Legendary film publicist Roz Stevenson reveals her success secrets

Roz Stevenson

On Sunday, Oct. 26, Ronda Racha Penrice hosted the inaugural #BrunchTalks conversation with special guest, legendary Hollywood publicist Roz Stevenson, the retired president of Roz Stevenson Public Relations in Los Angeles.

“People who know Roz, know she’s solid and good person,” Penrice started as she held back tears.

“Ronda was my very first employee when I started my company. She is so brilliant. This conversation is an idea that she had and I am excited to be the first guest. She has great ideas and is a wonderful journalist,” Stevenson praises.

Earlier this year, Stevenson received the Pan African Film Festival’s coveted Trailblazer Award for her role in breaking down barriers for black talent and black media in Hollywood.

Stevenson’s career started in Hollywood as an actress in movies like Ladies Sings the Blues, where she played a police woman. “After that, I played a lot of teachers and hookers,” attendees burst into laughter. “I met my husband on ‘Ironside.’”

She later wrote for “Good Times.”

Stevenson has more than 30 years of experience in the film industry. RSPR specialized in motion picture publicity and promotions targeting the African American market. Founded in June 2000 with Universal Pictures as its main client, Stevenson’s agency made a positive impact on the studio’s motion picture releases. In addition, she completed successful campaigns for other studios, including Sony Pictures, Screen Gems, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, New Line Cinemas, Fox Searchlight and HBO.

RSPR served on more than 100 film projects, including Ray, the Best Man, American Gangster, and Pursuit of Happyness.

“In hindsight, I knew I wanted to work in a creative environment. I didn’t know what my gift was. I didn’t know what my purpose was. I went to MGM Studios with a whole different agenda. I was handling RSVPs for a premiere and the first person to call was Cary Grant, the next person was Jane Fonda. It prompted me to learn more about publicity. I found out that everything you needed to be a successful publicist, I already was.

“Do a good job then you can go ask for a favor,” says Stevenson. It’s why she had the courage to go to MGM Studios’ president seeking approval for the public relations designation training. She developed a plan and the president commented that she was the only person to ever do so.

The skills of a good publicist according to Stevenson: “You have to be a people person, be able to write and be an organizer.” Organizing and writing were skills she honed while in high school and college, where she was always on the planning committee for events and even though she had little journalism experience, she wrote for the school newspaper. “I always wrote from my heart.”

“I started my PR career when I was 40 and my company when I was 57,” boasts Stevenson.

Universal Pictures’ president hired her as a senior publicist, where she was responsible for national and local TV, radio publicity and African American campaigns for all motion picture releases and worked on award-winning films and box-office hits: Erin Brockovich, The Hurricane, The Best Man, The Mummy and Out of Sight.

She and fellow industry legend Robert Stevenson have been married for 37 years and have three daughters, a son and seven grandchildren.

In Attendance were members of BPRSA, ACE, AAFCA, AABJ and Shock Theory. Check out the photos in the gallery.

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