Educated & Fierce! Nubian Queen & A-List Publicist, Miriam Graham Bringing Back Class & Integrity!
When God created Miriam, He broke the mold. In today's entertainment business, it's rare to find people of great integrity, honesty, great character, and kindness. You may find one or the other but maybe not all in one person. This is not the case with Miriam, she has it all wrapped up in one beautiful package. To meet her is to be touched by an angel. She's constantly looking for ways to help someone other than herself and that’s what makes her so unique and special.
The bible says in Luke 6:38, Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Because Miriam selflessly practices this biblical principle, I have personally witnessed God's blessings being dispersed all over her life. As the Public Relation for Heal the Hood Foundation of Memphis, Miriam has been the celebrity guest host for Michael Jai White, Vivia A. Fox, Robert Townsend, Kennen Ivory Waynes, Shabadoo, Taimak Rotimi, Jacob Latimore, Lil P-Nut, Dewayne Woods, OMG Girlz, Tiny, Tank, Ginuwine, Christopher Williams, Sammie and Trevor Jackson. Not only does she accredit God for all the blessings that have happened in her life, but she also thanks her partner Joe Mason at Never Stop Entertainment for giving her an opportunity to utilize her God given gifts within the lives of others. I had the opportunity to catch up with this amazing woman and this is what she shared about her journey. Good morning Nubian Queen, how are you? Great, how about you? I am wonderful! Thank you! You know Miriam, I think you're a phenomenal woman! Thank you. You’re so welcome. Tell me, where are you from? I’m originally from Mississippi, but I was raised in California. Even though my dad was in the military, we didn't travel much. Most of our traveling was throughout San Diego. When I was in high school, we journeyed to Corpus Christi, TX, then back to California. Currently, I live in Memphis, TN. What was your childhood dream as far as career goals? In our family, we never talked about that. As children, we had no admiration for anything. I ran track in high school, and that was one of my favorite things. As a matter of fact, I became so good at it that I was awarded a college scholarship for track and field at the United States International University (USIU). Sadly, once my mom passed, I lost my desire to continue in my freshman/sophomore year. The death of my mother killed my tenacity. Still, I was without a dream. I’m so sorry to hear that. That must have been hard on you as a young woman. Losing a mother would make it hard for anyone to dream. What were you studying in college? Pre-Law. At that time, I wanted to be a lawyer. What type of lawyer did you want to be? Pre-law offers many opportunities to discover which law you want to study, but I did not have a specific field in mind. As a second career option, I considered becoming a social worker. During your freshman and sophomore years at college, you learn only the basics. That is the time to determine the direction in which you want to proceed. This was not the case for me.
Yet through all of that, God still had a plan for your life. Let's Fast forward. How did you become involved in the entertainment industry? By accident. Because I enjoyed working with children as a volunteer, I began working with a number of talented youngsters with singing, dancing, and acting abilities. These children were members of Friends International. The children had a wide range of talents. On a separate occasion, I met a 13-year-old young lady named, Muranda Lofton through my husband. Even at 13, she was a phenomenal singer! My goal was to bring her to Friends International so she could participate with the other kids. I gather that this was your first experience connecting a talented individual with talented artists. How did you proceed from this point? I started my own television show entitled "Talent Conspiracy." We featured only solo artists and bands on the show. Muranda served as my principal host.
That’s amazing Miriam! Yes, thank you. What type of show was it? I had a talent-based TV show. Before the advent of reality shows like America's Got Talent and The Voice, there was Talent Conspiracy. Your show broke new ground! Historically, I consider you to be one of the pioneers when it comes to television talent shows. Exactly. This was made possible by public access television, and it did not cost a penny. We also had access to professional television cameras. And yes, it was groundbreaking because no one else had a televised talent show comparable to the one I had. I was the first and last black female to have a show of that nature in San Diego. Due to my show, these artists received exposure that they would not have received under other circumstances.
You had raw talent! Yes. Lip syncing is prohibited. To be a contestant on my television show, you had to possess a significant amount of raw talent. Also, representatives of record companies would be present given that I interviewed their artists. That’s great! I wish I knew you in my prime singing years. It would have been great to be on your show and experience greatness in the making. What happened from there? I landed a job working for “Deemo Records” as their event coordinator and artist manager. That is fantastic! God was working in unexpected ways in your life. Miriam, you have an incredibly kind heart. Generally, it is difficult to find people in this industry who are genuine, loving, kind, and integral. You embody all of those qualities. You have a heart for people, and you are passionate about music. Have you always enjoyed music growing up, and who are some of your favorite artists to listen to? I have always been a fan of music. Growing up, I listened to music from the 1980s. Because I was exposed to a wide range of musical genres, my taste in music was eclectic. While in college, I enjoyed listening to classical music. It was my father who introduced me to artists like Bobby Blue Bland because he was a blues lover. During that period, I also enjoyed Earth, Wind, and Fire, Cameo, and various other artists of the same caliber. During my time in Texas, there were no black radio stations, so I even listened to rock music. Since I grew up listening to punk rock and country music, I had no favorite genre. I simply enjoyed listening to music. That is fantastic! As a result of being exposed to various styles of music and cultures, you come to see the world as much larger than just your personal surroundings. Correct, being an entertainment music executive, you must be open to exploring all genres of music. In this industry, you have to be open to anything and everything.
