On Thursday, the exclusive yet inclusive second annual celebration Grit Before The Gram (GBTG) dinner highlighting Black women in music took place, and let’s just say it’s here to stay.
Karleen Roy is the CEO of The Vanity Group (TVG), an upscale boutique agency that specializes in event production, brand experience, and corporate consulting. Her company is behind some of the most luxurious events in entertainment since 2013 with a long list of clients that include Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Justin Bieber, Cardi B., Def Jam Records, Amazon, Nike and YouTube.
She previously launched GBTG, an intimate pre-Grammys invite-only dinner that honors trailblazers who paved the way and the new movers and shakers who are the playmakers behind the scenes of the music industry, to which 100 women were invited.
“The Grit represents the women in the room who have been doing it,” she said. “The music industry has been around for years and the women who played intricate parts in that are unsung heroes and we need to celebrate them. The Gram is the new ladies and they deserve to be celebrated, motivated, and encouraged as well. It’s really bridging the gap and bringing these different generations together. Also, sometimes we just see people on Instagram so it’s a nod to the world of social media too.”
This year, actress, comedian, and artist Amanda Seales hosted GBTG and the honorees included Cathy Hughes (Founder and Chairman of Urban One, Inc.), Connie Orlando (Executive Vice-President and Head of Original Programming at BET Networks), and Amber Grimes (EVP/GM of LVRN Records).
Other notable guests in attendance were Yvette Noel-Schure, Laurieann Gibson, Cara Donatto, Angie Martinez, Sylvia Rhone and Shari Bryant along with surprise guest Toni Braxton, who shared share some heartfelt words ahead of Orlando being honored.
“We call Grit Before The Gram our homecoming. This event is to celebrate the women who are the shot callers, the button pushers, and the machines behind some of the biggest artists in the world,” Roy told Blavity.
She continued, “You may be sitting next to your new mentor or mentee. You may be at the bar and meet the new work bestie that you did not even know existed, so we created a space outside of the program for women just to break bread with each other because we’re never in the same room together.”
To create the guest list, TVG has a team dedicated to keeping an eye out for phenomenal Black women who are powerhouses. More women showed up to uplift each other since the invite list doubled to 200.
“We have a proprietary group that researches all year,” she shared. “They’re looking at Variety’s lists, the hitmakers list and Billboard power players all year around. We have a research committee that has its finger on the pulse of who are the women that are doing it and continuing to do it whether they are on or off Instagram.”
“At the inaugural Grit Before The Gram, we asked the attendees to drop names of other powerful and up-and-coming women who need to be in the room. We know everybody but we don’t know everybody. It’s a mix of making sure the room is well-balanced. Music is more than a room full of women who work at record labels,” the innovator said.
Roy feels when people are celebrated, they put a little more into their life’s work, so it’s important for Black women to be seen for all their hard work and dedication.
“I think it’s important to know that their contributions matter,” she added. “Music is the heartbeat of culture and these women are some of the architects behind it. I want them to leave Grit Before The Gram and think someone saw me, our community appreciates what I’m doing, this time is needed and I’m looking forward to attending the next one.”
As for the future of this event filled with black girl magic, Roy mentioned she sees programs sprouting from GBTG as it continues to grow.
“We totally see programs launching from this as the evolution continues,” she said. “At The Vanity Group, I say we are dream makers. We have so many dreams on how we see the event continuing to take shape as the years go by. Extended programming is on our vision board.”