saw it, I’d want to know what it was about. We go for shock value.”

The magazine, which has also featured tips on how to avoid money-laundering charges and buy car tyres that can withstand bullets, carries updates on changes to the laws in its legal news section.

Susan Marchionna, of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in San Francisco, said: “It certainly looks like glorification of the lifestyle it says it’s about.” She said the editor’s claims that the magazine told cautionary tales “seems sort of weak from this vantage point”.

Don Diva had a trial launch in Britain last year. Only three issues were published, but Mrs Childs said the experiment was a success and she hoped to follow this up. “This isn’t just a US thing,” she said, “There are urban communities all over the world that can relate to the issues we’re talking about.”

Don Diva

National Council on Crime and Delinquency

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.


Situations with Tucker Carlson
MSNBC

October 31, 2005CARLSON: Welcome back. I`ll be honest, I had never seen of or heard of “Don Diva” magazine before today. I am guessing many of you had not either. The 165,000 circulation magazine that prides itself on being published for gangstas by gangstas — those of you wondering, that`s gangsta as in rap music, not John Gotti. “Don Diva” features interviews with prison inmates and gives tips on how to hide your dope and beat money laundering charges.

Joining me live in the studio tonight, Cavario H. He`s a writer for “Don Diva” magazine. Cavario H, thanks a lot for joining us.

CARLSON: What does the H stand for?

CAVARIO H: Hunter.

CARLSON: Excellent. Cavario H. I like that name. Who reads this magazine?

CAVARIO H: Everybody, pretty much. I mean, anybody who comes across it, because the content is so racy. You know, anybody who comes across it finds himself…

CARLSON: This is racy. Here`s an issue, this is issue 21. There`s a kid on the cover with what looks to be a .45, and there are half-naked women inside.

But 165,000, that`s not everybody. What is your target audience?

CAVARIO H: Our target audience, our guess would be, predominantly males, although we have a large female following, and getting stronger. Inner city males, probably between the ages of, like, 18 and 35, something like that.

CARLSON: It`s not a boring magazine. I looked through three issues today. Here, one issue at random had piece on how to hire a jailhouse lawyer, another on child support. Here is one of the questions in the child support Q&A. If the child`s father is a rapper, can I garnish his royalty check? It almost sounds like a racist parody here. Do you think you are sort of helping to feed stereotypes with stuff like that?

CAVARIO H: No. These are real concerns that people have, and they don`t really have a viable vehicle to get that information, like at all. These are real questions. You have a lot of people out there who are trying to find out ways that they can get what they need, you know, young ladies who have children by rappers and basketball players, and so on and so forth. Where are they going to go? Like, they don`t have the money to, or sometimes even the time between their daily struggle, to even find — where do I find this information?

CARLSON: Well, I know, I mean, I think that actually is — that is a fair question. But the magazine itself has all sorts of, you know, ads and pieces on people wearing, you know, kind of Al Sharpton, the early years type jewelry like that. And it has pieces on, you know, going to prison for drug charges and all that. Basically, it seems to be celebrating a lifestyle that is under fire from a lot of people, not just conservatives, people like Bill Cosby, who say, you know, gangsta life and culture and all that is immoral and hurting black America. What do you say?

CAVARIO H: Well, it`s not really the gangsta culture, but really urban subculture. The reason that it`s gained this reputation for being a gangsta culture is because of the connotation that`s kind of been applied to it by rap, which is really the reason why we do it, because in an average rap record, you are going to get about three and a half minutes of glorification of some of the aspects of gangsta lifestyle.

CARLSON: Right.

CAVARIO H: This is nothing to counter that. We have created a vehicle for counter culture, you know, to give people the real information behind those images. So it`s not really negative in the way that the images may imply. The images are used to draw people`s attention. You know, we are a small publication, relatively small, and if we hadn`t used the kind of images that people are already attracted to, that makes rap a multibillion dollar industry, people wouldn`t be really interested, you know, especially people who`d most benefit from this information. They wouldn`t be interested in reading it.

CARLSON: But you don`t do a lot of music pieces, do you?

CAVARIO H: Sure, we do. Sure, we do. Especially like we were the first to ever feature 50 Cent on the cover of a magazine, ever, like we were the first ones to ever do that, and we were the first to show people what 50 Cent looked like.

CARLSON: You discovered them?

CAVARIO H: No. No, no, no. 50 had been around. He had been heard, but actually never seen.

CARLSON: So who are your advertisers? Who advertises in the magazine?

