Yvette Davis Gayle, wife and mother of two describes herself as a child of God who places her maker and family first.
She is the co-founder and Chief Operations Officer for Africa Creative Agency. With over 25+ years of media experience she brings a wealth of knowledge.
Formerly the Head Of Urban PR at Interscope Geffen A&M, Gayle spent 18 years with the company crafting campaigns for a multitude of multi-platinum artists which included 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, Diddy and Keri Hilson to name a few. She oversaw the day-to-day PR efforts for artists that graced the rosters of Aftermath Entertainment, G-Unit Records, Dreamville Records, Shady Records, Zone 4 Music and Mosely Music Group.
In 2020 Gayle was recognized by Billboard Magazine for her achievements landing a coveted spot on their 2020 Women In Music Executives power list.
CNBC also lauded Gayle as one of “31 Women Creating A Positive Impact in Africa.”
Gayle, who started out as a publicist in America and is now a co-founder of a creative agency, said that her interest was initially in the legal field and originally wanted to become a judge.
“During college I got a temp job at Columbia Records/Sony Music which led to a recurring paid internship. Upon graduation I was hired as an assistant in the Publicity department. I spent nearly 9 years at Columbia and then served as Head of Urban Publicity at Interscope Geffen A&M Records under Universal Music for 17 years.
However, the opportunity to work in music was ‘extraordinary’ and the skills she learned in law, arguing cases gave me the great skills to be able to argue and negotiate media campaigns for her clients.
The publicist, who has a Political Science degree with a focus on criminology from West Virginia University, says that her success defined her career path.
“I’ve had an incredible journey through Entertainment. One that early on would not have lent me dreaming about working in Africa. My husband (Colin Gayle) and I met when I was working at Columbia Records and he was managing Kenny Lattimore at the time. His first introduction to Africa was producing Nelson Mandela’s 80th birthday celebration.
“He started working in production, connecting the dots between African creatives and creatives and corporations in North America. We’ve had a couple ventures prior to launching ACA. The rest just became history as we started building on the continent almost 20 years ago,” Gayle said.
Unlike others, Gayle is fortunate to not have come across challenges in the industry based on her gender or race.
“I’ve been super fortunate that I was able to build a solid foundation and work ethic that garnered respect across the industry. My work was acknowledged and I was compensated well so I can’t necessarily say I had any mistreatment as a Black woman coming up in the industry.
I travelled on the road with 50 Cent and crew – 14 men in bullet proof vests – and I remember someone asking me how I did it. But my clients were the best. The guys protected me first. I had their love and more importantly their respect. My work spoke for itself.
Gayle admits that the industry was heavily white male dominated (except in the Urban departments early on), citing that the fight was more external in the 90’s in getting mainstream to accept Black Music rather than accepting her and her position.
The only challenge the publicist recalls is that of being a mother and making time for her children. She admits that she does it really well at times and other times, fails miserably.
Gayle fondly remembers her late mother as having influenced her work ethic and strong set of values.
“My mother who always taught me to do the best that I can, and honour my word. So if I say I’m going to do something, it gets done and I stick to my promises.”
Her first mentors, Miguel Baguer and Yvette Noel-Schure, also taught her how to be a great publicist and how to navigate the industry.
“I’m very protocol driven. I’m tough and can be abrasive but I think that is what has carried me this far, to be able to succeed as a black woman executive in the creative industry.
A day in the life of a publicist
“There is no such thing as a typical day in my line of work. I manage talent across music, film and television and comedy. This year I produced my first feature film Fight Like A Girl starring my client Ama Qamata.
So my days can be spent at photo shoots or media junkets. Or on the road traveling with clients across Africa or to the United States. It really depends what cycle the projects my clients are working on at the time. I work extremely long hours. Not only do I work during South Africa business hours, but Los Angeles wakes up right at the end of my day so I can still be having a zoom meeting at 9:00pm at night,” Gayle said.
Apart from her extensive publicist career, Gayle says that she loves to travel and experience new cultures and loves luxury items but at an affordable price.
“In 2013 I launched a luxury candle company called The Sitota Collection which filled my creative passion for candle making. My scents are designed around my family’s personal history and the cultures we have explored.
Just around covid time I launched the plant based soap division which has taken off really well. Pearl Thusi and I did a collaboration for her Black Rose products (Diffuser, Soap and Candle).
I did a collaboration with Rosa Handmade and my products are sold at their store in Prison Break Market. I can also be found at The Collective Hout Bay in Cape Town and Africa Handmade in Nairobi Kenya. And of course online directly at thesitotacollection.com
Upon tapping into the African market from an American background, Gayle says that talent is talent and that Africa is exploding with creative excellence.
“The difference may lie in the execution or certainly the financial restraints are heavier here because the return on investment is different based on economy and purchasing power. Things are super structured in the US, protocols and global best practices are observed but it’s what I’ve tried to bring here within our business.
Reflecting on her journey, Gayle said that she doesn’t think she would change a thing.
“Every decision I have made has led me to where I am today and it’s a pretty amazing place to be. It certainly hasn’t been easy. But it has been rewarding. Leaving Universal and moving to South Africa was a difficult decision. However, it was necessary to be on the ground working and living here. I think ACA is at the forefront of representation on the continent and I’m truly excited about the growth and possibilities for our business and our clients in 2023,” she said.
We asked Yvette Davis Gayle some questions to get some nuggets of wisdom from a big sister:
1. What are three things you wish you knew earlier in your career?
I wish I knew everyone has imposter syndrome. No matter the level you reach, everyone has their doubts about their ability and that is natural.
I wish that I didn’t forgo time with my parents in my early career. It’s easy to be so busy that you forget that your family will not live forever
I did know this but it’s a point I want to make. Make sure you surround yourself with like-minded individuals and the number of friends doesn’t matter. What matters is you have ones that will ride or die for you no matter what. Don’t get too busy with the ladder of success that you fail to invest in those relationships. Jobs and even careers come and go. Build a solid foundation, robust with authentic people who truly care about you and they will pick you when you fall. Falling is inevitable, so embrace it and learn from it.
2. What message of hope would you give to your younger self and those to come after you?
That no matter what – everything is going to work out. You may not understand the failures or the no’s you are told or the doors that close in front of you but God has a plan. I can look back on disappointments I had and realize now how lucky I was because greater doors opened and I gained tenacity and perseverance which can only develop if you have trials.
3. If there’s anything else you’d like to mention, or any exciting new ventures or projects that you’d like to mention – please do, we’d love to hear about them and support them.
On April 11, 2021 I became a Charter Member of The Southern Africa Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated is an organization of college educated women committed to the constructive development of its members and to public service with a primary focus on the Black community. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated is a private, not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to provide assistance and support through established programs in local communities throughout the world. Since its founding more than 300,000 women have joined the organization. The organization is a sisterhood of predominantly Black, college educated women. The sorority currently has over 1,000 collegiate and alumnae chapters located in the United States, Canada, Japan (Tokyo and Okinawa), Germany, the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Republic of Korea, the Arabian Gulf, Southern Africa and West Africa.
She also serves as the chapter’s Journalist.