Celebrity Publicist Trell Thomas Reflects On His Journey From Politics to Hollywood
"I do things I love with people I love or things I’m passionate about with people I’m passionate about."
By Marquia McKnight | Published on June 5th, 2020
With just a few days before Easter Sunday, celebrity publicist Trell Thomas and I introduced ourselves as he finalized plans for his first ever virtual Black Excellence Brunch. Since COVID-19 has shut down physical gatherings, this brunch that typically met in person, with guests such as Tina Knowles and Broderick Hunter, was re-imagined as a virtual experience.
Yet, that didn’t seem to stop Thomas as he eagerly described the plans he had for moving forward with the brunch, while also fondly reflecting on its beginnings. Coming from a life full of unexpected turns, Thomas is no stranger to staying positive in the face of change.
Paths in life change frequently. Most often, when one door closes, another one surely opens. Although sometimes, you have to decide what the correct door to walk through truly is. Thomas began to discover this truth at the bright eyed and bushy tailed ages of 19 and 20. During his early college years, Thomas followed a full proof plan that would help him climb up the corporate ladder of Broadcast Journalism. With his eyes set on becoming the next Ed Bradley, he earned a job with NBC and was hard at work writing scripts and distributing footage.
However, he quickly realized that in the world of television, he would not have been able to make the change he originally felt called to. Thomas wanted to find ways to uplift his community, the Black community, and make a major impact in encouraging others. However, television unfortunately has a top down system in which those at the top make the most change and it would be a while before Thomas would be able to get to the top. But Thomas shared a belief with me that he has held his whole life. “You can do anything you want to do. It’s up to you.” Once he realized that Broadcast Journalism wouldn’t be the best way to make an impact, he began to open his mind up to other opportunities and open doors.
Thomas then reflected on a life changing experience that led to a major change in his dreams and goals. While in college, Thomas was step master for the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He and his chapter had the privilege of opening for President-Elect Obama’s speech and Thomas was able to stay afterwards and meet him. It was with this chance meeting that Thomas was offered a position on Obama’s campaign as an assistant to a communications director. “Whatever I can do to help this man get elected, I want to do,” Thomas said as he discussed his time on the Obama campaign.
“You can do anything you want to do. It’s up to you.”
- Trell Thomas
To see a Black man in the oval office would be a powerful change and it was something that Thomas wholeheartedly believed in.
As a college student, believing in change or believing that you can make a difference in the world can seem daunting. Imposter syndrome, doubts, and other obstacles may arise, but it is crucial to understand that what is for you, will always be for you. Stepping out on blind faith and being confident in your abilities can only lead to a greater experience and a purpose fulfilled. If you allow yourself to be held back due to fear or worry, then you’ll never accomplish what it is that you want. But if you believe in yourself and know that you are capable of making a change, then inevitably, great change will happen.
With a belief such as this, Thomas worked his way up and became the booker for all surrogates and celebrities who spoke on behalf of the campaign, including renowned names such as Maya Angelou and Chris Rock; all fighting for a powerful cause. And on January 20, 2009, their fight was met with reward as Obama was inaugurated and became the President of the United States.
Thomas knew that he couldn’t just go back to sitting behind a desk at NBC after being involved in helping the first Black man in US history to be elected as president. He had been heavily involved with powerful change and knew that sitting behind a desk and writing scripts wouldn’t give him the same opportunities as being in the community, building a community, working alongside people, and building personal connections. However, at 20 years old and still in school, Thomas had to go back to NBC.
He noted that many people from the campaign ended up moving to D.C., but Thomas couldn’t follow at the time being. Yet, after undergoing such a life changing experience, that feeling, that calling to create change, never left his mind. So eventually, Thomas did step out on faith and moved to D.C. It was there that he began to build his career, build the skills needed for his career, and form the community that would be the foundation of his many incredible projects such as the Black Excellence Brunch.
At a time now when there are so many young students graduating into a world of uncertainty, it’s important to have that same blind faith and belief in one’s self as Thomas did. He spoke fondly on his upbringing and family as being the inspiration behind why he does what he does. “I’m inspired by my ancestors, my family, my grandmother,” he shared as he reflected on his family roots. His grandmother was a sharecropper who worked hard to provide for her family. She taught Thomas many valuable lessons and instilled a strong work ethic in him. His father also was a huge inspiration and encouragement to Thomas. He would constantly share gems with him such as “no question is a dumb question” and urged him to speak his mind. He also made sure that Thomas knew that he could accomplish anything, despite all obstacles. Thomas’s grandmother was a prime example of this as she still made a way even after starting off as a sharecropper.
“I’m inspired by my ancestors, my family, my grandmother.”
- Trell Thomas
Along with his family, Thomas named other major influences and inspirations on his life. There was once a time when he looked up to figures he deemed as “faraway,” like the Obamas, Oprah, and others, but now he shares that he is inspired by the community around him.
His web show podcast hybrid, Friend Friday’s, is a direct reflection of this. Starting on his Instagram story as a way to highlight the accomplishments of his friends, it has now grown to a weekly show where Thomas gathers a small group of dope people in his life and interviews them. He believes heavily in “giving people their flowers while they can still smell them,” and his vision to accomplish this is to highlight as many people as he can for as long as he can.
Motivated by both friends and family alike, Thomas stated, “Simply, I do things I love with people I love or things I’m passionate about with people I’m passionate about.” Thomas’s Black Excellence Brunch is a beautiful example of this. Deriving from a family tradition of Sunday dinner after church, Thomas carried that tradition with him as he moved to New York and then Los Angeles. He wanted to uplift and honor the Black excellence in his community especially after being frustrated with the way that the Black community was being negatively shown in the media. So he gathered a group of friends, called for an all white attire, and set up a big brunch in which they all could feel confident, beautiful, and excellent. For him, it is a labor of love.
“Simply I do things I love with people I love or things I’m passionate about with people I’m passionate about.”
- Trell Thomas
Throughout Thomas’s entire journey, he’s always had a very unshakable faith and strong belief in turning nothing into something, as he stated, “I am most inspired by the opportunity to create.” It may seem difficult to achieve that same level of belief and confidence, especially now during a time where the country is faced with an unexpected pandemic.
Yet Thomas offered some words of encouragement and revealed how he is keeping his spirits up during a time such as now. First, he said that he currently is taking time to “stay in a place of gratitude,” and recognize the small blessings that are present always, even in times of trouble. But most importantly, when it comes to manifesting, believing, and achieving a life that you truly want, Thomas stated to “be very careful about how you speak to yourself.” Be intentional about your goals.
Tell yourself that you can start that YouTube channel, begin that project you’ve been putting off for a while, or get back into a hobby you used to love, and watch how the blessings begin to fall.