Her dreams enabled us to see further, dream bigger and believe we could be more than whatever circumstances surrounded us!
MONARCH: How would you describe yourself?
CATHY HUGHES: Highly domesticated. I love to cook, raise flowers, herbs and vegetables. I love to fish. I love being at home. As a teen, I thought I would be married with six children, all boys, and a volunteer for various causes. However, with an unplanned teenaged-pregnancy, I had to re-adjust. Now, I am able to concentrate on my volunteer projects, while still maintaining my focus on my top priority, which is my business. I consider myself forthright, honest, and fair with integrity as my mantra.
MONARCH: You have not slowed down. Normally when someone has developed a company as successful as yours, they back away from it.
CATHY HUGHES: I do not want to back away. I do not want to be separated from those I serve. I love my radio audience. I love my cable viewers. I love my digital participants, and that’s really the connection from which I don’t want to be separated. Could I live without the workload? Most definitely.
My dream was to be at home, but this job has me hooked on interacting with the people that I serve. I love that about my profession – the opportunity to have one-on-one, first-hand, front-row interaction with the people we serve. I have so many interesting conversations. Often, I will bump into someone who makes a suggestion that becomes a reality because it was such a good recommendation.
MONARCH: The passion to serve our culture exudes from you. Was that feeling of love for our culture always there, and what instilled that passion in you?
CATHY HUGHES: Absolutely, it has been there always. From the very beginning, I have felt a strong connection to my people and our culture. I was born with that feeling. You don’t start learning how to be connected ; it’s either an element of your personality or it’s not. As I age, that passion is increasing as opposed to decreasing, which is so invigorating for me. It’s what keeps me going. The fact is that my passion for being of assistance to my communit and my people gets reignited on a regular basis.
MONARCH: Throughout your life, you accomplished so many things. What helps you stay on course, especially in times that seem bleak, similar to now.
CATHY HUGHES: They don’t appear bleak to me; they appear as opportunities. People have asked me, “What is the biggest problem I have ever encountered?” My response is whatever the situations or issues may be, I see them as opportunities to learn, grow and get it solved. I’m very myopic about turning a “no” into a “yes,” and turning a negative into a positive. I’m very much about looking for new opportunities for growth for myself and others.
MONARCH: Did you dream about this early in life?
CATHY HUGHES: I didn’t set out to be the first person who did this or that, I didn’t even see it. This was not my dream. I didn’t want this to be my path. It was just something that made sense. I never imagined that I would be largest Black-owned media company today. I never dreamed about helping folks craft their careers and professions and helping them become successful. I was obedient to the directions I was given by the Creator.
I have been called upon by that voice many times over many years, and I recognize it as the voice of God. I think God talks to every single solitary one of us, and I think the difference between some of us and others of us is that some of us listen and some don’t. Some hear but don’t really listen – there’s a difference. You often hear people say, “I should have listened to my first mind.” Well, your first mind was God telling you this is what you should do. But you decide to do things your own way, and then it doesn’t work out the way you planned. Quincy Jones loves to say, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him you have a plan.”
MONARCH: With the significant increase of content creators in the media industry that are attempting to follow in your footsteps, do you think the quality is diminished?
CATHY HUGHES: Number one, I don’t think anyone in general market media is trying to follow in my footsteps. Although on many occasions, my formats in radio like the “Quiet Storm” are being copied, sometimes verbatim. Also, in television, series very similar to my own have magically appeared on Major networks with different show titles and the same cast and storylines that were originally developed by my network. However, when it comes to creating Black content, we have four decades of experience of authentically representing Black People from a Black perspective. Our competitors are new to the game and do not have our level of commitment. That being said, I am still thrilled and enthusiastic about the increasing number of opportunities for people of color and women to be in decision making positions in Media. However, unless we own the enterprises that produce those opportunities, we are in constant jeopardy of them being taking away.
MONARCH: There is purpose in everything you do. I know it’s not by happenstance that Urban One, Radio One, TV-One & I-Digital-One all have One in the title. Please share the message behind “One.”
CATHY HUGHES: Our corporate message is “One Vision.” What it means to speak with One Voice. If all of us are on the same page at one time, nothing can stop us. Whether it’s in television, radio, cable, digital, or whatever world in which it exists, we have the ability to utilize these platforms and seriously create change. The reason for the One is that we are one people, and that’s important because every time we are on the same page things happen. It does not have to be 100 percent of us just a large enough number to make an impact. We are the economic backbone of this country. Our Genius is unlimited!
