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Alumnae Stories

Music Executive Phylicia Fant Named Corporate Executive of the Year at the Bounce Trumpet Awards

January 2020

Phylicia FantConfidence, determination, and courage is what fueled Phylicia Fant early in her career, powering her past barriers to become one of the music industry’s most successful global game-changers. “Urban, pop, independent rock – I can work any genre, just give it to me,” says Fant who was recently appointed Head of Urban Music at Columbia Records. Fant escaped the traditional typecasting that would tie her to one genre – a rarity in an industry notorious for profiting from and often glorifying gender, race and sexual stereotypes.

Fant, hailed as an industry giant, was honored as the Corporate Executive of the Year at the Bounce Trumpet Awards which aired on Jan. 12. The award recognizes someone who leads companies to new heights while creating opportunities for others to succeed.

A Career Birthed Out of Hard Work

A second-generation alumna (her mother is Margaree Cheek Fant, C’76), Fant set her sights on a career in public relations after completing several internships while studying at Spelman. After graduation, she accepted a job and relocated to New York. When the position fell through, Fant was determined to stay in the city and started pounding the pavement for work. Fearless, she knocked on veteran publicist Terrie Williams’ office door because “she was the best.” 

“When you’re 22 and you don’t know fear and you don’t have inhibitions in you, you do things,” explains Fant whose effort earned her an internship and letter of recommendation from Williams. She started temping at Universal Music Group in the radio department, then in the executive office, but Fant says she knew that wasn’t for her. “I didn’t want to cut apples for someone at four o’clock and spread peanut butter on their toast – that’s what I was doing.”

The Power of a Spelman Education

 “Spelman prepares you for a diverse corporate structure. It prepares you for confidence. When you grow up and don’t see people who look like you, [then, at Spelman,] you see all these wonderful Black women like Dr. [Johnnetta] Cole, or you sit with our current president, Dr. [Beverly] Tatum, or you have a class with Dr. [Beverly] Guy-Sheftall, then you’re like, ‘I’m bad,’” boasts Fant. “Spelman prepared me for the real world by giving me the confidence to take it on.” 

Armed with that confidence, Fant went to the human resources office and asked them to look at her resume. “I started at CNN, UPS, MTV, Hot 97, and I have a letter from Terrie Williams; is there not a PR position in this company? This is not where my skill set is nor is it the path I want to take.” By the end of that week she was temping in the public relations department. 

Fant has gone on to work with some of music’s biggest stars, including Prince, India Arie, Amy Winehouse, Kelly Rolland, Michael Bolton, Jason Derulo, Swizz Beatz and Common, but she says it was JoJo, then a 13-year-old White pop artist, who changed her life. “She opened up doors for me,” says Fant who was a coordinator in her early 20s, still learning the business at the time. She was tasked with leading the star’s publicity campaign that exploded into international success. That success exposed Fant to a publicity perspective that was not limited to traditional television and print, but included charity events and endorsements as well. “I was able to do everything,” explains Fant. “It strengthened my skill set as a publicist because I was balancing lifestyle, marketing and PR.” 

After 10 years and several positions with Universal, prior to taking the position at   Columbia Records, Fant made a power move to Warner Music Group, which landed her in Los Angeles. She credits her experiences at Spelman and early in her career with helping her to become one of the youngest vice presidents at her company. “They put me in a position to move through life without color and to move through the industry without looking at myself as an urban executive but as a great executive. Age doesn’t matter and color doesn’t matter. 

“Spelman prepared me,” she says. It instilled the belief, “You’re good. Go out there with confidence.”