On Thursday, January 22, amidst the chaos of Grammy week in Los Angeles, the Vanity Group CEO Karleen Roy threw her inaugural party “Grit Before the Gram” event. Tagged “the soundtrack of our solidarity,” the evening provided an environment of unity, awareness and impact, as agents, producers, managers, directors and label executives were among the 100 guests invited for the formal dinner which took place at The Edition in West Hollywood.
Top music personalities were in attendance in their number as we spotted Schure Media Group co-founder and Beyonce PR strategist Yvette Noel-Schure, who received the Bridge Award, and Grammy-nominated songwriter, and producer Nija Charles who was given the Spotlight Award, in addition to Laurieann Gibson, Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtermariam, Roc Nation co-president Shari Bryant, Atlantic Records EVP of urban promotion Juliette Jones, Interscope head of media strategy Cara Donatto, Quality Control Music’s Simone Mitchell, marketing executive Afrika Lander, and LL Cool J Inc. COO Claudine Joseph.
“Black women in music are not only changing the narrative, we’re expanding it and have been doing so for years,” Roy stated as she recounts her own journey to becoming a top event planner.
Choreographer and dancer Laurieann Gibson, who has done gigs with Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry, was another recognized personality at the event. “I’m so excited that I’m making an alignment with women who walk the walk, talk the talk, and dance the dance,” she said.
“I want to see artists really go back to honoring the opportunity to perform and become the record, rather than not take this opportunity seriously. Not everybody can touch the Gram stage, we need to get those stakes back. The performances need to become a moment that you put in time, work to curate something special that the fans can’t just get everyday on Instagram.”
The aim of the Grit before the Gram event was to bring together generations of black women in music under one roof, celebrating their victories, lessons, and achievements. Those recognized each made moves and an impact before the rise of social media and their success stories proved a blueprint in the music industry for others to follow.
President of Motown Ethiopia Habtemariam described Roy as saying: “I’m in awe with Karleen because for her to have that story, she understood the responsibility of us creating safe spaces as a community. To acknowledge each other but to also tell our story, to know that we’re not invisible. No matter where you are in your career, the work you’ve done matters.”
As for Habtemariam, she entered the game early as child. “It was all black women I came up around. I never even thought it’d be an issue. That naiveness also allowed me to go through the game without any fear. If there was any bias, I was blind to it because I knew I belonged to it.
”I just knew I could exist as a great black women and do incredible art that’s purposeful. It’s really nice to see this all come together. Once you know you’re not alone with whatever you’re going through, you feel better. By hearing the stories, you can be more resilient and stronger,” she explains.