CAVARIO H: All the major — all the major labels, all the major record labels, clothing companies, you know, Stall & Dean, you know, which is a pretty mainstream company, it`s been around a pretty long time. Because we do have such a strong standing in the youth market, you know.

So we get a lot of independent cats. Got a lot of people out there who got music and different services and businesses that they like to get out there, but they don`t have a way to get it out there.

CARLSON: How many — I don`t know if you have done reader surveys, but how do people — and I don`t even think we can show the pictures in here, but how many people read it, look at it for the pictures?

CAVARIO H: I don`t know. I mean, I would guess a lot of people are drawn to it by the pictures. But once they look at the pictures, they are going to catch some paragraph or some word or something that is going to make them go, that`s not really what I would expect to be associated, that`s not a word or a phrase I would expect to be associated with this image. And that is what makes them read it. An then they realize, oh, OK, these images are being used to draw me to this information, because that`s what it`s really all about.

CARLSON: And my last, which probably should have been my first question, what does “Don Diva” mean?

CAVARIO H: Well, don is a man at the top of his game, whatever that game may be, a respected man, and a diva is the same for a woman. You know, and that`s…

CARLSON: So it`s a lifestyle magazine for both men and women.

CAVARIO H: Men and women.

CARLSON: Something you don`t see in magazine world.

CAVARIO H: I mean, there`s a lot of information in there that is really useful to just about anybody. I mean, we tell people about how like a person might, say, get a solicitation in the mail for a credit card. And they might embellish a little bit on their income, so they can get a favorable response from the credit card company.

CARLSON: Yes.

CAVARIO H: And then they put like a stamp on that, and then put it into the mail, and they commit mail fraud, and they don`t know it. And it`s a federal crime. Like, we educate people on that kind of thing. You know what I mean? It`s education.

CARLSON: As I said, it`s not boring. I read three issues cover to cover.

CAVARIO H: Ah, see.

CARLSON: I appreciate it.

CAVARIO H: You were caught.

CARLSON: Cavario H. Maybe I am…

CAVARIO H: That subscription…

CARLSON: Maybe I am the target audience for “Don Diva.”

CAVARIO H: You better believe you are.

CARLSON: The gangsta magazine.

CAVARIO H: You better believe you are.

CARLSON: I always suspected I was. Thanks.

CAVARIO H: Thank you very much.

CARLSON: Appreciate it.

CAVARIO H: Thank you.


A magazine for gangsters? At least they’re reading
Los Angeles Times

By Peter Carlson
October 26, 2005Don Diva is a magazine that comes with a warning label — “Parental Advisory: Gangsta Content.”

The warning is partly a come-on — nothing attracts kids like a parental-advisory warning — but it’s also accurate. Don Diva is a magazine about gangsters that is published for gangsters — and for wannabe gangsters, imprisoned gangsters and folks who just want to experience the excitement of gangster life without getting shot or going to prison, which is, alas, the fate of most of the gangsters Don Diva profiles.

“We’re really not an entertainment magazine,” says Tiffany Chiles, Don Diva’s editor and publisher. “We’re really a lifestyle magazine.”

Founded in 1999, Don Diva is a slick quarterly that bills itself as “The Original Street Bible.” Each issue has two covers, one in front, one in back. The “street cover” features a scene of gangster life: a staged shot of kids cooking up crack cocaine, for example, or an authentic photo of a dead Chicago dope dealer laid out in a coffin built to resemble his Cadillac El Dorado. The “entertainment cover” features a rapper and is used mainly by newsstands too squeamish to display the street cover.

Inside, Don Diva has three main editorial features: stories about gangsters, stories about gangsta rappers, and photos of scantily clad women, most of them shot from behind.

That formula — crime, pop culture and pinups — is hardly new, dating back at least to the National Police Gazette, which debuted in 1845 and kept going for more than half a century. But Don Diva adds a modern touch: handy advice on where to hide your stash, how to beat money-laundering charges and where to get the latest gangsta accessories, such as diamond-studded gold teeth, portable money-counting machines and automobile tires that keep rolling even after they’ve been shot.

Don Diva publishes advice for its female readers, which boils down to: Keep your man happy by giving him lots of hot, steamy sex. It is, of course, the same advice Cosmo gives its readers, although Don Diva’s prose tends to be a bit, um, funkier.

In its fifth anniversary issue, published last year, Don Diva bragged that it is “a magazine that got its origin inside a prison by a prisoner.” That prisoner was Kevin Chiles, who was serving a 10-year sentence for dealing cocaine when he suggested to his wife, Tiffany, that she publish a magazine about what she calls “the black underworld.”

