When I step inside Queen C’s Harlem apartment, I’m a little shocked.
I’m used to seeing people my age live in shoeboxes when I visit New York, but this place is massive. There are four bedrooms, a spacious living room with an open concept kitchen, and hardwood floors. Granted, she doesn’t live there alone, but she could if she wanted—she just prefers renting out the rooms to subsidize her own rent. The 26-year-old applies that same business savvy to her primary job—wholesale distributing weed in New York State.
Queen C (more on the nickname later), sources her weed in California, and then has drivers truck it across the country to New York, in shipments of 100 to 400 pounds at a time. She then supplies local dealers and delivery services. In the last eight years, she’s become a millionaire off a business that started as a side hustle.
She credits being a “petite Asian woman” as a key factor in her success because she thinks it makes her appear more trustworthy than her male competitors. But she admits there’s a dark side to her career.
“I am Queen C, I am this badass bitch. But I do have this secret,” she says.
VICE caught up with Queen C to find out how she came to dominate New York’s weed scene and what she plans to do with her money.
VICE: Tell me about the meaning behind your nickname.
Queen C: Queen C is more than just a nickname. It’s a persona of a badass female breaking barriers and dominating the illicit marijuana industry. The alias Queen C came from my client who served the NYU, East Village area. He has always referred me as a “queen pin” because I supply different areas of NYC and Jersey. The C is an abbreviation for my first name, which will remain anonymous, but it also stands for cannabis.
How did you start selling weed?
When I first moved to the city eight years ago buying weed was a process. I met sketchy dudes that sold skimpy bags and they could get away with it because the demand was high and the supply was low. I was tired of being ripped off and feeling uncomfortable whenever I had to cop. My best friend at the time sold weed and he put me on so I could distribute to my friends to make some money and smoke for free. I vividly remember drawing out a pyramid diagram to my roommate explaining the weed distribution chain and how I was on the bottom and that I was determined to be on top. Through networking I finally met a Cali grower and it changed my game. I saw a void in the market that needed to be filled and I took advantage of it. I created an environment that embodied good vibes where clients would feel comfortable and get the best deals. Selling started as a side hustle while I was in college but it eventually grew and it consumed me.
How does your business operate?
The goal is to supply good quality flower and other cannabis products at competitive prices. I fly to California and source flower from growers and with my large buying power, I’m able to negotiate prices to get the best deal. The product is placed on a truck and transported to New York ready to be distributed. My business primarily functions as a wholesale distributor to other dealers and delivery services. I have meetings with my clients to make sure we are stocked on what they need. When inventory is low, I make another trip and the cycle starts again.
Have you ever been in any legally sus situations or almost been caught by authorities?
No, I try to be cautious. I think being a petite Asian woman helps. Most of my clients are musicians, actors, dancers, and stuntmen—it’s a tight network of good people.
What is the sketchiest situation you've ever been in?
I was doing a $200,000 transaction with my close friend of three years. He used to be my old plug before I started to supply him. He was going through some financial trouble and robbed me. I’ve done multiple large transactions with him in the past and didn’t see that coming. He was like a brother to me, but money changes you.
How has being a woman helped you succeed?
In the weed game trust is everything. You can’t operate without it. Being a woman, I’m more approachable and less suspicious which works to my advantage. It put me on top on my networking game. I would hit up other dealers that my clients recommend and propose to meet and talk about numbers. As crazy as it sounds, I was looking for weed dealers that were already established and weren’t suspicious. Many dealers admitted that if I wasn’t a girl they probably wouldn’t have met with me and how surprised that they were I was able to get better numbers to supply them. That mindset started the expansion of my business. On the sales side, being woman felt like I had the upper hand.
Are there any downsides to being a woman?
The buying side had its struggles. Growers would assume I was a naïve about numbers and quality, and try to sell me average product at a higher price point. I needed a large buying power for them to take me seriously, which I eventually got—money talks. It’s amazing how many people in this industry under-estimate you for being a woman, but I don’t mind it because it’s feels so much better to prove them wrong and show off your potential.
How much money have you made from this business?
At least a million. It’s hard to keep track.
What will you do with the money?
I’m going to invest it on real estate and live my best life while I’m young.
How has legalization impacted business?
Legalization in other states affected the supply curve in New York. There is more access to weed, which is deflating the price. [Note: an eighth of weed costs about $50-$65 in New York.] Weed prices are consistently dropping which take away from revenue but you can make it up in different areas. You just need to adapt. With marijuana becoming more mainstream, more cannabis products like oils and edibles are being developed and it opens up a different market that can be capitalized to supplement revenue. The key thing is to diversify inventory and hop on the new wave because it’s always changing. There is a grey area where vendors want to get rid of their cannabis products to black market buyers. Even when New York gets legalized marijuana will be much cheaper getting it from your local dealer. I’m not too worried.
Do you get high on your own supply?
Yes, I gotta try out my product to see what I bought. It’s also exciting to try all the different flavors.
When are you going to retire?
Soon, but that’s what they all say. Having a double life was fun in my younger 20s but the things you valued back then change from what you value now and I think I’m ready to transition to other things after hustling for eight years.
What will you do after retirement?
Going back to school would be a good start. I can pursue any career that I choose without any financial worries. I got a lot of initiative and drive, whatever industry I’m in I know I’ll kill it.
Do you ever get tired of keeping this secret?
All the time. It’s created distance between me and my family. They think I have a normal job in sales at a pharmaceutical company which isn’t too far from the truth. Not all my friends know what I do and I am very vague about my life which prevents me to open up and be myself true self around other. My secret business is such a big part of my life I don’t know how to separate it. Sometimes I’m internally conflicted whether Queen C is a facade or my inner badass bitch. I guess time will tell. Before I was Queen C I was just C, and I look forward to getting to know myself better after I’m done with all these secrets.
Are you proud of what you've accomplished?
Absolutely. I built a successful business while shattering barriers. I went from a small time weed dealer to a large distributor.
What is the toughest part of the job?
To remind myself not let this job consume my whole life as I manage all aspects of the operation.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on VICE CA.