Ten years ago Giselle Phelp’s personal mission became decidedly clear. The Toronto native with a background in mass communications wanted to help magnify the talent and ingenuity of others through her own entrepreneurial endeavor as a public relations professional.
“It's really crazy to even think about it, but 2022 marks 10 years of entrepreneurship for me,” Phelps says, smiling, during a recent Zoom call. “It's a big year. I'm turning 40 and my business is turning 10. It's quite incredible.”
Though Phelps has been self-employed for the better part of a decade, she admits that the recent rebrand of her business feels like a whole new venture. She’s in a new city—Los Angeles—working with a new slate of individuals as the founder and CEO of Grand Rising Talent, a newly launched talent agency focused on cultivating and amplifying diverse broadcasters and on-camera experts.
Phelps calls the decision to enter this new arena a “spiritual decision.” “It's one of those things that’s really hard to quantify when you just have an instinctual pool in a certain direction,” Phelps says of her company’s newest iteration. “But in more tangible terms, I'll say that I saw an opportunity.”
Prior to a pandemic-spurred move from Harlem to Hollywood, Phelps collaborated with a slate of notables including author, reporter, and Real Housewife of New York's Eboni K. Williams. In her role as a publicist, she enjoyed working on various projects and ideating around how she could take her client’s ideas to the next level. It’s that specific part of the job that helped confirm for Phelps her personal mission. “Entrepreneurship is really challenging,” she admits. “You have to be clear on your mission and why you're doing it. You've got to have your ‘why’ because there's going to be a lot of things that happen every day that try to get in the way of it.”
That “why” is now helping to position the newly minted Angeleno as a formidable talent agent in a predominantly white industry. According to career platform Zippia, white talent agents make up 68.5 percent of all talent agents. Comparatively, just 10.5 percent of talent agents identify as Black or African American. For years, Hollywood has been called out for its lack of representation in all facets of the entertainment industry. But with such few Black talent agents in the City of Angels, there are even fewer Black women running their own talent agency.
“Once I got here and started tapping into my network, conversations about the lack of diverse agents kept coming up more and more and more,” says Phelps. “I was hearing from a lot of talent that weren’t really satisfied with how they were being represented or the options that were available to them.”
Over the years, Phelps says several clients, broadcaster friends and acquaintances suggested that she dip her toe into the talent representation. But it was only after moving to LA, that the reasons became clear. “I realized there was an opportunity to pivot my business and really expand it to become a licensed agency,” Phelps explains. “And part of that is because, in California, there's just a really clear distinction between agents, managers and publicists, under California law, which tends to be the governing law in the entertainment and television industry. Under California law, if you are executing deals for anybody that involves payment of money, that's really agent territory.”
Since moving to the West Coast, Phelps has been grinding day and night, advocating for talent from diverse, intersectional backgrounds, including communities of color and LGBTQ+ identities. Though the burgeoning business owner and board member at Outfest, admits that some days are more challenging than others, she continues to bet on herself and channel the fortitude that has gotten her thus far.
“It’s funny because one of my great collaborators in the industry, Eboni K. Williams, likes to say that I'm an emancipator of talent,” Phelps quips. “And I’ve really leaned into that because it speaks to who I am at my core. I'm literally the descendant of people from the Underground Railroad. That’s my inspiration. I'm always drawing back to that. In everything I remind myself that I’m literally their dreams, realized.”