What Every Woman Wants- Valeisha Butterfield Jones
written by: iman n. milner
Valeisha Butterfield is newly married to NBA baller, Dahntay Jones, but she is far from a basketball wife. After a successful stint with Russell Simmons as the executive director of his Hip Hop Summit Action Network and as top director in the office of our nation’s first African American president, Butterfield is more than worthy of respect. In fact, her impressive resume and endearing humility demand it.
After branching out of her small town North Carolina upbringing, Valeisha began her journey into the entertainment industry by first studying at Clark Atlanta in Atlanta, GA. It was there that she would hone in on her purpose,”going to an all black university and seeing the same issues with young women that I saw back in my small town helped me to see that we were insecure, not them. We would compete with each other for no reason and we would try to tear one another down. It was an esteem issue so I started the work within myself and I then I began empowering younger women”, and began to learn essential lessons about what it takes to make it.
Upon graduation, Valeisha took a big chance and moved to an even larger market: New York. Early on she spent much of her time fighting to get her foot in the door doing work that she was overqualified for. “At this point, I’m 23 with a degree and some experience. Even with an education and a good resume, the entertainment industry is tough and I had to fight to work for people UNPAID”, she remembers now with a laugh. Many months of interning later, Valeisha found herself working for HBO but wanting so much more and that desire led her to act on an opportunity that presented itself one night on CNN. “I saw Russell’s (Simmons) interview–a man I did not know– and he completely inspired me. For me he was the blueprint. I emailed him my best 5 minute pitch and he responded right away”. That email exchange would take Valeisha Butterfield from intern to Vice President in just three years and created a life changing career path that she could have never expected.
After 7 years with Simmons, she decided it was time to move forward with bigger plans for her own future. In 2007, on the tails of the red hot Don Imus v. Hip Hop’s portrayal of women of color, Valeisha felt that it was time to form a coalition of women working in and for the entertainment industry who would serve as mentors to young women wanting to follow in their footsteps. WEEN, Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network, became a physical manifestation of the cure for an issue Butterfield had sought out to fix many years before. “I always thought I would retire to an organization for women and kids. College helped me to focus that on self esteem and my time with the Hip Hop Summit helped me to see women needed that in this industry”. WEEN quickly grew to include over 45,000 active members and to be applauded by many as what was missing for young women breaking into a business that will test them morally time and time again.
Feeling accomplished and walking in her purpose, Valeisha was content but a momentous election of our nation’s first African American president would mean more to her than she could have ever imagined. With a glowing recommendation from her old boss, Russell Simmons, Butterfield was called to serve alongside Barack Obama as his deputy director of public affairs for international trades, a position that called on the skills she’d been using in entertainment to help guide our country’s many ideas to global recognition. “You never know where one experience will take you”, she says, “you couldn’t have told me when I was an intern that we’d one day have a president that I would work for in DC”. Though the positon was a once in a lifetime opportunity, Valeisha admits to staying on as a member of Obama’s staff not only because of his connection to our community but because of his plan for our country as a whole. “It honestly has nothing to do with race but everything to do with his ideals and his beliefs overall. As an administration, our agenda, I bought in to the vision. It’s forward thinking and innovative. It speaks to the type of man we voted into office”. At present, Valeisha is spearheading the President’s Young Voter campaign for his 2012 bid for re-election.
Striking gold professionally did not always mean that her personal life was perfect. After a couple of high profiled relationships failed to turn into something lasting, Valeisha thought that maybe real love and commitment was not in the cards for her. “I had given up. I’m in my 30s and I’d given up. I’d had relationships and something just wasn’t quite clicking and I thought I’d just pour everything I have into my career”. Finding herself in a complete state of letting go, a focused Valeisha was reluctant to give a charming professional athlete a chance. But Dahntay Jones presented something fresh that she says sealed the deal long before their “I Do”‘s. “I knew right away. In the beginning he had a spark and a light about him that I had ever seen before in a man especially a man in his profession”, she says with a smile. Past experiences kept her skeptical of Jones for a while but eventually his consistency and love won her over and the two were married in July 2011 during an intimate ceremony before friends and family. Adding wife to her extensive resume has provided the new Mrs. Jones with a more balanced outlook on what focus means. “I have learned not to be so focused that I let a good thing go or that I can’t see a good man standing right in front of me. I can’t be so focused that I neglect him…it’s the beauty of a perfect balance for me”.
With her prince charming in tow and an enviable professional life full of purpose, Valeisha Butterfield- Jones is the living definition of a role model. She has managed to do it all: follow her dreams, give back to others and find true love.
Isn’t that what every woman wants?
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Edge Magazine: Edge Magazine: Volume 3
Edge Magazine Volume #3 Bridget Kelly, Nick Young, Tanaya Henry, Chase N Cashe, Valeisha Butterfield, Dahntay Jones, Halle & Chloe Bailey, Rudy Francisco, Bridget Kelly, Fashion