Hailed as ‘thee mastermind,’ Tamara Taylor, is a Chicago native with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Miami. With a vivacious and curious personality, and never quite finding her niche, she explored various career opportunities in different cities upon graduating. One specifically was a position as a Sales, Profit, and Operations Management Coach in southern California. It was during this time that Tamara refined her skills by helping organizational units implement operationally efficient processes to reach their performance goals. Having a life changing experience that sparked her boycott of working in Corporate America, after a serendipitously meeting with a celebrated creative who could benefit from her unique skill set, it was inevitable for the young visionary to switch lanes to entrepreneurship. Tamara soon founded Mastermind MGMT, an elite management company with a diverse roster that represents some of the most sought after artists in the fashion and beauty industry. LA Weekly had a chance to catch up with ‘thee ingenious mastermind’ to discuss her 10 year milestone in the industry, her star-studded, “10 Years of Mastermind” event sponsored by Jade, Lue, and Highway Vodka; kicking off in LA on September 3rd, and her plausible 10 year legacy.
Congratulations on all of your success so far. You are truly a pioneer. All that you have accomplished thus far at such a young age is quite impressive. I know that you were laid off from your corporate job, only to build your own highly successful talent management company that works with some of the most elite creatives in the world after a fateful meeting with image architect, Law Roach, on a flight. Tell us your story from your perspective, how did you get your start?
The start of my career was definitely very quick, and unexpected. I picked up my life and moved across the country from Chicago to Orange County to pursue what I thought was going to be a long-term career, doing corporate work in the restaurant industry. And to my surprise one day, I was randomly laid off due to a “corporate reorganization” as they like to call it. So I was sent home on that weekend to soak in my feelings. While I was back home in Chicago, I was a little bit depressed, and I was like, ‘well I don’t need to go back to California, because I don’t have a job.’ I planned to just stay in Chicago for a little bit. And my mom was like, ‘You know the sooner you go back and end that part of your life, the sooner you can move on and heal.’ So I got on a plane and was in a very vulnerable state, not wanting to talk to anyone. I laid my eyes upon a very fashionable guy with his locs in a topknot with some designer shades on, looking out the window, and I said to myself, ‘this guy’s not going to talk to me at all,’ and I just sat down.
As luck would have it, and fate would have it and God’s timing, this man was the Law Roach, and just ended up talking. The conversation went from teaching him how to close out his iPhone apps, to a week later being on the floor in my Orange county apartment creating spreadsheets and setting up a QuickBooks account getting ready to present all the things that I was putting in place to be a business manager. My goal was just to help him figure out where his money was coming from and where his money was going. I went to this meeting all prepared, and within five minutes, he didn’t want to hear anything that I had to say! (Laughs) He was just like ‘what do you need from me? And how do we get started?’ So this man who didn’t know anything about me just trusted me from a feeling, and I took the faith that he had in me, and put faith in myself. I got to know as much as I could about this industry that I never saw myself being a part of, and just leaned on my skills and eventually I learned that there was a space needed for artists advocacy. It was from there that I began to build my management company, Mastermind MGMT. My company just soared from there, and every artist who signed on was just based on referrals, and word of mouth.
Now, I know that you fearlessly advocate for your entire roster to obtain access to top tier benefits. How did you fall into the moniker of the certified deal clothier?
Well, that moniker came from my artists. When they talk about me or refer other artists to me, they like to say, ‘Tam is gonna get you the money!’ (Laughs) And that is one of the things that I love most, because the artists who work with me have said that their peak earnings happened once I became a part of their creative lives. I am very strategic, and I research extensively to ensure that my artists are receiving the competitive rate that they deserve. I love to advocate for my artists and their value, and make sure that they’re getting rightfully paid.
Why is it so important for you to transform the entertainment industry by making room for underrepresented beauty and fashion professionals?
I know it’s important because we are the culture. The communities that are underrepresented are the ones who are contributing the most to the culture–from fashion, to entertainment to beauty. And it’s only right that they have a spot in those spaces, and it’s only right that they are fairly compensated for their contribution in those spaces. It’s only right that they are getting paid equally to their peers who are not from those communities who are working in those spaces. And so, for me, knowing that a lot of the artists who I work with have similar stories of being first generation entrepreneurs, so we don’t necessarily know what we don’t know, right? So we need someone who can step up to the plate and not be afraid to go to bat for us, but to also help us learn things that aren’t inherently taught. And so not only do we focus on making sure that our artists get what they rightfully deserve as far as rates and accommodations and all of that, but we also try to help them understand the business aspect, and we ultimately want them to be in a position where they are able to set up for retirement. So, this is not just about getting our artists set up financially for today, but Mastermind MGMT is about what their lives will look like when they’re ready to put down the brush. That’s what I always say to them, ‘what’s your life beyond the brush?’ Once you put down the hairbrush, the makeup brush, or the lint brush, will there be a check for you? And how can we get you there?’
Throughout your journey as an entrepreneur and CEO of mastermind management, what have been some of your greatest memories to date?
I think one would have to be fashion week of February 2014. There was a moment that I realized how valuable I was to creative artists…Just something as simple as not letting an email go unanswered in my inbox translated to a brand placement that helped kick off the new career of one of our stylists. So that was a very monumental moment for me, and that opportunity also led to the first time that one of our artists appeared on the E News’ Fashion Police. And I think that was the kickoff to a life changing moment in my life because I got referred to my second client in the midst of that.