I will give you an example to further explain the impact we have as Black people when we unite. In Dave Chappelle’s latest stand up, “Sticks and Stones,” Dave does a bit about gun control where he says if all Black people would register, and you think he is going to say to vote, but he says” register to own a gun, then gun laws will immediately change”. Dave gives us an excellent example of Unban One’s concept of “One vision, One voice”.
MONARCH: You have inspired so many people. Who inspires you?
CATHY HUGHES: My mother. She is 96 and still going strong. She is my inspiration. She has always been very independent and very progressive. At 14, she was in an 18-piece, all women’s orchestra called the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. She has travelled the world and experienced more cultures than all four of her children combined, and she unapologetically loves Black people and her culture. She ensured that all four of us stayed focused on our obligation to our people. She was radical when it came to rights for Black people. She would say in Mississippi, we don’t need Black history month. We have Black history every day.
My mother was the first revolutionary activist with whom I came in contact, and her influence embedded a permanent imprint on me in terms of my commitment and acceptance of my responsibility for my people.
My Father also inspired me; I was the apple of his eye. He too was an activist. I can remember at a demonstration getting popped upside my head because I wasn’t holding my protest sign high enough. I told my parents, “This sign is heavy.” They replied, “Life is heavy. Pick the sign up!”
MONARCH: Did becoming a mother help develop you?
CATHY HUGHES: Absolutely. After the birth of my son, Motherhood became my number one focus. Before that, my focus was on me. All I thought about was me. When Alfred was born and placed in my arms, however, I had a priority that was outside of me – it was bigger than me. I was determined that my child was not going to become a negative statistic. I was determined that my child would be exposed to opportunities similar to the ones my mother had exposed me to, but bigger and better!
The reason I sincerely love my audiences in radio, TV and digital is because having my son Alfred taught me how to love outside of myself. I did not have a problem loving Cathy because of the positive reinforcement I consistently received from both my immediate and extended family. When the adults in a child’s life tell that child that she is special, that God has a plan for her, and that she is destined to do great things, then It’s pretty easy to think, “Oh I have the ability. I can do this!”
The hardest part is learning how to love and subjugate yourself in the interest of another human being.
For example, in business I can’t tell you the number of times that I have not been able to make certain business alignments because I was unwilling to do or say things that were not in the best interest of my people. The reality is, I cannot compromise my people or myself in the interest of money. I am a firm believer that if you do right by people then God the Creator will reward you. There is a saying that Oprah uses: “God has plans for us that we cannot even imagine,” and that’s how I feel. Each time I hear her say it, I cheer her on and say, “That’s how I feel!”
MONARCH: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
CATHY HUGHES: The fact that I was able to encourage and inspire my son to embrace my dream of helping our community and to take my vision to the next level.
I’m so grateful that as a teenager, I was able to raise a child that stayed out of trouble. He wasn’t the greatest in school, but let me tell you, when he began paying his own tuition, his grades skyrocketed. My son got his MBA from Wharton, returned home, and began to take my vision to the next level. It’s hard to do that with a family business because there is a lot of heavy lifting. The most difficult aspect of a family owned business is giving the combination to the safe to the same child who lost his keys to the house, frequently. In the Black community, we are just now beginning to witness growth in generational business leadership. I pray that our people begin to understand that having every generation to start anew is counterproductive to our progress.
My son is the one who diversified us. He took us into cable television, digital media and spearheaded our investment in the MGM Casino. He is the one who coined the phrase, “We are Unapologetically in the Black people business.” That is our area of expertise and service. I thank God for him and consider my son my greatest accomplishment because he shares my commitment to the responsibility and obligation to our people.
MONARCH: You are an amazing woman, and this has been a pleasure! Is there anything that I may have missed that you would like to comment on?
CATHY HUGHES: I want to say this: I have loved Monarch Magazine since the very first time I came in contact with the early issues many years ago. I have watched your publication evolve each year into something better, and better, and better. It is the best upscale lifestyle magazine out there, bar none. It makes me very proud that it is Black owned and operated and unapologicaly in the Black People business just like Urban One.
I am humbled and honored to be included in this issue of Monarch.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you !