An Interview with  Jelanii Reed: Chief Operating Officer at Authentique Agency


By Staff

How do you feel that Black women are viewed in America?

Black women can save the world, but we never receive any credit. We are always at the forefront of causes that matter but when it’s time to receive credit, we reap the benefits last. Think about our fashion and beauty trends. When we do it, it’s ghetto and unlikeable until mainstream catches on, then it’s fashion.

Personally, how would you define a Black woman?

We are intuitive, nurturing, selfless, grounded, and visionaries.

Do you think being a Black woman shaped your experience in marketing?

Absolutely. I’m a woman and I’m Black. Both groups experience hardships in the workplace so when those groups collide, you have two experiences in a field where there aren’t many of us in a position to impact change. Luckily, my mother taught me perseverance at a young age, and I applied that determination throughout my career.

What are some obstacles and triumphs you’ve faced as a Black woman in marketing?

As a Black woman, there are many obstacles I have faced in my career especially since I’ve moved up fast. I have had both my intellect questioned, and trajectory doubted to name a few. But there have also been triumphs. In my career I have had the opportunity to shine a light on multicultural audiences to brands that have not focused on a diverse consumer before. It has been extremely rewarding being able to work with brands who are reaching out to multicultural audiences for their first time, increasing their bottom line. 

What are some of the changes you want to see with Black women in marketing?

I believe to see change it’s a two-way street between both brands and us. I would like to see more of us outside of PR on the brand side helping to tell the story. There is more opportunity for brands to hire Black women in marketing, finance, tech, human resources, etc. by combining their focus on race and gender and the unique barriers they face providing a different perspective. Black women need to start showing up as their authentic selves, erasing the stereotypes we are often given. Just be yourself, be you!  

Who would you say is your role model is?

My mother, of course. Growing up I watched my mother work 3 jobs to provide me with whatever I needed, so I had 3 jobs at one point. My mother supported me in everything I chose to do and fostered my love for sports. There were never any seeds of doubt. She always saw more in me than I saw in myself, pushing me to be the best Jelanii she knew I could become. Most importantly, she’s a praying woman and we all need one in our life.

As a Black woman, the odds against you tend to be greater. What are some ways you show up daily with the same tenacity?

I refuse to let others think they have control over my destiny. Often people project their fears and doubt onto you, but I have a competitive spirit so my desire to succeed and prove others wrong is strong.

How do you know when it is time to make an employment move to progress your career?

You know the feeling! At a previous job I was sitting in a meeting and realized no one looked like me. There was always push back to change. I know when it’s time to progress my career when I start to feel stagnant, like I’m not being challenged. Listen to the lower voice in your head.

No one’s journey is identical, some find new passions that lead them into new ventures. How do you know when your passions lead you into the right territory?

Your passions drive your decisions. Between being an athlete and my love for sports, I majored in sports management. It was clear from early on that I would either work in sports or music. I always dreamed of breaking down barriers while uniting people in ways unthinkable. I wanted to be in the middle of fostering environments where people who normally may not speak on the street in passing would interact. Years later I am accomplishing that exact dream daily working with brands involved in sports, music, youth, food… the list goes on.

What advice would you give to young Black women looking hold C-Suite positions one day?

In 2006, I wrote “I want to be VP of Marketing one day”. From there I mapped out the steps it would take to get to that position. Throughout my career I asked questions, asked to be challenged, and shadowed the CMO. I have sat in every seat on my journey to where I am now to make sure that when I got here, I would be able to identify with those who are in different stages of their journey. From interns to account managers, I understand the daily struggles and triumphs. Lastly, be sure to network in all directions, not just up. You never know who your next job will come from.

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About Authentique Agency

The Authentique Agency is a collective of experts, with each staff member boasting a minimum of 10 years experience developing winning marketing strategies and activating for global brands and small to midsize businesses alike. When we recommend an approach, it is grounded not only in insights but also in specific expertise. When you choose Authentique, you can rest assured that your brand is in capable hands.