It’s always great to be able to see power in motion, and the more we see this, the more we can embody it in our own lives. Black women executives in entertainment oftentimes showcase this in more ways than one—leveling up while innovating, day by day, a single step at a time.
In the case of DeDe Brown, senior vice president of multicultural marketing and publicity at Paramount Pictures, you've got a living-and-breathing lesson in how to succeed in the entertainment industry. She is a powerful woman who’s using her role as an executive to not only push her own boundaries, but to also apply leadership for change.
She balances duties of overseeing campaigns for some of the entertainment powerhouse’s most successful projects and franchises (think, Jackass, Scream, Sonic, and The Lost City) with co-leading the steering committee of Paramount’s Project Action initiative, an effort driven by the global marketing and distribution team’s advocacy of social justice for Black and brown people around the world.
Add to that her role as the co-host of Blk on the Scene, a podcast that brings the contributions of Black creatives in the entertainment industry to the forefront and does its part to change the narrative on authentic representation.
And check a few more notches on her resume: her work in strategic leadership and boss moves are evident in her work with blockbuster films including Bad Boys for Life, Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters and TV hits like The Neighborhood, South Side, and God Friended Me. Before that, she served as a freelance consultant in fashion, sports, and media and was even the director of special events and PR at the New York Post.
Her early career path was one of twists and turns—an adventurous dance with a trio of chance, smarts, and fortitude. xoNecole caught up with the busy executive to talk about how she landed into her current role and the importance of recognizing that one’s path to success doesn’t always have to resemble anything close to cookie-cutter.
Early Days of Powerful Pivoting
The University of Alabama grad studied broadcast journalism only to graduate and decide that the career path just wasn’t what she really wanted to do at the time. “I’ve always had this interest in entertainment, and so [it was about] just not knowing what to do when I got out of school,” she recalls.
“I was thinking about starting in small markets, covering the cat stuck in the tree or a house fire, but I couldn’t look into my magic ball and realize how quickly the world was going to change with social media. I also didn’t have any mentorship or any sort of plan or path of, ‘Oh I should figure out this whole entertainment thing.’ It took like three or four years for me to really find my way.”
Brown took on jobs like waitressing and working in retail, and it was while waiting tables at a popular eatery that her life and perspective would change. At the time, there was a new themed dining experience called Planet Hollywood, a chain that would become legendary for its celebrity-connected events and marketing, and a friend recommended that she apply for a job there. (The founder, Robert Earl, is infamous for the success he had with the Hard Rock Cafe, and early investors and partners include Hollywood heavyweights like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, and Sylvester Stallone.)
“I had to get myself together and I just started inquiring about other things I could do. That led to me becoming the executive assistant to the PR manager and the general manager of the restaurant. This was pre-internet and social [media], [and] it was the only way people in regional markets were getting access to celebrities and talent in that whole experience. It was a wonderful introduction to the world of PR and entertainment but also [to] community relations and events. I got a really immersive and hands-on experience.”
She likes to cite "serendipity" as a major influence on the ebb and flow of her career in entertainment, but humility is also a major component, especially considering that she went from serving food to eager customers to serving big-budget campaigns and life-changing opportunities for creatives of color in Hollywood. “I do think there is some benefit to not having a plan in some way because then you’re able to take advantage of opportunities that may present themselves that were unexpected. I also presented a willingness to learn, to be a sponge, and to be super-nimble,” she adds.
Building Impact and Flourishing
As an executive, she’s a huge fan of not only “tooting your own” horn in your career, especially "as Black and brown women,” she says, but diving into personal and professional development in order to get to know your strengths and skills you could improve on.
“I was freelancing and consulting for seven years, with some success—I worked on Fashion Week and various sporting events—but I was culling it all together again without much of a plan. I learned a lot, but it was when I realized, ‘Okay, I’ve got my focus on so many different things during this freelance period, how can I narrow my focus to have more impact, a better salary, and where’s that going to take me in the next 10 years?’ That’s when I really began to hyperfocus on multicultural marketing and publicity, knowing that it was something I loved."
"I had a bit of an intro to it working in 2014 on the Get On Up campaign with Universal Pictures, and I always had in the back of my mind, again, that I loved being at the service of amplifying Black and brown voices. The more entrenched I became in multicultural publicity and marketing, the more I realized, wow, I am having an impact, I can have an impact, and how do I amplify that impact?”
Today, both in her VP role as well as her work as part of the Project Action team, whose in-action efforts include Paramount Made (an executive mentorship program that has reportedly facilitated cross-department promotions for junior staffers, the prioritizing POC-owned businesses for vendor opportunities, and the formulation of an equitable talent and intern recruiting unit), she’s able to truly tap into merging passion with profession.
“In a lot of the personal and professional development work I’ve done, I’ve realized that first I have to show up as a human being who cares about people and cares about embracing people,” she says. “The goal for me is collaboration and using our expertise, our passions, our intersectionality to come together for a common goal.”
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Featured image courtesy of DeDe Brown