Sylvia Rhone is considered one of the most influential female executives in music, having been at the helm of labels like Atlantic, Elektra and Universal Motown Records. Here are five reasons you should get to know this music maven, who will be honored on February 8 (along with Kelly Rowland) at this year’s ESSENCE Black Women in Music Awards.
1. She has identified and nurtured the best and brightest in music.
In the music business for more than 30 years, Rhone, 58, is credited with launching and overseeing the careers of chart-topping artists like Nicki Minaj, Erykah Badu, Drake, Stevie Wonder, Brandy, and Tracy Chapman, among others.
2. She followed her passion.
A native of Philadelphia who grew up in Harlem, Rhone started her career in finance after graduating with a degree in economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1974 she decided to follow her passion for music, first finding work as a secretary at Buddha Records (home to artists like Gladys Knight and the Pips, Curtis Mayfield and the Isley Brothers).
3. She’s an industry insider.
Among her many titles Rhone has served as senior vice president of Atlantic Records, chairman and CEO of Elektra Entertainment Group, and president of Universal Motown Records (from 2004-2011).
4. She’s made history.
In 1990 Rhone became the first Black woman to head a major record company when she was named CEO/President of Atlantic’s East/West Records. She made history again in 1994, when she became the first Black person and woman to earn the dual title of Chairman/CEO of the Elektra Entertainment Group.
5. She loves fashion as much as she does music.
Rhone favors cutting-edge designers like Martin Margiela and Ric Owens. Take a look at her avant-garde style in this ESSENCE.com “Closet Envy” feature.