Tiffany Chiles, who has a marketing degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, says she started the magazine with money earned as a rap music promoter and named it Don Diva to show that it was for both sexes — dons and divas.

Now Chiles, 34, runs the magazine out of offices in Harlem, N.Y., and suburban New Jersey, and her husband, who was released from prison in 2003, occasionally writes for the magazine, generally on an anti-snitching theme.

Five years ago, nearly 90% of subscribers were inmates in prisons across the country, Chiles says, but now only 10% of the roughly 150,000 copies are read by the captive audience. Until recently, Don Diva has been sold mainly in inner-city record stores, beauty parlors and bodegas. But with the current issue — the magazine’s 23rd — Don Diva has a new distributor and therefore should be more widely available.

The main article in the 110-page issue tells the story of the “Supreme Team,” a legendary gang of New York crack dealers. The 10-page article, written by Tiffany Chiles and somebody named “Soulman Seth,” is based on newspaper stories, court documents and interviews with two imprisoned gang members.

“I went from making $100 a week at the grocery store to a thousand dollars a day,” says Ronald “Tuck” Tucker, now jailed for his role in the operation. “As a 17-year-old, my thoughts were: Why go to school when I’m making more money than the chairman of the Board of Education?”

According to the magazine, police say the gang was riding high in the ’80s, taking in more than $200,000 a day selling crack and killing anyone who threatened its business. But in the ’90s more than 110 gang members were arrested, convicted and sent to the slammer.

“Prince was sentenced to 7 life sentences,” Tucker says. “C-Just to 3 lifes, Big C got 2 lifes, Pookie got life, Shannon got 30 years, Bing got 19 years, Ace 15 years, Teddy 13 years and I got sentenced to 14 years.”

The piece is profusely illustrated with photos of various gang members during their heyday and in prison. There are also pictures of the gang’s home turf. A picture of a bucolic, tree-lined pond carries the caption: “Baisley Park Pond, where it is rumored that law enforcement once drained the pond and found 10 bodies.”

In addition to the “Supreme Team” piece, this issue also contains interviews with several rappers, as well as a piece on Luis “Money L” Santiago, a former New York rap producer who has gone into the custom-fur business. His latest project is customizing his clients’ fur coats by adding “diamond encrusted zippers.”

Each issue has about 30 pages of ads, most for rap albums and diamond-studded gold bling.

The mag is frequently accused of glamorizing the gangsta lifestyle, Chiles says, but she pleads not guilty to that charge.

“Most of the criminals we write about end up dead or in prison,” she says. “To say that’s glorifying is to say my readers are stupid. We have to shed light on things that are happening.”

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives.

Article licensing and reprint options
Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times


Don Diva: Rap Sheets, Rap Stars And Pinups
washingtonpost.comBy Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 25, 2005; C01

Don Diva is a magazine that comes with a warning label — “Parental Advisory: Gangsta Content.”

The warning is partly a come-on — nothing attracts kids like a parental-advisory warning — but it’s also accurate. Don Diva is a magazine a bout gangsters that is published for gangsters — and for wannabe gangsters, imprisoned gangsters and folks who just want to experience the excitement of gangster life without getting shot or going to prison, which is, alas, the fate of most of the gangsters Don Diva profiles.

“We’re really not an entertainment magazine,” says Tiffany Chiles, Don Diva’s editor and publisher. “We’re really a lifestyle magazine.”

Founded in 1999, Don Diva is a slick quarterly that bills itself as “The Original Street Bible.” Each issue has two covers, one in front, one in back. The “street cover” features a scene of gangster life: a staged shot of kids cooking up crack cocaine, for example, or an authentic photo of a dead Chicago dope dealer laid out in a coffin built to resemble his Cadillac El Dorado. The “entertainment cover” features a rapper and is used mainly by newsstands too squeamish to display the street cover.

Inside, Don Diva has three main editorial features: stories about gangsters, stories about gangsta rappers and photos of scantily clad women, most of them shot from behind to emphasize their thong-clad posteriors.

That formula — crime, pop culture and pinups — is hardly new, dating back at least to the National Police Gazette, which debuted in 1845 and kept going for more than half a century. But Don Diva adds a modern touch: handy advice on where to hide your stash, how to beat money-laundering charges and where to get the latest gangsta accessories, such as diamond-studded gold teeth, portable money-counting machines and automobile tires that keep rolling even after they’ve been shot.

