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Media pioneers' advice: Find your own strengths
Foster Brown, Thompson speak at Livingstone College
Published Monday, February 20, 2012 1:00 pm
by Laurie D. Willis, For The Charlotte Post

SALISBURY – Two accomplished African-American women who’ve made their mark in the journalism and entertainment industry imparted some sage advice to Livingstone College students.

Jamie Foster Brown, publisher and editor of Sister 2 Sister magazine, and Bea Thompson, news and public affairs director at WBAV 101.9 FM in Charlotte, North Carolina’s top-rated urban station, took center stage at Varick Auditorium last week to discuss their careers and answer questions from Livingstone students.

Foster Brown and Thompson were at Livingstone as part of the college’s ongoing celebration of Black History Month. The President’s Office and the History and English departments organized the assembly.

Foster Brown, who launched Sister 2 Sister in 1988, is known as a trailblazer in the entertainment industry. Her magazine has become a staple for entertainment industry insiders, and she has become a consummate confidant to the stars and is often the first to land interviews with major celebrities.

She began her career when she founded the Washington Theater Group in 1979, an organization focused on group theater sales. Her career got a boost when she started working for Black Entertainment Television as an advertising secretary to its founder, Robert Johnson.

Thompson, who has been in television for 35 years, is well known for her station’s top-rated talk show, “Straight Talk with Bea Thompson,” and hosting “Queen City Limits” for the City of Charlotte. She’s also a motivational speaker who is often asked to emcee events, and a media trainer for private and corporate clients. In fact, Thompson served as emcee last week at fund-raiser sponsored by the United Negro College Fund and Livingstone.

She has worked as a corporate spokeswoman for the former Duke Power, and in 1980 she became the first African-American female anchor in Charlotte at WBTV (channel 3).

Thompson discussed her introduction to urban renewal and how her family was forced to move from its home on Stonewall Street. She also talked about block busting while describing her family’s relocation to a previously all-white neighborhood. And she mentioned her introduction to social America, when she saw a cross burning in the front yard of a neighbor’s home.

“All of that went into this pot to make me,” Thompson said.

She said she got involved in the television industry, in part, because “I never saw anybody who looked like me telling me, as Marvin (Gaye) would say, what’s going on.”

Thompson encouraged students to “find the strengths that are your own” and to work hard to develop their craft.

Foster Brown told students when she began working for Johnson she had no idea she “was going to end up working for a future billionaire.” She started as Johnson’s secretary but eventually was promoted to produce for BET’s then-flagship shows, “Video Soul” and “Video LP."

“I was one of the first people to have Whitney Houston on the air,” Foster Brown said. “I actually had her helping out behind the scenes.”

Foster Brown was close friends with Houston, who has appeared on her magazine’s cover several times.

“I met Bobby (Brown) when he was 13 and singing with New Edition,” Foster Brown said. “I used to joke with Whitney that ‘Bobby was mine before he was yours.’ I was in L.A. (at the Grammys) when all of this happened. It’s a really sad affair.”

Foster Brown told the students that being educated helped her land the job with Johnson. She said her magazine, which is sold nationally, began as a small newsletter.

After the assembly, Foster Brown participated in a Q&A session with about 50 female students. Seconds into one student’s question, Foster Brown encouraged her to speak up and inject confidence into her voice.

Another student, an inspiring film producer and director, asked about the lack of females in film.

“This is a man’s world, so you have to conquer it,” Foster Brown said. “It isn’t easy, and you can’t be scared, because the guys will tell you to sit down.”

Foster Brown was also asked about her “favorite interview” over the years. She cited entertainment mogul Tyler Perry and R&B legend Eddie Levert and his late sons, Gerald and Sean, among her best.





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