A Peek Inside Her Agenda: Michele Ghee

Co-Founder And CEO, Expectant Media


Jun. 3 2024, Published 9:52 a.m. ET

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One conversation with 30-year media industry veteran Michele Ghee, and you’ll know, simply from her vibrant tone and tenacity flowing through the phone, that she’s truly the transformational leader she’s been touted to be. In just a 27-minute interaction, there are convicting, affirming insights on faith, confidence, and purpose that will literally drive anyone toward self-reflection, assured boldness, and dynamic action. 

“I wrote my first book called ‘Strategic’ because people would look at me and say, ‘Oh, you’ve had advantages because you’re 5’10” and look a certain way.’ But oftentimes, I literally did not. They assumed I wasn’t intelligent. They assumed that I didn’t work for what I wanted. There were all these assumptions about being a woman,” Michele shared in an interview with Her Agenda. 

“And so, there is no way that you can serve God and stand in a room and not take up that gauntlet because it affects all of His people. And we were wonderfully made. There should be a whole bunch of us at the table because we are brilliant. We are strategic and we do understand operations and how to get things done.”

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And you can’t be a transformational leader with results without having gone through a few divine transformations of your own. Michele tried her hand at diverse work experiences that all impacted the well-rounded leader she’d become. “In my 20s, I cleaned houses. I worked at a hotel. I worked for a janitorial company. I worked on a government base, and everyone said, ‘Don’t quit that job.’ People counted me out.”

She graduated from college at 31 and worked her way through a diverse career path that included building off early business lessons she’d learned as a youth working at her dad’s Oakland, California restaurant. 

“[My dad] would literally know everybody’s name. He would know their order, birthdate, if they were having challenges. He was, like, there at the restaurant and [their] therapist all in one. And I saw the power of that,” Michele said. “And then he worked for a little network called Soul Beat, but he would deliver food, and I would go on those runs with him sometimes.”

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Her dad also worked for a car dealership, and she’d emulate her father’s gift of salesmanship and communications, observing how storytelling and good communication skills could not only lead to action to buy into a service or product but also connect communities. “You go through life, you’re seeing all the stories that are being projected. And I oftentimes [didn’t] hear the voice of: my crew, my family, my community, in a positive way. So, I knew I wanted to be in media.” 

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She got the prime chance to hone in on her dreams of breaking into the industry via a program launched by the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) that offered support, mentorship, and placement. From there, she thrived in roles where she could tap into intrapreneurship, even before going into business for herself. It all came full circle, allowing her to bridge that early hustle and grit with her corporate experience— working for or with powerhouses including CNN, The History Channel, Ebony and Jet, and BET—into succeeding in her current role as CEO of Expectant Media, a boutique Ad Tech and content agency.  

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“I think the thread through all that, although I was an employee, it also allowed me an opportunity to be an entrepreneur, hence, launching CNN’s first multicultural effort, and then going to BET and launching BETHer and then going into Ebony and Jet and reviving that brand, and then to go into [The Grio run by] Byron Allen and [leading on] his multicultural efforts. And now I’m doing what I’m doing. It allowed me to not only work but be an entrepreneur, and I just love that opportunity to still be innovative, even though I was a corporate employee at the time.”

For Michele, realizing her own purpose and rocking heavily with hard work and self-actualization informs other acts of servant leadership. She’s written several self-empowerment books and speaks widely on topics including negotiation, business transformation, consumer acquisition, and engagement, empowering women to tap into their highest visionary potential, shake off fear, and maximize their multiple talents as she has done. 

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Knowing how to embrace and learn from unique life experiences and confidently speak on what you offer the world (and the value of that offering) is another aspect of career fulfillment that’s vital for women professionals and executives. For Michele, it’s something she urges all to master doing—whether entrepreneurs, executives, junior professionals, or interns. “Those are skill sets that are valuable. They’re important [and] everyone should lean into them. And then, if you want to be crazy, like me, then you launch a whole business on the back of selling great stuff,” she added with a chuckle.

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Expectant has done more than just “sell great stuff.” According to Forbes, the firm’s marketplace has almost 200 publishers, and its Ad Tech platform is the secret sauce within a winning strategic recipe that has led to the company’s success in optimized campaigns that push broader reach and boost engagement. 

