As one half of the legendary production tandem, The Neptunes, Pharrell Williams has experienced numerous triumphs in his career. He has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry today, but his work outside of the musical arena is where his legacy will be forever defined.
His other non-musical ventures include the Billionaire Boys Club clothing line and a partnership with Bionic Yarn, a textile firm that develops environmentally sustainable fabrics using recycled plastic bottles. But perhaps his latest undertaking will leave an indelible mark on the minds of the next generation.
Alongside his longtime friend, Mimi Valdes, he has co-founded a new venture, called Kidult. Mimi Valdes is the former editor-in-chief of VIBE and Latina magazines respectively. She has been in the entertainment industry for close to 20 years and has worked with some of the all-time greats in the business. In 2007, Williams reached out to Valdes to express his strong desire to build something geared toward his young fan base. In 2009, both Williams and Valdes went to work on constructing a blueprint for success and in January of this year they officially launched Kidult.com, a news and entertainment website for teens, created by Pharrell Williams.
“This is something I wish I had when I was growing up as a kid,” says Williams. “Most of the other kids I went to school with didn’t understand me as an individual and it was always more fun to have conversations with adults.” Kidult was created with that premise in mind; a place where kids who were misunderstood by their peers would have a place to voice their opinions and ideas with like-minded individuals with a desire to change the world they live in. This weekend, Soulculture.com had the esteemed pleasure to speak with Kidult Co-Founder, Mimi Valdes to learn more about the partnership she has embarked on with Williams and the vision they have for the venture as a whole.
Valdes insisted that the idea behind Kidult was Williams’ idea from the very beginning and the reasons why he yearned to finally give the venture the green light to get started. “Kidult is definitely Pharrell’s brainchild,” she says. “He kept on talking about this idea he had called Kidult. He wanted to do something for all of these kids because he had a lot of young fans. He felt that they were way smarter than people gave them credit for. He believed there was nothing out there that respected their intelligence and gave them the information they needed.
“He would hear from them how their teachers wouldn’t respect them. He would keep hearing these same stories and wanted to make Kidult happen. He had the name for the project, Kidult – young kids who would rather hang out with adults and have conversations with adults then kids their own age because other kids would think they’re weird or they’re nerds or they think they’re not into the same things they are. “These kids want to be leaders, they want to rule the world and they don’t want to be involved with nonsense. They’re focused, driven and ambitious.”
Right now, Kidult features user-generated content that encapsulates science, business, technology, health, sports, environmental issues, gaming, fashion, entertainment, current events and politics. The website contains an interview section that has Q&A segments with up and coming as well as established celebrities from different sectors of the entertainment industry. Some of the other featured content is in the form of blogs, political polls and daily video posts, which include Kidult-made videos and movie trailers. In a conversation with Williams, Valdes expressed her vision to have Kidult begin as a website to gradually gauge the growth.
“I brought up the idea that we should just start out as a website and take it from there,” Mimi says. “I put a team together and we figured out what the voice would be and what it would look like. The website is really meant to be the beginning. We call it a news and entertainment website because we think news is as important as entertainment. We don’t want to preach to the kids, we want them to have fun while they’re on the website. We’re trying to really bridge those two worlds between education and entertainment. We want these kids to be well rounded individuals. “
Once the Website went live this year, Williams and Valdes mutually agreed to begin planning a big conference centered on getting youth from all over the country who wanted to take part in this new movement. On June 26, 2010, Kidult held its first Youth Leadership Conference at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers in downtown Manhattan. Five hundred children from all over the United States and Canada took part in the conference. It was hailed by many as a great success and more mini conferences will be taking place across more cities in the United States this fall and in the spring of next year. Another big conference is in the works for next summer with the location to be determined. Valdes speaks on the significance of the event and what it meant to the children who were involved.
“The purpose of our conference is that we wanted to give them the information that people don’t give kids in school,” says Valdes. “They’re learning all these different subjects, but no one is giving them tips on how to dress for a job interview, what you should do to get an internship, how you can start your own business and how to fill out an application. One of the most successful elements of the conference was at the end of it. We held an event called the Mentoring Mixer and this allowed the kids to interact with various professionals from every sector.”
“The kids had the chance to sit with the person representing each field. We had ten chairs around every table for the kids to ask questions and learn from these people. Again, how often do you have the opportunity to really meet someone who is doing the thing you’re aspiring to do? And be able to talk to them in such an intimate setting. They were inspired by all of the people and panels. Especially hearing Pharrell talk about his journey of how he got to where he is today.”
According to Williams and Valdes, the ultimate goal for Kidult is to become the new scholastic leader and create educational programs for teens and young adults. “We want to create educational programs that are fun and not follow the same old boring approach that has been done in the past,” says Valdes. “For me, I didn’t like school when I was younger, but then I discovered music class and it made me excited to be a part of the school experience,” says Williams. The kids that aren’t doing well in school are just bored and they’re not being spoken to in a way that’s fun or interesting. So what we’re trying to do with Kidult is make it fun, exciting and a great experience.
The corporate offices are shared between Miami, FL and in New York, NY. Currently, there is a part-time staff of 15 people who contribute on a daily basis and 31 bloggers under the leadership of general manager, O.J. Lima. Kidult is a virtual company with their sights set on becoming a network in the next 5 years with plans to write books, becoming internationally renowned and producing their own television shows focused on the youth.
“The long term goals are to write books, a TV show and have versions of the Website in all different countries and languages,” says Valdes. “Pharrell is an international star so of course we want to expand internationally. We’re already getting traffic from 78 different countries and I’m like WOW, why are all of these people reading us? But it’s from the interest in Pharrell and people are interested in what he’s doing with the kids. “There’s definitely an interest in bringing this same concept to different countries in their native languages so kids there can get the same information that makes the most sense to them.” Kidult is well on their way of becoming a trendsetter in the education forum for the 21st Century.