‘It’s Our Time As WOC To Make An Impact In Entertainment’: CEO Of Young Millennium Records
Lena Jenkins-Smith spent 16-plus years working as an executive assistant to some of Hollywood’s elite and in the process, she carved out an inspiring career, working with top-tier talent such as Zaytoven, SWV, Lil Wayne and more.
Now she’s the executive producer and CEO of the Atlanta-based record label, Young Millennium Records. Her business partner? R&B legend and entrepreneur Keith Sweat, president of the label.
Some of the talent on the Young Millennium roster includes Cyrus, Zmac, Blazian, Lela, Kallie Rock, and More-Onz.
Smith earned multiple degrees in business management, psychology, and liberal studies with a focus on production. She is committed to giving young artists a head start.
Young Millennium Records stands out “because we are only dealing with young artists at the moment,” Smith said in a Thrive Global interview. “This next generation — the young ones — this is where our future lies and they hold the key to this major social media movement which thus influences our politics, our social structure, and yes our music.”
Smith’s work involves managing multiple aspects of her clients’ career at once, such as arranging housing, selecting wardrobe, managing logistics for concerts and appearances and working with vendors while ensuring that her clients’ needs are met. She has also honed skills as a production and stage designer, which earned her the executive producer title for several of her client’s DVD and live tapings.
“I’ve known Lena for a number of years and always admired her work ethic and attention to detail,” Sweat said in a prepared statement. “When the opportunity presented itself to collaborate on this record label I knew it would be a successful venture. I think one of the key elements to my success is that I’ve always reinvented myself while remaining true to my core. Launching YMR gives me the opportunity to do this and help guide the careers of some very young and talented artists.”
Jenkins-Smith is working on a scripted series that showcases the empowerment of women who work behind the scenes, according to Thrive Global.
One of the hard lessons she learned, she said was, “I thought if I treated people right I would automatically get that in return. Well I learned the hard way that even though you may get a blessing it may not always be from those whom you have blessed.”
Moguldom asked Lena Jenkins-Smith what it’s like to be a woman of color working in Hollywood,
and how her work is impacted by tech, entrepreneurship, and entertainment:
“It is definitely a challenging world being a woman of color who is not only intellectual but who is also intuitive. I constantly struggle with the battle of being different while trying to fit in. I am very interested in and determined to find the balance between ethics and advantage when it comes to business.
“With all of my degrees and professional grooming and education, I still do not understand how a male counterpart can do less work for more pay in my industry. While I do not disagree that some jobs favor men more than women, I have to contest the discriminatory attitude that exists in the industry that I’m in.
“I’m quite often looked down upon, or there is a hesitation in dealing with me because I am a woman of color who is attempting to do the unexpected. My world is full of men that don’t encourage women to share in their experiences, their jobs, their overall work life. However, there are a lot of bonuses to being an entrepreneur in Hollywood.
“Technology plays a key role in my industry. There are constant updates, new platforms, and new ways to distribute content that allows for increasing revenue streams. The merge with technology, music, television, and entertainment in general is ever growing. Keeping up with the growth is super important.
“I am not only having to prove my worth in this industry, I am having to learn about new things while doing so. I am forever in training. It’s hard to grasp that after 16 years of being in the business, I would have to constantly refresh and reinvent my work ethic, but that is exactly the case.
“The student can always grow, find new opportunities, and be strengthened. I want to always be a student. I have a master’s in psychology, a master’s in business, and a bachelor’s in liberal studies, and yet I still feel as if I don’t know enough.
“I am always impacted by the growth of the entertainment industry, but I am also impacted by the downfalls – which is why I try to learn as much as possible so we as a whole, and we as women aren’t making the same mistakes over and over again.
“I feel it is our time as women of color to continue making our own impact in the entertainment industry – whether we are the talent or the people behind the talent – it is imperative we do this.”
Smith’s private label launch party will be held in Los Angeles in July.