Though her hire marks a full-circle career moment, Michelle tells Billboard that, in some ways, it feels like she never left. “It's interesting because I think everything I've done outside of [Def Jam], somehow I've always kind of stayed in touch,” she says. “Like when I was at Roc [Nation] -- we obviously distribute through Def Jam, so I was always kind of…working on some[thing] or another with the staff.”
A press release notes that Michelle’s hire is part of an effort to “revamp and reenergize the Def Jam Recordings marketing department” – one aspect of an overall shakeup at the label following Tunji Balogun's installation as CEO last month.
"Our goal will be to reimagine our creative, experiential and digital marketing initiatives to create more bespoke plans for our artists and meet fans where they live," Michelle adds. "That reimagining will apply to our strategies, our systems and ultimately our ability to execute. Harnessing and sharing the talents, energies and narratives of our emerging artists – the amazingly talented and unique 070 Shake and Kaash Paige come to mind – continues to be among our top priorities at the label."
Michelle scored her new Def Jam role following a year-long marketing consultancy with Def Jam/RBMG artist Justin Bieber. During that time, the singer released his Billboard 200 No. 1 album Justice and a string of hit singles, including “Peaches” feat. Daniel Caesar and Giveon, “Holy” feat. Chance the Rapper, “Lonely” with Benny Blanco and "Stay" with The Kid LAROI, which has spent five non-consecutive weeks atop the Hot 100.
After working as a college intern in video production at the former Island Def Jam Music Group (IDJ), Michelle was hired in a marketing role at Def Jam in 2005 and ultimately rose to become director of international marketing. Her work with Rihanna at the label eventually led her to Roc Nation in 2012, where she served as senior vp, global marketing. In that role, she drove projects for Jay-Z and other artists and helped relaunch the Tidal streaming service.