NAME: Michele Thornton Ghee
TITLE: Executive VP, Business Development
COMPANY: Endeavor Global Marketing
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Helped rebrand Centric TV into BET Her and led its sales team; authored two self-help books with a third on the way.
QUOTABLE: “I was able to write a book in six months because I took time back from people AND things that hadn’t earned it. It’s my ever-evolving elimination list! Everyone should have one.”
Michele Thornton Ghee knows a thing or two about setting goals and achieving them.
She wrote the book on it. Two books, in fact: Stratechic (combining “strategic” and “chick”) and Stratechic 2.0, filled with tactical and strategic advice for women looking to get ahead.
In 2000, she moved cross country to New York from Oakland, Calif., to get her first job in television. With help from the Walter Kaitz Foundation, she landed a sales job at The Weather Channel. She progressed to positions at A&E, CNN and BET, culminating in a senior vice president role leading the sales team at BET Her (the former Centric TV), which she helped reposition as a full-time network devoted to black women.
As she wrote in Stratechic 2.0: “There are very few women who lead sales organizations and even fewer Black women. I can wholeheartedly say I love my job and my company!”
This month, she has embarked on a new professional adventure, as executive VP, business development with Endeavor Global Marketing, part of the Endeavor network which includes talent agency WME, fashion and sports pioneer IMG and UFC, among others.
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That’s on top of her author status and the success she’s had as a motivational speaker, and the advocacy work she does for organizations such as ADCOLOR, championing diversity in creative industries, and SHE Wins, providing college and career readiness support for school girls in Newark, N.J.
Those are a lot of goals set and achieved for someone who was 30 years old before she graduated college, while also working part-time. That same college, Golden Gate University, presented her an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2017.
She’s finishing a third book, she said, called Success on Your Own Terms.
Dorinda Walker, vice president of cultural insights for Prudential Brand Marketing and Advertising, met Ghee around 2013 when BET engaged Prudential for some advertising buys. “She’s one of those people, when you meet her once you will never forget her,” Walker said. They worked closely together and became friends.
Walker invited Ghee to speak at Prudential-sponsored events and panel sessions and saw how she could inspire men and women to take action after hearing her message of empowerment. Ghee became one of the most requested speakers at Prudential events, she said.
After getting to know Ghee, “I really admired her both as a mentor and a friend,” Walker continued. “And a trailblazer. She inspires not only myself but the other women in her circle to be their best, to lead change and to take strategic risks. Those are the things I love about her.”
Walker also said Prudential’s work with BET Her helped the company engage in a relevant way with black consumers, who have a higher propensity to buy life insurance than any other ethnic segment. “We had a tremendous increase in new business,” Walker said.
The past several years have seen a growing number of TV outlets target African-American women viewers, and for good reason, according to Ghee. Still, she doesn’t think black women are fully appreciated as an economic force.
“She’s the fastest-growing entrepreneurial group in the world,” Ghee said. “She watches more television than anybody: 56 hours a week. She has $260 billion in spending power. But more than that, if you think about her, she is the person that has started more movements in the last 20 years than anyone. She can rally her community. If she likes a product or service, she’s going to tell her entire girlfriend community.
“I mean, she really is a force to be reckoned with,” Ghee continued. “And that is one of the reasons why I thought it was a good business decision to transition Centric into BET Her. I knew that advertisers needed to reach her in a really smart, respectful way.”
Another friend, Yvonne McNair, a public-relations consultant who works with Ghee, said something that impresses her most is Ghee’s dedication to her family, meaning husband Tony, daughter Taylor (13) and son Jordan (12).
Focused on Family
“I have seen Michele get on a flight across the country for business and jump back on a flight immediately after her meeting to make sure she is present for her family,” McNair said. “Michele has received numerous accolades, but by far her love of family is her most impressive attribute.”
Ghee often cites the influence of her parents and the promise she made to her father on his deathbed, that “he was my hero and I would make him proud of me.”
“My dad never really was a rich man but he was a success because he set a goal for himself to reach back to help his community,” Ghee said. “He wanted to be an entrepreneur. He did that. And so success a lot of times is not tied to power or money or title, but you fulfilling a goal that you set for yourself and living that. He did that, and I was able to see that.
“I made a promise to him, and I believe that that is one of the driving forces in my life today,” she said.
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