The Evolution of A Producer | The “Joy” Of The Journey
The 15-year backstory of my growth to become an Executive Producer at ESSENCE Festival of Culture.
In March 2014, I interviewed at ESSENCE for the 3rd time.
After two separate interviews with Dionne Broadus in 2006, and Staci Hallmon in 2011, for sponsorship-related positions they both felt I was overqualified for, the 2014 interview opportunity was with Joy Profet about a Project Manager position. Staci was fond of my creative leadership for Carol’s Daughter’s ESSENCE Festival activation, and recommended that I meet with Joy to explore possibilities.
Our meeting went well, Joy was polished, classy, intelligent and seemingly more conservative than I. But she seemed to take to me well, very nearly offering me the position on-the-spot to join her team to create the Road To ESSENCE Festival.
I was a marketer, five years into my consultancy Omerge Alliances, and ready to apply my 4.5 years at Live Nation to create this amazing three-city pre-tour in Chicago, DC and Atlanta. In fact, Live Nation was to be our production partner, so I felt confident that I could deliver this. But, by May 2014, no sponsors had committed other than Walmart, stunting the company’s ability to execute a full tour with Live Nation as they envisioned. Upon accepting that I would be of no use since the tour would not be executed, I prepared for my exit.
But, Joy wasn’t ready to get rid of me just yet. I recall her saying something to the effect of “nope, you’re good, we will find something for you to do.” Ahem, find something for me to do? Who does that? What would that be? I had other marketing clients, and didn’t really want someone to “find” something for me to do. BUT, little did I know that this holding of space by Joy Profet would be the beginning of my production journey.
Joy began my giving me a few seemingly random assignments like assisting in managing the organization’s (which was mainly just her at the time) relationship with Steve Harvey, managing and selecting winners for a Bachelorette Contest with Editor Charreah Jackson, and scheduling acts to appear on this hodgepodge of a stage called “Center Stage.” I didn’t earn much that year, and the hours were long, but a door was opened for my creativity to flourish. As I reflect on those early years with Festival, I remember questioning if I was being hazed, but also really enjoyed the sisterhood, community and the training of being a professional businesswoman.
Prior to this experience, I worked within mostly all-male, non-Black environments. As such, I’d never quite figured out how to show up authentically as myself — a southern, Black woman, artsy girl rooted in the arts & wellness.
As a sponsorship & advertising account executive for many years for Ogilvy, Frankel, DDB, Burnett, DraftFCB, I’d learned how to organize ad campaigns for clients, and as a VP Alliances for Live Nation, I knew how to deliver sponsor deliverables on amphitheatre and club tours, but had never ever produced a stage and juggled scheduling talent.
But I was given a chance. Joy gave me that chance nine years ago. And I vowed to do my best because of her confidence in me. Fresh off of working with very dominant male figures, I welcomed the chance to show up in my feminine vs masculine power. And now in 2022, my first year of producing not one, but four stages/experiences, without her active presence, I credit her confidence in me, her silent mentorship and her work ethic for guiding me through (she was known for being a C-Suite executive who put in the work & late-night hours). As I navigated this year sans Joy, I was reminded that there is a way to treat others (calling them Dr., Mr. & Mrs. until granted permission otherwise), and that Festival is a platform which is a privilege to be able to offer to others. We are servants, not the elite in our roles of talent booking. And that it is ok to defer to others when you truly don’t know what is best. And most of all, that what truly matters is the people. The people you work with, those you serve (the attendees) and the Presenters. Everyone has a choice, and treating people well is supreme and is a big part of your reputation.
Joy was a light and gift to us all, as she illuminated the path for many others like Carmen, Stephanie, Felicia, Candace, Cassandre, Lauren, Laurel and many more.
I pause to write this piece because I invite everyone to consider giving someone a chance, and allowing your example to be the guide. Everyone has a journey. No one lands where they are on day one. We all evolve. Who are you evolving into, and who are you allowing to evolve?
Hint: If you’re not sure what you’re doing exactly, but you kinda like it, you’re evolving. If you’re doing your best to be a role model for someone else, and opening doors for the next gen, you are an evolver.