|Born||1972 (age 42–43)
|Occupation||Music critic, writer|
Named after the Motown legend, Smokey D. Fontaine is the Chief Content & Creative Officer of InteractiveOne overseeing the programming and development of the largest online network in the world dedicated to serving African-American, Latino and other diverse audiences. His charge includes iOne’s unique national sites: HelloBeautiful.com TheUrbanDaily.com ZonaDeSabor.com, NewsOne.com Elev8.com & GIANTlife.com and strategic partners: GlobalGrind and TheGrio. His mandate—to engage and empower the full and diverse range of “new urban” communities—is an editorial, technological, and brand-building achievement that has cross-platform (online, radio, TV, print) executions and unparalleled scale (82% of the US African-American population).
Fontaine's parents are African-American Jewish actress Pat Hartley (who appeared in several Andy Warhol films as well as Rainbow Bridge and Absolute Beginners) and British documentary filmmaker Dick Fontaine (maker of the 1984 BBC documentary Beat This: A Hip-Hop History, in which the young Fontaine can briefly be seen sitting next to DJ Kool Herc). Growing up on Manhattan's Upper West Side around the corner from Rock Steady Park, home of the breakdancing pioneers Rock Steady Crew, Fontaine did some DJ'ing himself while attending Bronx High School of Science.
After two years teaching in Baltimore, Maryland, as part of the Teach for America program, he returned to New York City, interned for VIBE, and began writing on the side for British hip hop magazine True, soon renamed as Trace, where he eventually became an editor and hired away his own previous editor at VIBE, Scott Poulson-Bryant.
While at True/Trace he befriended Sean "Puffy" Combs. His editor-in-chief thought the relationship was too close, and that Combs was using him. "We were certainly being hustled," said Fontaine later, "but in all hustles, there has to be a counter-hustle." Fontaine thought that their "little magazine with no money and no marketing" stood to "ride [Combs'] coattails"; the editor-in-chief disagreed; Fontaine soon left to become features editor for The Source.
An assignment to write a cover story on rapper DMX resulted in his spending two years as part of DMX's posse, getting 350 hours of "interviews" with him, which he shaped into E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX.
In 2001, Fontaine hooked up with Damon Dash (rapper Jay-Z's manager); Dash financed the magazine America, with Fontaine running the show. The magazine first appeared in spring 2004. Fontaine left in 2006 after a falling out with Dash; he left to become editor-in-chief of GIANT, starting with the August 2006 issue.
Formerly, Fontaine was the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of GIANT, the magazine of celebrity, style, and culture. Since taking the helm of the newly re-launched publication in August 2006, Fontaine cemented his status as one of the hottest editors in the magazine world with back-to-back covers of Beyonce, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Prince. Prior to that, Fontaine was most notably the Senior Producer of Entertainment for Volume.com, the $35 million Internet portal sponsored by HBO; the US Editor of Trace magazine, where he secured the fashion and music magazine’s US distribution and advertising deals and wrote nine cover stories; and the Music Editor of The Source, where he oversaw the growth of the world’s largest music magazine on the newsstand and was nominated for a National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2000.
america, an “urban luxury” publication he dreamed up while visiting his childhood home in London, England, enabled Fontaine to run his own company and continue his high-end cross-platform work with clients that included Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Target and Lexus. His 42-page portfolio with Sean “Diddy” Combs and Penélope Cruz by photographer Peter Lindbergh for Estee Lauder is considered an advertorial benchmark.
In 2002, Fontaine released his first two books. The first, What’s Your HI-FI Q? (Simon & Schuster/Fireside) with partner Scott Poulson-Bryant, is an entertaining trivia book wrapped around three decades of black popular music; the second, EARL: The Autobiography of DMX (Harper Collins Entertainment), is a 350+ page life history of hip-hop’s most tortured superstar hailed by Publisher’s Weekly as an “unsparing, painfully honest account…[akin to] Manchild In The Promised Land.”
Fontaine’s first published piece was a retrospective essay about his relationship with James Baldwin for the Diary of the Civil Rights Movement in 1989 and he has since twice received the prestigious “Spotlight Article of the Month” award from the London Guardian newspaper. In 2010, Fast Company named Fontaine one of Teach For America’s “Most Influential Alumni” and in 2012 he was honored with a “Most Inspiring” Telly Award for “Most Inspiring” for his writing / hosting of AT&T’s Rethink Possible video series.
Fontaine is also a featured music correspondent for the BBC and Channel 4 networks in England, and is a repeat guest on CNN, The Today Show, FOX News, VH-1, MSNBC, Roland Martin's Washington Watch, and the Rev. Al Sharpton’s “Keeping It Real” syndicated radio broadcast. His latest show, Interludes Live! has featured Alicia Keys, John Legend, Trey Songz, Jennifer Hudson and others, and premiered on TV One.
- Co-author with DMX: E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX
- Screenplay for Angel: One More Road to Cross