Nahdia Johnson’s alarm begins to blare at 6 am, prompting her to drowsily roll out of bed and jump in the shower. She puts on a bright orange dress, complementing the early October leaf change, and tan Yeezy sneakers that she had laid out the night before. Johnson hurries to her car, making a few pit stops to pick up Panera Bread bagels and fresh fruit from Publix before heading to the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art. Her phone doesn’t stop buzzing the whole morning, adding to her already heightened nerves.
This is the first photoshoot of Strike Magazine Athens’ second issue, “Vandal,” and Johnson’s first day solo as editor-in-chief. The set, meticulously planned beforehand, involves broken mirrors smashed on-site to represent breaking the glass ceiling. As usual, Johnson is the last to leave the set and joins members of the magazine at Ted’s Most Best for a post-photoshoot meal. Just as her editor-in-chief assignments wrap up, the school assignments flood in, as if she didn’t already have enough on her plate.
Hectic days like these have become the norm for Johnson. A senior economics major at UGA, she is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Strike Magazine Athens, a student-produced fashion, beauty, lifestyle and culture magazine.
Laying out the blueprints
Johnson first started experimenting with clothing as a way to mask weight fluctuations in early adulthood, but it quickly turned into a hobby. Sifting through clothing racks and shopping in her free time, Johnson developed a taste for modern, original looks and eye-catching statement pieces.
Potentially even more motivating than her love for fashion in founding Strike, Johnson and co-founder Serenity Moore were both disheartened and unfulfilled by their involvement in UGA clubs. Johnson’s longing for community, camaraderie and practical skills-training seemed to only be found on executive committees, but wasn’t a common experience for regular club members.
Johnson and Moore decided to reach out to Strike Magazine’s national founder, a student at Florida State University, in August 2020 to begin the process of starting their own chapter. With 12 university chapters dotted throughout the United States, Strike’s national mission is to provide students with “360 professional experience in all facets of content production,” according to its website.
“We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into at the time, but we had a goal in mind of creating a community for students,” Johnson said.
The initial drafting and onboarding processes were painfully time-consuming, Johnson said. Strike is not accredited through UGA, so there is no access to university funding and promotion of the magazine isn’t allowed anywhere on university grounds. These roadblocks forced outreach to be fully online. Johnson said she sent hundreds of Instagram direct messages trying to generate interest in the magazine. Eventually, her strategy paid off.
As masked-up students returned to campus in fall 2020, Johnson was buzzing with ideas for the magazine’s first issue. While the executive committee worked on the blueprints for “CTRL-ALT-DEL,” news of Strike’s presence on campus circulated among students.
“It still baffles me,” Johnson said about Strike’s growth. “The community that we created within Strike is truly a family, and I think that radiates to so many people … I would also say that being so aesthetic and different definitely attracts people.”
The issue designs are thoughtful and artistic, much like the detail that goes into Johnson’s personal fashion choices. Johnson describes her personal style as an “enigma.” Depending on her mood, she might opt for a black leather grunge look or a whimsical, flowery dress. One thing’s for sure, her outfit won’t be boring.
Her eclectic style is mimicked in the wide-ranging aesthetics of the three printed magazine issues, “CTRL-ALT-DEL,” “Vandal” and “LABYRINTH.” Each issue represents a stylized narrative, whether it’s an homage to Gen Z, defiance and destruction of societal norms or the spiritual journey taken to fulfill one’s destiny.
In addition to the magazine, Strike operates a socially-conscious online blog, sharing candid posts about topics such as acne, body hair, colorism in Hollywood, plastic surgery and fashion trends.
“Our generation will call you out, and that was really shown in our issue ‘Vandal.’ I think because of the pressure that Gen Z puts on the fashion industry, there’s been a lot of changes within sizing representation and inclusivity … I do see the industry going into the right direction, but I do feel we also have a very long way to go,” Johnson said.
The organization has expanded tenfold, and Johnson now oversees all 132 members of Strike, working closely with a three-person executive team, nine creative teams and three external teams. Johnson strives to be a servant-leader, hoping to support the well-being of her staff and be involved in the magazine’s production at every level.
“She’s always very intentional and … she is very much a people person,” said Kaitlyn Rutledge, about Johnson. “There is not a member on staff she does not know the name of.”
Leaving a legacy
Rutledge, a senior fashion merchandising major, joined Strike in September 2020 and has served as the creative director for the last two issues. Upon graduating in May, both Rutledge and Johnson will leave Strike in the hands of new leadership, having set a high standard for the magazine.
Self-confidence, relentless determination, patience and getting to know people beyond the surface-level are Johnson’s biggest lessons from her time as editor-in-chief. While she admits it is difficult to leave Strike behind, Johnson aspires for the magazine to positively impact members for years to come.
“I hope that Strike continues to be a family and continues to be a voice for the unheard, and I hope that it continues to be a warm and loving place,” Johnson said. “We’re also a place of hustlers and a place of people who work hard and who want to Strike to be the best that it can possibly be. And I hope it continues to grow.”