“’20 Years Strong’ means Atlanta Black Gay Pride is about more than just a party. It's about expanding the mind for the true meaning of Black Gay Pride; affirmation, advocacy, unity and educatioRead More Read More
US ambassador What keeps you Motivated?
CJ The fear of failure keeps me motivated. Failure is not an option! Knowing that I have to make good on with what God gave me. I have been blessed in many ways with many talents and although everyday is not rosy and sometimes the road gets rough, my journey is not done. I must finish running my race until the good Lord calls me home. At that time I want my legacy to speak for itself as He says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I don’t want Him to ask me “What did you do with what I gave you,” and have nothing to show for my life. Knowing I will have to answer to God and myself at the end of my days is motivation enough for me to be the best me that I can be and to do the very best with the gifts and talents that God blessed me with.
US ambassador Tell me about your business spirit that got you started in producing events?
CJ Entrepreneurship is in my blood. My family has owned businesses since the early 1900’s; we owned land, a school, a funeral home, a community grocery store by day and juke joint by night, and a taxi company. I had my first business at age 8. My little brother and I started Jones Junk Food Stand. We would save the candy that my grandmother would give us during the summer vacations in South Carolina and even buy some of the 1 cent “penny candy” and penny cookies. We would then take the candy back home to Maryland where we lived at the time and sold the candy for 5 and 10 cents each. Our mark up was at the very least 80% and most times 100%. I understood then the value of how “to make a dollar out of 15 cents” as the childhood song says, and as I like to call it “living off of the land”…making your own money by creating value in something that people will pay for or invest their money in. At that tender age I realized that if it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make cents or (sense)! From there I learned that I have a true love of people and love having dealings with people, making people feel good, making people smile, and making people have a good time by celebrating who they are. So I create environments that do all of that at one time…thus promoting events became natural for me. I simply found a nitch and filled a void. I create the environments that I want to be in and other people seem to enjoy those environments so Blue Diamond Entertainment ~ Quality Events for Mature Women In the Life” was born and continues to grow with each event that we host.
US ambassador Can you define if possible the difference in marketing to a diverse audience and to a specific audience and your difficulties?
CJ There is a huge difference in marketing to a diverse audience in comparison to a specific audience. The more diverse your audience the more different types of people you have to please. The more specific the audience the easier it is to satisfy that audience. I specifically market my events to lesbians of color, ages 25 years and up, who are professional, classy, mature, sexy and are looking for an alternative to the average club scene, people like me. My events are not exclusive, I welcome all people, straight men and women, gay men, and people from all cultures and walks of life as long as they do not disturb my scene or disrupt my flow. We, as humans like to be around what we like so promoting to those who are more closely related to my characteristics and the characteristics of women who I am attracted to is a logically and conscious business decision. I would not be as successful if I market to straight people, gay men, or even the younger crowd. Though they are all thriving markets, those markets are not my nitch. I believe in being inclusive that is why I welcome people from all walks of life. We should all be able to celebrate together. Yet looking at it from a marketing prospective, narrowing your target market is sometimes essential to one’s success. You cannot be all things to all people and you will drive yourself crazy trying to please everyone. I try to stay focused on pleasing God, my partner, my family and my supporters.
US ambassador With building relationships with other business partner, how do you establish a trust factor?
CJ I believe that partnerships are great especially when both parties hold up their part of the agreement. It is in my nature to trust people and take them at their word. I always give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove me wrong. Yet as I grow older and wiser I realize that everybody does not keep their word and everyone does not do what they say that they are going to do. I have not done a whole lot of partnerships but I can honestly say that not in all instances but more times than not when partnering with someone in business I have been burnt, taken advantage of, or misused. I chalk it up as accepting that disappointment is a possibility that comes with the risk of trust. Yet with each disappointment I came out better by teaching myself how not to get beat even just in case I decided to partner again. So what I have started doing is not doing deals or starting projects that involve partnerships if I cannot complete the task without that partner just in case that person does not comes through and honor their word or I just limit the partnerships that I make. In the end I have to take ultimate responsibility for the decisions I make and how I am affected so I am very careful with what partnerships I sign up for while everyday still believing in the power of partnerships. My pastor says, “Two is better than one.” Although sometimes the reward is not greater than the risk of a bad partnership. Some people have not learned that yet. Today I can say that I have. When the partnership flows and thrives it is a good partnership but when there is struggle, dishonesty, and chaos the partnership tends to die.
