On being a reggae-dancehall entertainment publicist in the digital age, he said, “I feel more empowered, to be honest. 10 years ago, when I got into the game the trends had already started to emerge about public relations adapting to a changing media landscape. We saw how the birth of influencers, blogs/bloggers, and online content and access to it not only being convenient but a methodological way of doing one’s job was still necessary. Irrespective of the digital age and all that comes with it, traditional public relations skills such as being strategic, fostering relationships, crisis communication, reputation management, content development, and shaping public image is even more relevant today than before.”
“It feels great and I am even more optimistic about being a publicist for a genre which has not really garnered mainstream recognition. This digital age has allowed us to aid in furthering its growth. Who would have thought a queer man would have cracked the glass ceiling and work in what can be considered as ‘the most homophobic genre of music’? I am proud of the progress the industry has made, but I also hope more inclusivity can be fostered and that the gatekeepers throughout the entertainment space across the world will give people like me more access and recognition,” he elaborated.
On his proudest professional moments in music and entertainment PR, he said, “My proudest moment thus far is being invited to the inaugural Billboard & The Hollywood Reporter Pride Summit in Hollywood, California in 2019. A young man with little relevance on a large scale being invited and heard to an extent was indeed my proudest moment to date. Other moments include waking up to see my press release featured in major publications, namely The Jamaican Star, and other publications worldwide. Seeing some of the dancehall acts namely Tifa, Yanique Curvy Diva, Ishawna, Jada Kingdom, and others pioneering and foster the inclusivity, performing at Jamaica Pride activities is a proud moment.”
“Not to mention having clients who are some of the reggae-dancehall heavyweights continue to foster inclusivity and work with me to this date. I also must mention when I shared my truth in 2014 with the world, Sadeke Brooks from the Jamaica Star aided with handling a delicate and personal matter with such professionalism,” he said.
On his daily motivations, he said, “The need to defy the odds motivates me every day. That intrinsic drive to challenge the status quo and to be more than a statistic fuels the fire. As an immigrant, a black man, a queer man the odds are not in my favor and we see this reflected in our society on so many levels. My love to communicate and foster discussions that highlight diverging views and helping people challenge themselves is a part of it also, questioning/challenging everything.”
With Pride month coming up in June of 2020, he opened up about his own personal struggles. “Growing up in Jamaica was a challenging, fun, and self-rewarding experience. I grew up in a typical Jamaican household. From being forced to attend church, learning Christian values to growing up financially stable somewhat, and surviving in a society that constantly enforces and redefines masculinity, life was interesting. I went to a typical primary school and then off to high school, which I graduated from, Calabar High School. But, ‘growing up ‘as it suggests meant finding yourself. From a tender age, I knew, and I could say others as well that I did not align with the stereotypical attributes or definition of what was deemed man-ly, or masculine. It more lends to either I was a spoiled kid who had effeminate traits or as the society called a sissy, battyman, gay, fish and the list goes on,” he said.
“I had to contend with these stereotypes and learn how to not just adapt for survival, yes it was life or death as even displaying feminine traits or tendencies by a male in Jamaica warranted such. So even if the individual weren’t queer at all, the retribution could be deadly,” he added.
Shuzzr continued, “Curiosity over the years I guess got the best of me as with education, the ability to access different perspective through the internet and find people just like yourself was comfort but dangerous. I have had many close encounters where my life was threatened and almost lost due to my queerness. I have lost friends and loved ones just the same. I had to publicly adapt and try to imitate the perceived perception of what masculinity is or was. That meant, engaging in heterosexual activities always; however, as my queerness grew, I had to seek out others who I could identify with and explore. I can admit that from I was 14 or 15 years old I had started to explore my queerness. It was risky but necessary.”
“Navigating your queerness in a society that was and probably still is ‘the most homophobic place on earth’ don’t even underscore the struggle each child, young man or woman has to own and deal with in the face of other social challenges like poverty. I have been attacked, chased, bullied, gotten into fights, lost out on opportunities because of my queerness. There isn’t much social programs or structure at home or otherwise to foster such diversity. I must say, however, advocacy groups such as Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays (JFLAG), Jamaica Aids Support (JAS), USAID programs and the individuals that work there helped and continues to help many others find their identify and fight for protections, seek remedies and provide aid to the minority which is disenfranchised,” he elaborated.
Regarding his plans and goals for the future, he said, “My plans are to cross over into mainstream media whether continuing to work in the entertainment industry, or cross over into politics or pursue a career in journalism. My sole focus is to be an advocate to the issues that affect people like me, no matter what. I would love for the opportunity to write for outlets like Billboard, Rolling Stone, Complex, Fader, and many others covering Caribbean related issues and music of course; however, opportunities must be accessible for individuals like myself and not just paying lip service but equal opportunities.”
For young and aspiring publicists, he said, “If you do not truly love it then do not pursue it. There will be moments and times in your journey when you will not see the financial benefits but do it because you love it. Be resourceful, the Internet provides you with access and a platform, so use it. Most importantly, protect your credibility at all costs.”
On his definition of the word success, he said, “At times, people equate success with popularity, having the financial means or profiting from doing something. For myself, it is about doing what you love and helping others to be just as or even better than you are. Being able to influence change, foster growth, and shedding light where there is darkness”.
“I am 30 years old, never won an award, in debt with student loans, currently unemployed, single (never really been in a relationship) but am at peace. Yes, I may have written hundreds of press releases, worked with some of the best in reggae-dancehall, and has established a brand or legacy and people may say he’s ‘successful’ thus far but in all honesty, I haven’t even started yet,” he concluded.
To learn more about Reggae-Dancehall entertainment publicist Shuzzr, check out his official website.