Proverbs 31:30 affirms, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” And a woman emboldened by her faith is not only praiseworthy, she is indestructible; just ask Nandy Mason. Mason, who is THE talent relations expert, lives a life many would find surreal. From the outside looking in though, what seems even more surreal is her coming of age story. It’s the story of a young black girl from a small town in Boston who was raised by a single mother. The young girl blossoms into a powerful woman, who worked for BET and now owns two companies and gets to rub elbows with some of the biggest names in entertainment. Then you speak to Mason, and you realize her story isn’t surreal at all. It’s not a fairy tale or an inexplicable dream; It’s an ensemble of answered prayers. It’s the story she and GOD wrote together. Despite some major losses and heartbreaks, Mason remained indestructible. She allowed her faith to shield her like an armor and persevered. Industry Rules sits with Mason to learn more about the praiseworthy woman.
RA: I feel as a black woman we don’t really know the opportunities that are available out there for us. Can you explain what you do and how your path led you to the career you have now?
NM: I do a myriad of things, but primarily I talent produce. I have two companies with two partners, one of the companies being Culture Shock of which I am COO and Co-founder. We create IP for top tier celebrities and create content for them as well. On the other side of Culture Shock galleries, we have an NFT agency. We’re developing capsule collections right now and our first project is the Hip Hop Culture cards. In that space, I head up talent. I help navigate those conversations with celebrity talent and help secure and execute the deals. Also, this week makes one whole year that I’ve been an NBA agent! I’ve learning as much as possible in that space. I have not signed any clients yet, but I am actively seeking and learning as much as I can.
RA: Wow! What inspired you to become an agent?!
NM: I’m from a sports city, and come from a really big sports family so that’s always been something I’ve had interest in. Similar to music, I really feel like my purpose is to create space for people that look like us. I feel like far too often we’re in partnerships with people who have not walked similar journeys as us and who cannot really relate to us. I would love for more athletes and musicians to be in partnership with people that look like them. I feel like sports is a natural pivot because right now, culturally, music, sports, and tech are blending together. I figure I’ll be able to leverage much of what I’ve learned in music and television and really add value to folks in the sports space.
RA: What would you say is your recipe for success as a female entrepreneur?
NM: My recipe for success has always hinged on my faith. I think faith always has to be at the helm. I’m a firm believer in GOD, and really seeking God to figure out which way you should go. So that’s always been important when navigating my career. I think also having a strong and supportive tribe. You need folks that are going to push you forward, make you stand on your word, and hold you accountable. Those two things: faith and having a strong tribe.
RA: What do you think is one of the greatest decisions you’ve made in your career?
NM: Oh, It’s a no brainer: moving to London and getting my masters. I was working at BET for about 11 years at that point. I even spoke to one of my mentors who said it might be career suicide to leave now. I think, far too often as black women, we’re faced with the pressure to produce constantly, constantly, constantly. And we don’t get a chance to rest and take a break. We never get the option to just release and do the things we like to do. When I look back over my life, much of what I’ve done has been because of the people around me speaking into my life and saying, “you’ll be great at this.” “you should do this.” It’s not been solely my voice. And so, moving to London challenged me to trust God even more. It challenged me to see my true strengths and where my actual value was. It also revealed that I was placing my identity in my titles, and that was problematic. Going to London after that much time in my life, I didn’t know what was going to be on the other side of that. I didn’t go over to London with BET. I walked away from BET, and that, quite frankly, was almost all I’ve known at that point. So, it was me against me and it was me and God only. Going there I learned so much about myself and my capabilities. I learned how to harness my gifts, to prioritize my faith again, and to make sure that my eyes continued to stay on God. Because it’s so easy to get caught up in the matrix and there’s so much noise. That season of my life was necessary for the new season I walked into directly following.
RA: In what way has your faith impacted your career?
NM: I’m a Christian and my faith constantly impacts my career. I’ve had really great highs but I’ve had tremendous lows as well and dealt with a great deal of loss and grief. I think my faith is the one thing that’s helped me stay forward and keep my head up. Those things that I learned in my faith are what I stand on when I’m having hardship. I think it’s hard to be a black woman in entertainment. It’s hard to be a woman in entertainment period. A lot of these industries are male based. I think when you have to stand out and be the difference there’s so much pressure. So, I stand on what I learned from my faith: to stay in the ring.
RA: Do you feel like your faith is ever tested?
NM: Always! That’s why I’m constantly trying to remind myself, because my faith is constantly tested. I think when you get hit in the ring or knocked out in the ring you’re like “am I supposed to be here?!” To me being a Christian and being Christ like looks very different than what I thought it would. Initially I was like we got GOD on our side; everything is going to be fine. And everything is fine, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have to endure some heartbreak. The faith gives you hope and gives you something to hold onto.
RA: Let’s say you can travel back in time and speak to 13-year-old you working at the Freedom Cafe in Roxbury. What advice would you give little Nandy?
NM: I would tell her to trust GOD, even though it’s hard, it gets better. Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride but it’s going to get better. I was very young when I started to experience a lot of death. It did a lot to me emotionally and mentally. One of my biggest goals was getting out of Boston and being able to travel and do the things that I do now. I found an old scrapbook of mine, and I had a wristband in the scrapbook from 106 & Park, which was such a big thing back then. I was so proud of myself, and I said one day I’m going to work at BET. I didn’t open the scrapbook again until a couple years ago, and I was like “wow look how I spoke that and how GOD made it happen.” You can have dreams and you can have goals, but it’s hard to see if there’s no blueprint. As that 13-year-old working at the Freedom Cafe, I didn’t know what was actually available to me. Everyone says you can do anything you put your mind to, but practically how do you walk that out if you don’t have access to the same resources, and if you’ve never seen it done before. You’re kind of just saying it, “I can do all things, I’m going to be this, and I’m going to be that. But do you really believe it?” I don’t know if I did at 13. I didn’t know what was available to me or how to get out of what I was in. I didn’t know how to heal from all the grief I experienced from people constantly getting gunned down. So, I would tell little me to hold on, “you will get through this. It won’t be easy but just hold on.”
RA: As a woman what was the most intimidating aspect of working in this field?
NM: There were two things that may be intimidating. I think it was coming into the industry, and seeing so many of the giants being male. I wondered whether or not I could measure up. I wondered if I could garner the same type of respect, I saw the other males in the industry getting. It was also intimidating when I saw powerful women who had come before me, and it almost felt like they had to choose either their professional life or their personal life. Growing up, and even now, I always envisioned having a family and being successful in my career. With a lot of the women, I look up to, it seems as though they chose one. They opted out of motherhood and being a wife because their job was so demanding, and I found that was super intimidating and it still is at times.
RA: What aspect of your field came with ease because you are a woman?
NM: I moved around a lot in television, but when I landed in the talent department interfacing with celebrities, I realized being a woman sometimes disarms folks. You can get into a lot of rooms. You just have to figure out how to stay there. Gain respect for your abilities and contributions, not for your looks.
RA: Do you ever suffer from imposter syndrome?
NM: Yes! Everyday! Right before this interview! I deal with it often, and I think I will continue to have moments. But I think what helps with that, again, is going to be my faith. It’s feelings versus facts for me. The bible tells me that I’m the head and not the tail. So, when I have moments of weakness, and I question who I am; I stand on what GOD says that I am, because it’s bigger than what you call me. It’s bigger than what I might call myself. So even when I don’t believe it, my Bible, my Word, and my God tell me that I am more than a conqueror. It’s those things that help me stand firm, “like okay I’m that.”
You can keep up with Nandy by following her on Instagram @Dyamine.