Don Diva also publishes advice for its female readers, which boils down to: Keep your man happy by giving him lots of hot, steamy sex. It is, of course, the same advice Cosmo gives its readers, although Don Diva’s prose tends to be a bit, um, funkier.

In its fifth anniversary issue, published last year, Don Diva bragged that it is “a magazine that got its origin inside a prison by a prisoner.” That prisoner was Kevin Chiles, who was serving a 10-year sentence for coke dealing when he suggested to his wife, Tiffany, that she publish a magazine about what she calls “the black underworld.”

Tiffany Chiles, who has a marketing degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, says she started the magazine with money earned as a rap music promoter and named it Don Diva to show that it was for both sexes — dons and divas.

Now, Tiffany, 34, runs the magazine out of offices in Harlem and suburban New Jersey, while her husband, who was released from prison in 2003, occasionally writes for the magazine, generally on an anti-snitching theme.

I first heard of Don Diva about five years ago, from a friend who is doing time at the women’s prison in Jessup, where the magazine was eagerly passed from cell to cell.

In those days, nearly 90 percent of subscribers were inmates in prisons across the country, Chiles says, but now only 10 percent of the roughly 150,000 copies are read by the captive audience. Until recently, Don Diva has been sold mainly in inner-city record stores, beauty parlors and bodegas. But with the current issue — the magazine’s 23rd — Don Diva has a new distributor and therefore should be more widely available.

The main article in the 110-page issue tells the story of the “Supreme Team,” a legendary gang of New York crack dealers. The 10-page article, written by Tiffany Chiles and somebody named “Soulman Seth,” is based on newspaper stories, court documents and interviews with two imprisoned gang members.

“I went from making 100 dollars a week at the grocery store to a thousand dollars a day,” says Ronald “Tuck” Tucker, now serving 14 years for his role in the operation. “As a seventeen-year-old, my thoughts were: Why go to school when I’m making more money than the chairman of the Board of Education?”

According to the magazine, police say the gang was riding high in the ’80s, taking in more than $200,000 a day selling crack and killing anyone who threatened its business. But it all came crashing down in the ’90s, when more than 110 gang members were arrested, convicted and sent to the slammer.

“Prince was sentenced to 7 life sentences,” Tucker says. “C-Just to 3 lifes, Big C got 2 lifes, Pookie got life, Shannon got 30 years, Bing got 19 years, Ace 15 years, Teddy 13 years and I got sentenced to 14 years.”

Later, the gang’s saga was recounted in a song recorded by rapper 50 Cent, a former crack dealer who grew up in the Queens neighborhood where the gang operated.

The piece is profusely illustrated with photos of various gang members during their heyday and in prison. There are also pictures of the gang’s home turf. A picture of a bucolic, tree-lined pond carries the caption: “Baisley Park Pond, where it is rumored that law enforcement once drained the pond and found 10 bodies.” Another picture has this caption: “Baisley Park basketball court — the site of many basketball tournaments. One year a referee was beat to death for allegedly making an unfavorable call.”

In addition to the “Supreme Team” piece, this issue also contains interviews with several rappers, as well as a piece on Luis “Money L” Santiago, a former New York rap producer who has gone into the custom-fur business. His first product was fur-lined sneakers. His latest project is customizing his clients’ fur coats by adding “diamond encrusted zippers.”

Classy!

Don Diva reviews CDs and DVDs with its own unique rating system: the worst get one gavel, meaning “misdemeanor”; real gems get four gavels, meaning “premeditated murder”; and true masterpieces get five gavels, meaning “kingpin.” Each issue has about 30 pages of ads, most for rap albums and diamond-studded gold bling.

The mag is frequently accused of glamorizing the gangsta lifestyle, Chiles says, but she pleads innocent to that charge.

“Most of the criminals we write about end up dead or in prison,” she says. “To say that’s glorifying is to say my readers are stupid. We have to shed light on things that are happening.”

She’s right, of course. Only the stupid could read the story of the Supreme Team and decide to pursue a career as a gangster. But she’s dealing with the human race, a notorious hotbed of stupidity, so it’s quite likely that some readers might conclude that becoming a gangster is their best shot at obtaining a fur coat with a diamond-encrusted zipper.


