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REVOLT CEO Detavio Samuels is the future of Black media

The talented executive is making an impact on Black media

Detavio Samuels is the CEO of REVOLT, America’s fastest-growing Black-owned media company.

Samuels is one of corporate America’s youngest and most accomplished senior executives. With more than a    decade of executive experience, he has helped a roster of top global companies like Walmart, McDonald’s, AT&T, Chrysler, the NBA, and Johnson & Johnson build impactful brands with deeper connections to their consumers.

What does it mean for you to be a CEO of the culture?

I think one of the first things you have to realize when you step into any new position is you have to promote yourself. You have to recognize that the work you were doing before is not necessarily the work that you’re supposed to be responsible for doing going forward. I’ve been a president my entire time in my 30s and became CEO  at 41. CEO has a different role to me. CEO is responsible for creating value for the company, so ultimately trying to figure out how you get a company worth 100 million to 500 million to a billion. How does the organization trade value? The CEO is responsible for being that mouthpiece who internally is telling them, ‘Hey, here’s the future, and here’s where we need to go.’ But then externally telling people on the outside, ‘This is REVOLT, this is the baby, this is what we’re building, and this is where we’re headed.’ Since I’ve been a CEO, I’ve probably been put on two or three paid board seats, and several paid advisory councils. It also just opens up the opportunities that you have to help build wealth, but also to move the needle for your brand.

What should we expect out of new CEOs like yourself, doing mega deals in media?

You should look for change and impact. REVOLT’s purpose is we want to shift the narrative for Black people globally. So any work that you see us doing any deals that you see us doing is ultimate for that purpose. They talk about media in terms of programs, because it is programming your mind and brain. For us, they’re likely going to program us, or we’re going to program us. We believe that we should be programming us. So we’re going to go look for those big deals and those big opportunities to give Black people the opportunity to control our own narrative and tell our own stories through our own lens.

Why is Black media important?

Global culture is Black culture, meaning Black culture is global culture. Black culture is pop culture. We drive so much of culture, but then Black-owned media, the people who are responsible for creating the media who represent the culture through our authentic lens, we only make up 1% or 2% of the revenue that’s coming into the system. When you think about media being a multi-billion, maybe trillion-dollar industry, and Black media walking away with $1 billion, it’s a crime. I always talk about the idea that media is nothing but windows and mirrors. For the people who you’re telling the story about, it’s a mirror, it tells those people who they are, what they’re capable of, and what their history is. For those people outside of that culture it’s a window into that community. Who they are, their background, their history, their truth, and so on. What happens right now is all of the mirrors and all of the windows are funky because none of them are being told through you or my lens. All of these amazing Black creators see us in such a different light than people who come from outside of our culture and who are ultimately responsible for Greenlining, the work that we see in the world. We believe that you can’t get people to treat us differently until you get us to see us differently. And the way you get them to see us differently is to put more money into Black-owned media so that more of our stories are told through our lens.

What can Black-owned companies do for the community?

Only 4% of Black-owned businesses across all industries are hiring people. The other 96% are sole proprietorships. So we need Black businesses who can scale up because ultimately that means that you can feed a bunch more families. The stat that REVOLT has been using over the last year or, we gave away $50 million to Black creators, storytellers, showrunners, and agencies. When we’re doing well, we’re able to put the money back into our community, so you get that exponential increase. It’s absolutely important that Black-owned media companies are funded because when we do it we’re going to reinvest in our communities. We’re going to create jobs, we’re going to hire Black caterers, we’re going to go to Black locations, and we’re going to hire Black storytellers. So we need that money circulating in our community, which is something that doesn’t often happen.

Why is it important for Black executives to serve on boards?

There are so many board opportunities where you can make somewhere between $50K to $350K a year. Some of these boards are paying and that’s just a quarterly meeting, maybe some committee meetings during the quarter but it’s not a ton of work often. What would happen historically, I believe is White people hire their White friends, so the whole board ends up looking like them. For us to be able to break through that glass ceiling now means not only do we have more opportunities to build to take money where we can invest and build wealth, but it also means that we have the opportunity to impact more companies. So when you sit on the board, your whole job is governance and guiding. Everything that you’re doing is trying to take what you know, as a leader, to be able to quickly digest information, and then steer and guide these companies in the right direction.

What is the information pipeline that helps you stay sharp and motivated?

I think that it is super critical, that we are always putting new information into our brains. The way you get to new ideas and fresh, innovative ideas is to be inspired by something else, and then find a lateral leap off of it. I’m big on podcasts, audiobooks, and everything from trying to understand how the human brain works to trying to make sure that I understand what’s happening in the media space, the media landscape, and the world that I’m playing in. When you are a CEO, I think there’s a lot of pressure, I think there’s a lot of stress that can come with that position. Finding places where you can get rest and get inspired and get motivated to keep going is very important.

Why is it important to have balance and love in your life?

I have realized way too late in life, that rest is imperative. It’s one of those things where people always talk about that airplane analogy that you got to put your face mask on before you can help everybody else. What you can’t do is run yourself into the ground. There’s a cost to that. Finding ways to rejuvenate, recover, and rest is critical. I’m starting to think about partnerships in a completely different way. The Bible says that it’s not good for man to be alone. What I recognize is that as we ascend and go to new levels, the air gets rare, and as it gets rarer then it can also become more lonely. That’s what I always talk about when I say it’s lonely at the top, where heavy is the crown. Recognizing the importance that a partner can play in that rest that is needed, as you are ascending and may be feeling alone or seeing the world in a perspective or in a way that nobody else is seeing it. Having that partner who can hold you down who can be a place of rest, who can be a place of encouragement, and who can be a place of support is super critical, especially if you are trying to be a high achiever.

What are three things you would tell people about going after their goals?

One, do not wait. This is a very specific and unique moment in time. I always say that those of us who are here, and we’re in our positions during the pandemic, both of the global pandemics happening at the same time, that happens once in 100 years, we were not here by accident. So because of that, I think we all serve a purpose. Two, I would want to talk to them about just dreaming bold, and being bold. Now’s the time when we have to make big, bold moves. We can’t wait for anybody else. We are our own health, so we need people who are bold, who are dreaming bold, or courageous. That’s one of my favorite reasons for working with Sean Combs. He always encourages us to dream bigger than we ever would have imagined. The last piece of it is just to remember that in today’s world, anything is possible. Do you see what’s going on in AI? You see what’s going on in the metaverse, you see so much of what’s going on globally, and it looks like anything is possible. I’d say, look, the time is now, you are here for a reason, tap into that purpose, and make sure that whatever you are shooting for is as big and big as possible.

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