When we think of artists we typically think of painters, writers and singers. But a wise woman once said, “an artist is someone who brings something that’s never existed before into the world,” whether it’s a painting, story or… a well-crafted public image. Being in the business of creating and shaping the public’s perception of brands and people, publicist and entrepreneur Abigail Opiah is an artist in her own right. She crafts and broadcasts stories, playing an understated yet critical role in the building of brands and public figures. Because the truth is behind every great man or woman is an even greater publicist ;-).
Name: Abigail Opiah
Location: New York City
How did you get started? I’ve always had a knack for telling a good story. “A great storyteller,” my Mom would call me. From the point I learned how to string together sentences, I fell in love with the art of communicating. Whether I was recounting my day at school or telling someone about a movie or book I’d just read, I’ve always had a way of doing it with that little something extra! I never thought that being overly loquacious and outgoing would lead me anywhere, let alone turn into a career.
During high school I was involved in a lot of activities. I was in show choir; I served as an editor of my high school yearbook and was a member of my class executive board, just to name a few. I excelled in literature, language and arts subjects, however once I started applying to colleges I knew I wanted to study something concrete so my first instinct was business. I’ve always had many interests across the arts and soft sciences so it was all about finding a way to make money doing something I loved. I graduated from college with a Bachelors of Science in marketing and after some time working for a luxury real estate developer in South Florida, in 2007 I made the decision to move to New York City to explore a possible career within marketing, advertising and PR. After countless interviews, the very first job I landed in NYC was at an entertainment and lifestyle public relations agency and that’s where I had my aha! moment. All of my interests, strengths and skills came together in one position so I knew I had made the right decision. I then went on to work for some of New York City’s top luxury and lifestyle PR firms, and honed my skills working on highly visible campaigns for global consumer brands such as Bacardi USA, Simon Properties, Luxottica, Remy Cointreau USA, not to mention, celebrities such as actors Vincent Kartheiser and Idris Elba, tennis champ, Rafael Nadal, singer Robin Thicke and many more.
After cutting my teeth in agency life, in early 2012, I made the decision to leave and venture off on my own to consult independently. I guess my move fell in line with always wanting to have my own business or practice, whether it was doing something creative or in entertainment. Needless to say, that summer I hit the ground running and haven’t looked back since.
What’s an average day like? I sleep with my iPhone under my pillow and usually wake up before my alarm on most days. Once I’m up, I scroll through the day’s top news headlines, current events and entertainment news/gossip. I then peruse through my Twitter and Instagram feeds to see what’s trending; lay in bed for a few minutes to plan out my day in my head before actually getting up. Each day couldn’t be any more different from the next. One day, I’m accompanying a client to an early morning TV appearance on a national morning show, the next day I could be giving interviews on behalf of a client, attending an industry event or launch party.
Why do you do it? I love the idea of being a thought leader. As a publicist and communications expert, storytelling is a part of my DNA; thus being able influence and shift perceptions is what I live for. PR is a powerful tool so I’m passionate about using it to shine a light on an individual, project or product that the masses wouldn’t otherwise know about. My intrinsic reward comes when a client is able to enjoy or achieve greater success as a direct result of the work I’ve put in.
Ups and downs you sometimes face on the job: I find my line of work fulfilling on many levels; however one aspect of being an independent consultant that can be challenging at times is not having like-minded individuals or colleagues around as a soundboard to help me make decisions, or to brainstorm big ideas or strategies with, for clients. I always have to trust my instincts and have complete confidence in what I ultimately decide to do. Another aspect I found challenging, especially in the beginning, was valuing my time and expertise and being selective with the projects and clients I choose to take on.
As for ups, I love having the freedom to pick and choose what I get to work on and with time, I’ve become good at discerning projects and clients that could be beneficial to my growth. I love being able to create my own hours and take off for vacation whenever I feel like it and not have to answer to someone. Ultimately, my success is a direct result of the effort I put in day-to-day and to some, that thought can be extremely daunting, but to me there’s so much power in that realization!
What is your greatest achievement to date? I’d have to say walking away from a regular 9-5 and having the courage to go at it on my own because, creating my own opportunities and wanting to live life on my own terms, are themes that have been ever-present in my life. I’d also have to say that the unexpected success of the “You Can Touch My Hair” campaign and short film presented by un-ruly.com (which I had the pleasure of working on with my sister Antonia Opiah) was also a defining moment in my career as a publicist.
What might be next for you? Professionally, I want to continue to grow my practice and start taking on bigger projects and clients. Personally, my clock is ticking so my next step is to marry up, and start popping out babies (laughs)!
What are your top 5 hair tips?
- Treat your hair from the inside out! I’m a very big believer in “you are what you eat” and nourishing oneself from the inside out. Now that I’ve fully transitioned to natural hair, I juice a lot and try to load up on healthy fruits and veggies that are packed with nutrients and vitamins to help my hair grow and stay healthy.
- Switch to all-natural products! I find that alcohol and sulfate-free products such as the Shea Moisture line are the best remedy for my hair, especially seeing as it is super dry and multi-textured.
- Protect your hair while protective styling. I wear wigs on a daily basis and since fully transitioning; my hair is super delicate which is no match for synthetic wigs. I find that using satin caps help prevent pulling and shedding.
- Seek professional help every once in a while! With the rise of natural hair sites and popular YouTube vloggers dishing out DIY home remedies, nothing replaces a good old fashion trip to the salon, to get a needed cut and treatment.
- Water is your friend! Up the ante to about a gallon a day and observe the difference it makes to your hair and skin.
Fun Fact: Abigail can recite dialogue, word-for-word from her two favorite films of all time — “Forrest Gump” and “Goodfellas”. She also claims to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the great American Songbook which includes popular Broadway show tunes!