wnba-president-laurel-richie

She Got Game: Meet WNBA President, Laurel Richie

A one-on-one with WNBA President Laurel Richie for VIBE's "In A League Of Their Own" series for Women's History Month

Laurel Richie wrote the playbook on people skills. A Dartmouth College grad and over three decades worth of experience in business and marketing, Richie has been President of the Women’s National Basketball Association since April 2011. Acquiring her talents in corporate management and branding from training programs at advertising heavyweights Leo Burnett and Ogilvy & Mather respectively, the former Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. is a pro when it comes to campaigns for women.

"The second assignment I was given in my career at Ogilvy [was working on] Kimberly-Clark and Huggies," she recalls of the job that dictated her career path. "I didn’t have kids then and didn’t really have any siblings that I had helped raise so it was a brand new category for me. It set the tone for me really enjoying working on products that targeted women or women were the primary consumer."

Here, she reveals the female mentors and words of wisdom that keep her from dropping the ball.

My position in one sentence:
It’s really full responsibility for all the inner-workings and health of the [WNBA] as it continues to grow.

Moment I realized I wanted to go into marketing:
When I was graduating from college and interviewed with a whole host of companies (non-profits, investment banks, the U.S. government) and I met the marketing people, I liked them. Marketing sort of required them to be students of the world, have a good finger on the pulse of pop culture, understand people and what motivates them to make the decisions that they make, and it had a creative aspect to it. The people who came to interview from marketing companies seemed really cool, really fun and really interesting, and I thought when I’m 40, they were the people I most wanted to be like.

Origins of her success:
Luckily, I joined an agency called Leo Burnett. At the time, it had a terrific training program for entry-level college students and M.B.A.s who were getting into the business so I was fortunate to have their training program and then about a year and a half later, I moved to Ogilvy, which had a similar training program. So I feel like both my on-the-job training and extra effort is where I honed the specific skills of marketing.

Laurel Richie's desk-side wisdom

Pro tip in handling challenges:
I really like challenges. Marketing is problem solving so when you get a challenge, it’s really a problem to be solved so I try to break down anything that feels daunting to “How do I get started?” I’ve got a quote on my board that says “Begin anywhere” so that really just helps me deconstruct things so that they don’t become larger than life.

Favorite quotes from her female mentors:
So my first two mentors were my grandmothers and my mother. These were really strong women who, all of them at some point in time, worked outside of the home, particularly my grandmothers that was pretty advanced notion for women of their generation. I draw incredible strength from their moral fiber, sense of curiosity, sense of family and sort of the importance of respecting people who are similar and different from you. My mom was very big on “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” and my maternal grandmother voted with, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

The key to balancing life and work:
I try in every single situation to realize it is just a choice and that in any moment, make the choice that feels best for that moment and five minutes later, I have the opportunity to make another choice.

Advice to women in showing their male superiors they are capable:
The most important thing is to pick something you love to do because then it’s not work and everything becomes a sense of possibility and you’re just pursuing your genuine interest. I think of myself as a manager and a leader when the people who work on my team express genuine interest in anything and they volunteer to do things that may be a little outside of their specific requirement or they take a project and go the extra mile or when they take the project that seems like the worst project being offered and turn it into something cool. I’ve had a lot of people volunteer to take what seems to be the most boring, low-profile project and then turns it into this thing that becomes the gold standard and everybody else looks at her like, “Oh, I wanna do what she just did.”

Favorite book: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Bag necessities: A nail file, bright lipstick, Band-aids, cell phone and gum

The definition of a boss: Creating an environment where people do their best work

Photo Credit: Jason Chandler

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25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

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Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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