How Michelle Edgar is Empowering Women in Business
From her career as VP of Brand Marketing for Epic Records, to her work with various nonprofits, to training to be a track star, you’d think Michelle Edgar has more hours in her day than we do. The London-born entrepreneur and founder of The XX Project channels her passion for music, social impact, and female empowerment into a career dedicated to uplifting and enriching the community. We sat down with Michelle to talk about her childhood as a pianist, her daily hustle, and how she’s creating a space for women to collaborate and elevate one another.
Let's get to know you a little deeper. Where did you grow up and what were your dreams as a young girl?
I'm a Brit at heart—born in London, raised in NJ outside NYC, where I went every weekend to study as a concert pianist at Manhattan School of Music. I was grateful that my parents always prioritized my education. I was able to attend music school and travel the world attending summer music camps across Spain, Italy and Bulgaria, where I performed and learned from the best professors. My parents realized at a young age that I had a passion for music. I’d sit at the piano for countless hours consumed by the sounds, and I was eager to learn the grown-up pieces one day. I knew early on that I loved the romantic composers, from Chopin to Rachmaninoff. My Polish roots came out through Chopin's melodic compositions.
What was your idea or example of an empowered woman growing up?
My mother was my hero and showed me what it meant to be an empowered woman. She instilled in me that anything is possible if you focus and discipline yourself to pursue your passion. Practice makes perfect and sometimes it means sacrificing certain things, but hard work pays off. Every Saturday, my mother would drive me to music school where I studied for 10 hours for over eight years. Her commitment and dedication to my development as a musician was the greatest gift a child could ever ask for. From that, I was inspired to launch my charity Music Unites to empower youth through music.
It wasn't until I got to Northwestern University, where I pursued my passions in music, journalism and business, that I realized I wanted to be a music executive and work with talent to create authentic and impactful marketing campaigns and collaborations.
You’re VP of Brand Marketing for Epic Records, which is a dream role for any music lover! What did your career path look like?
After graduating, I got my dream job at Vanity Fair after interning for them in London. My career in journalism led to being a WWD beauty editor and Beauty Director at OK Magazine at 25. I had any girl’s dream job, but I was longing for a new challenge and realized my passion for music was missing from my life. I saw an opportunity to pursue a career in marketing in structuring talent/brand deals for artists. I embarked on my journey in the music business at Warner Bros. Records, working with artists like The Black Keys, Josh Groban, Gary Clark Jr. and Andra Day. I was always grateful for my first boss Lori Feldman, partner at Paradigm Agency, who gave me my first shot in the business. I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my career as an entertainment executive and worked at Redlight Management. After that, I was an agent at ICM Partners, working with artists like Mary J. Blige, Bozoma Saint John, Debra Lee and Tina Knowles-Lawson—all women who have inspired my career. At Epic Records, I have the privilege to work for chairwoman Sylvia Rhone who is a force, trailblazer and true power woman and inspiration in this business. She's a woman who walks the walk and it's inspiring to learn under her leadership.
What does a regular day entail for you?
I build strategic alliances between artists and brands through creative marketing and brand partnerships in the music and entertainment space. My days consist of management meetings with my record label colleagues, artists and managers, while discussing marketing strategies for my brand partners such as BMW, Chanel, Kering, Beats and Morphe. Our clients include Travis Scott, Rick Ross, Meghan Trainor and Wu Tang Clan. I'm also involved with Epic's voting initiatives, and I helped secure partners such as American Express and Shea Moisture for the City of Hope 2019 Spirit of Life Gala, which honored Epic Records Chairman and CEO Sylvia Rhone.
In what ways have you been challenged personally by your career?
Living your truth and pushing boundaries each and every day!
Having enough hours in the day to balance it all. It's not just about having a good idea—you need to be strategic and have time to execute the vision. I have a true passion for social impact and philanthropy and finding the best way to make the most scalable impact.
