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The Vanity Group Launches 'Grit Before The Gram' to Celebrate Black Women Behind the Music

Karleen Roy
Mark Clennon

Karleen Roy

Inaugural Grammy Week event will honor publicity veteran Yvette Noel-Schure and songwriter Nija Charles.

When Grammy Week gets underway next week, it will mark the christening of a new annual event dedicated to honoring black women across the industry.

Grit Before The Gram: The Soundtrack of Our Solidarity (Jan. 23) will celebrate two inspirational women behind the scenes. Schure Media Group founder and longtime Beyoncé publicist Yvette Noel-Schure will be presented with The Bridge Award; seven-time Grammy-nominated songwriter/producer Nija Charles will receive The Spotlight Award.

Also in attendance will be a cross-section of some of the industry’s top black female executives.

Dubbed "The Alliance," the group includes Sylvia Rhone (chairman/CEO, Epic Records), Ethiopia Habtemariam (president, Motown Records), Laurieann Gibson (choreographer & creative director), Shari Bryant (co-president, Roc Nation), Cara Donatto (evp, head of media strategy & communications, Interscope Geffen A&M Records), Juliette Jones (evp of urban promotion, Atlantic Records), Claudine Joseph (COO, LL Cool J Inc.), Afrika Lander (marketing executive) and Simone Mitchell (artist manager, Quality Control Music).

Grit Before The Gram was created by Karleen Roy, founder/CEO of New York-based event production agency The Vanity Group. Presenting sponsors for the inaugural Grammy Week event include hair care brand Emerge, Google Pixel and H&M.

Below, Roy outlines why she created Grit Before The Gram and what she wants the event to accomplish.

What inspired the concept of the event and its intriguing title?

In the course of conversations with female executives such as Island Records exec. VP/GM LaTrice Burnette and Ethiopia at Motown, we realized there weren’t any events for black women, by black women that recognize our efforts behind the scenes within the music community; one event that connects the different generations of black women in the business. That there was absolutely no elevated platform or experience that allows us the opportunity to corral, support and highlight each other under the same roof. That’s when I had my “aha moment.” Instead of talking about it, I wanted to be about it. If I can easily produce events for some of the biggest artists and brands in the business, I should be able to bring that same energy and create something special for my community of black women. And seven months later, here we are.

As for the name Grit Before The Gram, I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want the title to encompass anything close to   _____ (blank) Women In Music, the word music, the word in or finally, the word women. I had to come up with something more fresh and original. Out of all the titles on the short list I brainstormed, I kept going back to Grit Before The Gram. I wanted the women in the room to be a multigenerational mix of accomplished veterans, career executives who continue to reach as they climb and the young industry starlets. I thought the word Grit was a nod to women who were moving and shaking long before social media was such a thing of notoriety in our business. The word Gram was to connect with the newer women in the game who entered the industry during the peak of social media.

What makes this event different from other annual platforms honoring women in music?

Again, this event is for us, by us. Second, I’ve seen many events honoring women in music; I mean this overarching theme is nothing new. However, what I’ve never seen is a high production-level event for the women that are actually grinding every day. All the big, fancy events celebrating women in music are about celebrity, not the workers. The guests for this event were thoroughly researched and handpicked by a committee over the course of three months. What was important to us was curating a guest list that was based on merit and contribution within the music business -- not a guest list driven by celebrity nor high-follower counts.

What are your goals for this moving forward?

My dream is to continue the conversation of celebrating and connecting the women who are driving the machines throughout the year as this will eventually become a brand extension of The Vanity Group with its own legs. This concept is powerful enough to live well beyond one night. I have a few ideas up my sleeve that we’re already cooking up for the year ahead.

My ultimate goal is to make Grit Before The Gram an annual destination for the power players and talented black women in the industry during Grammy Weekend. This event will be our homecoming. Every day, all day, we pour so much into the artists we serve. It would be nice if for one night, the excitement and frenzy was over us. Everyone needs to feel celebrated—even those of us working in the trenches.


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