I will say another moment that I’m proud of but that wasn’t the most glamorous, was helping an artist recoup multiple millions of dollars in unpaid earnings, and wardrobe reimbursement. And I want to preface that by saying that it was no fault of the client. It just goes back to what I was saying before about most artists being first generation entrepreneurs. Just because you’re an entrepreneur, people don’t teach you that you’re automatically a business owner, and so the structure was missing. So, we got in the trenches, hours and hours of phone calls, emails, excel sheets, wardrobe reports, and really figuring out what they were owed, how much they would need to be reimbursed, and ultimately Mastermind MGMT got them paid across the board.
I would say one of the most impactful memories was the partnership that Zerina Akers did with Nordstrom and Nike. Her role as the creative was to curate a collection and we’ve done partnerships like that before. But this one took it to the next level, as it was curating a collection by all black owned brands that would be available in the Nordstrom and Nike shop online and then retail stores across the US and Canada. Mastermind MGMT was responsible for hiring the entire production team, glam all of that, and Zerina styled the campaign. It was one of the most impactful partnerships ever. When we talk about inclusion and representation, you also have to have access. And so just witnessing Zerina knee deep in it helping these brands get retail ready, styling the campaign, sourcing the whole production team, and literally being the mind behind the masterpiece of this very beautiful moment for black culture, I think that was one of the most impactful partnerships that I ever negotiated and was honored to be a part of.
What’s an invaluable lesson that you’ve learned as a young entrepreneur, something that maybe you would impart to another young entrepreneur?
I would say one of the biggest lessons is to not be afraid to pivot. As I mentioned when I first started it was as a business manager, or what I thought was a business manager at the time; and just helping creative artists figure out the money that’s coming in and where it’s going. But as I began to work with my artists, I realized that the talent that they were working with had people to speak for them. And they were the ones having these conversations about rates and stuff that they didn’t want to have. So I just naturally put on that hat and started negotiating deals for them. That led to some of the people on the other side, the PR reps, labels, managers asking me if there were other artists that I represented and at the time. I didn’t because I was new to the industry, and I was focused on just crunching the numbers, not securing the artists’ first job. I would ask my artists if there were other artists that they like working with, and then I would ask them if I have permission to pitch them. So that pivoted to me having an agency for a little bit. This is all during the time social media took off, and now I’m wearing all these hats. Being an agent, negotiating deals, still crunching numbers. I just had to sit down and figure out what about this is the most fulfilling to me, and what has the most longevity, for the needs of artists.
And so with social media, making everybody accessible, ‘I’m like, they don’t necessarily need me to find the opportunities because they’re coming in left and right, but they need someone to advocate for them.’ I saw that the artist’s lacked the organizational structure, because let’s face it, most creative artists don’t want to get in the nitty gritty of the business. They need someone that they can trust. I ultimately decided to pivot to just management, focusing on the door negotiations and the logistics, and letting the rest of it go. I would say not being afraid to pivot, and also not being afraid to ask for what you’re worth, were some of the greatest lessons.
So, on September 3rd, you will celebrate ‘10 years of Mastermind’ with a private event in LA. I hear it’s going to be star-studded and lavish. Can you tell us a little bit more? Can you give us a little insight on what that’s gonna look like?
Well, I’m just gonna just tell you it’s gonna be a time! It’s very rare where we have a day off, and very rarely that we all are in the same place– Mastermind MGMT staff and our clients, with one another. A lot of tour artists are friends, and they like to have fun. So it’s definitely going to be a time. The event is really about honoring our incredible artists and the 10 years of excellence that we’ve all created together, whether they’re still on a roster or not, whether they are artists that we just broker deals for, that we don’t actually represent. It’s just, you know, honoring them and the growth that they have over the last 10 years. I’m honored that I’ve been able to be a part of the journey. I’m looking forward to the announcement of the launch of Mastermind Matters, which is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization that we’re launching to help support the artists as I mentioned before. The financial literacy piece and the business acumen, those are all things that a lot of us didn’t learn growing up as first-generation entrepreneurs. A lot of the artists didn’t pursue school beyond a high school diploma, and are pretty much left to pick up the pieces trying to figure out how to run their lives, how to run a business, and how to set themselves up for retirement, all of that. And so, the purpose of Mastermind Matters is to provide those resources. So, through our non-profit, we are giving them a glimpse of what it’s like to have a financial advisor so they can make the decision on their own if they need to move forward with an insurance broker, how to get their credit together, and how to buy a home as a 1099 contractor, or as a self-employed individual. So, we are going to provide these resources to them. As I always say, it’s not just about the creative work that they do, because that’s amazing, but what their life looks like beyond the brush.
It’s been 10 years already, where do you see yourself and Mastermind Management in the next 10 years?
In the next 10 years, I really see expansion of Mastermind Management into other countries, and we are already working in other countries, but to actually have entities set up, which we’re working on right now. So, stay tuned for that announcement. I also foresee a partnership with a talent management company or a label to essentially serve as their in-house glam coordinator. What we realize from the glam side is that we get the budget at the very bottom. So, after the talent or the label, the brands have negotiated from the very top everything that the talent needs is trickled down. And then sometimes what they thought that they needed for glam to accomplish, the vision is not always enough. That kind of causes a little tension. So being able to be a part of those conversations from the top is something that I look forward to and something that I think would be very beneficial for a partner of ours.
I will say, as for myself, I’d like to be retired. When I say retired, I mean as much as my artists will allow. (Laughs) But basically, in the next 10 years, I envision that Mastermind Management will be a fully operated show running on its own, and will be fully sustainable on its own without me having to be in the nitty gritty at all times. (Laughs).
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Photo Credit: Christopher Marrs
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