Giving back to the community and community building are also key to my work as executive director of Music Unites, a nonprofit funding after-school music education programs, and as founder and CEO of The XX Project, an invite-only membership community bringing leading women in business together across diverse industries to propel collaboration and innovation. I help keep my team inspired and lead by example, enabling them to tap into their true potential.
Ok, let’s talk about The XX Project, an exclusive networking initiative you founded ten years ago. Why did you start TXXP?
I felt something was missing for leading women in business and wanted to bring together best-in-class leaders and professional development resources to help women advance in their careers. Our invite-only events help female executives, entrepreneurs and job seekers find ways to collaborate and elevate one another. Our first speakers were: Soledad O'Brian, Beth Comstock, Pat Mitchell and Eve. There is an opportunity for us all to build bigger and better if we share knowledge, resources and skill set, and think about how we can rise together with our tribe as we advance in our executive leadership.
TXXP is all about bringing women together to empower and inspire other women. The events are top secret, what happens at TXXP, stays at TXXP. But, what’s a key takeaway that you could share with the GA audience?
There's a lot of proprietary information that is shared through our community, so I want our members to feel ensured that what happens behind closed doors, stays behind closed doors. This is the go-to place where real business gets done. So many women have found jobs, business partners, and collaboration opportunities through the community. We all are like-minded in thinking how we can effect change collaboratively and advance together, and there's an investment interest and real sense of community amongst our diverse group of women. It takes a powerful community to ignite a movement and build even bigger than you could have ever imagined.
How can women become involved in TXXP?
To sign up for our membership, go to our website and click on "Become a Member" and add us on Instagram: @the_xx_project. To email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. TXXP hosts monthly events featuring notable speakers on a range of topics focused on personal and career growth. To find out more and RSVP, visit https://thexxproject.com/events/.
To know you is to know that you are extremely determined and hard-working! Your next move is UCLA School of Law. Was this always a path you wanted to take?
As a woman in corporate America, having a Masters in Legal Studies from UCLA Law with a focus in entertainment and media will be invaluable in my career trajectory. I'm passionate about impacting change in my industry through social justice, diversity and inclusion, and excited to see the doors this degree will open.
With the current times facing a global pandemic, all businesses are rapidly transforming and having to reinvent themselves. I believe a strong legal foundation is an invaluable tool to help grow and pivot your business in this new realm. It will allow adaptation to unforeseen circumstances and can unlock potential new business opportunities above and beyond what's imaginable.
I'm excited to be a student again and learn from best-in-class professors and connect with like-minded classmates who are leaders across diverse industries as we build together.
Over the past few months, you’ve been on a big wellness journey. What sparked that, and how have you noticed an evolution in yourself?
This has been the turnaround transformational year for me. If you had told me six months ago that I would take these uncertain times and turn myself into a track athlete, I would have said you are crazy; but crazy things do happen in life. My transformation started the day COVID hit, when I realized that I physically wasn't living my best life after just losing a parent. I knew that an energetic shift was needed, and I wanted to establish a healthy routine and structure for my work days. It started with daily walks around Westwood like Forrest Gump, and quickly evolved to training with Strong House Fitness Jerry Housey, winning my first 50 mile virtual challenge, and discovering my true passion for the track while running at UCLA.
The track ignited something in me and I felt alive as I could feel my strength. After a few weeks of training every day at 6AM, something happened that changed my life—I found Coach Rucker, who has coached renowned athletes and students at UCLA for over 30 years. Coach invited me to train with him and the real athletes, and taught me technique, posture, nutrition, discipline and the power of limitless bounds when you have the right discipline and focus. Five weeks later, I had the opportunity to represent my school as a track athlete at the Master's UCLA Bruins vs. USC Trojans. It marked a first for me at the age of 38. This weekend, I'm running my first cross country race at the Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura—a 4K running three mountains, all which apparently have names. They say the teacher presents themselves when the student is ready. "It's not the age, it's the stage," Coach always tells me. It goes to show the unimaginable is possible when you commit to something and do it. My journey as an athlete has just begun, and it's been incredible learning new things and discovering a whole new side of myself as I've unleashed the athlete in me.