Sonja's Blog: The Benefits & Struggles Of Being An Executive Momager

I have been in the entertainment business for two decades and in recent years, I’ve seen that more people are getting involved as an artist manager with their family members. It’s always great to have a trustworthy member of your family involved in your career. However, the key is ensuring that they have a full understanding of how to conduct business and that they have the fundamental management skills and principles to conduct business. Many artists today are represented by their crew (i.e. homies, cousins, extended family who are really just a part of their entourage) and are not prepared to take on the task that being a manager will demand.

You must be aware that most people in the entertainment business won't respect a family manager in the beginning; you’re just not received well and there is often a very long road to convincing those in the business that you know what you’re doing and that you can truly enhance the career of your family member. One of the ground rules that must be established in the parent-manager relationship, is that you must never barter, leverage or bargain your artist…I never played that game. I wouldn’t sell my artist or my family member out for the benefit of money or to establish a relationship with other people.

As a parent-manager, you have the personal insight into what your artist is truly about. In terms of my children, I know who they are personally; I know what they like and dislike and have always prided myself in being a manager that is adept at building careers. I’m not in it for the short term or a quick lucrative payday. In fact, in my forthcoming book, I cover the various types of business executives that I’ve dealt with over my many years as an executive and how to deal with their personality models…this will include the managers.

Personally, I have prided myself on being what I call an “Artist Manager”; this means that my artist comes first. It’s my job as their manager to seek and secure those things that they ask for and at the same time provide information and guidance in areas that will enhance their career. As an executive, I have to run a business and as a mother, I have to run a household…not easy, but you get the hang of it and find that the roles aren’t so different from each other. They all require great management skills!



"As a parent-manager, you have the personal insight into what your artist is truly about."


On the flip side, being the mother and the manager comes with a very different set of struggles and obstacles than those that a traditional manager would have to face. In addition, I also had to learn to balance the art of being a female in a male dominated industry. It required me to toughen up and as they say, get thick skin…I also had to learn to take risks and drive my way through the unfamiliar areas to gain respect. As an entrepreneur and executive, I had to learn to play the game of business in the same way that everyone else in the business does, but as a mother, I refused to play by the conventional management rules when representing my children. 

One of the hardest things for me early on was learning to decipher when I was the mom and when I was the manager. When you have children that are under 18, you have the privilege of handling many of their career decisions along with their involvement, but at such a young age, they lack the understanding of the intricacies of doing business. So, when you go to them and ask them if they’d like to play a role or be a part of a project, they embrace the opportunities but they don’t understand all of the underlying issues that go into making that project come to fruition and making the best deal for them. 

Although "Mama Said" – “Never do business with family”…because it’s almost impossible to separate personal from business when it involves family, it has worked successfully for me. You will find, before you make decisions, you have to put all of your options on the table and look toward the future. The consequence of making the wrong decision, especially as a parent, can be particularly brutal when dealing with family. In those situations your family client may place more blame and scrutiny on you for making a wrong decision, than a client would in a non-parental business relationship. 

In spite of the tumultuous road, personally it has been rewarding for me to see Brandy and Ray J blossom and grow as business people and artists. It’s also been a new learning experience, as I have to watch as they may make their own mistakes, now that they are making their own decisions...good or bad, they must deal with it. The same goes for me now that I have my own brand. I too am learning a new side to management, as I now not only manage, but at times I have to be managed. We all have our individual opportunities but I support my family as a manager and as a mother; realizing that with growth comes struggle, but in the end the decisions we make will help us all become sharper business people for the future. 

Mama Said!

Read more about Sonja on her new website or follow her on Twitter.

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Kentucky Catholic School Faces Backlash After Students Berate Indigenous Peoples March Protesters

Representatives from Kentucky's Covington Catholic High School have confirmed plans to look into their student body after several of their students appeared in a viral video harassing and mocking protesters at an Indigenous Peoples March.

The viral video above spread around the web Saturday (Jan. 19) a day after the protest that took place in Washington, D.C. Teens in the video were rocking "Make America Great Again" to support President Donald Trump and the anti-abortion March for Life demonstration that was also taking place on Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports  Laura Keener, the communications director with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, released a statement about the video: "We are just now learning about this incident and regret it took place. We are looking into it."

In the video below, Indigenous elder Nathan Phillips of the Omaha tribe was reportedly performing a song meant to calm down the crowd when the large group of teens surrounded him, with one eye to eye as he and another elder chanted.

In tears, Phillips recalled the incident, calling for an apology and that the teens would "put that energy into making this country really great." The teens also got their messages mixed up when they also screamed "build that wall" toward him.

"I heard them saying 'build the wall, build that wall,'" he said.  "This is indigenous land. We’re not supposed to have walls here. Before anyone came here there were no walls, we never even had prisons. We always took care of our elders, we took care of our children. We taught them right from wrong."


