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Meet Trailblazer Retonjah Burdette

Today we’d like to introduce you to Retonjah Burdette.

Retonjah, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’d like to start by saying that my story begins in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Atlanta. Growing up on the “Westside,” opportunities for a better future were limited. We were predestined to fall victim to poverty, crime and disdain for education. I was the anomaly. I used education as my escape from the harsh realities of my life. At times, we had no food, no lights, no water but we had a whole lot of prayer. I maintained optimistic, developed a love for creative writing and worked ten times as hard throughout school.

I was enrolled at Henry W. Grady High school, as a student in their Communication Magnet Program. I was the copy editor and photo editor of our yearbook staff. I can recall my teacher at the time, asking everyone about their post-grad plans. I was convinced I would become some big-time journalist in New York, but toward the end of my senior year, I had a sudden change of heart. I wanted a profession where I could balance being a creative, a writer and use my gift of connecting with people. After applying to several colleges, I made one of the best decisions of my life, attending Georgia Southern University and studying Public Relations.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Like most college seniors, I was eager to jump into my field after graduation. I was blessed with the opportunity to intern for one of the top entertainment PR firms in Atlanta. Within two months of working overtime to develop my experience as a publicist, I was offered a full-time position with the company as a PR Coordinator. I worked with actors, authors, independent artists, and entrepreneurs, building their brands and securing press and media opportunities. Although I loved everything about what I did and helping others, I needed to focus on my own brand. The more I began to grow as a publicist, the more I felt that it was time for me diversify my experience. After nearly two years, I decided to step out on faith and leave the company. I wasn’t financially stable, I didn’t know what my next move would be, all I knew was that I had a bigger purpose. My brand, Girl Avant-Garde was launched in January of this year.

I don’t think I would be the publicist I am today if the road was easy. One of the biggest struggles for me was finding my niche in public relations. I didn’t want to compromise who I was for a paycheck. I knew that if I worked for any company, it had to be in a position that didn’t stifle my creativity or integrity. I think one of the most pressing issues for people of our generation is that we’re conditioned to believe a “good job” is only defined by the salary. The relationships you form along the way and the quality of your mental health should be just as important. My advice to other women and those at the start of their journey is to believe in your brand! Find and engage with those in positions you would like to see yourself in, study the industry, and protect your peace.

We’d love to hear more about Girl Avant-Garde.
Although I am most known for my work as a publicist, and my moniker “whoisthatpublicist.” I’d like to consider myself a creative catalyst. I am the founder of Girl Avant-Garde, a creative agency specializing in innovative content, media placement, branding and PR in entertainment! My job is to bring the visions of others to life, as well as increase their visibility and strategically position their brand in the public eye.

At 24 years old, I am most proud of the strides I’ve made in my career. I have secured national media placements, coordinated red carpets for some of the biggest events in Atlanta and received recognition from some of the biggest names in entertainment. Most recently, I was invited to present and lead a session on personal branding at my alma mater, Georgia Southern University. With it being less than two years post-grad, returning to campus to share my story was by the far the best moment of my career,

I’ve learned so much about entertainment and PR, but so much more about myself! When you think of something avant-garde, you think of something experimental, unorthodox, and original. “Girl Avant-Garde” represents a young woman who isn’t afraid of change and innovation in an industry, where implementing new practices and new faces are often frowned upon! It represents me and my new journey. This is what sets me apart.

I’ve continued to pursue my passion for writing as a content curator for Baller Alert!
My first published blog received over 70,000 views!

We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
As women, we are expected to align with society’s constructed view of gender norms. Anything outside of that receives a negative connotation. We must lead with restraint or our actions are considered emotional. I think one of the biggest barriers today to female leadership is the power struggle. From experience, women in positions of power thrive off of competition and lack genuine support for other women who are new to the industry. Women in leadership should be encouraged to be themselves and build a company culture that uplifts and inspires.

Coming into the entertainment industry, I saw that the lack of female leadership was due to the fact women are often afraid to grow and find themselves stuck in positions out of fear of burning bridges. I was taught by other businesswomen, that business is not personal, but in my field, it’s quite the contrary. If I am hired to represent your brand and everything you’ve worked hard to build, I should believe in you just as much as you believe in yourself. If you lack the ability to connect on a personal level, people are less inclined to form business relationships with you.

Pricing:

  • EPK/Professional Bio – $150
  • Brand Consultation – $25 per hour
  • Press Releases/Email Blasts – $75 per document
  • Media Training – $75 per session
  • Creative Direction – $25 per hour
  • Securing Press and Media – $500 per month

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Stacy Louis

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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