Kita Williams is a High Powered Professional in the sports and entertainment industry. You may recognize her as Terrell Owen’s publicist on the T.O. SHOW which airs on VH1! But, in addition to being Terrell Owen’s publicist, she is one half of Team Image PR, a public relations firm that she formed with PR colleague, Monique Jackson. Ms. Williams has traveled a challenging road to achieve outstanding success. And, there’s definitely more success for her to come. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Williams where she shared her very impressive professional story and some of the lessons that she’s learned along the way.
Ms. Williams holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Kentucky and a MBA from the University of Phoenix. She is also a member of the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music and Entertainment.
Q: How did you get started in the entertainment industry?
My very first job after college was with the local ABC television station in Lexington, Kentucky. I was hired as an Associate Producer which meant getting up at 3am to do a 6am show. I paid my dues and worked extremely hard. It was in this position that I had my first taste of the entertainment world while covering the Kentucky Derby. That was when I realized that I wanted to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. I really wanted to work for Entertainment Tonight. I bugged the producers of Entertainment Tonight so much. Email wasn’t as prevalent as it is today, so I called them everyday. I really got to know the receptionist very well. I’ll never forget, her name was Virginia. Eventually, somebody took my call. I tell people that persistence pays off!
Entertainment Tonight brought me in for an interview and I landed an unpaid internship which was hard to do because it’s a big conglomerate. I ended up moving to Los Angeles where I slept on the floor of a former classmate. The internship was grueling, but it changed my life. I worked my way up, but ended up leaving to take a job as a Publicist Assistant at Rogers and Cowen, the 3rd largest PR firm in the country. The woman who hired me, Maureen O’Connor, had worked with legendary icons including Diana Ross and the Jackson Five. She remains my mentor. I worked on projects for many of our clients which included the Oscar’s, the Grammy’s, the Soul Train Awards, Janet Jackson, Destiny’s Child, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Eddie Murphy. This job was a step backwards for me, but I worked my butt off.
Q: Tell me about your work at Def Jam.
While working at Rogers & Cowen, I interacted with Def Jam frequently. Def Jam always needed something extra (i.e. tickets to events) and I always got them what they needed. The President of Def Jam said to me, “I like you, we need to hire you.” He was serious and offered me the position of Director of Public Relations for the West Coast which tripled my salary. I worked with several artists including Ludacris, Jay-Z, Musiq Soulchild, Dru Hill, LL Cool J and Ashanti. I was responsible for setting up their media exposure. This was a challenging position because you had so many things to do, but nobody told you how to do it. You just had to get it done. That’s where I learned to be a go getter and truly relentless.
I would sit in meetings with Russell Simmons, listen to these mastermind plans and think to myself, “Now how is this going to happen.” And, then it would happen. I’ll never forget, I was working with Jay-Z and he said that he didn’t want to do Source magazine or XXL magazine. He wanted the PR team to get him on 60 minutes, CNN, Charlie Rose and Oprah. At the time, I thought that he had lost his mind. He said that he was trying to push himself. He said that people would only see him as a rapper if he continued to put himself in a rapper forum. I didn’t understand it at the time, but now I get it.
Q: So how did you come to form your own Public Relations Firm?
Russell Simmons encouraged all of his employees at Def Jam to have another hustle. That’s where I met Monique. We learned how to work together in a very harmonious way. While at Def Jam, I bumped into Terrell Owens while he was playing for the 49ers during an event. Monique and I formed our company, Team Image PR, because at the time Terrell needed a publicist.
Q: Tell me about your firm, Team Image PR?
When you’re a publicist, you are in control of changing someone’s journey, getting them exposure and showing them that this may be your first single or movie, but a good publicist can change that. Our job is to create an image or do damage control to help build an image so that you can continue to make money not just in your present profession, but in future engagements as well. Our firm handles a lot of different types of Public Relations.
We created the T.O. Show that airs on VH1. We are the creators and executive producers of the show. It took us four years to actually find a network to believe in us. The T.O. Show will be filming its 3rd season in March. In addition to Terrell Owens, we also work with other NBA and NFL athletes. We also have our hands in three other projects that we’re creating, executive producing and trying to get sold. We handle PR for different events and do a lot of foundation work. Chris Brown and Ludacris are clients. And, we handled PR for Lil Wayne’s Yacht Event and a few movies including Stomp the Yard and This Christmas.
Something that I’m very excited to be working on is Define Your Pretty. Monique and I developed this concept to help young girls focus on their inner beauty. The Define Your Pretty movement means that it’s not about the visuals. It’s not about you having pretty eyes, hair or teeth. You can be pretty smart, pretty talented, pretty athletic and pretty confident. The point is to define your own pretty, not let someone else define it for you. We’ve teamed up with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and we’re touring colleges across the country for the HBCU UNCF Empower Me Tour with Tatiana Ali, Malik Yoba and Hill Harper.
Q: What is your recipe for success?
I always tell people that it’s the three P’s: Persistence, Patience and Payoff. You have to be Persistent to no end when you want do something in life. You have to Patient because it doesn’t always happen when you think it’s supposed to. And, then you’ll see the Payoff. The bonus P is for Progress because with that comes the journey.
Q: What general advice can you give to the upwardly mobile professional?
When you attend a networking event, set a goal to meet 2-5 people. After the event, contact them and let them know that it was great meeting them. If there is something that they can do for you, don’t be shy about asking. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive. When I attend events, I try to target at least two people that I don’t know or have a connection with. My attitude is, “What can they do for me” because I already know what I bring to the table.
For entrepreneurs, it’s draining. I don’t have a boss. I don’t have anyone giving me a check every two weeks. But, if you really have something that you’re passionate about, just do it.
As a woman in this industry, you will be tried. Keep your respect and dignity in tact because that will take you far. I work with athletes and they will try you. Never sleep with someone that you work with.