Entertainment heavies were out in force on Friday afternoon for the third annual Culture Creators Awards held at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. Recognizing innovation and leadership of minorities in industries including film, television, music and fashion, the event honored Epic Records president Sylvia Rhone with the Icon Award, ESPN’s Jemele Hill with the Defiance Award and Kenya Barris, writer, producer and creator of “Black-ish,” among many others.
Emceed by “Extra” hosts A.J. Calloway and Tanika Ray, the gala doubled as a call to action to the black entertainment community, particularly as it relates to culture vultures looking to seize on opportunities to make a quick buck. The warning was a central theme of Rhone’s acceptance speech. “Our one common goal is to protect the culture,” the label veteran declared. “And now more than ever, since our culture has gotten so popular and those people who have never been a part of the culture but see that they can make a lot of money [on it], we have to watch very closely. There’s a feeding frenzy and [these] people are the buyers not the believers.”
Rhone, who has worked in the music industry for over four decades and was the first woman of color to head a major label, added that it’s also important to monitor the quality of urban and hip-hop entertainment offerings “so it continues to rise and have significant impact.” Said the Icon recipient from the stage: “If we’re not careful to curate really closely, it will start to dilute the importance of what we built since the 80s, and what they just discovered in 2018. … I started in hip-hop in the early and mid 80s — it was from my heart and the people working around you, and now it’s an analytical decision. This is an important turning point.”
DJ Khaled, who is on the Epic Records roster and currently stars in The Fox show “The Four,” introduced Rhone as “a powerful queen” and an “inspiration.” Added Khaled: “She’s not only a boss, a mogul, an icon and a friend, she’s someone that really cares about the music business and culture and where it’s going. And where it started. … She protects us.”
Women made up half of the honorees at the event, with Jemele Hill, who was introduced as “the voice that we all have inside of us but aren’t always brave enough to use it,” eliciting cheers for her resilience in the wake of controversial comments she made on social media, which resulted in a suspension from the network. “Of all the controversy I’ve been through, there’s a reason why, for me, I was always at peace with it,” she said with a pause. “Because of people like you in this room. A lot of support from people who looked like me. And without that support, I wouldn’t have been able to make it though such a challenging and difficult time.”
Other honorees from TV and music included Barris, Live Nation Urban president Shawn Gee, RCA Records EVP and Keep Cool co-founder Tunji Balogun and Roc Nation EVP of media and strategic development Jana Fleishman (pictured below), who credited her boss of more than 15 years, Jay-Z (“a very wise man”), for some sage words he offered to her after a meeting one day. Said Jay, per Fleishman: “We are not in this to sell records; our responsibility is to move the culture forward. If we can introduce one person to one new idea, we’ve won.”
Also spotted in the 500-capacity ballroom: Roc Nation Chief Operating Officer Desiree Perez, Migos manager and Quality Control co-founder Coach K, Khalid manager Courtney Stewart, Will.I.Am (on hand to introduce Fatima Robinson) and director John Singleton. The June 22 event, sponsored by Rémy Martin, The Mane Choice, Morgan Stanley and Beats by Dre, also served as a well-timed kick-off to BET Awards weekend.
See the full list of Culture Creator Awards recipients below.
President, Epic Records
The Defiance Award
Chief Correspondent & Sr. Columnist, The Undefeated ESPN
Lauren Wesley Wilson
President ColorComm, Inc.
Choreographer & Director
Owner & Fashion Designer, STINSON HAUS
Film & Television
Charles D. King
Founder & CEO, MACRO
Writer & Producer, Creator of “Black-ish”
General Partner, MVP All-Star Fund
President, Live Nation Urban
Co-Founder, Keep Cool/EVP, A&R RCA Records
EVP Media & Strategic Development, Roc Nation
Partner & Head of Sports Talent Marketing, WME
CEO & Co-Founder, LISNR