Of course in such a big media company like BET Networks nothing is done by one person alone. Still, it was Natasha’s work that helped bring our Event of the Year to life — BET’s 2013 Inaugural Gala to honor and celebrate President Barack Obama. BET had only thrown an Inaugural Gala once before, but it felt like they’d been doing it for the last 43 years, especially after everyone filed out of the Smithsonian American Art Museum after being entertained by BBD, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, Wayne Brady, Doug E. Fresh, and Jermaine Dupri.
We chatted with Natasha about her own BET experience and just how she makes the magic happen inside the network:
DC Fab!:What’s your official role at BET Networks?
Natasha Bryson: As Senior Manager of Event Productions and Corporate Relations, I work with a talented team of event and communications professionals to bring the BET Networks brand to life for our audience. We work on a range of events and experiences designed to highlight new programs, showcase new initiatives, launch new shows or talent, and represent the core values of our brand. In addition to the great parties (pre-parties, after parties and inaugural parties), we plan, design and execute press screenings, show launches, media promotion events, marketing events and support in-person live events from 25 to 6000+ guests. We also work very closely with our production team on all our live specials, with a particular focus on the elements of the guest experience, such as producing the red carpet arrivals area.
Why did BET decide to throw an Inaugural bash for President Obama?
With our corporate headquarters in D.C. and a relatively young viewing audience, it was important to BET Networks to encourage civic engagement and political awareness. Under President Obama, we also saw a notable increase in the presence of so many influential African-Americans excitedly participating in the business of government here in D.C. For us, it was an important moment to celebrate, not just because the country elected the first African-American president, but because we saw African-Americans so passionately engaged in the political process, which is an important element in how BET supports our demographic and our community.
Which BET event do you most look forward to putting together?
Leading Women Defined is probably my favorite event each year. We invite 150 influential African-American women from all walks of life to gather together for two days of discussions, community outreach, reflection and inspiration. So many highly respected women are together talking — in very candid conversations — about issues that affect them personally and topics of concern for our community as a whole — from mental health issues to the images of Black women in the media to philanthropy and financial wellness. What’s remarkable is how we transform the hotel ballroom space each year into a chic and cozy “living room” and “dining room” that encourages real dialogue between these amazing women. From slumber party screenings to meditation in the labyrinth to cutting edge haute couture fashion, we create an atmosphere that fosters such great connections and uplifts each attendee.
Has there ever been an embarrassing moment you’ve encountered while planning an event with a celebrity?
We try to plan ahead for every scenario so that we can avoid any surprises, and we’ve been successful with that approach.
How important is D.C. to BET?
D.C. is BET’s home. It is where we were born and grew up. Although much of our production has moved to other cities, D.C. is always our home. Even our staff members who aren’t from D.C. (or the DMV) or are based in other cities, love to come home to D.C. Many of them went to school here or worked here in previous roles. D.C. is part of our DNA and will always be part of BET.
Is there something we’d be surprised to learn about BET CEO Debra Lee?
Ms. Lee is such a role model to so many, which is not really a surprise. She is very approachable and really enjoys getting to know the staff on a personal level.
If you had to give an acceptance speech, what would you say?
I don’t know! Part of the reason that I love what I do is that I get to be behind-the-scenes putting everything together. I’m not the “center stage” type, but I love standing backstage watching all the magic come to life. If I’m front and center on-stage, the most you’ll probably get from me is “Thank you so much.”
Photo credit: Gary Williams for The Fab Empire