So true! In 2020, you received a Life-Time Achievement Award from Rico Owens Memphis Hip-Hop Awards Show. Congratulations! To God be the glory for the things He has done! Yes! Thank you so much! That was a great moment for me. This is a well-deserved honor! What made you decide to become a publicist? While looking for a workplace where I can work with children, I found the Heal Hood Foundation of Memphis. Through this organization, I met the CEO, LaDell Beeman. What is the mission of that organization? Through the use of the arts and media science, their mission is to impact young people living in the mid-south. I was attracted to this organization because of what it stood for and the work they were doing in the lives of young people. Prior to joining the organization, I spent the first-year conversing with him and gaining knowledge about the organization. I served as the liaison for their celebrity guests during their visit to town. Along with my role as HTH's PR, I also teach artist development. Wow, what a remarkable achievement! You are a true inspiration to many people! In an era of social media, many of our young people do not understand the role of a publicist. What is your personal view of the role of a publicist? It is the role of the publicist to protect the artist's image, and the artist's image comprises the brand. In some cases, a publicist writes up the articles or write-ups for their clients' brands in various magazines, websites, and so forth. Other publicists arrange media interviews for their clients. Others focus on protecting the brand from adverse publicity. Among other things, brands are taught what to say and what not to say when they are being interviewed. They are responsible for maintaining your positive image at all times. Our role is to act as gatekeepers.
Thank goodness you are not like Olivia Pope from the television show Scandal. On that show, people were dropping like flies. As far as cancel culture is concerned, when she appeared, people were being whisked away. She made sure that her brands were protected at all costs. However, this is an entirely different level of protection. (laughter) Yes, she was! In today's world, many artists fail to understand the importance of retaining a publicist and find themselves saying things and ranting on social media that inevitably result in cancellation. How important is it for an artist to hire a publicist? Most artists do not realize the importance of having a publicist. Rather than having a publicist, they consider a manager to be more critical. When an artist employs only a manager and not a publicist, it is crucial that the manager is qualified to handle both responsibilities. In particular, they should possess excellent social media expertise that enables them to protect your brand. Here's how it works. You will find it difficult to obtain sponsors when you do something wrong, and your publicist has to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, many artists are unaware of this fact. Whenever labels look at independent artists, they take into account how many fans they have, the number of CDs and downloads you have sold. Everything is taken into consideration. Because they are investing their money in your brand, they assess whether they feel that you will be a risk. If you pose a financial risk, they will not invest in you. Due to the high number of deaths among rappers, many labels are now moving away from that. Labels tend to avoid risky brands that may result in financial losses. In the event that a brand represents a risk, the label may not be able to recoup the advertising and marketing costs incurred by that brand. Because of this, you must be very careful how you portray yourself publicly and on social media. The image you project matters greatly.
Definitely. Numerous artists in music, television, and film have passed away, and negative news about their personal lives has come to light after their passing. Since we were unaware of those things, we were shocked to discover them for the first time. We only observed their talents. In the end, their publicist did a wonderful job protecting their brand. That is the power of a skilled publicist. What does it feel like to know that God can use you to make a significant difference in someone's life? The individual may be virtually unknown, but God can use you to help them become known around the world. Do you feel a sense of hope or joy when this happens? As a Christian, I pray I will always be a light and be a source of assistance to others in need in whatever I do. Why? Because someone provided me with an opportunity. Not only can this industry be challenging, but it can also be dangerous. If you fail to act in your own best interest, weak-minded people can be easily influenced into compromising situations. I personally do not want anyone to be exposed to such a risk. In that regard, if I am able to help someone realize their dream or open doors of opportunity for them, I would be delighted to do so. In terms of monetary blessings, they will come regardless. Whatever God intends for me to receive, I receive. My primary objective is to obey God. As I mentioned earlier, I fell into this by accident. I did not set out to become a publicist, but I am grateful to the Lord for the opportunities that have come my way. My first reaction is “thank you Jesus!” I get so happy when I'm able to help people especially people like you. Though I have not met you face-to-face, you are my sister, and your husband is my brother from day one. It is a pleasure to converse with you, as well as with everyone else. It is my love for my brothers and sisters that keeps me happy. Furthermore, I do not feel as if anyone is taking advantage of me because nobody is. The only thing I wish to do is to be a blessing to others. Considering how much this industry revolves around what you can do for me and what I can receive in return, I intend to provide a unique perspective. Success is not something I desire from the industry. Rather, it is from God. He alone should receive the glory.
