- Erica Ponder
Bringing Hollywood to Houston: La’Torria Lemon of Lemon-Limelight Media talks business being her min
HOUSTON — When I think of hard-working, dedicated, and purpose-driven publicists in Houston, La’Torria Lemon, the owner and operator of Lemon-Limelight Media and Let’s Talk Teen Talk, always comes to mind. Known for bringing “Hollywood to Houston,” the 30-year-old public relations guru says she started her business on accident.
“I was probably like two months out of college and I had a young lady to ask me to do her PR for her T.V. show. I was in Atlanta, and told her, ‘Oh okay, I work with the PR company and you may need to go through them to get to me.’” The woman then made it clear that she wanted La’Torria to be her personal publicist. A few days later, someone else came to her after seeing the successful work she’s done for others.
“I took a step back and was like, ‘Wait a minute: Let me think about this,’” she revealed. After that revelation, she created her brand name (“Lemon” for her last name, and “Limelight” is what she brings to her clients, and thanks to a college friend, who called her “Lemon-Lime”).
La’Torria attended Westfield High School in Houston and went to college at Clark Atlanta University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations.
“I did not grow up saying I wanted to be a publicist,” she reveals. “Growing up, I was in commercials and I was in a lot of pageants around the city. I also did a lot of stage plays, toured with Jennifer Holliday and did a lot of work in the ensemble,” she said. As she navigated through high school, she found a true love for radio. When she was 13, she was able to go to 97.9 The Box and study what she eventually wanted to be her craft. When she left Houston, her goal was to be on a syndicated radio show, and for two years while in Atlanta, La’Torria was a co-host on KCOH, where she learned about production and writing scripts. While in this position, La’Torria also applied for an internship with AllHipHop.com, but did not get the opportunity. An hour later, Saptosa Foster, the publicist for the outlet at the time, called and said she saw her hard work and later offered her another opportunity with business partner Shante Bacon for college engagement with Essence Magazine. “The internship with All Hip Hop was unpaid, but the position with Essence was paid, so that goes to show sometimes when one door closes, literally another could open. That’s literally been the testimony of my career,” she says. This opportunity also made her ask a question that would later change her life: What is PR? After a nudge from an advisor (she really had no choice), she changed her major from radio to public relations. “My career started on accident,” she says.
Lemon stresses the importance of being multifaceted and diverse in your skillset while not limiting yourself. When explaining what she means, she credited one of her clients, singer JaeRené.
“One thing I admire and respect so much about JaeRené is that she is open to different genres. She doesn’t want anybody to put her in a box or a bubble,” she says. “She’s on the ‘H-Town Forreal’ remix, but at the same time, she understands the importance of diversifying your niche and also understanding that in order to have one talent, it may lead you to another talent. Even as a publicist today, my background in radio helps me think ahead of the game, because there’s times when I think like a journalist… Be well-rounded and be diverse,” she advises.
When asked how she sees God using her as a publicist and businesswoman, La’Torria says doing PR is like a ministry for her.
“I am a woman of God and I am so in tune with my faith,” she says. “I had to understand my purpose in order for me to give pieces of me to other people… Literally, people trust me with their ideas and trust me with their brands and trust me with their businesses so that I can create the big picture and execute. The reason I say it’s ministry is because although I’m getting compensated for it, there’s certain days where I’m serving. I’m literally taking what God has given you (her clients) and spreading it to the masses.”
La’Torria discusses the importance of discernment and seeking God before taking on a project or client(s).
“Are there times when I decline some types of clients? Absolutely, because not everything is meant for your brand. Not everybody is going to mesh well with your calling and your purpose,” she says. “There’s times when I have to refer people to other people and say, ‘Hey, I think you all would be a better fit.’”
La’Torria says she’s also had to learn this the hard way after taking on projects that she knew in her heart weren’t meant for her.
“There’s been times when I’ve taken on projects and I knew God had told me, ‘Don’t touch it. Don’t even go near it.’ And I was disobedient, and I ended up getting burned or I ended up not getting paid, or the person just really became a hazard to me and my team, or my company. You have to be in tune with your intuition and you have to be obedient to your calling and your purpose,” she says.
It’s not hard to see that La’Torria stands out amongst many other publicists in the city, but even after 12 years of being in the industry, she still doesn’t see herself as a veteran.
“I think for me, it’s a matter of my drive and my purpose. I never, ever compare myself to other PR people or other people that may want to be in this lane, because truth be told, I have my days where I’m like, ‘Lord, this is really heavy.’ And on top of that, I’m a sister, I’m a daughter, granddaughter, and friend, I’m a mentor, so there’s days when I’m like, ‘I have to have a breather for myself.’ I’m human first,” she says. “In order to give in whatever capacity I’m giving, I need to give to me… I think what makes me different is that I give to the capacity that’s serving. To me, it’s PR with a mission,” she says.
Among the many roles that La’Torria has, one of her most important roles is being an older sister.
