Maryland Department Collection and State Library Resources

Brown Lecture Series: Valerie Graves, Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming the Woman I Pretended to Be

Brown Lecture Series: Valerie Graves, Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming the Woman I Pretended to Be

This is the unflinching memoir of a female African American advertising executive’s unprecedented and unlikely success, which began in the Mad Men era. It follows her journey from the projects of Motown-era Michigan to the skyscrapers of Madison Avenue and beyond. With marches, riots, and demonstrations as the backdrop, and rock ’n’ roll as a soundtrack, this book accompanies Graves as she traverses the seismically shifting terrain of 1960s and ’70s America on her quest to “be somebody.”

In the ’80s and ’90s, as Graves makes her ascent to the East Coast heights of the white male–dominated advertising world, she turns familiarity with harsh realities like racism and sexism into robust insights that deeply connect with African American consumers. During the golden era of black advertising, she becomes an undisputed “somebody.” Soon, though, she learns that money, success, a good marriage, and connections that reach all the way to the White House cannot entirely insulate her against the social ills that threaten to crush black Americans.

Valerie Graves, whom Advertising Age magazine named one of the “100 Best and Brightest” in the entire industry, is a nationally recognized creative director of such Fortune 500 accounts as Ford, General Motors, AT&T, Burger King, General Foods, and Pepsi. A former teenage parent from the factory town of Pontiac, Michigan, Graves broke barriers in advertising as one of the first black copywriters at BBDO, Kenyon & Eckhardt, and JWT. In 2007, recognizing Graves’s stellar career and public service via the Advertising Council and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, industry coalition ADCOLOR granted her the title of “Legend.” She resides in New York City.

The Brown Lecture Series is supported by a generous grant from the Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Foundation.

Recorded On: Thursday, November 17, 2016
Playing Time: 1:22:41