Her commitment to service and leadership flows into her work at Expectant Media, a firm that she co-founded with two other amazing power women. The company leverages proprietary technology and authentic storytelling to amplify Black-owned media, producers, and the communities they serve around the world. It has established partnerships with initiatives and programs launched by Black women, including the Super Bowl Soulful Celebration, the Boss Network, and HBCU Honors, to name a few. 

“When I left Allen Media Group, someone sent me an article… Byron Allen had just quoted, it said, ‘If you want to make money, sell something,’ because how he made his first million dollars by creating content. But not only did he create it, he sold it. So, he owned the entire process. It resonated with me that I knew I was onto something when I was like, ‘You know what, I can go, and I don’t need to work for a network to sell something.’” 

Expectant Media recently celebrated its partnership with Black Girls Rock with an awards show that’s returning to TV on August 1 on Lifetime. She was also recently appointed chairwoman of PlayersTV, an athlete-owned media network.

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She’s a huge advocate of women owning who they are, knowing what they stand for, and boldly leading authentically with the knowledge that they hold a powerful space in the market due to their unique talents and skills. “Every single person needs to understand that they’re also a brand, that they need to understand who they are, [and] that anytime they’re working for a company, they have a responsibility to sell something. Everyone is selling something. No matter what division you’re in, you’re creating something for somebody in that pipeline to sell something. And so you need to have that attitude.”

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Michele balances motherhood, being a wife, and leading a thriving business, all while redefining what it means to be present and successful in each role. There are triumphs and challenges, as many ambitious women relate to and face. “You have to humble yourself through the entire process and get your hands dirty, and be willing to work like no other. The outcome, though, is you have an opportunity to build wealth, not only for yourself, [but] generationally for your family, and for the people that you serve, because I do serve the creators as their partnership liaison to take it to the marketplace and have brands give my Black creators money,” she said. “People have a vision of what being a CEO means—that journey and what that climate is like. It’s hard, and you’ve got to just get up every day and continue to do it. And sometimes there aren’t days off, and your family’s looking at you like your work is a priority, but you know what the outcome [is that] you’re trying to build and do.”

Michele emphasizes cultivating the right mindset that centers on gratitude, emotional intelligence, delegation, and resilience. “You’ve got to have a little bit of tough skin. Everything’s not personal. It’s not just against you. You can’t have that defeatist mentality. You’ve got to take ownership of work, your life, of everything.” 

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She’s also a huge advocate of setting goals and creating a plan. “Because where there is preparation, there is success. People are like, ‘You’re a really great public speaker.’ Well, I practice and practice. I’m looking in the mirror. So I know through preparation— whether you’re playing a sport, speaking on a stage, or just trying to command the attention in a room— it’s about preparation. It’s about knowing what you want, it’s about setting goals, and going back and checking those.

Michele’s final sweet spot for success: Your village. “If you’re hanging around people that have to be the center of attention, if you’re hanging around people that are quietly preying [on] you because they’re always putting down your ideas or not encouraging you, or not holding you accountable or being honest, I can tell you 100%, you’re not going to be successful.”

Faith and humility sustain it all, allowing Michele to continue to reinvent, refocus, and renew her commitment to doing work that she loves and advocating for the clients and audiences she serves. “I don’t care what my title is or where I come from. I’m wonderfully made by my Creator, and He created me in excellence,” Michele added. “And so for me not to have confidence, I’m questioning who He created. I’ve had some crazy conversations with myself, like, ‘Come on, Michele, you know, you’re wonderful. You know, you’re amazing. When people have told me I’m not, when I didn’t get that promotion, when I wasn’t making enough money, when I went through bankruptcy in my 20s…And that is why I’ve leaned into my prayer life. That is why I’ve leaned into my faith and removed fear. Because without that, I honestly would not be able to do and be what I am today.”

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By: Janell Hazelwood, MAOL

Janell Hazelwood, MAOL, is an award-winning journalist, speaker, editor, and strategist who has worked for companies including The New York Times, Black Enterprise, and Conde Nast. She's also a proud HBCU journalism graduate who enjoys serving global audiences of women professionals and entrepreneurs. She holds a master's degree in organizational leadership (MAOL) with a concentration in coaching, allowing her to pursue her ultimate goal as a lifelong servant leader to women professionals, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit founders.

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