TOP 10: Zachary Simmons hashtag royalty


I first met Zachary Simmons in Trinidad for Carnival 2010. I was part of a group organizing Carnival packages and he was one of our VIP guests. Amid crazy schedules, fabulous fetes, insanely trying to meet up “on the road”, and the hopeless feat of finding an open restaurant in Port of Spain on Carnival Monday night, we bonded.

Zach is one of the hardest working people I know. I asked him one day how he did it all: creative directing mega music stars (can you say Beyonce?), covering red carpet events, blogging for, and everything else in entertainment. His answer: “I don’t sleep much.”

If you follow him on social media you know he is the Hashtag King! I seek out his postings just to have a good laugh at his hilarious hashtags. So I asked him what comes to mind if he had to write something to go along with these hashtags? Here’s what he said:

#misheardlyrics “If You Want It, Lets Do It Ride It My Pony”. Not sure if that the clean version or I just sang it that way as a kid but as an adult I realized it’s “If Your Horny, Lets Do it, Ride it, My Pony”. I definitely had no clue what he was singing about at the age … lol.

#mysuperpower would be to snap my fingers and just appear wherever I wanted or needed to be in seconds.

#iusedtothink that life gets easier when you’re older.

#whydonttheymakethat? Why don’t they make pizza deliveries 24 hours?

#mineisbetterthanyours My singing voice is better than yours … lol.

#icantlivewithoutit  Music & my faith. It’s everything to me. I don’t think I could ever function without it.

#distewmuch The rent in NYC & LA … lol.

#idratherbe Living in London exploring new talent & opportunities.

#dontjudge people or a book by its cover. Everything has a story and some are worth reading.

#thankful for life and the many opportunities I’ve been able to have which has opened more doors and created great friendships.

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Top 10: Laura Dowrich-Phillips the Editorial Ambassador of Caribbean Life

Laura Dowrich-Phillips, the self proclaimed “Editorial Ambassador of Caribbean Life” is everywhere. At a fashion event? She’s there. Inside a fete? She’s there. St Lucia Jazz Festival? Yep … there, too. I first meet her several years ago (can’t even recall exactly where and when) and instantly liked her. Her wit makes me smile and envious at the same time. Why can’t I be that cool? If it weren’t for her active social media accounts I would never know what’s really happening in T&T while I’ve gone “foreign.”

A media heavyweight in Trinidad & Tobago, Laura always demonstrates perfect balance of professional and personal. I thought it was about time she be on the other side of an interview.

  1. You’re very well liked and respected in regional media. To what do you contribute that?
    LDP: That’s nice to know, thanks. I guess it’s because I am good at telling other people’s stories. I think I have a unique ability to really get to know someone and tell their story in such a way that other people can get to know them easily. Plus I’m cute…lol.
  2. What is your biggest compliment and critique of T&T media?
    LDP: Biggest compliment…T&T media are sharks, highly competitive and that’s good, nothing like the adrenaline rush trying to be the first to break a story. Biggest critique … too many people doing the same things. Yes, politics is hot and sells but there are so many other areas such as education, labour, the environment, tourism, entrepreneurship, health, community etc that are teeming with stories even bacchanal that are begging to be covered and covered in depth.
  3. What are your top tips for people trying to get news covered?
    LDP: Follow the news format. Have an angle. We need to know what the story is from the get go. This applies particularly to press releases. We aren’t interested in the accolades of your client or product; we want the story. What is the story? Let that be clear in the first line and keep the releases short. Check your spelling and punctuation. Those things are massive turnoffs. And don’t try to show off your knowledge of the English language … just keep it simple. Remember you aren’t writing a release to impress your client, you are writing a release to get published or spark an interest in the media for a story.
  4. What is your super power to make parenting and career life work?
    LDP: Pray and laughter. They both keep me sane and calm. I have to keep a cool head on both fronts cause they both get intense and if I don’t stay cool I’d probably combust.
  5. What would be some songs on the soundtrack of your life?
    LDP: “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince, “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan and “Like a Boss” by Machel Montano
  6. You’re standing in front of a bunch of teenagers and you can only give them one piece of advice … what would it be?
    LDP: Travel, travel, travel. It’s the best experience you can ever have.
  7. What is one skill you learned from mothering three kids that has helped you in your career?
    LDP: To just get it done. When a baby wants to do something he just does it. They don’t care about obstacles and as my children get older I try to teach them how to overcome obstacles and not make excuses. I do the same in my career. No matter the obstacles I try to just get it done. I’ve also learned a bit of magic, like making holes in bread disappear…hoping that’d come in handy at work some day.
  8. If you were given a chance, what reality show would you enter?
    LDP: Biggest Loser cause I NEED to lose weight like yesterday ‘cept I don’t want the whole world to see me in a bra top and tights.
  9. If I came to your home and looked inside the refrigerator, what would I find?
    LDP: Plenty beer…lol. We don’t drink at home but we always got stuff chilled in the event that we have guests.
  10. Who else would you like to see answer a Top 10?
    LDP: Essiba Small16-facebook

