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May 15, 2024 16 mins

Today’s guest DeDe Lea, Executive Vice President, Global Public Policy and Government Relations at Paramount joins host Tommi A. Vincent on Radio Row during Super Bowl LVIII to discuss how her family's catering business created the work ethic to achieve success, moving forward in adversity,  not staying in the help phase, starting college at 16, and more.

DeDe never considered success not to be an option. Her journey to success speaks to that in volume. A few of Stacey D. Stewart’s highlights:

  • Lea leads the worldwide government relations function for Paramount, overseeing the development and execution of the company’s government relations strategy and public policy work domestically and internationally.
  • Former  Executive Vice President of Global Government Affairs of Viacom  
  • In honor of her work to strengthen diversity and inclusion in media and entertainment, Lea received the 2020 Executive Leadership Award from the T. Howard Foundation. 
  • She serves on the boards of the Motion Picture Association, the National Association of Broadcasters and the MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Host: Tommi A. Vincent  

Guests: DeDe Lea, Executive Vice President, Global Public Policy and Government Relations at Paramount 

Produced by: Tommi A. Vincent, Dimitri Golden, and Motion Hue Productions

Music By: Stichiz - Big T. Music / Roj & Twinkie


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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Joining us at the table, we have D. D. Le
A executive vice president global public policy and a government
relations paramount. Enjoy our conversation. Take your seat, get comfortable
because it's time to stay a while. I am your host,
Tommy Vincent, and we are delighted to be in conversation

with D. D. Lee A. How are you?

Speaker 2 (00:27):
I am well?

Speaker 1 (00:27):
How are you? I am doing very well? Thank you? Good.
Good to hear that. Yes, because you know life is
moving and shaking and there's a lot going on. Being
well is a good is a very important, very important
It is, Yes, it is. And as someone who has

it's a long tenure of success, we know you did
not wake up that way now, ha ha. Now, so
there's been a lot of training ground to get where
you are. Yeah, So would you mind please share how

did you get where you are?

Speaker 2 (01:16):
You know it's been it's been a journey, right, it's
been a process. But I will say it really started
as a child. So my parents had their own company,
they had a catering company. So I grew up in
the kitchen, you know, either cooking. There's certain foods I
cannot eat today because I made them as it I
just I don't throw a me ball in front of me.

Too many Houtoh, don't throw remachi in front. There's just
some stuff I can't eat. But that work ethic of
having to help in the company business gave me the
work ethic that you need to do what I do
today and what I've done throughout my career. It's getting up.
It's the grind. You just have to put in the work.
And I think that is really the foundation, you know,

that gave me the ability to do the work that
I'm doing now. My father died when I was fourteen,
died suddenly of a heart attack, so my mother had
to run the company. Little did I know she was
actually running it anyway as.

Speaker 1 (02:19):
The wise typically are.

Speaker 2 (02:20):
My father was the personality, my mother was the business person,
but she had to do both and that made me,
in a way, you know, to grow up quickly, but
also remember that life goes on and that you just
have to keep going. You can't stop in whatever adversity
you had. You just have to keep going forward. And
that obviously was a turning point in my life and

made a big difference for how I have to approach
things today and every day.

Speaker 1 (02:49):
When you think about your childhood and that experience and
that work ethic that you developed. What is a defining
moment in that process where you recognize I have something
special inside of me?

Speaker 2 (03:05):
Here? You know, I don't know that I ever recognized
I had something special because I was just always just
doing and working.

Speaker 1 (03:14):

Speaker 2 (03:15):
I graduated high school at sixteen, so I left Texas
and went to Howard University at sixteen. So some people
would say that was special, but it was just me.
It was just what I was supposed to do. It
never occurred to me that I would not be successful.
And I don't say that arrogantly.

Speaker 1 (03:32):
It was just you go to school, you're supposed to
do well. I just assumed I would.

Speaker 2 (03:38):
So maybe for me it was just that assumption that
everything was going to work out again, going back to
my father's death, when I thought the world was just
going to fall apart.

Speaker 1 (03:47):
Now, actually everything worked out all right.

Speaker 2 (03:49):
So maybe inside it was that optimism and that just knowing.

Speaker 1 (03:55):
That it was going to be fine. So I don't
know that it was.

Speaker 2 (03:57):
Special, And maybe it was, but I didn't. Maybe it's
that ability from my father's death to not dwell on things,
and maybe that's what helped catapult.

Speaker 1 (04:09):
Would you say that that is I know we're we're
not speaking about what you know to be true, because
you learn how to move through life right, regardless of
the right. As you reflect on that right now, in
this moment, are you able to see that that's not
something that everyone possesses.

