Jay-Z, Pharrell, Eminem, Kanye, Timbaland, Rick Rubin, Damon Dash. That’s the legendary team who created The Black Album, now considered one of the greatest albums in hip-hop history. But there’s one key player from that team you might not know: Shari Bryant, a behind-the-scenes Roc-A-Fella Records marketing wiz as crucial to making The Black Album successful as anyone else on that list. And, as a result, Bryant knows a thing or two or four million (the number of Black Album records her marketing genius helped sell) about creating teams and communities.
“Roc-A-fella was about building community because we were so small and we had to work together in such a tight way,” Bryant, who also goes by Shari B, says. “Community was instilled in me very early because it was already like family. We all protected and supported each other.”
Years after The Black Album came out, Jay-Z remained so impressed with Bryant that he recently appointed her co-president of Roc Nation, his full-service entertainment company, where she now oversees operations and marketing alongside Omar Grant. That makes Shari B. one of the most powerful women in the entertainment industry, something she proves daily, working with top artists like Meek Mill.
"A lot of young women asked how I got here. I realized that my story could help people, especially women of color, understand that there's no limit to what you can do."
You’d think that would be more than enough for most people to handle, but Bryant is a powerhouse who’s determined to share knowledge and inspire others far beyond the confines of her day job. To that end, she recently created Pinkest Luv, an online community aimed at giving back to women by sharing the lessons she’s learned as she climbed the ladder of success. Bryant’s Pinkest Luv project is wide-ranging, too, consisting of a blog, videos, an inspirational Instagram, and even a clothing line, all created to foster a community that empowers women.
“I created Pinkest Luv because growing up in the business, I went through a lot of emotions like I wasn't enough. I went through times where things just got hard and I had to take myself out of my comfort zone,” Bryant says. “A lot of young women asked how I got here. I realized that my story could help people, especially women of color, understand that there's no limit to what you can do.”
Despite those moments of self-doubt, Bryant actually began her career when she was still a teenager. As a 15-year-old growing up in East Harlem, Bryant serendipitously lived in the same building as Damon Dash, who co-founded Roc-A-fella Records with Jay-Z in 1995. Knowing that the teen loved music videos, Dash invited her to intern. But it wasn’t exactly glamorous work. “Getting coffee, making sure the refrigerator was stocked, ordering lunch,” are all things Bryant says she did as an intern. “But the opportunity was there to learn everything.”
And Bryant seized that opportunity with everything she had. “What excited me the most was seeing all of these people behind the scenes working on the things that I was mesmerized by,” Bryant says. “Because I saw women that looked like me progressing in that business, I felt like I could belong.” That’s a feeling she hopes to share with other young women through Pinkest Luv.
At Roc-A-fella, Bryant’s intelligence, talent, and work ethic stood out and important people took notice. When Roc-A-Fella dissolved, Bryant briefly joined Def Jam, where Jay-Z was President, before taking on a series of senior executive positions at other labels, including Warner Bros., Atlantic Records, MMG, and Alamo Records. Ultimately, when Jay asked Bryant to join his established Roc Nation team, she agreed, because she wanted to work with “whoever worked the hardest,” she says.
Predictably, Bryant brings that hard-working perspective to her Pinkest Luv project every day. On the Pinkest Luv 'Gram, she shares posts that say things like “Opportunities Do Not Schedule Appointments Be Prepared!,” creating a motivated, uplifting Oprah-meets-hip-hop community vibe. And Bryant writes most of those messages herself, based on how she’s feeling that day, which creates an authentic connection to her followers.
Posting inspirational messages is also one of Bryant’s techniques for giving her brand a distinctive voice. “Anytime you're feeling down or need an uplift, it’s a place, a community that you go to,” she says about Pinkest Luv. “That’s what I’m ultimately looking to do. This community will continue to build because it's based on being honest and authentic.”
Bryant’s future plans for broadening the Pinkest Luv community include a podcast that’s in the works and possible film and TV opportunities too. Bryant says her childhood interests helped inspire the direction she’s taking now, noting that representation is key, which is something she learned from “watching Girlfriends as I was growing up and seeing successful Black women being friends.”
That camaraderie among professional Black women is something Bryant hopes to foster through her Pinkest Luv clothing line. “The tagline for my merch line is ‘Wear your inspiration,’” Bryant says. “Because I always want there to be messaging out that we are amazing and can do anything we put our minds to.”
"We are amazing and can do anything we put our minds to."
Bryant knows what she’s talking about, too. She loves fashion and her Pinkest Luv Instagram even devotes a series of stories to covering the Met Gala. But she says her Harlem upbringing was equally important in sharpening her eye for great style. “Growing up in Harlem, everyone prided themselves on having the hottest and latest,” Bryant says. “I had all the Dapper Dan outfits. Now I love minimalist, effortless fashion, with some great statement pieces. Fashion gives you confidence, especially as an executive walking into a room.”
Still, despite her powerful business outfits and next-level success, Bryant knows she can do more. Recently she wrote a Pinkest Luv blog post that explains “My purpose is deeper than my career.” She says she believes she was “placed here to do so much more” and that one of her “main missions is to create a platform to help motivate an entire generation of women to tap into their truest and most authentic potential.”
And after scanning the Pinkest Luv Instagram account, all we can say is mission accomplished.