Valeisha Butterfield Strives to Empower Women in Entertainment
Communications strategist Valeisha M. Butterfield always had dreams of creating an organization centered on women’s empowerment. After Don Imus’ incendiary comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team back in 2007 sparked fiery conversations and debates surrounding the perception of black females in the media, the entertainment industry aficionada shot back in her own way. Butterfield, alongside Lauren Lake and Kristi Henderson, founded the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN), a non-profit organization offering financial literacy, career development, health education and personal advancement programming for women, that same year. Just three years later, WEEN has 43,000 members worldwide and has awarded 10 young female entrepreneurs with scholarships.
Blackenterprise.com talked with the 32-year-old chairwoman about turning her dream into a reality, the importance of mentorship and financial proficiency and what WEEN has in store.
Blackenterprise.com: What is a day in the life of Valeisha like?
Butterfield: It varies day-to-day. It always changes from the moment I get into the office; but normally it’s up by 6 and I work until usually 2 or 3 in the morning. My WEEN work is my moonlighting work and my work with ITA [the International Trade Administration] is my 9-to-5. I’m rewarded by both.
Last year, you were appointed Deputy Director of Public Affairs for the International Trade Administration (ITA). How did you land that job?
I did a lot of work with the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and getting surrogates involved in the campaign. From that experience, the Obama administration brought me on-board as a volunteer. When he was finally elected, I got a phone call one day. I was asked if I would be interested in working in his administration and, of course, I said it would be an honor.
What prompted you to start WEEN?
Women’s empowerment was something I always believed in. When I worked for Russell Simmons back in 2007, Don Imus made very controversial statements directed towards women of color, and that was followed by a television program on Oprah with Russell, Dr. Ben Chavis, Kevin Liles and many others from the entertainment industry being seriously questioned about the entertainment industry’s role in the negative portrayal of women. I went to Russell one day, soon after that Oprah show, and I said, ‘Russell, you know, I have this idea for an organization. I really want your support and your blessing to get more involved and do my part because I’ve worked in the industry and I felt like it was my responsibility to work from the inside out.’ Russell said, ‘Of course, whatever you need, I’ll support you.’ From there, that idea became a reality.
Source: Black Enterprise