“My youngest sister is 20 years old, and she’s a student at Prairie View. Her and I have a really special bond… My sister will call me before she calls our parents, and that’s just the type of bond that we have. Our sister bond is just a beautiful thing in general. I’ll always be that big sister to her,” she says affectionately. “I think because we have such a gap in between our ages, it’s a safe place she has with me, and so I want her to know that it will always be a safe place. To me, she’ll always be my little sister.”
Some of La’Torria’s most rewarding moments of being in this industry are just being able to reflect on successful events, because sometimes while in the moment, she doesn’t get to take it all in. She loves to see her and her team’s hard work pay off.
When asked about the women that inspire her, she says she is inspired by girl bosses like Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Ava DuVernay (who also has a background in public relations), but one woman from Houston that sticks out to her is Georgia Provost, a proud Texas Southern University alumna. La’Torria credits Provost for starting her off in radio at age 16.
“Every time you see her, she’s vibrant, she’s stylish, she’s articulate, she’s all of that. She’s just, to me, the epitome of what a woman of style and grace and dignity should look like,” she says.
La’Torria encourages people seeking a career as a publicist to understand the business element of it.
“I get a lot of people that say, ‘Ooh, I want to be a publicist,’ and I ask, ‘Well what draws you to it?’ and they say stuff like hanging with celebrities. I think it’s a misconception that this is a social kind of job. I can’t tell you how many times I’m in front of my computer… all of these things people may not see behind the scenes,” she says. “The media just doesn’t get to the press conference. It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes, and if you focus on the just the celebrity aspect, you probably won’t be that successful in PR.”
While La’Torria’s clients expect for her to deliver with her expertise in order to help their brands grow, she also sets a standard for them to be the best they can be while building their brands.
“All my clients will tell you that I’m easygoing, but I’m hard on them to the aspect of ‘You have to do better and you have to want better and you have to be better.’ That’s the motto, and if you live by that, then we’re good,” she says. “I always tell people, ‘Before I pitch your brand, they’re seeing my brand. And if your brand is now taking my brand down, that’s not cool. I worked very hard for my brand. I want you to be better.’”
When asked about how she is credited for bringing what many consider as “Hollywood to Houston,” she credits much of that for her time of living in Atlanta.
“God blessed me to be in Atlanta to see different aspects of not only the world, but the industry… It’s almost like I’ve become an advocate for our city. So there’s a lot of opportunities that have come to Atlanta, L.A., New York, Chicago, all of that, and so I am on a lot of different conference calls for a lot of these projects,” she says, admitting that people wouldn’t always consider Houston for major events. “We’re literally the third largest city in the country, and you’re skipping over Houston?”
La’Torria says the desire to bring more attention to the city is bigger than her, and she has taken leaps of faith in hopes that people will see that the Houston has what it takes to take on huge projects. In fact, she said people would chuckle when she mentioned Houston being considered for campaigns. It took her taking on a project for free to show people that the city had the resources and talent to make a particular campaign successful. The numbers were so great, that they insisted on sending her a check anyway for her and her team’s work.
“It wasn’t about the money, it was about the opportunity for all of us to shine,” she said proudly.
La’Torria is not new to promoting others who are up-and-coming as well. She is one of very few publicists that invites small bloggers and writers to her clients’ events, in addition to news stations, radio stations and other big outlets across the city.
“Here’s the thing about it, I don’t believe in one person coming up alone. I didn’t come up alone. When I was 19, these people took a chance on me and gave me a project with Essence. Even when I was in my radio days, Georgia Provost and Ralph Cooper took a chance on me by putting me on air at 16 years old talking about sports,” she said. “If you don’t allow people to have a chance, how can they build?”
Two of the most memorable people she’s worked with are rapper and activist David Banner and actress Phylicia Rashad.
While doing press for Tyler Perry’s new Netflix film A Fall from Grace, La’Torria had an hour and a half conversation with Rashad, who is well-known for her classy, memorable role as Claire Huxtable in “The Cosby Show.”
“It was just so heartwarming,” she admitted. “Houston was a big topic for us talking.”
La’Torria says it was a big deal for her to see that even Rashad has had to grow through insecurities and internal battles, just as all of us have.
“Just being able to chat and connect with a true legend, a woman of style and grace and poise, and she’s 71 years old and she’s still vibrant and looking phenomenal, that’s something that I’ll always remember,” she said.
She says Banner nearly brought tears to her eyes almost a year ago after telling her that she needed to take time for herself and not be so consumed with work.
“I was on the road doing a press tour with David Banner for a project we were working on, and we were in the green room at TVOne just waiting and waiting, and David was like, ‘Can I tell you something?’ I was like, ‘yeah.’”
What he said next really made her reconsider how much she was actually working while neglecting her personal needs.
“He was like, ‘Look at you. Literally every time we go somewhere, you have both of your laptops open, you have both of your phones. You have got to take some time for you.’ I just remember looking at him and I was trying not to break down, but I said, ‘You’re right,’” she says. It was at that moment that she vowed to include more self-care in her everyday routine. The encounter was unforgettable as she said it felt good for a client to consider her well-being.
For more information on consultations and ways to build your brand, go to the Lemon-Limelight Media website. You can also follow La’Torria on Instagram @latorria_l.
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