Speaker 2 (04:29):
Absolutely? Absolutely, Yeah. And again I guess my mother when
my father passed away, she told my two older sisters,
she said, pull yourself together. We have a business to run.
So I think she was the one who gave that
to us. But yeah, I agree. But one of the
things I do try to tell people when they have adversities,

be it death or's something really tragic happened or horrible
happened in your life, don't stay there, Yes, move on.
Don't do that to yourself because people move on and
you're still in whatever this situation is from ten to
fifteen years ago, and everybody else has moved on and
forgotten about it. But you're right, not everyone can do that,

but people should learn.

Speaker 1 (05:15):
How to do that. They really have to. That's definitely
a skill for myself personally. I didn't have that early
on in my life. Right, I did encounter adversity, and
it wasn't that I processed it that I needed to
move forward and move through it, or I just took
it and tucked it away. Yeah, So for me, it
came up later in life because I did not even

take one second to sit in it and know how
it impacted me, that it caused me to be flat
on my back. I woked about of depression and not
knowing how did I even get here? Right, because so
much of my life I tucked away? Right, As someone
with live life experience and we are managing those things,

do you have any advice for all of us on
how to recognize what the situation is, give it the
attention it requires, and move on because that's a multi step.
It's a multi step process. Don't tuck it away.

Speaker 2 (06:24):
And in our community, we tend to have this issue
with counseling. We tend to have this issue with therapy.
We need to stop it. If you need help, go
get help, but don't stay in the help phase. Right
at some point you do have to move on, But
you do have to stop down and you do have

to address it, and then you have to move on.
It is a step by step process, but you have
to recognize that you need the help and it's okay
to need help. And I think there's this myth of
the strong black woman because we'd had to be strong,
but we also need help and that's okay. And that's
what I often tell people. To do what you have

to do to get over whatever it was or get
through it. Just don't stay in it, because staying in
it is just too toxic.

Speaker 1 (07:16):
ELF has done it again, another Super Bowl and another
successful commercial campaign. Last year, Jennifer Coolidge had herself in
a sticky situation with ELF Power Grip Primer and this year,
world renowned Judge Judy or in this case, Judge Beauty,

presided over ELF court by making verdicts on beauty with
her mandate to serve eyes, lips facts. Judge Judy was
handing down verdicts for overpriced beauty. It's a crime, and
in Judge Judy's court, you can be found guilty of
reckless beauty. A daily use of HELF is the only

sentence that will leave you glowing with innocence because in
Judge Judy's court, it's in ELF we trust. Do you
have the opportunity to mentor other women and and I'm
being specific to gender, yeah, but other women that are

coming up in the ranks. Is that something that you
do I do.

Speaker 2 (08:31):
I do it more informally than formally, so people will
call me and say, I need your advice, I need
your help, I need your thoughts, and I'm I'm happy
to give it. I find for me that's better because
I travel so much and i'm you know, I have
so much going on at two kids, my husband.

Speaker 1 (08:49):
You don't have to be committal. Yeah, I'm not really
a committal person. I'm just not I do that. It's true.

Speaker 2 (09:00):
I don't do that, but I'm always happy to because
people did that for me. So I'm always happy to
to talk to young women and talk to them about
things that people told me that thankfully they did and
really made my life better today.

Speaker 1 (09:16):
You know.

Speaker 2 (09:16):
Look, one of the things I tell a lot of
young women is don't let work become your everything, because
I see too many women who are, you know, late thirties, early.

Speaker 1 (09:27):
Forties, and then they're stuck right. All they do is work.

Speaker 2 (09:31):
They don't have a relationship, they don't have kids, they're
not married, they're not they're not anything except for work.
And I remind them there's something else besides work. So
take a minute, maybe it means you stay in that
job a little bit longer. But you do have to
have a personal life because companies change, things change, and
there you are. And I have too many friends where

that's happened. They got caught up in the work and
then they looked up and they're in their mid to
late fifties and they're like, oh wait, I forgot to
do this, and now they're trying to do it. So
I do talk to women about that. I tend to
talk more about the personal side than the professional side
because I feel like the professional side will take care

of itself.

Speaker 1 (10:14):
You know what you're doing.

Speaker 2 (10:16):
You know, you have to be assertive, you know, you know,
you know when to speak up and when not to
speak up.

Speaker 1 (10:22):
But the other.

Speaker 2 (10:22):
Side of that, the personal side, is equally important because
if you don't have the personal side, or you don't
have a partner who can help you, that professional side
is harder.

Speaker 1 (10:33):
It's much harder.

Speaker 2 (10:34):
And I'm thankful I have a husband who's great and
who helps me.