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#ipmdc #ipmdc19 #indigenousunited #indigenouspeoplesmarch #indigenouspeoplesmarch2019

A post shared by KC🇬🇺🌴🌴 (@ka_ya11) on Jan 18, 2019 at 4:42pm PST

Speaking to The Enquirer Vincent Schilling shared how Phillips has been attacked in the past for standing up for indigenous peoples. Schilling, who is a member of the Mohawk tribe, said Phillips was pelted with trash just a few years ago by Eastern Michigan University students who hosted a Native American-themed party.

"As a Native American journalist, I find this to be one of the most egregious displays of naïve – I can’t even say naïve. It’s racism. It’s blatant racism," Schilling said.

"The guy has just been through a lot. To see Mr. Phillips treated this way is an incalculable amount of disrespect, and it's absolutely unacceptable in Native culture. As a Native man, I’ve got it countless times myself I’ve been mocked, I’ve been teased, my culture has been ridiculed. This is just another brick in the wall. I wanted so bad to walk up to those kids and say, 'You know this is a Vietnam veteran, right?'"

Director Ava DuVernay slammed the teens for their behavior as well as a number of indigenous social justice figures.

Thank you to @VinceSchilling of @IndianCountry and many others who identified the proud Native man who is being harassed. He is Mr. Nathan Phillips. I’m reposting this video from “ka_ya11” on IG. This man’s words pierce my heart. The grace. The wisdom. The hope.

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 19, 2019

Thank you for the kind shout-out @Ava

Nathan Phillips and I have shared in a sacred pipe ceremony to honor Native American veterans.

He is a Vietnam veteran, such behavior is terrible.

Again, thank you for your support.

— Vincent Schilling (@VinceSchilling) January 19, 2019

The teens in the video haven't been identified.

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Carlos Osorio/AP

Man Exonerated After Serving 45 Years Forced To Sell Prison Artwork For Money

A Detroit man who served 45 years behind bars for a crime that he didn’t commit, is forced to sell his personal collection of artwork that he made in prison. Richard Phillips, 72, doesn’t have steady income at the moment, and his lawyer is currently battling the state of Michigan to get him compensated for the wrongful conviction that stole his freedom.

"I don't have an income right now," said Phillips while showing off his paintings to Fox 2 Detroit. "This is my income."

In the early 1970s, Phillips was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Gregory Harris. He was sentenced to life in prison but always maintained his innocence. “I would rather died in prison than admit to a crime I didn’t do,” Philips said.

Phillips was convicted through an eyewitness account implicating him and a second man, Richard Palombo. In 2010, Palombo admitted that Phillips had no involvement in the murder and that he didn’t even know him. A new investigation was launched in 2014, nearly 20 years later Phillips appealed his murder conviction.

Last March, Wayne County Prosecutors Kym Worthy dropped all charges against Phillips, officially freeing him from prison. “There’s nothing that I can say to bring back 40 years of his life. The system failed him. There’s no question about it,” Worthy said at the time. “This is a true exoneration. Justice is indeed being done today, but there’s nothing that we can do ... to bring back those years of his life.”

Art played a big part in helping maintain his sanity through the sentence. Though he remained optimistic, Phillips admitted that he never truly believed he would be released. To pass the time, he began painting. He pulled inspiration from everywhere: his favorite artists, photos and even tapped into some of the loneliness that he felt in prison. "It was created in a harsh environment. But it goes to show you that beauty can come from something ugly."

Last year, Detroit's Demond Ricks was awarded $1 million for spending 25 years in prison on a wrongful conviction. As it stands, Phillips is the longest-serving wrongfully convicted former prisoner in U.S. history.

Phillips' artwork will be on display at Michigan's Ferndale's Level One gallery beginning Jan. 18.

See more on his artwork in the video below.

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Gladys Knight Defends Decision To Perform National Anthem At Super Bowl Amid Criticism

Glad Knight says she wants to “give the National Anthem back its voice.” The music legend released a new statement defending her decision to sing  the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in Atlanta, next month, amid criticism from fans.

Several artists turned down offers to perform at the Super Bowl in protest of the league’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick. Knight clarified that her choice to sing has nothing to do with Kaepernick, and she doesn't exactly agree with the anthem being "dragged into the debate."

"I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight said in a statement to Variety. “It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.”

The 74-year-old singer also noted that she has been on the forefront of social justice issues for much of her career. "I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words,” Knight said. “The way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good.

"No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it,” she continued. “I pray that this National Anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us."

Knight isn’t alone in catching heat for joining the Super Bowl lineup. Travis Scott and Big Boi, both of whom will perform with Maroon 5 at halftime, received backlash as well.

Earlier in the week, reports surfaced claiming Scott had a meeting with Kaepernick that ended with “mutual respect” and “understanding.” Kaepernick’s girlfriend and Hot 97 DJ, Nessa Diab, denied the report tweeting, “There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against @Kaepernick7 PERIOD. #stoplying.”

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