March came in like a lioness for 2021, as we kicked off the celebration of Women’s History Month, hot on the heels of an uprising. The events of the last year have characterized a period of time plagued by the pandemic and severe political division. The crises we face regarding systemic racism, climate change, and gender disparity, to name a resounding few, have reached a pitch that is simply far too loud to ignore.
Jimmy Jazz gave center stage to eight remarkable women – content creators and those who work within our industry – this month. They are changemakers and leaders among their communities. Through their particular reach on social media, they are indeed influencers. Movers and shakers. They are auteurs, having carved out a life for themselves that is not only fruitful, but profitable. They are instrumental in using their intellect, compassion, and experience to champion for a world that is just.
We kicked off the month in Newark, New Jersey, where we met with Tiffany Nicole Ervin, self-proclaimed visual artist, content creator, and proud woman, at her home. Tiffany wears a fresh, new jumpsuit from Nike. We took a moment on the artist’s rooftop for a breath of fresh air, but what’s really refreshing is Tiffany’s firm stance on demanding to be paid what she’s worth, as she speaks from a studio filled with clever and vivid works of art. “Being a Black woman in America is exhilarating, amazing, and exhausting all at once. Women are some of the most resilient, powerful beings in the world. We have the ability to create life, yet somehow, we are still fighting every day for our voices to be heard and respected,” she explains. For Tiffany, an acumen of hard work and hustle has meant being the only woman in a room at times or refusing anything less than the pay scale of a male counterpart. “Now I never hesitate to demand to be paid what I'm worth even if that means I have to walk away from opportunities for the greater good.”
Next up, we handed the mic over to Miabelle, who, as a radio host and TV personality, is no stranger to the spotlight. I was curious as to what Miabelle’s own voice sounds like to her, and this sparkling personality, sporting Jordan Brand, did not disappoint. With a focus on what has been happening outside of the recording room and a high volume of callers eager to share their experiences, Miabelle has been using her platform to amplify her voice in the fight for Black lives. She points out that she is aware that her passion and energy may make others feel uncomfortable: “… as a Black woman especially, we’re labeled as loud, aggressive, and just all of these negative stereotypes, and, you know, I have come to a realization that whatever anybody wants to call it, it is still beautiful… “
Our pursuit of empowered women followed us to Renaissxnce Recording in Midtown Manhattan, which Jeylina Burgos, also an exec at 300 Entertainment, co-owns and operates. Jeylina leads us into a subdued lavender recording room, which she immediately infuses with positive energy – not to mention, the beats of Axel Rulay & Verbo Flow – in preparation for her photo shoot. Having dressed from head to toe in PUMA, Burgos reemerges, revealing the secret to her confidence. “… being a woman is having to work three times harder than men and seeing them get the promotion or the job position I’ve expressed that I wanted or applied for. It took a lot of meditation to realize my self-worth.” The secret to the success that helped her promote artists such as Megan Thee Stallion to the top of the charts? “Negotiate your pay the same way men do. You get what you negotiate, not what you think you deserve because they like you. If you express to someone that you want to pursue a career in a position where mostly men pursue and their response is well, what if instead, you do this? RUN (‘like Forrest Gump,’ she quips). They don’t want what’s best for you and don't respect you enough to believe you can make it happen.”
On an early-spring morning on which the weather is particularly lamb-like, we found ourselves at Hot 97 to meet with Music Director TT Torrez, who admits she is excited to get dressed up after just over a year of limited social interactions, and she pulls off her all-adidas fit with aplomb. TT’s office is covered from wall to wall in impressive plaques celebrating her achievements in the field, most notably those detailing her work with women in the community, but what is really outstanding is the artwork lovingly crafted by her children. This brings us to a particular moment in her life in which she has realized her full potential, the birth of her son. “When you are looking at life and you feel life inside of you, and you’re creating life, and you see that baby come out for the first time, you realize that you’ve created a whole human being and your job is to bring them up in this world that’s so full of chaos and yet so beautiful… “
We caught up with Allison Giorgio, VP of Marketing at PUMA, with whom we have collaborated in the past on product launches, community programs, and joint marketing campaigns. Allison, who has had the privilege, as she calls it, of helping to create and launch PUMA’s new She Moves Us campaign, which focuses on women and the way we move, has a thing for all-white sneakers, which she notes with a hint of sarcasm, and a strong sense of team spirit. “As someone who grew up playing sports, I’m a deep believer in the power of a team and that collectives of people can truly create change and success. Especially when groups of females get together!” Musing on what both motivates her and attracts team members to the game is her winning mantra: “If YOU believe that regardless of your gender, you have the ability to succeed, achieve, contribute, and grow, you will. And others around you will also see that confidence.”
Patriece Nelson, Women’s Marketing Director at Jordan, has a propensity for kicks and pink lips (Just check her Insta!) She’s put the former to good use as she’s risen in her career, citing, “Embrace and love every piece of who and what you are and from whom you come. Do not shrink yourself or dim your light to make other people comfortable. As you climb the mountain, bring other women to the top with you.” Patriece also points out the fact that as women of a certain generation, we are raised not to talk enough about money. In order to break these barriers, she says, “… we have to first speak up about the inequities and biases that are holding us back. We cannot change what we do not talk about. One of my innate qualities is the power of influence, specifically as it relates to encouraging others to stand in the power of their voice,” which, she adds, must be used as a “catalyst for change.”
Perhaps the elephant in the room, and one that has gained quite a bit of thunder in its step of late, is sexual harassment in the workplace, which virtually all of us are sadly subjected to as a result of our gender. Tara Johnson, a skillful sketch artist and Brand Partnerships and Licensing Manager at LA-based organization for startups The Foundation, speaks from experience: “I’ve run the gamut. Been spoken down to, been invisible in meetings, asked if it was my ‘time of the month,’ inappropriate comments, looks, smacked on the butt, you name it.” How did Tara overcome these obstacles? “I grew very thick skin and learned to use my words and make eye contact. Also, I knew my craft. No one can mess with you when you know your facts, audience, and product.”
Annie Asirifi, Global Product Marketing Manager at adidas Energy, reminds us that stepping up requires a good pair of shoes – not to mention, that sneakerheads are not limited to men. “We have to keep pushing to have a seat at the table. Not just any table, but the table making the decisions.” Annie, a woman of color in an industry in which she has been heavily influential, though not highlighted, adds, “I am too often the only woman having to advocate for women to be included in plans, whether it’s the way we communicate, sizing, fit, or even hype around limited-edition drops, which are usually skewed toward the guys.” Her message to young women embarking on a new career in a male-dominated business world? “I would say that it is important to not just be yourself but to really believe in yourself and know that you have the right to be where you are.”
We set out to dispel the notion that there is a cattiness among women, a blaring gender bias, that pits us against each other as opposed to positioning us to make incredible things happen. These eight remarkable women have proven the stereotype wrong; in setting examples of strength – and resilience – they have pushed other women to realize their full potential. The courage in their individual voices has empowered their sisters to demand that their own voices be not only heard but heeded. What each of these women have in common is something we hold near and dear at Jimmy Jazz: They have defied expectations, refused to be anything but authentic, and for all the encouragement and support they have received along the way, they have paid it forward. We hope that their stories, which are nothing short of inspiring, have inspired you to stand in solidarity and #ChooseToChallenge injustice for all women of the world. Hear us roar.