Photo credits: YouTube screenshot
Nowadays, people will ride the wave of being the significant other of someone famous harder than ever.
In an era where social media initially opened, then shut the door for do-it-yourself clout-catchers in music, movies, and more, the temptation to catapult desperately in the direction of publicity still runs high. However, the path of a consummate professional who is pursuing a career in show business is a road less traveled.
When travelling down the many different roads (some more vacant than others) that can take one to the crowded space of Hollywood, it is helpful to know that nobody makes it there by themselves. In fact, it takes a skilled person with the ability to communicate intelligently for the purpose of solidifying connections.
Though the managers, publicists, public relations representatives, and image consultants who groom your favorite celebrities elude the white hot lights of fame, they are the reason those lights have somewhere to shine. An example of such a person is Ramon Hervey II (pictured), a Hollywood insider with a resume that stretches for more than four decades. I learned much more about Hervey after interviewing him on August 29, 2022.
“My career in entertainment began as a writer/publicist for one Britain’s top talent agencies Starlite Artistes (Bay City Rollers, Marmalade, Clem Curtis & The Foundations). I lived in London for almost four years and became editor for two contemporary pop magazines, (Poster and Superstar),” said the Chicago-born renaissance man.
Upon returning to the U.S. in 1976, Hervey landed a job as a writer/publicist for what might have been America’s most illustrious record labels in the 60s and 70s, Motown Records. Founded by the legendary Berry Gordy, its artist roster represented comprised the celebrated music stars in industry including Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, The Temptations, and The Jackson 5, to name but a few.
“I was a hired as a junior publicist by Bob Jones, who ran the label’s publicity department. It was great learning experience to work at the most successful Black-owned record label ever. I learned a lot about the inner workings and hierarchy that exists in labels, and how their commercial success dictates whether they’re prioritized. The bigger the star, the more the label invests in marketing and promoting them,” Hervey said.
“What made Gordy such a pioneer was that Motown was independently distributed, and he organically grew his superstar roster in-house by matching them with great songwriters/producers, curating their images, and teaching them the art of performing live. He also employed several high level White executives who contributed significantly to the growth of the label,” he continued.
After working just one year at Motown, Hervey landed a job at Rogers & Cowan, one of the industry’s most power public relations companies. He earned his stripes there becoming the first Black to ascend to Vice-President. During his tenure there he represented Richard Pryor, Bette Midler, Paul McCartney, the Bee Gees, Herb Alpert, Peter Frampton, George Benson, Minnie Riperton, Anita Baker, Alabama, Mac Davis, Patrice Rushen, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., Chic, Sister Sledge, Natalie Cole, Nick Nolte, James Caan, Hall of fame St. Louis Cardinal, Lou Brock, and Muhammad Ali, to name a few.
However, Hervey has spent the lion share of his career as an entrepreneur, helming his own public relations company and later transitioned in into management. He represented Richard Pryor, Bette Midler, Lenny Kravitz, Jean Michel Jarre, Al Jarreau, David Sanborn, Terry Lyne Carrington, Joe Sample, the Jamaica Boys, and Vanessa Williams, among others.
Now 71, Hervey has spent the last two decades managing artists such as Little Richard, Luther Vandross, Andrae Crouch, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Vanessa Williams, Kenny Lattimore, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Zhane, songwriter/producer Barry Eastmond, Sweet Honey In The Rock, and Philippe Saisse.
Since becoming a manager, Hervey has served as an Executive Producer of several concert specials for television for his clients including Babyface (two specials that were broadcast in Japan) and Andrae Crouch, which was broadcast to support the global efforts of Feed the Children organization.
In 2004, he was the Executive Producer of the Peabody Award-winning documentary film (Chisholm ’72- Unbought & Unbossed), which was directed by Shola Lynch. “Shola initially enlisted my services to help with the music for the film. However, I was passionate and believed in the project, so I offered to assist in raising funds to cover the production costs,” Hervey told me.
“I was influential in securing donations from several major celebrities who donated money to the film including Oprah Winfrey, Bette Midler, Halle Berry, and Bill and Camille Cosby,” he also said.
The final segment of Mr. Hervey’s exclusive interview touched on his former marriage and business partnership with to singer/actress Vanessa Williams (which lay Hollywood observers say he is most known for). This was a time for me to put the pen down, refrain from talking, and soak up the wisdom. My question centered around the difficulties of balancing family dynamics and a private life in a marriage between two Hollywood insiders.
Hervey’s well-rounded answer served as universally valuable advice.
“I was brought in to manage the crisis Vanessa faced after she had become the first Black woman in the 63 year history of the Miss America Pageant. 10 months into her reign, some nude images surfaced, and the pageant requested her to resign, and gave her 72 hours to do it,” he said.
Transitioning from obscurity to becoming famous literally overnight is a whirlwind. And adding a major crisis on top of that was ominous,” Hervey stated.
“In my roles of becoming Vanessa’s publicist and manager, I was focused on helping her forge a career and put the scandal in the past. A big part of that process is reminding her it’s her career, not mine. We achieved a lot of success together but deserves full credit for all the success she has achieved since we were together,” Hervey said.
“In terms of our personal relationship, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished as parents raising three lovely children and keeping our family together. Regardless of one’s family dynamics, no couple inside or outside Hollywood will ever survive without patience, understanding, problem-solving skills, and being able to compromise,” he said.
The title of his new book is The Fame Game: An Insider’s Playbook for Earning Your 15 Minutes. Hervey said his new book took him three years to complete. The book is a retrospective that depicts his career path as a Black man trying to make it in the music industry.
It features uncensored stories of his interactions with some of his most famous clients. Hervey shares his insight and philosophy about the many challenges that one faces in trying to earn and sustain fame, its liabilities, and fleeting nature.
“Fame is not a gift, and nobody is entitled to it. It must be earned via success. It’s an accolade and reward. Once achieved, and with the right strategic plan, it’s possible to achieve commercial success and sustain your 15 minutes. Or whatever minutes one can earn,” he explained.
“Only one percent of social media users will ever achieve mainstream fame. And the truth is most of those people were already rich and famous before social media became widely used. In fact, their fame helped to bring more attention to all the leading platforms…something to think about,” he added.
Purchase Ramon Hervey II’s new book here.