For publicist Whitney Kuhn Lawson, a life in the fast lane is where she prefers to stay. Raised in San Antonio, she cut her teeth in television in Washington D.C. and New York City as a publicist for some of the nation’s most known and respected journalists, entertainers and programs: George Stephanopoulos, Susan Zirinsky, Gayle King and Bette Midler (to name only a few). After a decade away, Lawson has boomeranged back to her beloved home state and is now in Houston as a Senior Publicist with Allied Integrated Marketing, promoting films and working with some of the top names in the industry such as Netflix, 20th Century Fox and IFC. She shares her insights on her journey thus far, her dedication to empowering others around her, and the career-defining mentorships that have pushed her to the top of the heap.
On her background in broadcast:
The entertainment industry is tough. In a dog-eat-dog world that can be very cut-throat, I have been incredibly fortunate to have such positive professional experiences and work with the best in the business very early on. So many greats took me under their wings and cared enough to mentor me when I was younger.
I got my start in television publicity for major network shows in D.C, and then New York City. Without a doubt, being on-air for several hours a day is one of the most grueling jobs anyone can have in media. I can’t explain how intelligent, quick-witted, and well-versed someone needs to be in order to have the positions of national on-air talent. I watched George Stephanopoulos in awe for years as he seamlessly pivoted from a hard news piece to a celebrity or cooking segment.
The same is equally true for Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell, and the dozens of people on set, in the control room, or newsroom who make everything happen on a daily basis without a hitch. The expression “it takes a village” always comes to mind when thinking about my tenure in broadcast. Everyone I have been afforded the opportunity to work with in those early years truly had a lasting impact on me–both professionally and personally.
On the positives of film publicity:
I am extremely lucky to work for Allied IM, the world’s leading entertainment, culture and lifestyle agency. Allied represents some of the biggest names in the industry, ranging from 20th Century FOX, IFC, and Sony Pictures Classics to A24, and Netflix. I love telling people’s stories. If the publicity we create for a film helps spread positivity about an issue, I’m thrilled. I am fortunate to have a position where my primary purpose is to find the feel-good nuggets within a project, craft them into a cohesive message, and then disseminate it to the masses. Making a lasting impression on others’ lives through these artistic projects we represent (whether they are Blockbusters or Indies) brings me great fulfillment.
In my initial years in film publicity with Sunshine Sachs in New York City (when I puddle-jumped from the television world), almost every project I worked on in my three and a half-years at the firm was something I genuinely cared about. I quickly found a passion in documentary film, and I am so grateful I was given all of those opportunities to work on countless movies that truly made an impact, such as CNN’s Blackfish, HBO’s All About Ann: Governor Richards of the Lone Star State, Netflix’s Virunga, and more.
On giving back and empowering others:
I come from a long line of strong-willed women. Both my grandmothers were incredibly hard working, my mother has taught inner-city elementary school for over two decades in the San Antonio Independent School District, and my mother-in-law is a small business owner. I am surrounded by women who share their giving spirits in both the personal and professional endeavors they pursue, and their examples have always taught me to do the same. I try to constantly give back to those I encounter in my daily professional life, which is something my mentors Susan Zirinsky and Bette Midler have taught me.
I am extremely passionate about the current conversations that have surfaced in the media around the modern-day female experience, so I make it a priority to practice offering sisterly support for my friends and peers and their various projects and pursuits whenever possible. Outside of the office, the organizations I enjoy volunteering with in Houston are Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Boys and Girls Club, and Lemonade Day.
On her personal female hero:
My hero in my professional life is my former boss and forever mentor Susan Zirinsky, or as everyone in the business knows her, “Z” at CBS News. She has pushed broadcast boundaries for decades, proving to be one of the best (or the best, in my opinion) producers in the history of television. She has covered the front lines of war zones, major catastrophes, and many more events that have written the history of our time.
Z was not only my boss while I worked for her show 48 Hours, but she was also a confidant and an amazing life coach. She always took the time to meet with me and discuss anything that was on my mind. She returns every email she receives, no matter from whom…I honestly don’t know when she sleeps. Her work is so well-respected that there was a movie made in the late 1980s about her called Broadcast News.
She is a total force to be reckoned with and a consummate professional in the television industry. Watching her in a control room executive producing a special report for the news, or sitting in editing meetings before the weekly broadcasts were unforgettable experiences that shaped me forever. Not only is Z a powerhouse, but she treats every single person she encounters with the same level of respect. She is kind, hardworking, and has a drive that is unmatched. She is with me every day in all of my endeavors, whether she knows it or not.
This profile was (Em)Powered by Allied Integrated Marketing.
Edited from a series of interviews by Eleanora Morrison.