Once a teen mom, pioneering ad executive reflects on overcoming bias in corporate America

Nov 21, 2016


You may not know her name, but it’s a good bet you know her work.

Valerie Graves has worked in the creative departments at the nation’s leading advertising firms. She’s been creative director for top Fortune 500 accounts like General Motors, Ford, Burger King, AT&T, Pepsi and more. She’s been a top executive for Motown Records, and she was creative consultant to President Bill Clinton.

Advertising Age named her one of the “100 Best and Brightest” in the industry.

"Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming the Woman I Pretended to Be"
Credit Courtesy of Valerie Graves

But this success in a very tough business didn’t come easily to Graves, who grew up in an underprivileged neighborhood in Pontiac.

She shares her incredible story in her memoir, Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming the Woman I Pretended to Be.

In our conversation above, Graves talks about what drew her to advertising and how she found success in an industry dominated by white men.

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