US ambassador What was your initial mission and has it changed throughout the years?
CJ My mission has always been the same, “Quality Events for Mature Women In the Life.” I create the environment that I want to be in. I make conscious decisions on the event space, décor, music, theme, advance tickets sales and door costs, ambiance and location. I focus on quality not quantity. I market my events as celebrations of life because I want people to feel like they are celebrating the blessing of life and the power of freedom at each event I host. We are celebrating the blessing of being able to be who we are, the freedom to love who we choose to love while having a great time expressing ourselves the way we feel most comfortable…whatever that may be. I am Gay Pride and every event I have is a Gay Pride Event. I do the things that I need to do to so that Blue Diamond Entertainment continues to host “Quality Events for Mature Women in The Life!” I try to make it an unforgettable experience. I focus on building my brand…it’s not just a party…it’s a lifestyle.
US ambassador If you had one event to produce, what would it be?
CJ The one event that I would love to produce would be: Blue Diamond Entertainment Presents The 2013 Inaugural Celebration Party for our newly Re-Elected President Barack Obama! It would be a Formal All White Affair; All white attire, furniture, decorations, and dance floor. I know that my budget would be huge and I could do wonders with it. My VIP list would be grand, full of celebrities and dignitaries. We would have the best live entertainment and special guest appearances for our dear President and First Lady. There would be 5 or six other rooms with the top DJ’s of all time spinning all different kinds of music, Jazz, Hip-Hop/R&B, Rock/Pop, House/Alternative, Reggae, and Latino to satisfy all cultures and genres of the guests at the event. We would have hundreds of different kinds of food samples as hors d’oeuvres constantly flowing throughout the room made by the some of the best chefs in the world. It would be a night to remember.
US ambassador Consider all things that matter, what’s important to you today and going forward?
CJ The most important thing to me is that I live in God’s will and that I follow the plan he has for my life. My purpose is to encourage, and empower people. My gift is making people feel good about life and feeling good about themselves. My partner says that people do not necessarily remember what you do but they always remember how you make them feel. Today and going forward it is important that I do my best to love with the same grace and mercy that God loves me with and to make a difference in the lives of other people. I want to reach my greatest potential and I want God to use me for His glory. I am a living testimony that you can be your authentic self and spread the love of yourself and God no matter what business you are in and still be successful. For this I am eternally grateful.
US ambassador Remember a time you patted yourself and had an euphoric moment?
CJ Yes, when I completed my MBA degree with all A’s even though almost falling short due to a major surgery and illness. I set the goal of completing my MBA with a 4.0 but because I was absent a number of days due to my major back surgery, not due to the quality of my work the last professor I had gave me an A-. So I finished with a 3.98, still all A’s but not quite a 4.0 but I will take it proudly. The euphoric moment came when I walked across the stage which sealed my accomplishment! After back surgery, barley being able to walk just two months earlier and almost dropping my last class due to pain; I did it I reached my goal. It has been my biggest accomplishment to date.
US ambassador We all make mistakes, if a factor of growth, Can you identify one and how your progression to resolve it?
CJ Yes. Not following my instincts. My biggest mistake was not following my instincts before I entered into to a partnership a few years ago. God gave us the power of instincts. The inner power that warns us of something that is potentially harmful to us or not good for us. It is the “God in you” that instinctively wants to protect you when faced with bad situations. My gut feeling told me not to partner with this person but my lack of self confidence in the business at the time made me believe that I needed her to move forward. Well, it took me three events to find out through the venue manager that she had stolen a lot of money from me. I was floored, hurt and furious. This person was not just a business partner but a close associate so I thought for over 10 years. I confronted her and she denied it. She didn’t even come clean after I busted her. After that experience I learned a few things, 1) to book my own venue spaces, 2) Negotiate my own contracts, 3) All partnerships are not beneficial to you, 4) I do not have to always partner with people in order to be successful, and most important 5) To follow my instincts!
