Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Tamron Hall, Kathy Hughes, Mara Brock Akil, Beyonce, and Karen Civil all define an elite group of powerhouse African-American women dominating in the fields of media and entertainment. Their monikers ring bells and have become household names. And truly they are brilliant in their reigns as queens of their career industries. But what was their ascension to these unprecedented heights like? Are they only recognizable to other women who look like them? Is their life’s work making an impact on others? What the question boils down to is how does one get to be so revered and be impactful? Will this walk to the dream be filled with challenges along before success?
EGL gathered up three successful women in media and entertainment to talk about their walks. Meet Chanelle Wright, Dedra Tate, and Ebony Edwards.
This under 30, super achiever is living the dream. Her career has been bicoastal, and she’s only getting warmed up. Already Chanelle Wright has accomplished what people twice her age aspire to do. Basically, she’s the epitome of the song “New York, New York.” Since she made it there, she can make it anywhere. Rising in the ranks at Fox News as a producer (promoted 5 times in six years, and invited to become a part of an elite group formed by the news corps CEO for those striving for excellence); she then was offered an opportunity in sunny Los Angeles. She now works as a freelance news producer for Fox and as a senior producer and on-air-talent for RapEntertainment.com. Although life is pretty sweet right now, she has faced adversity. But Chanelle channeled her inner “black girl magic” as she calls it and surpassed all obstacles.
“There’s really no surprise why #blackgirlmagic is such an impactful hashtag on social media platforms used by influential entertainment and media powerhouses. We really do sprinkle a touch of gold on everything we touch. African American women are human beings first and we have the right to pour out our gifts, creativity, art, knowledge and wisdom just like anyone else. It just so happens that we do it with such a standard of excellence that you’ve got to be blind if you don’t take notice and pay homage to what we bring to this world.
When I worked at a major network as a news producer, I felt like a mythical creature. The African-American women’s presence was so scarce that I was met with wide-eyed gazes walking into the newsroom on my first day. Everything I did at work made me feel like I was under-trained and heavily critiqued. I quickly became aware of whose “world” I was in after arriving from a fresh from four years of an HBCU (Hampton pride!). After a couple of months, I realized that my God-given gift of adapting to environments that didn’t readily accept me was what would propel me forward. I used my “magic” and showed them how tall black women really stand in creation. As soon as I checked myself and remembered who I was and who my mother, grandmother and all my aunties taught me to be, they had to acknowledge that I too, had a chair with my name on it at the table of greatness.”
And just like that, POOF! Chanelle embraced her know-how and confidently carved a path for her own success story, defying the naysayers. Yes, #blackgirlsrock!
Dedra Tate is a veteran in the music business. But with Unlimited Contacts, the company that she founded with her father Robert Tate, she is deep in the game. The brand name is more than a play on words. Literally this woman’s connects of who’s who in her contact list is unreal. Tate, who started working at MTV Networks straight out of graduating from Howard University, went on to earn executive positions at MCA, Motown, Biv-10 Records, ultimately being named the President/GM of Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment. And be this career as stellar as it is, hard work and sacrifice are difficult contributions that the entertainment maven Dedra has maneuvered through in her three decade long career
“I set personal standards for myself that helped me rise through the ranks. I would arrive the earliest, work the hardest, stay the longest and vowed to never have a “relationship” with any of the artists I worked with (and there were definitely some fine ones). This business is so male dominated, I felt that as a woman I had to stay totally focused on my career and I neglected to balance my personal life. After working nonstop for 15 years I finally settled down and had my son. In that moment, at 35 years old, I realized I could have done this a lot earlier in my career and probably have been a lot happier in my personal life. My advice to newcomers is get out there and network, align yourself with a knowledgeable mentor(s) and soak up all the knowledge you can. As you climb the ladder to success, don’t forget to reach back so you can pay it forward and always remember to treat people with kindness. A smile will get you through a lot more doors than an attitude and the decisions you make/actions you take will help define your career, reputation and legacy.”
Spoke straight from a true pro in the crazy world of showbiz!
Take a step away from the cameras and all of the music, who makes the set look hot? Only a dope fly girl can get any platform glam while never breaking a sweat. Ebony Edwards, founder of LFG Events, is the “Queen of Never Plan an Event without the Wow.” She is an acclaimed event planner and producer. She has waved her touch of design splendor and precise execution on events such as Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Fall 2014 and Spring 2015, The Congressional Black Caucus, Chelsea Film Festival, and Russel Simmons’ Inaugural Balls 2008/2013 to name a few. Her personal favorite event to execute is her own Soiree in the Cities Girls’ Night Out. Although Edwards has helped many other folks’ visions come to life, she didn’t always feel that others wanted to help her score wins in her field.
“My challenges started early on as an event planner trying to host events in Philadelphia where people want it all for themselves. I found out the hard way no one wanted to help pave the way for you everything you want you had to research or create yourself. I love seeing people, young or old, brilliant women who are carving out their own way in this business. I find inspiration in planning events and working with youth. It’s important that I empower them to stay focused and encourage them to pursue every dream they envision. I feel as if I am a staple creating new relationships and rapport with people who want more in life. My motto to women is to paint a canvas to celebrate life. Birth your dream, draw big, color on happiness and love and imprint passion in your career.”
Let these stories touch your souls and inspire you to soar high in your craft.
Interview by Tawana C. Coleman