My favorite quote is: "Jealousy is the weakest emotion." – Jay Z My dream dinner guest would be: Frederick Douglas
DéVon Christopher Johnson
Amplifying diversity and shifting perceptions with authentic stories
THE LEMONADE STAND MYTH. DéVon Christopher Johnson's entrepreneurial journey begins with a time-honored tradition that will be familiar to many founders: running a lemonade stand – in his case, outside his home in Uniondale, Long Island. His thirst for business evolved rapidly from there, graduating to selling sweets to his classmates and even hiring friends to do his paper route for him.
Having discovered a knack for team leadership early on, at college, DéVon launched a DJ production company ("The irony is I didn't know how to DJ, but my friends did.") and ran a small online chat business. "It sounds like all that matters to me is money, but that's not the case. The output may be money, but I was more focused on trying different things. I was lucky to have a childhood that felt limitless – there wasn't a lot of 'no's'."
While the succession of small businesses makes the origins of DéVon’s career as a founder seem (largely) conventional, his company today is anything but. The business, BleuLife Media Group, is a publishing platform that spans a print magazine, digital in the form of two websites, a podcast network, and commercial products. Its mission is to change how Black men and women are depicted in the media.
With a business-minded focus throughout his childhood and college years, DéVon admits he didn't anticipate entering the creative media space. "The life of an entrepreneur isn't easy, but journalism is even harder. People often forget about the importance of good, honest, truthful storytelling. I'm excited that we're still here after weathering a few storms."
The BleuLife Group's wide-ranging presence today is the result of an evolution that started in 2006 with Bleu Magazine. The publication is printed multiple times a year and focuses primarily on the intersection of Black male culture and fashion, travel and entertainment. In 2014, DéVon launched Bombshell by Bleu, a sister outlet with a skew toward female-focused content. In 2020, Devon started Shop BleuLife, an e-commerce platform selling logoed products and collaborations with up-and-coming designers.
REPRESENTING PROGRESSIVE LEADERS. DéVon founded Bleu to celebrate and accurately represent Black men who are creatives, professionals and entrepreneurs. He was motivated by his years working in marketing at major record labels, including Def Jam, where he felt the images they portrayed of hip-hop artists didn't accurately reflect Black men. In the 17 years since BleuLife launched, top musicians, actors and filmmakers have graced its cover, and the publication has served as a launchpad for countless models and journalists.
Another aspect of DéVon’s work within BleuLife is exposing the discrepancies and prejudices within the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly racism, and promoting positive change. "It's disappointing that a community with the rainbow welcome mat of inclusivity has not really reflected that inclusivity. But that doesn't mean that it can't be more inclusive. I've learned you have to dive in to help change that. The foundation of our storytelling is inclusivity. You can’t tell Black American stories without the inclusion of Black Queer stories. What is Black liberation without James Baldwin’s voice?”
As DéVon continues to emancipate Black stories with BleuLife, he believes only now, with the emerging Gen Z, are audiences embracing his original company mission. "I see a more blended future where we can all play in the sandbox. Having a gay friend doesn't make you gay. Having a straight friend doesn't make you straight. Having a trans friend doesn't mean you're attracted to them or vice versa. It's about people connecting on shared interests and our humanity. I realize that's very kumbaya and optimistic, but it's very, very real."