March 19, 2022

Yvonne McNair: DreamMaker

Editor-In-Chief Musa Jackson @iammusajackson has an in depth Q. & A with YVONNE McNAIR, CEO of Captivate Marketing Group, the Entertainment marketing professional and Emmy nominated event producer. From staging award winning concerts, festivals and high profile events such the record breaking Essence Music Festival featuring Prince at Mercedes Benz Super Dome commemorating 30th Anniversary of Purple Rain, EBONY POWER 100, The 30th Anniversary of New Jack Swing at the Apollo led by Teddy Riley featuring Guy,


Kool Moe Dee, M.C. Lyte, Doug E. Fresh, Keith Sweat to Adcolor Reggae Event hosted by Estelle featuring Wyclef Jean. Most recently this years Grammy Awards. She has worked with some of the most powerful brands in entertainment i.e. The Sundance Film Festival, VH1, BET Networks, Apple Music, MTV and NBC. From Fortune 500 companies, A-List celebrities to being recognized as one of Black Enterprise/ WVON “40 Game changers”. As we celebrate Womens Month we salute the work and contributions of the dream maker Yvonne McNair.

Some of my first concerts were Diddy and Biggie. I was learning at a very young age so I was just a sponge. I did everything I had to do to learn production. I started with concerts then everything else fell in line. I felt if you could do a concert you can do anything else. Especially a Hip Hop concert.


MUSA Where are you from?
YVONNE I say I’m from New Orleans because my family is from here. My Mom was born and raised here. I did grow in Napleville, Illinois. But my roots are in New Orleans, parents are still here. I spent all of my summers there with my grandmothers. I think who I am was because of my life here.
MUSA Who were some of your influences growing up?
YVONNE My parents first of all. My parents have been married forever. I have three sisters and they were committed to making sure we had the best of the best. We grew up well. We had opportunities. They moved so we could be close to the best schools. They really tried to provide for us. All of my sisters have college degrees. My Dad is an entrepreneur and my mom was a computer engineer. Saw them work really hard. I’m the mix of the both of them. Then my grandmother who was from New Orleans who didn’t have a lot of education. She was one thirteen and had to help raise her siblings. She didn’t speak english, or read or write for a long time. She spoke French creole. I always admired and watched her and followed what she did. We’re Catholic so she got up early and have her coffee and read her Bible. Those were my main influencers and they were really hard workers.
MUSA How did you get your start in the event planning business?
YVONNE In New Orleans wrestling was really big. So my grandparents would take me to wrestling games and I was so enamored with the Super Dome, the production. Wrestling is a major production. Then there is all the people. I felt that’s where I started loving production. I started in music and was doing P.R. and quickly realized that was not for me. Because the artists were late and I worked so hard to get the interviews, and they didn’t want to cooperate. I always had this love of music, I hardly watched tv as a child. So I started learning how to produce concerts. I became an intern and production assistant. Some of my first concerts were Diddy and Biggie. I was learning at a very young age so I was just a sponge. I did everything I had to do to learn production. I started with concerts then everything else fell in line. I felt if you could do a concert you can do anything else. Especially a Hip Hop concert.
MUSA What is it like to be a Black women in the events space? What are some of the challenges and rewards?
YVONNE Some of the biggest challenges like most professions, it’s white male dominated. As a Black woman there is so much pressure that you can’t make any mistake. And if anyone under you makes a mistake it looks like you don’t know what you’re doing. Recently I had someone who had seen me produce flawless events and something happened that was really out my control but I had to take responsibility because it was under me as a producer. It almost seemed as if she hadn’t seen other stuff I had done. And that’s always the challenge because one thing can make or break you. White people get so many chances to do it over and over again and at a sub par level. It’s a lot of pressure to do better than the last thing you did. One of the big rewards is I get to hire people who look like me. Hire and mentor young Black women to do production. A lot of the time young Black people think that you have to be in front of the camera and I’m a behind the scenes person. I have traveled the world with some of the best artists and the best brands. I’ve done things I could of never imagined I could do all behind the scenes. So I love to mentor young Black women to know that you don’t always have to be in front to have the things you want in life or to see the things you want in life. I think social media pushes women to think they have to be glam and do all this stuff. You can be behind the scenes and be totally rewarded. I love to be able to give that opportunity, But it’s not for everyone.
MUSA It also speaks to the abundance of ideas that you do have. In other words those things that happened that you could of been rewarded on let’s chalk that up to you did something great. You changed their lives even if they never expressed that you know but now moving forward you’re getting what you deserve.
YVONNE My favorite book is The Alchemist. I just think that what’s for me is for me. Every single experience, everything I’ve done has gotten me to this point. I remember even with Prince, people were like, “How did you get that?” I was like I had a great resume prior to that. I had been doing great I was always ready for whatever it is. Everything I’ve done, every mistake I’ve made. Every success I allow me to get ready for the next thing. I know the next thing is going to be even better than what I did before.

As a Black woman there is so much pressure that you can’t make any mistake. And if anyone under you makes a mistake it looks like you don’t know what you’re doing. Recently I had someone who had seen me produce flawless events and something happened that was really out my control but I had to take responsibility because it was under me as a producer.

