How This Publicist Turned Her Sony Success Into An Entrepreneurial Dream
By Haniyah Philogene
At midnight on July 29, Beyonce Knowles-Carter released her 7th full length studio album, RENAISSANCE, a musical work that was one of the year’s most hotly anticipated. The multi-platinum artist stoked enthusiasm over the prior six weeks, dropping her first single, Break My Soul, in late June and peppering her social media accounts with a series of cryptic messages, photos and videos. “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment,” Beyonce wrote about RENAISSANCE in June.
What the world didn’t see was that, behind the scenes, a vibrant celebrity publicist named Yvette Noel-Schure was helping to engineer the whole phenomenon. And the “safe space” that Beyonce strove to create with her new album is as much a mirror of what Noel-Schure has engineered for Beyonce over the last 25 years as it is a credit to the publicist’s work.
“I’m a protector,” Noel-Schure told Forbes about her work with Beyonce. “I’m a protector of narratives, and I’m an executioner. Whatever she wants executed, I’m here.”
“Here” is rarified air: Noel-Schure has been by Beyonce’s side as an adviser and publicist for the last 25 years—ever since the singer walked into Noel-Schure’s office at Columbia Records as a member of the girl-group Destiny’s Child. She’s counseled Beyonce as she’s broken records with that group and moved on to a solo act who’s won 28 Grammy awards, made history as the first Black woman to headline Coachella, and become one of the first artists to release a visual album with her 2016 release “Lemonade”, her sixth solo studio album and a 65 minute film. In 2015, this success translated into a $250 million net worth, a figure that vaulted Beyonce onto Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. Over the last seven years, that figure has surged to $450 million.
Noel-Schure is modest when it comes to her biggest client’s biggest successes. “I take absolutely no credit for that,” she says. But those who’ve been on the receiving end of her work say Noel-Schure goes beyond the typical publicist job duties of issuing press releases, securing magazine photoshoots and shaping musicians’ public comments.
“Her approach was so dope,” singer Kelly Rowland recalled to Forbes about Noel-Schure’s time working with Destiny’s Child. Rowland has worked with Noel-Schure since 1997 and says that Noel-Schure’s style is higher touch than most publicists; her commitment to getting to know the members of the group on a one-on-one basis felt like a step beyond what most Hollywood types were at that time offering. “[Yvette] is able to really get to know her artists,” Rowland says. She can “understand their thoughts, and little ‘isms’ and things that they haven’t been able to talk about, and then describe that to other people. And it was brilliant.”
Noel-Schure’s publicist instincts almost never came to be. Growing up in Grenada, she had a deep love for words and stories that she imagined one day parlaying into a writing or teaching career. She immersed herself in books – her grandfather, who played a role in raising her, passed his faith in a good story to his granddaughter—and for a parttime job, worked a paper route on the island.
“I fell in love with the newspaper,” says Noel-Schure. “Before I delivered the paper, I sat on the riverbanks with a red pen and edited the newspaper before I delivered it.”
At 14, Noel-Schure immigrated to the U.S. to support her mother (who was seeking treatment for her mental health), and soon took advantage of the career opportunities in her new home. She joined Black Beat Magazine as an editor in 1985, and, in 1993, she landed one of her biggest assignments yet: a profile of Mariah Carey and her first studio album. Gaining access to the singer proved challenging for Noel-Schure, but she was dogged in her pursuit, peppering Columbia Records with calls until she got what she needed to do the story.
Larry Jenkins, then a senior vice president overseeing marketing and media for Columbia Records, was impressed with the Grenadian native’s persistence. After the story was published, Jenkins called Noel-Schure with an offer she very much wanted to refuse: a job in Columbia’s media department.
“I was really against taking this job of being a publicist,” she now recalls. This was because Noel-Schure had spent nine years on the other side and had seen her fair share of frantic and stressed publicists running around doing stars’ bidding. Ultimately, Noel-Schure decided that she would not emulate the chaotic and sometimes rude publicists she had previously interacted with.
“I just decided no matter what, don’t dehumanize someone […] it was very important to me to think of the person on the other side of the phone,” she says.
It’s a tactic that has, so far, worked to her advantage: From 1993 to 2010, Noel-Schure represented artists like Mariah Carey, Prince, John Legend, Destiny’s Child for Sony, eventually becoming the label’s senior vice president of media. In 2010, she left Sony Music and co-founded Schure Media Group with her husband; Beyonce was her first client. Today, Noel-Schure serves as the chief communications officer of her company (it’s a small PR firm with approximately a dozen clients and 3 full-time publicists). She is also the primary publicist for Parkwood Entertainment, a production, management and entertainment company founded by Knowles-Carter.
“I live by these three words: patience, passion, persistence,” she says. “That is how I run my company; that is how I run my life. Things take time, be patient. Persistence is a good thing. You don’t have to be a fly about it, but you do have to be passionate enough to not sit and take no.”
The Grammy-nominated music duo and sisters, Chloe and Halle Bailey fromChloexHalle, particularly appreciate the “passion” part of Noel-Schure’s formula.
“She just has such maternal amazing energy, and she just wants to protect you along the way,” says Halle Bailey, a member of the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 music list.
“And she’s such a strong woman and she has a strong spirit in her tiny body,” Chloe added. “She’s assertive and she’s always standing up for Halle and me and just making sure that we first and foremost are okay, before any business any interview becomes involved.”
That assertiveness can mean Noel-Schure is often the one to tell her artists, “that’s not a good idea.” In strategizing her clients’ brands, she helps them frame ways to address the larger issues they care about—issues like feminism, voting and diverse representation. Noel-Schure frames it like this: her artists have big platforms, and using those platforms for good can help inspire or empower listeners around the world.. This is particularly clear in her work with Beyonce, whose empowerment goals have literally shined on stage (see also: the all-caps “FEMINIST” backdrop at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards).
For Noel-Schure, guiding artists to use their voices for good is only part of her duty as a public relations professional. She talks reverently of the mentor figures she had throughout her childhood in Grenada—ancestors who helped her find the power in her voice. Today, Noel-Schure honors those she calls her “guiding angels” who came before her by shepherding future generations of Black publicists through the Hollywood grind.
Her efforts are necessary: According to the most recent data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which was in 2020, 91% of people in the public relations industry identify as white. Determined to change this, Noel-Schure in 2019 joined Ernest Dukes, Vanessa Anderson, Erica D. Tucker, Phyllicia Fant, and Trell Thomas to form the ‘My Publicist is Black’ coalition. She explains the group’s ultimate goal is to level out the playing field and offer equal opportunities for those to come.
“I know that I come from a small island that many people haven’t heard a lot about in the last 20 years or so,” Noel-Schure says. “And I also know that when they think about us from small islands, they don’t expect big things from us. So I’m always walking into the room to change that.”
Photo Source: Yvette Noel-Schure