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How Sylvia Rhone Became Sony Music’s Most Powerful African-American Woman: ‘Many Questioned My Ability’

Black Women in Business

How Sylvia Rhone Became Sony Music’s Most Powerful African-American Woman: ‘Many Questioned My Ability’

by Gail Mitchell via


The highest-ranking African-American women at Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group are, respectively, Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam, Epic Records president Sylvia Rhone and Atlantic executive vp Juliette Jones. Here’s how Rhone got to where she is today. (Find links to the other women’s stories below.)

In 1994, when she became the first African-American woman to lead a major record company, Sylvia Rhone was quickly put to the test.

“That was the first time I encountered issues of racial and gender bias,” says Rhone, who had been appointed chairman/CEO of Elektra Entertainment Group by Warner Music Group chairman Doug Morris and is now president of Epic Records. “There were many in the music community who questioned my ability as an African-American and a woman to run a label. The notion existed that I would negatively change the culture of the company and convert it into an urban label.”

Rhone, born and raised in Harlem, grew up embracing a wide variety of music. On weekly forays to the Apollo Theater, she witnessed performances by Aretha Franklin, …


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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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