ON her first visit to a nightclub, Candice Stephenson was only allowed inside under the condition that she would quietly observe from the corner of the room and drink plain water if she felt thirsty. But even though she was just a fly on the wall, that pubescent experience was enough to convince Stephens, a Kingstonian who moved with her family to the States as a little girl, that she should pursue a career in the music industry. And she did just that — not as a dancer (though she is quite good at it), or an entertainer or artiste manager, but as a lawyer.
“Although I left Jamaica when I was seven, I always grew up in communities with strong Caribbean and Jamaican roots so I still felt very close to my culture,” Stephenson, who is visiting Jamaica for the Reggae Month celebrations, including the Jamaica Music Conference that concluded yesterday, told All Woman.
“I came back to the island every few years, then in college my friends and I started coming back every year for parties like Dream Weekend and ATI.”
When she was leaving high school, even while planning to pursue a bachelor's in communication, Stephenson completed an internship at VP Records in Florida.
“From that experience I decided that this is it, I'm not switching. That was my first job in the entertainment industry and I was convinced that it was the field I wanted to be in,” she shared. “After that I met Robert Livingston and he gave me a summer job at Big Yard in New York.”
Soon Stephenson had the best of both worlds. During the semesters she would focus on her television production degree at the University of Florida, then as soon as she had a break she would be in New York working as a marketing and promotions assistant at Big Yard.
“But after graduating college, I knew that I wanted to be an executive in the industry and I saw that a lot of the notable Americans in the industry had law degrees,” she said. “I thought I needed to get a graduate degree that would be beneficial to the industry, so I went to law school.”
Stephenson struggled at first. Though she did not intend to practise in the courtroom, she had to take all the courses necessary for the doctor of law degree at the University of Miami. Not only that, but she also pursued a joint master's degree in music business and the entertainment industries.
“Law school was not fun,” she laughed. “But I wanted to have the legal background because I felt like it was the most beneficial knowledge that you could have. I saw a lot of people get screwed over by contracts and knew that there was a demand for that knowledge in the entertainment industry so I wanted to have that background.”
She also wanted to start her own company. She had always toyed with the idea of having a publishing company, but when she was about to graduate law school and a friend of hers suggested that they do so together, she got cold feet.
“I started to think that I was too young and that although I knew a lot of the theory, I didn't have enough experience working in the industry just yet,” she said glumly. “So I turned it down and decided to move to New York and work for other people instead.”
She delved into the area, where she worked closely with producers to assess the rights and clearances needed for potential scenes for reality shows. She then moved to ABC News where she handled copyright clearances for ABC News-produced programmes and specials, including Nightline and Good Morning America.
But even after she landed the role of rights and clearances counsel for one of the world's leading digital music service providers, Spotify, Stephenson was still haunted by the thought that she should have her own business.
“The idea was always in the back of my head. Eventually, I had a conversation with my mentor, Strauss Zelnick, and that put things into perspective for me,” she divulged.
This conversation would be the catalyst that eventually gave rise to The Posh Rebel in 2019. Not only is this her Instagram handle, but it is also her limited liability company. ThePoshRebel, LLC is the umbrella company that holds her business consulting company called Palisadoes Music and the music licensing company called ClearCo.
Stephenson confessed that even with her tremendous experience and wealth of knowledge in the industry, she has been thoroughly challenged since starting her business.
“There is a lot of uncertainty,” she said. “Just knowing that everyday is going to be different — unlike when you are working for someone there is a certain level of security and predictability. With this, there are some days when I have a tonne of work, some days where I'm having a bunch of meetings with potential clients, and other days, where I'm just going to the beach.”
Though she admitted that she has had to leave her comfort zone as an introvert, especially when it comes to marketing and promotion of her work, the freedom to do business on her own terms has made the leap of faith worth it.
“There are days where you think, 'Maybe I should get a job', but then you just keep pushing and the deal closes and you get your cheque and you're like, 'I'm glad I stuck to it!'” she laughed. “Patience and faith have been the biggest lessons.”
Stephenson admitted that experiencing the Jamaican culture through her mother and community members while living in the Diaspora was good, but experiencing the land of her birth first-hand has been one of her biggest passions as an adult. While she enjoys travelling all over the world and learning about different cultures, she ensures that she comes home every year. Not only does she do this because she enjoys her culture more than any that she has ever experienced, but because she believes that she can be of great service to Jamaican and Caribbean people.
“I've seen how much money and success this industry really has and it bothers me when I see so much money and so much longevity going around and I don't see it in my culture,” she said. “I'm really passionate about people, especially black and brown people understanding how to tap into the many different aspects of the industry because there are so many different ways to be successful. You don't have to be a touring artist or get a hit song or a Grammy. We just need to share the knowledge about the business behind the music. You may not be the next Shaggy but if you learn to cultivate the business you still can have a career that is sustainable and make more than enough money to create generational wealth.”