Goodbye to The Root from Entertainment Writer Tonja Stidhum


Tonja Renée Stidhum covering the 91st Academy Awards for The Root (and uh...a Jason Derulo meme crossover).

Tonja Renée Stidhum covering the 91st Academy Awards for The Root (and uh…a Jason Derulo meme crossover).
Photo: Tonja Stidhum/Meme Designed by Audrey Canady

I’ve been canceled. Thanks, cancel culture!!!

OK, OK, OK, on a serious note—I’m actually choosing to leave my role as Staff Entertainment Writer at The Root for a new and cool opportunity. But, I’m not here to talk about the future right now. I’m here to go way back…back into time.

In December 2018, I joined the number-motherfucking-one Black digital publication, covering the entertainment beat via our vertical known as The Grapevine. When News Editor Monique Judge hopped in my Facebook Messenger, linked the application and said, “Bitch, this is your job,” she was right.

Here’s where I reminisce and talk my shit: I’ve made The Grapevine my own and am proud as fuck of it. I’m leaving a legacy of witty headlines, quickly written and thoughtful edutainment copy, snarky op-eds, TV and film reviews, Disney references, satirical pieces, Black-ass celebrity interviews (with celebrity social media engagement!), red carpet coverage and press junkets (my friend Braxton dubbed them “Tonjunkets,” which I immediately adopted). Hell, I even got to exclusively drop some pretty big deal news about a Root 100 honoree partnering with Oprah. Take that, trades!

That said, you can read the complete list of my bylines at The Root here.

In case you don’t know, I’m a Leo. Leos notoriously love to make everything about them, but fun fact, they’re also pretty good at hyping other people up (it’s another device to get attention, though). With that said, I want to honor my current fellow folks at The Root (gang gang!) with some parting words:

Vanessa De Luca (Editor-In-Chief): While I didn’t get to work with you as long as many of my other colleagues, you’re like a much-needed warm hug and I’ll always appreciate your encouragement.

Genetta Adams (Managing Editor): I think the ‘A’ in ‘AP Style’ stands for “Adams” because you’re a guru at this shit. Plus, I hope I can produce a Food Network show where you introduce everyone to new hot sauces. I’ll have my people call your people.

Maiysha Kai (Managing Editor, The Glow Up): My gorgeous editor, my big sis, my mentor. I really don’t know what I’m going to do without hearing the Slack notification sound with “Edits done” from you everyday. With your thorough detailed guidance, you’ve truly molded me into the digital writer I am today. You know what that is? Growth. And I’m so glad I got to do so with you. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Plus, you have the BEST industry stories (which we’ll continue in texts, NBD).

Stephen Crockett (Senior Editor): Literally no one covers politics—specifically Trump—the way you do. You always brought much-needed lightheartedness to our team meetings (must be because you’re light-skinned), no matter how stressful.

Panama Jackson (Senior Editor, Very Smart Brothas): When you inevitably get a show with Ray J, I only have one wish…can I be the executive producer? Thanks. Oh, and tell your brotha Damon Young “bye to deez.”

Monique Judge (News Editor): I’ve already referenced you above since you referred me to this job, but I also want to note that I can’t wait to see where “Auntie Unfiltered” goes, Leo sis. ALSO, THE BIG JOKER IS NOT THE GUARANTEED JOKER IT’S THE ACTUAL LARGER JOKER.

Michael Harriot (Senior Writer): Did you invent Twitter threads? Since you’re always dropping history on the social media platform, you probably know the history behind that, too. As The Root’s resident wypipologist, I wish you a bounty of privilege.

Terrell Starr (Senior Writer): I’ve never met a Black man who lives in the Ukraine before you, so consider yourself Black History. And because I live for drama, I hope you make a cameo in the next Malik Yoba film.

Jay Connor (Staff Writer): The Prince of Pithy Sports Headlines and the official stand-in for Safaree. Your brilliantly terse way with words is unmatched and I know you’re going to be a beast at these bylines. Thoughts and prayers to you and Erica Mena’s tether.

Shanelle Genai (Contributing Entertainment Writer): I am passing the torch to you, boo. Make me proud! Also, please invite me to the wedding of your many Black actor/musician boo-thangs.

Felice León (Video Producer): You’re leaving on the same day as me, but let me unpack (heh) the ways in which you’re dope—you have the best hair, you’re a superb journalist (with THEE best questions) and I can’t wait to see how you continued to take over.

Jessica Moulite (Video Producer): My fellow Love Is Blind stan! You’re a marvelous producer and I’m not even sure how I’ll be able to thank you for your constantly thoughtful and effective methods in making me comfortable in front of the camera. *exhales* Like Felice, you’ll be leaving the same day as me, too—and your journey will only shine brighter from here.

PJ Rickards (Video Producer): I’m really going to miss seeing your Zoom icon while I shoot my press junkets. You’re a great producer and video editor and collaborating with you has been a joy. Also, can you narrate my life? You have the best voice.

Bella Morais (Freelance Contributor): You’re already an unmatched force of nature, girl. Of course, we met through former editor-in-chief at The Root, Danielle Belton, but because you’re such a jack-of-all-trades, you may be running this shit one day. You’ve made our lives infinitely easier and I am forever grateful for your existence.

Rachel Pilgrim (Staff Writer): I’m heading out the door while you’re heading in, but I did want to note that you did a good job at the [redacted hazing activity for new employees of The Root]. Have fun with this lovable dysfunctional family of niggas, girl.

I’ve been a fan of The Root since forever and I’m glad I got to showcase my personality here, as well. I’m a fan of each of y’all in distinct ways. The Root is the The Root because of its array of talented voices. There’s no one like us…there’s no one like y’all. As David Ruffin (Leon) told Eddie Kendricks (Terron Brooks) in the 1998 miniseries The Temptations, “We the voices.”

And with that I say—I love y’all. Bye, niggas.

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