I met with Valerie Graves before her interview with Paula Marantz Cohen on The Drexel Interview. She exuded a calm and poised excitement about having so many people discussing her new book. Her memoir, Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming the Woman I Pretended to Be, takes a new approach to the average rags-to-riches story — mostly because Graves doesn’t come from rags at all. She starts off in a middle-class, loving family that supported her intelligence and her journey to becoming the woman she is now. Her story isn’t just about gaining success, but about how to reach back and create spaces for other women of color in advertising. Our interview was conducted in two parts, both before and after her interview with Dean Cohen. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

More… “Pressure Makes Perfect”

Byshera Williams is a Senior English Major at Drexel University and the current Associate Editor for The Smart Set.


From Mad Men and White Collar to Dirty Jobs and Grey’s Anatomy, TV may tell us a lot about how we view our work — and, moreover, how we should. For some, it’s just a job, but for others, it’s a life calling. Maybe we can learn more about our professions by staying on the couch than we can by joining the workforce. (Aeon)

Ad blockers are gaining popularity, maybe because they can save mobile users more than just the headaches caused by strobe-like video ads. A new report by the New York Times shows that, depending on the ratio of advertising to content, blockers can shave seconds off loading times and cents off data bills for each page. (The New York Times)

There’s a constant battle to explain why the rising price of a college education seems to raise demand, defying the usual models. There’s a term for this — a Veblen good — and it’s got mostly to do with the price of prestige. (The Baffler)

Is it time for “he” and “she” to go the way of “Miss” and “Mrs.”? Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin argues that gender, like marital status, should not be brought up in journalistic stories unless pertinent. Here’s a historical and political case for the singular “they.” (In These Times)

Looking for something to read this weekend? Sink into some science. (Seed Magazine) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.


A former hedge fund manager’s recent decision to increase the price of a pill from $18 to $750 has sparked interest in prescription drug pricing and sales. This drug isn’t optional: It’s the standard treatment for taxoplasmosis, an illness that mainly affects those with compromised immune systems due to HIV or cancer. But when it comes to non-lifesaving pharmaceuticals, companies rely on advertising to get the word out. In article from our archives, Greg Beato discusses how the restrictions on drug advertising may be helping out the advertisers in the long run.

Critics of prescription drug ads contend that one reason they’re so effective is because they’re so misleading. But while it’s true that few prescription drug ads, if any, go out of their way to call attention to the shortcomings of their products, there’s an alternate explanation for their success: Prescription drug ads are amongst the most honest content that appears on TV. •

Read It: Drug Deals by Greg Beato

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This year, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, affords another opportunity to mourn the death of an optimistic, can-do America. America today is hobbled by schism and ineptitude. But then, as the many books about JFK released this year make clear, Camelot wasn’t what it was cracked up to be either. That’s part of the point. In a postmodern age, you can’t look at the world without irony — even when looking back on it. Everything, even our history, seems soiled.

But visit The World of Coca Cola at Pemberton Place in Atlanta for a taste, figuratively and literally, of an un-ironic America. It’s significant that you can’t tell a Coke slogan from 1924 (“Refresh yourself”) from one from 2010 (“Twist the Cap to Refreshment”) and whenever politics gets hinted at it is mostly to underline how apolitical Coca Cola is. Consider: “The Great National Temperance Beverage” (1906)… More…

The U.S. pharmaceutical industry spends billions each year to remind us that we’d be depressed, nauseous, headachey, and unable to have sex without their products. The U.S. alcohol industry pours billions into convincing us that a cold six-pack is a more precious and desirable commodity than a hot supermodel. In contrast, the U.S. medical marijuana industry mostly relies on stoned hypochondriacs to promote its wares via word of mouth. So far, that’s been an incredibly successful marketing strategy. But with hundreds of pot dispensaries both rolling in cash and looking to distinguish themselves in a crowded market, more of them are beginning to advertise. “Finally!” anti-marijuana advocates must be exclaiming around the country. “Some light at the end of the tunnel!”


For years, marijuana ads have been commonplace on TV. Between 1996 and 2006, the federal government More…

The economy is still so weak that one in eight Americans now relies on food stamps to help pay their grocery bills, and yet in May, Mission Minis — a San Francisco purveyor of expensive pygmy cupcakes — experienced such high demand that its exhausted employees were threatening to quit after several marathon days of grueling baked goods preparation. To satisfy the city’s appetite for these Justin Biebers of the dessert world, one Mission Minis employee reportedly spent 52 hours baking, boxing, and taking orders.

All across the country, Average Joe small businesses are enjoying similar boom times in the midst of a recession that has laid the titans of Wall Street to waste. An “unassuming, slightly cramped” spa in New York with a reputation for rudeness suddenly attracts 2,570 blotchy Manhattanites in search of deep-pore cleansing. A… More…

On a warm spring evening in 1922, M. Sturtz — a burglary insurance broker who lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side — left her apartment for a few minutes to run an errand. While she was gone, a pair of thieves gained entry through a dumbwaiter, locked the doors and windows from the inside, and proceeded to make off with everything of value in the place, including the contents of a toy safe belonging to Mrs. Sturtz’ 8-year-old daughter Josephine. In their wake, the thieves left a hand-written business card on a table in the center of the apartment. “Expert crooks,” it read across the center. “Services at reasonable rates,” it advised in the upper left hand corner. “Specialties: Pocketpicking, flim-flamming, second story work, black-jacking and robbing babies’ banks a specialty,” it concluded in a lower corner.


The… More…