Top 10 Benefits of Having a High-Pressure Career before Having Kids

  1. I can look as cool as a single girl lounging at the pool when my kids are tearing in two separate directions at the playground.laura OPM 29mar2012_v2
    Though I may not feel so calm on the inside.
  2. I can negotiate like a beast with my four-year old
    Adelaide was born with the negotiation skills of steel.
  3. I can tune out almost any noise thanks to my early careers days working in a cubicle.
    Those pesky toys with sound? Don’t even hear ‘em.
  4. Multitasking? Not a problem.
    As I am writing this I’m brushing Adelaide’s My Little Pony hair at her request, planning dinner, and making sure Oliver doesn’t escape out of the doors he just figured out how to open.
  5. My difficult bosses and clients were a great warm-up to the most demanding bosses ever – 18-month-old Oliver and four-year old Adelaide.
    And demanding is an understatement.
  6. After making big decisions affecting the fate of thousands of people, picking out names and schools doesn’t seem so intimidating
    Though that daily what-to-make-for-dinner decision is a killer.
  7. I’m comfortable being resourceful and solving problems in a pinch.
    It is amazing what you can find in your bag that can double as a toy.
  8. Efficiency? Got that down.
    I only have 30 minutes to bathe both kids, myself, dress all three, pack snacks and necessities in a bag, send off three important emails and make that phone call? Consider it done!
  9. I’ve been primed to live on little sleep and meals.
    Wait?! It’s been 10 hours since I last ate and I’m still on the road? Gimme a few Goldfish and I’m good.
  10. I understand non-stop from morning ‘til night.
    That crazy stressful job when I woke up at 4 a.m. to attack the to-do list before people started to blow up my phone? That was a perfect indoctrination to the world of babies and toddlers and the on-the-clock-round-the-clock life of motherhood.

Top 10: Shani Sammons

Shani Sammons. How I love this lady! We first met when we both worked at ASA/Delta Connection waaaaaay back when in the early 2000s. Her energy and let’s-make-everything-fun attitude was magnetic. Everyone loved her (and still does). Taking advantage of our youth and flying benefits, we traveled the world together with a few other close friends. I have always admired her tenacity and desire to learn EVERYTHING. She has done more in her career so far than 10 people have done in their combined careers.

In her current role as head honcho at Shani Sammons Marketing Group (SSMG), Shani’s passion for connecting fans with their favorite artists through creative marketing/digital strategies has earned her opportunities to work with country music duo Sugarland, AT&T Country Deep, Sean Kingston, Styx, Mama Jan Smith, Sonia Leigh, Lady Antebellum, Jana Kramer, David Nail, Florida-Georgia Line, Cole Swindell, Delta Air Lines, Turner Broadcasting, and NASCAR. And that’s the short list. And I can’t forget to mention that Shani also currently serves on the Atlanta Chapter of the GRAMMY Recording Academy Board of Governors. Well deserved (and I’m not biased at all).

1. What is your favorite experience from the early days of your career?
SS: I did an internship with Delta Connection at Delta Air Lines I learned tons from the operations teams to marketing to customer service. But my favorite experience was when I got to fly on airplanes all day, fly to 4-5 states and spy on the flight attendants as a “secret shopper” to ensure they were doing their jobs and giving great customer service.

2. To what to you attribute your drive and ambition?
SS: I guess basically that we only get a few chances in life and we need to take risks and opportunities. Also, one of the things my Dad told me years ago was that opportunity only comes once or twice in a lifetime, so I should learn to evaluate the opportunity and take that risk. And my mom was very encouraging of me to get my MBA at Georgia Tech. I’ve had a very supportive family always.

