Written and edited by Craig Dewey Stanley
Photos by Steven Williams of StevesImage
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we want to take a moment to honor Los Angeles- based power publicist and branding extraordinaire Jessica L. Dupree. In 2018, the entrepreneur launched The Dupree Agency, a public relations firm that specializes in elevating brand awareness and equity for individuals and companies alike. Since then, Dupree has become known for her strategic planning, influential ties, and for her incredible ability to build and maintain relationships.
Dupree has represented International Ghanian actor Chris Attoh , BET International’s former Vice President Ava L. Hall, BET’s The Oval’s Taja V. Simpson, several members of the Winans family of gospel music artists, and a number of Grammy award-winning entertainers. Dupree is also a producer and writer, having interviewed California Governor Gavin Newsome and musical legends Qunicy Jones and Shirley Ceasar during her career. When she’s not working, which is rare, Dupree can be found serving the homeless community in downtown Los Angeles’s skid row, writing personal letters of encouragement to prison inmates, and visiting her adoptive grandparents.
Dupree credits her success to the alignment of her passion, her purpose, and her career. Growing up in the church and developing a passion for giving back, Dupree has always felt compelled to do whatever it takes to help others, even if it means giving her last. Now, years later, this passion has become the foundation of her work. She chooses to work with clients who themselves have a positive or helpful output, further amplifying good will in the world.
“I always say that people need you when they need you,” Dupree told Heart & Soul. “Ever since I was a young child, I had a passion to love on people in their darkest hours. I never understood how people could be so close to you one minute and then distance themselves when you need them the most. I have learned the importance of being there for people not only when the sun is shining but also when the rain is pouring,” Dupree said.
Dupree applies the same sentiment to her clients, sticking with them through thick and thin. “It’s more important than ever to be aware of and manage your personal and professional brand at all times, whether you’re already where you want to be in life or if you’re just getting started; whether it’s raining or shining. Because of social media, we live in a world where everyone’s watching, waiting, listening. And while that can be daunting, use it to your advantage. Share your light and control your narrative.”
Dupree sat down with us to answer a few of our burning questions about that recent Meghan Markle interview, cancel culture, entrepreneurship, and self-care.
What advice would you give for aspiring public relations entrepreneurs?
When I first started my public relations firm, I didn’t screen my clients. Now, with time and experience, I’ve learned that it’s important to be selective about the type of clients you choose and to be very specific about the type of services you offer to them, because ultimately it becomes a collaboration, a partnership. If you focus on delivering what you are good at and passionate about, and the client is serious and able to do whatever they do best, all will be successful.
During Meghan Markle’s recent groundbreaking interview with Oprah, she was asked if she was “silent” or if she had been “silenced” by the British Monarchy. It’s one thing to promote one’s work, but when is it appropriate to address public scrutiny?
This is a very interesting question because your role, position, and reach within an organization usually determines if and when it’s necessary to address public scrutiny. As a publicist and crisis expert, I counsel my clients to resist the urge to respond unless there is a serious threat to the core of their brand or if it’s a crisis issue that could possibly affect shareholders or employees. Then we must really weigh what they say and how they say it and what vehicle will be used to communicate the message.
I feel it is very important to have a voice and not be silenced. When you are in the public eye, It’s important to be clear from the very beginning about who you are, what you stand for, and why you do what you do – whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. While this can be expressed in many ways, the best expression is through how you live your life. From what I gathered after watching Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle, she felt silenced because the core of her personal brand was attacked and she did not feel defended or protected from false claims, creating a depressing and toxic environment for her. While she chose to address the scrutiny, I think we all can agree she did with grace, a testimony to who she ultimately is as a person.
My advice to anyone who desires to take control of the narrative of their lives and use their voice includes wearing a shirt or sweater with a message that speaks of who you are, starting a blog or writing a book that speaks to the core of your brand, or getting involved in activities or joining organizations that reflect those values. Work to affirm who you are without confrontation or even having a formal discussion about it. The main thing to remember when taking control of your narrative is that it’s not just about responding to backlash or criticism, it’s being clear about who you are and what your intentions are, and then doing what you do best.
We are living through “cancel culture” which seems to indiscriminately affect anyone and everyone. Why is it important to be authentic in our personal and business branding, even though everyone might not agree or support us?
Authenticity is very important to me and so many people are afraid to be themselves because of cancel culture. Interestingly enough, my experience and research has shown me that most of the people who are critical and judgmental are usually those with the most to hide, or are most troubled. What they say online or who they pretend to be is rarely representative of who they actually are. So I always joke, pay the haters and the trolls no mind, and focus on you. It’s important for you to be authentic in your branding and messaging because you have an audience, whether it’s ten, or ten million people. And someone out there needs to hear what you have to say. If you try to fit a mold to avoid being canceled, you will stifle yourself and that person who needed to hear what you had to say may never have the opportunity. When you are authentic and still criticized respectfully or rightfully, my approach is always to see things from the other person’s perspective, agree to disagree, educate ignorance as well as ourselves, and love people unconditionally. Focus on you and your audience. I’ve seen many lives changed because they put themselves out there and experienced reception and love.
You said “People need you when they need you.” How do you find balance in giving to others and prioritizing your wellness?
I’ve been a “giver” from the moment I entered this world; it has always brought so much joy to me and the people to whom I’ve been called to give. At times, when I’ve been in need, the support has not been reciprocated, and that has been tough. But, my intentions to help others are pure, so I’ve had to let go of expectations that people will be there for me and in turn, appreciate those who are. I have also learned that I must pour into myself before I can pour into others. So, while I continue to make a point to help someone whenever they need me, I also make a point to engage in at least one self-care activity every day, and most importantly, rest when I need to rest, so I can be my best!