Speaker 1 (10:41):
When you were matriculating through life, uh huh, before you
have the position you have now, Uh huh? Is there
an opportunity that you had from a career perspective, that
you know set you up for a success today outside
of working with your family. Yeah. Absolutely. So.

Speaker 2 (11:01):
I worked in radio, in advertising, in sales for about
five years when I first came out of college, and
I looked around and I saw that all of the
other people were much older than me, and they.

Speaker 1 (11:13):
Just didn't seem happy, I have to say.

Speaker 2 (11:16):
And I thought, well, I don't want to be forty.
I was twenty something. I don't want to be forty
and unhappy. So I decided to go to law school. Okay,
So I applied and got accepted to a bunch of
different law schools in DC.

Speaker 1 (11:29):
Chose Georgetown Law. And I think it was taking that opportunity.
What was clear.

Speaker 2 (11:34):
Taking that opportunity open this door for me, because without it,
I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing.

Speaker 1 (11:42):
So sometimes we are moving throughout life and we do
these things and we may feel like this serves no
purpose in our life, this opportunity right here. I hate
what I'm doing right here? Do you believe that everything

adds value? Absolute? Absolutely?

Speaker 2 (12:09):
I never had anything that I hated, So I think
I was blessed in that sense.

Speaker 1 (12:14):
When I was in college.

Speaker 2 (12:16):
When I was at Howard, I interned everywhere in Washington.
I was at every radio station, everything that I could do,
getting coffee, doing whatever, just being in the environment where
some of those the best experiences.

Speaker 1 (12:30):

Speaker 2 (12:31):
But by the time I graduated Howard, I knew a
whole lot of people. So I think you can either
be a sponge and just take in everything, or you
can just say it's not worth it. I was a
sponge and I took in everything that I learned, I
observed before I spoke, and I think that is what's
helped me. But I think if you can find the

good out of every opportunity, it will help you. But
you may have to dig a little deeper. But don't
waste it. You're there, so I waste it, use it.

Speaker 1 (13:03):
We are right now in a culture where everybody wants
everything right now. Do you think we need more sponges
in the world.

Speaker 2 (13:12):
Yes, yes, yes, be a sponge aunge, Yeah, we do.

Speaker 1 (13:18):
I think everybody. You know. My husband's so funny. You know.
Women will come up to him and say, oh, I
want to be d D. I want to be d D.

Speaker 2 (13:26):
And he said, well, if you want to be DD,
you need to be married to a man like me.
But you do I think there's a process. If I
had moved up too quickly, I wouldn't be able to
handle all the incoming that I get every day in
this job. And I think people want to be where
we are, but they don't realize that I've been lobbying

for thirty years, right. I know, I don't look at it.
He started when I was ten. But there is a process.
There doesn't mean that you have to stay where you
are forever, but it also means don't jump too quick. Yes,
And I think too many people jump too quick and
they aren't ready for the next step, and then they've
wasted time because they have to go back and start over.

Speaker 1 (14:11):
So before I let you go, is there any words
of wisdom that you would depart into our listening community
to a Kurt to let's stay in this thread line
of being a sponge. Yeah, you know.

Speaker 2 (14:28):
My mother used to say, I don't understand the word can't,
So I would encourage people don't focus on what you
can't do. Focus on what you can do.

Speaker 1 (14:42):
And there is.

Speaker 2 (14:43):
Truth to if you think you can do it, you can.

Speaker 1 (14:46):
You have what you.

Speaker 2 (14:47):
Say you have, So you're going to have to put
in the work.

Speaker 1 (14:51):
You may have to go back to school. I went
back to school. I was out of school.

Speaker 2 (14:54):
For five years and then went to law school and
worked during the day and went to law school at night.
That was It's tough. I had no wife, but that's okay.
So I think you have to put in the work.
It can be hard work. It may not be nine
to five work, but it's doable. Anything is doable if
you put your mind to it, and if you put

the work in that's needed for it. But don't let
other people tell you what you can or cannot do.
You decide what you can and cannot do. I decided
what I could and could not do. No one else
told me, and I had people say to me, don't
go to law school.

Speaker 1 (15:33):
Why would you do that? All these lawyers don't go
to law school. You don't want to be a lawyer.
You don't get to tell me what I can and
cannot do.

Speaker 2 (15:42):
And I think people need a little bit more of
that sponginess, but also stick to itiveness.

Speaker 1 (15:48):
Just keep pushing and it won't happen, it really will.
Thank you for that. I felt like you was talking
to me. I'm like she's talking about but thank you,
Thank you so much. This was such a pleasure. Thank you,
I really appreciate it. How you're welcome, Tell me go on,
stay well.

Speaker 2 (16:09):
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