Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hip-Hop Business Maven Mona Scott-Young Talks Running the Show!

The Back Enterprise penned a very informative and motivating piece on Mona Scott-Young the former Violator Management President and co-founder as well as the producer of the recent VH1 reality show hit Love & Hip-Hop. Read the interview below to be brought up to speed on what Mona is doing now and link here to go to the original piece.

If you've heard of Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Maxwell or 50 Cent, then you've likely heard of Mona Scott-Young (or are at least familiar with her stellar career management skills). The former president and co-founder of Violator Management spent nearly two decades in partnership with longtime co-founder, Chris Lighty, but set sail on her own, establishing Monami Entertainment LLC in 2008. "I'd been with Violator for a very long time taking the company, I think, to great heights, but found that there were so many other areas I wanted to explore and dive into," says Scott-Young. Starting a boutique entertainment company that spans beyond artist management to television and film production was just the beginning. Her hard work and start-up investment of just less than $1 million is paying off with Monami Entertainment producing VH1's latest reality TV hit Love & Hip Hop, a show shadowing the lives of Chrissy Lampkin, fiancĂ©e of rapper Jim Jones; former G-Unit rapper Olivia; ex-wife of Swizz Beats, Mashonda; rapper Fabolous' girlfriend, Emily Bustamante, and up-and-coming recording artist, Somaya Reece.

BlackEnterprise.com spoke with the mother of two about how women should join forces to make it in a male-dominated entertainment business, the challenges of transitioning from a long-term business partnership to a solo venture and how Love & Hip Hop ultimately fits into her brand.

BlackEnterprise.com: Hip-hop is a very male-dominated genre and business, as can be said about the music business as a whole. How tough is it for women to make a name for themselves in this industry?
It's also getting a lot tougher to make a dent.  There are so many artists popping up, so many different areas that people are trying to break through.  There are a lot of men who are running those areas, so it's really hard for women to not only get into those areas, have an opportunity to do their thing and excel.  I'd like to see an opportunity created where women network in a way that creates more opportunities for them to give other women a lead in.

What are some networking tips that would lead to greater opportunities and greater connections for women?
It's important that we stop looking at each other as competitors and see each other as allies and resources.You see males being a lot more successful at that because they have a tendency to recognize how being in business with someone can help further their agenda as opposed to hoarding that business and not allowing someone else an opportunity to come in and actually help them broaden that opportunity or that situation.  What we need to do is kind of wrap our heads around the concept: the more we surround ourselves with other strong hard-working dynamic women, the bigger and better we make the opportunities that we're involved in.  There's enough for everyone to go around, as long as we think of it more as expanding our resources.

You co-founded Violator Management, but later decided to part ways with your longtime business partner, Chris Lighty. What prompted you two to separate?
I ran [Violator] for 18 years and we did a lot of great work in the urban music space, having expanded in some other areas and dabbled in television, but there were a lot of other things that I wanted to explore. The decision was more one of growth and one of having spent a lot of time in one genre of music and in one space feeling that I wanted to spread my wings a bit and explore other opportunities for business growth but also for self-growth.

Coming from a longtime partnership,such as the one you had at Violator, what was your strategy in starting something on your own?
I just really wanted an opportunity to dig deeper into my own skill set and to explore what my personal limitations were, the things I'd always wanted to do. I set about really going after things that I had been interested in for a very long time, but really not having a chance to explore fully like television [and] production.

What were some of the challenges you faced initially with starting Monami Entertainment?  How did you overcome those challenges?
One of the biggest challenges was just stepping out on faith and believing in myself and knowing I could do this all over again. And not having the safety net of an established business to rely on, but, with that said, being able to rely on the relationships built over the years, the skills [and] having the clients that were willing to go along for the ride and take that leap of faith.


How did you come up with Love & Hip Hop?
Love & Hip Hop actually started out as a show about one of our clients, Jim Jones.  The original idea was to do a show following Jim, the rapper, and when we got around to shooting the pilot, Jim actually made what we call 'the anti-reality show.'  He was in a space where he didn't know if he wanted to be followed around by cameras and as much as VH1 loved that concept their audience had changed tremendously in the time that it took to get the pilot shot. It had become more female-focused.  We also found that Jim's girlfriend and his mother were very, very strong characters, so Jim Ackerman, the executive over at VH1, was great about really being committed to the show and to the concept and wanting to do something with Jim and his family.  We decided we were going to find some other dynamic women to surround them with in the cast and would build out an ensemble series.  That's how that came about.

What is your take on VH1 focusing a large portion of its shows on African American females with programming such as Basketball Wives and Football Wives?
You've got the fact that here is the opportunity to give some presence and a platform to the African American female experience, but I also think that how that experience is portrayed is something we have to be mindful of. The women I chose were all very good about opening up their lives and letting us see them at their rawest, most honest without putting on heirs or facades for the cameras.  That's not an easy thing to do.  Sometimes you don't have an opportunity to capture that when you're going after the kinds of things that make these reality shows work.

When talking about the first ladies of Love & Hip Hop, some viewers highlight how several of these women seem solely dependent on men. As a businesswoman, how does the show fit into your larger brand?
There's a very specific alignment to the show, the cast, and the women on the show and my own trajectory in this space. I came into this thing through hip-hop, and I navigated the world to kind of pursue the things that I was interested in and passionate about. It did provide opportunities for me. I don't know if I would be in entertainment at all were it not for hip-hop and my entry through that world.  As I got to know these women, I saw there was so much more to them then the men they dated.  They were their support systems. They were their backbone. They were in the trenches with them when they had nothing and they made a lot of sacrifices, as well that enabled their men to succeed and to get to where they were.

What can people expect from Monami in the future?
I have a couple of other shows in various stages of development. In film production and development, I have two projects I'm currently developing now.

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