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Opportunities Abound for New Black Stars with Grand Rising Talent’s Gillian Phelps

PhenomenalMAG Staff  |  On The Rise

Giselle Phelps' personal objective became unmistakably evident ten years ago.

The public relations specialist from Toronto with a background in mass communication wanted to use her own business venture to highlight the abilities and creativity of others.

During a recent Zoom call, Phelps said, "It's absolutely amazing to even think about it, but 2022 marks 10 years of entrepreneurship for me. The year is important. My company is turning 10 and I am turning 40. It's really fairly amazing.”

Even though Phelps has been working for herself for more than ten years, she acknowledges that the recent rebranding of her company feels like a completely new endeavor. As the founder and CEO of Grand Rising Talent, a recently established talent agency dedicated to fostering and amplifying minority broadcasters and on-camera experts, she is working with a new slate of people in a new city—Los Angeles.

The choice to compete in this new arena was a "spiritual decision," according to Phelps. Phelps describes the most recent version of her firm as "one of those things that's extremely hard to define when you just have an instinctive pull in a specific way.”

“But I'll put it this way: In more concrete words, I'll state that I saw a chance," she said.

Phelps worked with a number of famous people before moving to Hollywood due to the pandemic, including author, reporter, and Real Housewife of New York Eboni K. Williams. She enjoyed working on different projects and coming up with creative ways to advance her clients' concepts in her capacity as a publicist. That particular aspect of the job helped Phelps better understand her personal mission. She confesses, "Entrepreneurship is incredibly difficult. Your mission and motivations must be clear to you. You need to know your ‘why’ since there will be many things that try to get in the way of it every day.”

The newly minted Angeleno is now being positioned as a formidable talent agent in a largely white field thanks to that "why." White talent agents make up 68.5% of all talent agents, according to job site Zippia. Only 10.5% of talent agents, in contrast, identify as Black or African Americans. Hollywood has long been criticized for having a lack of diversity in all areas of the entertainment business. However, given the lack of Black talent agents in the City of Angels, Black women who own their own talent agencies are even more rare.

"Conversations regarding the dearth of minority agents began coming up more and more and more once I came here and started tapping into my network," says Phelps. "I was getting a lot of feedback from artists who weren't very happy with their selections or how they were being represented," said the talent.

Phelps claims that over time, a number of her clients, acquaintances, and friends in the broadcasting industry recommended that she try her hand at talent representation. But the reasons didn't become obvious until after arriving in Los Angeles. As Phelps explains, "I saw an opportunity to really expand my business and turn it into a licensed agency." And part of that is because, under California law, which frequently serves as the guiding law in the entertainment and television industries, there is just a pretty obvious line between agents, managers, and publicists. According to California law, completing arrangements for anyone that require payment of money falls under the category of an agent.

Phelps has been working tirelessly since relocating to the West Coast to support performers from various, intersectional backgrounds, including communities of color and LGBTQ+ identities. The aspiring company owner and Outfest board member acknowledges that some days are harder than others, but she still believes in herself and draws on the tenacity that has brought her this far.

Phelps quips, "It's funny since one of my great industry collaborators, Eboni K. Williams, loves to claim that I'm an emancipator of talent. And I've really leaned into it, as it captures the essence of who I am. I am a direct descendant of slaves who traveled on the Underground Railroad. That is what motivates me. I keep coming back to that. I always remind myself that I am the literal realization of their dreams.”

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