GANGSTA CONTENT
The New Yorker Magazine
2004-07-05
The summer issue of Don Diva, which bills itself as “The Original Street Bible,” has just reached newsstands. Don Diva is a glossy quarterly, with a circulation of about a hundred thousand, in whose pages readers can follow the bloody rise and fall of ruthless crime lords, learn about advances in drug-concealment techniques, look at models in thong bikinis, and find out where to buy fifteen-thousand-dollar alligator jackets, three-thousand-gallon aquariums, and 9-millimetre submachine guns. Each issue has two covers: an “Entertainment” cover, featuring a popular hip-hop artist, such as Ja Rule, 50 Cent, or D12; and a “Street” cover, featuring staged photographs of grim scenarios, among them a young man being shot in the face and a group of boys weighing and bagging crack around a kitchen table. A parental-advisory label warns of “gangsta content.”

Don Diva’s editor-in-chief is a former telephone-company employee and marketing executive from suburban New Jersey named Tiffany Chiles. Chiles founded the magazine in 1999, at the suggestion of her husband, who was then serving a ten-year federal sentence for bankrolling his music label, Big Boss Records, with profits from his wholesale cocaine business. A similar publication, F.E.D.S., which stands for “Finally Every Dimension of the Streets,” had been around for a year or so. And, not long after Don Diva’s début, a cousin of Chiles’s husband launched his own title, FELON, which stands for “From Every Level of Neighborhoods.” But, judging by regularity of publication, number of ads (music, clothes, jewelry, beepers, vodka, legal services), and sales of ancillary products, Don Diva’s mixture of life-style and service journalism has been particularly successful: the magazine recently launched a U.K. edition.

On a recent afternoon, Chiles met with some of her staff at Don Diva’s offices, in Bergen County, to discuss the new issue. Among them were Aisha Gumby, who, as head of operations, makes sure that copies of the magazine reach the bodegas, car washes, and hair salons that fall outside the normal distribution channels, and Susan Hampstead, a senior editor, who is also a publisher of novels written by prison inmates. Chiles’s husband, no longer in jail, was there, too. He served everyone sodas, while their three-year-old son zipped around on a scooter. Chiles, who wore no makeup and had her hair pulled back, said, “At the end of the day, I’m still a PTA mom—you know what I mean?”

After handing out a tentative page layout, Chiles went through the rundown for the issue. She had nothing yet, she said, for “The Don’s Notebook,” a roundup of new products for men. The “News U Can Use” section would focus on new X-ray technology that allows law-enforcement agents to conduct surveillance through walls. For a story pegged to the rising aids rate among black women, Chiles said that she had lined up an exclusive interview with “a homo thug, fresh out of prison.” She was waiting for a profile of a Baltimore drug lord, assigned to Cavario Hunter, the magazine’s editor-at-large and public spokesman, who was late for the meeting.

Don Diva aims to appeal to both men and women (hence its name), and Chiles suggested, for the diva contingent, a humorous list piece called “Retire Your Ho Card.” Its premise would be “You know it’s time to stop running your ho game when . . .” Among the ideas tossed out were “When you don’t know who your baby’s daddy is” and “When you and your daughter are pregnant at the same time.” Chiles also brought up the idea of running an article that casts women in a more flattering light, because, she said, “we shit on women in the magazine, and it’s time to give them some shine.”

As the meeting drew to a close, Cavario Hunter, who has long dreadlocks and a goatee, finally turned up. After being dressed down for not having finished his article, Hunter talked about why he is uniquely suited to his job: both of his parents were drug dealers in Harlem, and, until about ten years ago, so was he. He decided to get out of “the life” when, one afternoon, he noticed the chunks of crack and piles of money on his kitchen table as if for the first time. He thought, What happened? All I wanted to do was get a new car.

Hunter said that he had managed to avoid prison because he eschewed the gaudy displays that attract the attention of the law. His flashier friends had felt that, since they were going to end up dead or in jail anyway, why not enjoy the ride? “It’s the equivalent of jumping out of a window from a very high floor and saying, ‘Mmm, this is a nice breeze,’ ” Hunter said. “But, dog, you know you gonna come slammin’ down on that hard concrete.”

This, Chiles said, is exactly the point she’s trying to make in Don Diva, which, she insists, doesn’t glamorize gangster life. “It’s always been our concern to be a crime deterrent,” she said. “You’ve got all these kids who look to their neighborhood dealers as the man. What I tell them is the man is now doing natural life, or football numbers, in a federal penitentiary.”

But Chiles also understands her readers, and before sending her staff home she gave them some final instructions. “Remember, this is a summer issue, so I want it to be filled with fun and lighthearted shit,” she told them. “In the summertime, nobody wants to hear about motherfuckers going to jail for the rest of their life.”
— Adam Green

No refunds offered for any reason, including rejection by a jail/prison.

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