3. Some people unfamiliar with you may see the zigzags in your career as unfocused. You went from customer service to air traffic control to social marketing to social media consulting across all sorts of industry (Nascar, country music, TV). How do you think all the twists and turns in your career have benefited you?
SS: I think the “zigzags” have been a good path for me. I say this because it has put me out of my comfort zone and led me to the next opportunity in my career path. Also, recruiters, hiring managers, etc., always tell me they love my diversity and the variation in my experience. One thing doesn’t change – I’ve always been creative and understood “strategy” so I think this is something I can use to contribute to any business model or organization. Who doesn’t love a good creative geek and someone who sees the bigger picture?

4. Who would you like to see answer a Top 10?
SS: Brandy Clark, one of my favorite songwriters, performers, and someone I highly admire in the music industry.

5. What to you do to jumpstart your creativity and ideas?
SS: I do tons of blog reading, Twitter stalking to see/understand trends. When I travel for work, I always take time to seek out creative spots to just take a minute to sit down and take it all in. I keep a small notebook with me and my iPad and take notes religiously.

6. If no one is around to “judge” what music do you put on?

7. What is your go-to food?
SS: I love a great pizza and I also like crab legs!

8. Do you have a bucket list? If so, name one thing on the list.
SS: My undergrad degree is in aviation management. I’d love to get my pilots license. I love airplanes.

9. What is your favorite memory of Laura Lee Cotton?
SS: I’ve got tons I could share. First, let me say how much I have always respected Laura, her work ethic, professionalism but above all how good she is with people. I think to do what she does she has to have be a rock star with people and she definitely is. But my favorite memory is our trips to Puerto Rico together back when we worked at Delta. We could just hop on a flight and travel anywhere together for free as long as there were seats available. We had such fun times there, trying great food, dancing at the Puerto Rican dance clubs. Our favorite place to stay was the Hilton in Old San Juan. I’d do anything to go back to those days with her!

10. What is your biggest brag professionally and personally? Now … don’t be modest. SS: Hmm … I guess me getting elected to the GRAMMY Recording Academy Board of Governors and I’m also pretty stoked that I went back to graduate school and got my Masters of Business Administration from Georgia Tech. That degree and experience truly has benefited my career and confidence.

Check out Shani’s work at SSMG.

Connect with her at  16-instagram   16-facebook

Top 10: Colin Williams

Colin Williams is an New York based, award- winning photographer and creative director with a distinct passion for his Caribbean culture. He leads a team at Colin Williams Photography where they aim to expose life through the camera lens and engage people at their electric boutique-style “SoulBoys” events.

I first met Colin at now-closed-but-beloved Corner Bar (shout out to Jillionaire) in Trinidad in 2009. Oozing with charisma (and not bad lookin’), Colin is a people magnet. (Though I was kinda oblivious to him that night which is why I think he remembered me when we met again several weeks later at Fashion Week Trinidad & Tobago.)  We’ve worked on a few professional projects together and I have the upmost respect for his professionalism and creativity. His history of being “discovered” as a model and then transitioning behind the camera intrigues me. So does his ability to easily morph between West Indian limer and urban city dweller while still staying true to both identities — with camera in hand.

1: What is one tip you would give to your teenage self?
CW: Don’t forget who you wanted to be as a child, stop being realistic, and go for it. Work for it.

2. What is your best recovery from fail to win?
CW: Prepare for the truth within or prepare for your second round and win.

3. What to you favorite way to generate creativity and ideas?
CW: Sometimes I look at my old work or I go to museums and libraries and look at old painting.

4. What is the biggest difference between being behind or in front of the camera?
CW: The big difference being behind the camera is that I have the final say. When you are in front of the camera you don’t have to take creative direction from the photographer. I learned this from 10 years as a professional model.

5. What was it that made you realize that you wanted to be a photographer?
CW: Photography was once a hobby of mine and over time I came to realize my work was much more creative then some of the work that I saw from photographers who were professional.

6. What is one professional tool you cannot live without?
CW: The 28 – 70 millimeter lens on the body of The Nikon D810.

7. What do you consider to be your signature “thing”?
CW: Balancing daylight with flash.

8. What do you harp on the most as a parent?
CW: To grow with my kids and not have my kids grow with me. To know myself as a person and to always be honest with myself if no one else.

9. As a Trinidadian living in New York, what is your favorite thing about both places?
CW: I like the idea now that I can travel for hours to get to either homes.

10. What is one of your favorite projects on which you’ve worked?
CW: Single handedly and boldly preserving the legacy of the father of the nation Dr. Eric Williams, the first Prime Minister of The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Learn more about Colin at
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