US ambassador How do you balance work and play?
CJ I work hard and play hard. I like nice things so it is an incentive for me to work hard so that I am able to reap the benefits of my hard work. In my earlier days I did a lot of playing so I do not find the need to play as much these days. I understand the importance of securing my future. I can only do that by working hard and smart. Today it is much easier to balance work and play because I realized the hard way that too much playing leads to a lack of success. I want to be successful and I know that if I work hard enough now I will be able to play a lot more later on in life.
US ambassador What guidance or mentoring would you give new producers and promoters? How would you make it not a silence voice?
CJ The guidance and mentoring that I would give to new promoters is to learn and accept your true self and the types of people you want to be around. Your success comes from selling your best you. People support who and what they like. Get out and support other people not only when you are promoting your events. Show a consistent presence in the community that you wish to succeed in. Be genuine, people can spot a phony immediately. And lastly, be the love that you want to receive.
US ambassador Many have seen the bright lights and music. What are your give back in regards to awareness and philanthropic?
CJ I try to give back every day with my life. I am always looking for ways to make life easier for others not just when people are looking on or watching. I have volunteered with several organizations, the youth in my church and each year I choose a charity to make a personal financial donation to from the proceeds of my Annual All White Party. This year is was The Terrell Wilson Foundation. At my events I feature several non-profit/community organizations by bringing awareness of AIDS, Heart disease, safe sex, civil rights and breast cancer to my patrons, just to name a few. I think that it is important to give to others, not just your time, but your finances. I put my money where my mouth is because I feel it is our responsibility and obligation to create awareness and be philanthropic with our community.
US ambassador It is important to have mentor or a reference point? Do you have one or a model you follow?
CJ I am blessed to have had a few of mentors in my life that have contributed to my personal growth, personal development, business success, and educational achievements. I am like a sponge when I want to learn something. I have had mentors that did not even know they were mentors. A wise individual said don’t re-invent the wheel. What that means is most ideas have already been thought of so look at a successful model of business or a successful person and model what they do then add your own flavor. People have been promoting for years so I learn from different promoters and other events that I have attended. I have learned not to steer too far away from what most successful promoter do but I put my own tweak on it and ad the qualities that I love to see and feel at an event. There are two models that I try to always follow 1) being my authentic self and 2) treat people with kindness. I am the same me all of the time. If I do not feel good then I stay in the privacy of my home. People do not realize that just because you are not a promoter does not mean you are not marketing yourself in one way or another. We should always strive to be out best self.
US ambassador How important is it to be culturally diverse?
CJ I think being culturally diverse is as important as you make it in your life. Some people are content with only knowing and experiencing their culture and we cannot force them to be more diverse or more aware if it is not important to them. Personally I feel that the more diverse we are entirely, not just culturally the greater blessing we can become to others. I believe being culturally diverse is being aware and accepting of other cultures; being sensitive to the differences of other cultures. Though we are all created in God’s perfect image not one of us is the same. The more diverse our experiences are the more we are able to experience the diversity of God our creator. We become closer to what he all wanted us to be…one people serving one God.
US ambassador Suggest a book that impacted your life.
CJ The Secret has impacted my life. The power of intention is a gift that we all have. When used the right way life becomes a journey that has no limits. The universe is made up of energy and we literally attract what energy we put out. If you want love…be love! If you want to be successful…help someone else become successful. If you want peace…create peace wherever you go and act peaceful towards others. Project the images and results that you want in your mind, see it before it comes…only those thoughts, not even an ounce of doubt that you cannot have the very things that you are projecting. Be consistent in your thoughts. This change does not come over night. It teaches you to make a conscious effort to change your thoughts in order to change the results you get. Though I have not mastered these teachings I work on them every day.