Meet the dynamic Philadelphia based communications professional, Mercedes Smith. Smith is a communications professional with over seven years of expertise in public relations. With hard work and determination, she has created innovative campaigns and branding strategies for various entertainment, music, technology, lifestyle, and well-known corporate brands. She now serves as the Vice President of Public Relations at Tierney, a full-service media agency.
Mercedes grew up daring to believe that she could change the world and has devoted her life to courageously striving to do so daily. At the early age of 14, Mercedes took the initiative to contact the editor at Newsday.com regarding its lack of coverage of the Darfur genocides. Her simple email inspired the publication to send a news crew and photographers on the grounds of Darfur to cover the story. After their month-long trip, they returned to interview the tenacious 14-year-old whose search for more sparked and inspired social awareness to promote change.
While establishing her professional career after college, Mercedes observed the lack of empathy for homelessness in New York and founded Care More, a non-profit organization dedicated to delivering hope to the homeless community through outreach events and innovative programming.
Her work in philanthropy has gained recognition from renowned public figures such as Oprah Winfrey, who celebrated her in O Magazine and BET Networks who listed Mercedes as one of the “29 People You Should Know" for Black History Month.
We recently sat down with Smith to discuss her career journey in media and communications, how she began to embrace all of herself including hair choices and the next hairstyle she has up her sleeve.
Share your career journey. What led you down the path of PR, communications, and media?
I actually had my heart set on being a forensic psychologist when I was younger because I just loved BD Wong’s character on Law & Order Special Victim’s Unit. This led me to declare a major in psychology. But after I received horrible grades at the end of my freshmen year, I just knew that this field wasn’t for me.
Amid discovering a new major, I decided to join multiple on-campus organizations. One of those groups included an empowerment group named Ladies First. The president of the organization at the time, Saroya Royster, just knew that public relations were for me. While program planning for the year, she realized that I had the gift of gab, loved storytelling, event planning, project management, graphic design, etc. I was soon appointed as the organization’s PR Coordinator changed my major to Mass Communications and the rest is history!
Since then I had the world going ‘ALL THE WAY UP’ with Fat Joe and Remy Ma, scheduled national morning segments for Mark Ronson and Swizz Beats to spread some 24K magic on the 1’s & 2’s, ran point on the annual Global Spin Awards, and gave the public a glimpse into the worlds of Rickey Smiley, TJ Holmes, Shawn Prez, T.I. and more.
I’ve even worked my magic on a few innovative lifestyle campaigns ranging from Genies, car2go, Ball Up, FXFL, and all that jazz. I’ve developed marketing campaigns for notable brands and rising influencers, staffed and executed logistics for major conferences and conventions and continue to enjoy every bit of my unpredictable profession as a Vice President of PR at a media agency.
I truly fall more in love with the art of communication after every pitch meeting, brand launch, brainstorm, and media placement. It’s a beautiful thing!
Talk to us about your hair journey. When did you fall in your love with your hair?
I got my very first relaxer at the age of 12 and found myself truly hooked to the creamy crack for years. I am happy to report that I’ve officially been without a perm for a year now. While I’m still working through the whole transitional phase, I find myself falling in love with my hair and more importantly myself through the entire process! Every time I get a new weave, sleek ponytail, fresh set of braids or even wash and set, I feel more empowered and more confident. I guess that’s the magic and beauty of rocking your crown!
What has been your hair journey within corporate America? Did you ever feel like you needed to alter your hair to fit in with the culture of the office?
When I got my first corporate gig, I was afraid to try new hairstyles outside of my typical sew-ins and ponytails. I remember asking an African American colleague what she thought about me getting box braids and I would never forget her response. “Yeah, I don’t think you should do that. The style is unprofessional and not polished.” The saddest part about it all was I believed her and stayed at that job for over 3 years believing that. I was so frustrated with the constant pressures of fitting in with the “professional norms” that I eventually got a pixie cut and left J.
That was nearly 6 years ago. Since then, I’ve done two things:
· Developed enough confidence to be me in all circumstances and environments;
· Worked with amazing companies that always allow me to be myself.
What’s your favorite style to rock inside and outside of the office?
I just started getting into fly extended ponytails with some Brazilian wave bundles and some sleek edges! Hands down my favorite hairstyle right now. Sure it'll change in the next two months.
Share your plans for your next hairstyle with us!
I currently have box braids in so my next style may simply be wearing my natural hair for a month to let my hair breathe.
What’s one piece of advice for a millennial woman struggling with owning their truest selves while embracing their hair?
Let no one or nothing discourage you from being true to yourself. Wear your crown in the styles that make you confident and empower the next millennial woman to do the same.