MUSA The pandemic shifted the live landscape drastically. How did you deal with that shift?
YVONNE It was very difficult for me. For the Essence Festival, I had booked Janet Jackson, Bruno Mars, New Edition that we were about to announce the very next day before everything shut down. So it was one of my best years that I had worked so hard to get to these moments. Everything fell apart. Everybody kept calling me asking how I was going to pivot. I had to just silence it out. Because I was like what does that even mean? I’m not going to do nails now. I was going to figure out my skill set to move through this. Because at first we thought it was a few weeks that turned to months. So initially it was extremely hard. I could hardly even get up every day because I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then finally cause I’m always like sink or swim I had to pull it together. I had be like Issa Rae in Insecure, when she would talk to herself in the mirror. I was like if you don’t get up and figure this out. So then I started figuring out technology. Cause everybody was like just go to Zoom. I’m an award winning producer I don’t produce on Zoom. But I was like let me figure out what this looks like for me. How do I make it feel the way it should feel. Where people don’t have virtual fatigue. Where they feel like they are engaged. So I started looking for ways from a technology perspective. Even for Essence Festival made it virtual shooting in empty venues. People could see this is where we are right now. Artists are still able to perform in an actual venue even though it was empty. Like the Wyclef concert I did at The Apollo was Emmy nominated with no audience. I started looking at different ways to engage people so they wouldn’t tune out. Because in these virtual events people check out fortunately the numbers were really record breaking. People tuning in, sticking with it and watching it. Because of the fact I sat there and got quiet and tuned everything out and decided what was best for me and my business. People will tell you how to do something they’ve never done. So for me I had figure out what does this mean for me. I started dominating the virtual world. I was hiring people back because I was so busy with what I was doing in the virtual space. Fortunately we were able to go back live. I was able to do live and virtual and stream. Like the Adcolor Reggae concert with Wyclef and Estelle I was able to do both. I don’t like to say pivot I say evolve. I was able to evolve my business.
MUSA What’s next for CMG?
YVONNE It’s more collaborations and more ownership. I’m excited about several projects coming up for 2022. And then more mentorship which is super important to me. I’m going to continue to provide opportunities for young Black women and young Black men as well. I don’t want Black men to feel left behind. I’m making moves to align myself with important strategic alliances. We can’t be afraid to have strategic alliances. That’s what I’m focused on for 2022.
MUSA What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into the events business?
YVONNE The advice I would give for the events business or any business is find someone who is doing what you want to do and to shadow them or get on their calendar. Talk to them about their experiences. And sometimes you gotta do stuff for free. I did that to build up my portfolio. I’ve had people who have come and wanted to work but they didn’t want to sacrifice anything. Well this is how you gain your experiences and you can’t be afraid to do that. Now we all have to eat and pay our rent and all that stuff. But when you’re first starting out you have to really be a sponge and learn as much as you can. And when get someone’s time that you really want you have to value that time. I’ve had people come to me but they didn’t value the time when I’m super busy and traveling. Value the time, be coachable, listen, ask questions and put in the work. Because I think the event business is a wonderful business to be in especially when you own your own business like I do where I get to work with so many different clients and have so many different types of projects so they challenge different parts of my brain. That’s my advice.
MUSA You’ve worked with some major celebrities but I have ask about Prince. What was it like working with Prince?
YVONNE Hard. Also it taught me so much about me. It definitely sharpened my skills and it made feel like there was nothing I can not do because it was so challenging. Challenging from a standpoint of he’s the best of the best. So you have to be the best of the best. A lot of times things were very last minute. You have to walk on water in three hours. Those short time frames I learned to be flexible, never give up. Be even more resourceful then I was growing up. It changed my life. I started in Chicago when he came in for a residency and it was a whirlwind after that. That was how I got to New York.

MUSA Tell is about your company Captivate Marketing Group ( CMG) and it’s philosophy.
YVONNE My philosophy is to operate with integrity and sometimes I have to be really firm and stand my ground. Show people that we can do it at the highest level possible like anyone else. I go above and beyond to make sure my clients are happy. To over deliver each and every time I do something.
MUSA CMG, has produced some amazing events Essence Music Festival, Ebony Power 100, New Jack Swing 30th Anniversary at The Apollo to name a few. Was there anything you’ve learned from doing these epic events?
YVONNE Every event I learn something. Because each one has its own set of challenges because of the different artists. What I’ve learned is that ownership is important. I’ve worked with a lot of brands I’ve given a lot of ideas that I’ve not been rewarded for. The one thing I’ve learned is that you’re replaceable if you don’t have ownership. I think for us within our community we need to focus in on making sure we have ownership on the things that we do. Especially creatives that we give ideas to. I can’t blame anyone but myself because I over deliver I do give out a lot of ideas. And I’ve changed peoples lives in my career. I feel thats time for me and CMG to really focus on ownership and being rewarded for those ideas that I’ve given away. I love all those opportunities and all those brands but I just want to make sure whatever I do is mutually beneficial.
Photographer: Reese Sherman
Hair: @daricomagic
Makeup: @makeupbyejgregory
Retoucher: @marilynnlomazow
BTS photos & Promo video: @reeseshermanphotography
Shot on location in Hollywood, California

Founder & Editor In Chief:

Musa Jackson @iammusajackson

Creative Director: Paul Morejón @Paulmorejon


IG: @ambassador_mag

TIkTok: @ambassadordigitalmag

YouTube: Ambassador Digital Magazine

Facebook: Ambassador Digital Magazine


Get the AMBASSADOR Newsletter

and receive Special Offers delivered to your inbox.