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My Joy List: Joél Leon

The writer and performer talks DMX, Fran Lebowitz, and more of the inspiration that fuels him.

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Read when you’ve got time to spare.

Think back to the last time the internet brought you joy. We want to put more of those moments at your fingertips—whether it’s a favorite podcast episode, heartwarming personal essay, or reliably fantastic recipe. So we’re introducing a series of Joy Lists from writers, artists, and people we admire.

Scroll through Joél Leon’s Twitter feed and you’ll find yourself in the rare corner of the platform that will leave you feeling better about the world, and yourself, than when you started. And you wouldn’t be alone. As Lin-Manuel Miranda put it: “Joel’s words are where I go when I need some inspiration.”

We’re proud to count Leon as a longtime Pocket user (in our 2018 interview with him, he deigned Rihanna’s living room the perfect place to catch up on his reading list). So we were excited to get a look at the pieces he saves and returns to as reliable sources of joy. Read on to see what made his list and how it fuels his work and outlook.

‘Red Room’ (Official Video)

Hiatus Kaiyote

Joél Leon: “The latest offering off of Hiatus Kaiyote’s new album features the beautifully haunting and shrill voice of Nai Palm, who is my most favorite vocalist right now. I have been listening to this song non-stop for the entire month. It’s gotten me through a very rough patch.”

Episode 248 with DMX

Drink Champs

JL: “I love Drink Champs. What N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN have done has become a remarkable timepiece for the Hip-Hop community—the show is a keeper of a sacred time, both past and present. This episode was one of DMX’s last interviews before he passed, and is the literal definition of giving someone their flowers while they’re still here.”

FX – Atlanta (Pilot)

Donald Glover
TV Calling Script Library

JL: “I’ve been itching for the next season of Atlanta. And as I work through writing my own pilot for the TV show I’ve been daydreaming about making for 34,832,098 years, this script has been the inspiration. Granted, this version is probably less risque than the original script, but dammit, the meat and bones are all there.”

What If Friendship, Not Marriage, Was at the Center of Life?

Rhaina Cohen
The Atlantic

JL: “This article was a game changer for me. Well, less a game changer and more like a revelation of how impactful friendships are. I read this while working on my personal essay collection, specifically, a piece about adult Black male friendships. It drove so many of the thoughts I had about friendship, partnership, and the different ways we choose to love ourselves and the ones closest to us.”

Fran Lebowitz Is Never Leaving New York

Michael Schulman
The New Yorker

JL: “Fran Lebowitz is my moon sign. The iconic, quintessential New Yorker. She sat down with Martin Scorsese and said, in so many words, ‘They will bury me in New York,’ and never had I felt so seen. This interview is Fran doing Fran, and I’m always here for it.”

Joél Leon

Joél L. Daniels, also known as Joél Leon, is a Bronx born and raised performer, father, author and storyteller who writes and tells stories for Black people. He is a Creative Collective NYC Creative Class alumni, winner of the BCA Bronx Recognizes Its Own Award in Poetry, and author of Book About Things I Will Tell My Daughter and God Wears Durags, Too. He is repped by Folio Literary.