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Busta’s Person of the Week: The world of performing arts is serious business for this multi-talented showbiz veteran

Busta’s Person of the Week: The world of performing arts is serious business for this multi-talented showbiz veteran
November 17
13:58 2021

By Busta Brown

We’ve heard countless horror stories about the entertainment business and how it’s run. But my person of the week is changing the game. This is one of those stories where God is the one and only connection to the business. 

“I don’t run my business the way this business is run,” shared Robin T. Rich McGhie. If anyone knows the entertainment business, she does. 

Robin does it all. She’s an actress, director, writer, producer, CEO and artistic director of Elise Jonell Management, Talent Agency and Performance Ensemble. “I learned at a very young age that rejection is real. The rejection is real!” she shared while laughing. McGhie is speaking of the rejection millions of aspiring singers, actors and other entertainers experience in Hollywood, New York, and Atlanta, on stage, film, and the music industry. 

“I had to learn at an early age to have thick skin, to get out there and keep fighting for what I wanted.” 

At age seven, she was at a bus stop in Newark, New Jersey, and began singing and dancing, “I danced and sang on top of the bench at the bus stop and put on a full concert, Busta. My Aunt Betty and her husband Belton said we need to get you in some kind of entertainment. 

“I used to stay in trouble until my aunt and uncle gave my siblings and I some real culture. She would take us to the museums on Saturday mornings, she took us to the opera and ballet. Then for my 13th birthday present, I saw “The Wiz” on Broadway with Stephanie Mills as Dorothy. At that moment I was hooked. I told everyone I was going to be on TV. That’s when I decided to take it seriously on a professional level,” said the married mother of two. 

As a result of that, she got more involved in the performing arts, such as dance, singing, and theatrical arts. Robin’s dream actually came true when she landed a spot on a popular local TV show and was the talk of her school and neighborhood. 

In her 20s, due to the rejection and the politics of the entertainment business, Robin decided she didn’t want to pursue acting, but continued doing community theater. Her family encouraged the actress to take her education more seriously and put performing arts on the back burner. 

“I made a decision that I was going to be an engineer and do acting for fun, because I needed to focus on a career. After college I got a job, met my husband, and had children. I didn’t want to bring my children up in the kind of environment I was brought up in, so in 1996 we moved to North Carolina. When my girls were a bit older, me and my seven-year-old daughter Akenya got involved in the community theaters in North Carolina. After doing that for a while, my daughter grew out of it, and then I worked with a company that didn’t handle their business. I got to the point I didn’t want to be in anyone else’s production, so I decided to start my own,” said Robin. 

Shortly after that was the birth of Elise Jonell Management, Talent Agency and Performance Ensemble. Before the Tanager Performance Center in Greensboro, it was Robin’s company, Elise Jonell Management, in partnership with the Stained Glass Playhouse in Winston-Salem, that brought Broadway to the Triad. She directed and produced classics like “A Raisin in the Sun,” ”The Colored Museum,” “12 Angry Men,” “Black Mama Monologues,” “Fences,” “The Meeting,” “The Dinah Washington Musical,” “Mahalia,” “Crowns,” “Miss Ever’s Boys,” “HONK!” “Guys & Dolls,” “Steal Away,” “For Colored Girls,” “The Wiz,” “West Side Story,” and “Black Girl.” She created several theatrical ballets in conjunction with Gina Tate, owner of The Pointe Company and Technique Conservatory in Greensboro. 

The talented actress, director and producer, along with Gina Tate, also landed a spot for their theatrical ballet versions of “The Lion King” and “Annie” at the National Black Theater Festival. 

“We were trying for years to bring in one of our shows and we finally received a call back. It was amazing! What we do with a theatrical ballet is very different. There’s no singing or live speaking. But there’s dance and all genres of music. So, during our first show at The National Black Theater Festival, this lady said she was extremely bored in the beginning, but as the ballet continued, she said how much she loved it,” shared Robin. 

I’ve seen most of her plays and theatrical ballets and they were absolutely phenomenal. If you’re an aspiring actress, actor, singer or dancer, she’s the person to know. 

The Newark, New Jersey native created her company, Elise Jonell Management, Talent Agency and Performance Ensemble, to be a major force for artistic life in The Triad. “We are here to allow you to live your artistic dream, giving you the opportunity to be on stage in some major stage plays. Our next step is short films. I asked God how do I fulfill my purpose in the arts, and God spoke to me clearly and said, ‘You have a gift of organization, planning, and pulling things together. Use that for my Glory, but also use that to help other people fulfill their artistic dreams.’ So that’s what we do at Elise Jonell Management, Talent Agency and Performance Ensemble. We’re moving toward film, artist management and agency work. I’ve also been teaching acting for dancers for the past 14 years, and I do seminars as well.” 

As she continued speaking about her work with youth, her lips began to quiver, as tears gently flowed down her cheeks. “Working with youth has been one of my joys. It’s like the joy of having children.” Then she jokes, “You have joy and you have pain.” We both laughed out loud! Robin shared what she does is not about being rich or famous. It’s about living your artistic life, 

“I’ve been doing this for over 50 years. It’s what I truly love to do,” she said. I asked her favorite quote, “Failure is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently,” and one by Dr. King, “Your fame is not defined by people knowing you. It’s defined by the service that you give to others.”

My phenomenal Person of the Week is Robin T. Rich McGhie. If you’re an aspiring actor, singer, dancer, entertainer, or are interested in a partnership with Robin, send her an email at elisejonell@nullgmail.com.

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