This is not intended as a sermon, but as a personal testimony. This is the desire of my heart since day one. All of this stuff along with the money will vanish. There is no way that I can march through the pearly gates and proclaim, "I have this or that.". Instead, God will ask, "How did you benefit my people?" That’s all there is to it!
That is beautiful Miriam. I just love your heart. I think you're just amazing and I also think that this industry needs more people who love God and who truly love people with sincere hearts. So, what is one of the proudest moments of your publicist career? Wow, the proudest moments. I would say that every moment is a proud moment. Whenever you can accomplish something, it's a proud moment. No one situation outweighs the other. For instance, I met Anthony Hamilton years ago in Las Vegas. Now years later, I'm setting up interviews for him. It blesses my heart when people come back to me and say, guess what! They scream with joy and excitement! That’s what makes me happy! Those are moments that I’m proud of. Another exciting thing that happened for me this year was that I was nominated for PR of the year. Wow!!! I'm so proud of you! So, well deserved! Thank you! It was a great moment for me because people were watching. Every moment and everything in life that I do comes from God. It’s a gift. I can't say one or the other, I’m just thankful. Yes! I'm thankful to be a vehicle for opportunity and for the artist to build their brands. I go out for independent people. I don’t go for the majors because the majors charge and many of them forget where they came from. I can’t tell you how many times I hear artists say, I want to go for the big brand, but they forget that there was a time when they didn’t want you. Generally, the less famous people have more followers, and their followers are organic. The thing I like about working with independent people is that they're hard workers.
I completely agree with you! Similarly, I think most independent artists work tirelessly to build their brands and market their products. If you don't have access to a glam squad and a Hollywood crew to assist you, you will have to learn how to handle yourself independently. You are an educated woman and a professional in your field. What is the importance of being educated in this industry? I always tell artists; that this business is 99% business and 1% talent. It's imperative that you gain a basic understanding of many areas of this industry, like copywriting and publishing. You need to be familiar with the different publishing companies such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. You need to know and understand how to read your contract. You should be clear about the percentages that are allocated to your manager and your road manager. If you fail to educate yourself, you will become another TLC or New Edition. Initially, they were financially unsound. Despite appearing to be happy on the outside, the reality was quite different.
Anytime a record label advances you money, you have to pay it back. Then, after receiving that advance, many artists do a $100,000 video shoot. In today's market, you don't need that anymore. Remember, anything you make, you will have to recoup that all back to the record label. Therefore, I'm a strong believer in educating yourself about the ends and the outs of this industry. One of the most important things is to find yourself a good mentor. Having a clique or entourage is not a good idea, and hiring your boys is not advisable. Keep in mind, everyone must be compensated, and you will be responsible for bearing the entire cost. So, learn this game. It’s a business. The rules of the game have changed. No longer do you have the option of going to the studio or just doing shows. Essentially, now it is a matter of how you are going to earn your money. The advice I would give to every artist is to learn how to compose, produce and play an instrument. Mastering these essential skills will enable you to obtain your own publishing. Awesome! What advice would you give someone who is up and coming pursuing a career as a publicist in the entertainment industry? Being a publicist is not an easy job, so the first thing that I would say is, to go to school. Also, it is imperative that you follow through on your commitment when you write a contract for 3 or 6 months for your client. Furthermore, you must have faith that your client will pay you. Publicists work hard on behalf of their clients.
As a publicist, you are responsible for a tremendous amount of work and are expected to be on top of everything at all times. I would not recommend anyone trying to break into the entertainment industry until you have worked in the field and understand how to network effectively. The key lies in building relationships and networking. Well said, Miriam, what is your dream? I can't say I want to succeed because I already feel like I'm successful. If I could say anything, I would say that my dream is to live right and do right by others. God has given me so much. I can't say I want the fancy car or the big house, because I have all of that. My dream is to be happy, love, and do right by people. I want to be Christlike. That is my dream.
Miriam, I’ve really enjoyed this interview with you. I have one final question. This is the most important question out of all the questions I've asked and that is, are grits better with sugar and butter, butter and salt, or cheese? (laughs) First of all, I do not put sugar on my grits! Secondly, I don’t put cheese on my grits. (laughs) It's called butter, salt, and pepper. If you have to put all that stuff on them, you don’t know how to cook grits! (laughs) And That's how you make grits the proper way! (laughs) Miriam, it’s been a complete pleasure interviewing you. You are a rock star! I pray that God will continue to bless you and the work of your hands be done according to God’s will for your life. You are a true blessing and know that you are loved by God. Love you, my sister. Love you too. Thank you.
Professional photo credits: Darren Catron and Terry Harris