On July 2, 2019, PR consultant and owner of High Style PR and Marketing, Jada Russell, lost her battle to breast cancer. A great advocate for many Black-owned businesses and start-ups, Jada sat down with me, in the beginning, to discuss how we could create a unique fashion issue for Bronzeville Life.
While in college, Jada transferred from Northern Illinois University to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where she graduated. Her eye was impeccable, and her sense of understanding of various aspects of designers was extensive. I learned more about who was making noise as fresh faces of fashion in one meeting than in an entire ten issues of Vogue. When she would talk about fashion, her eyes lit up, and I knew I have the right person to oversee this project.
So, right there in the café of Mariano’s, we agreed she would curate an issue of Bronzeville Life about fashion. Specifically, African Americans in design- -from Haute Couture and ready-to-wear designers, boutique owners, purse makers, and the list was endless.
In preparation for our December/January publication launch, Jada helped us tremendously identify Bronzeville shop owners and worked with photographer Parrish Lewis to capture original photos. Some retailers had never had a photoshoot and having Quad City Development Corp. (QCDC) as a client, Jada was organized and meticulous contacting each business and scheduling interviews and time with Parrish.
Working with her on other projects over the years, she was one of the first people I would refer public relations work to potential clients because of her talent in detail, follow-through, and follow-up. I first met her as the publicist working with Juan Teague, who was hired to help produce a special event with the Kanye West Foundation over a decade ago.
In working with Jada, friend, and colleague, Juan Teague shared her fond memories. “Many didn’t know that Jada’s passion was in fashion public relations. Her gift reached beyond fashion; she touched many organizations from corporate to entertainment clients but, most importantly, our community,” said Juan. “She was my business partner, and we trusted each other. We saw mounds of success that put us on the platforms that we shared and independently. Most of all, Jada was my friend, my sister, and I greatly miss her–Chicago has lost a great one.”
Her work with many nonprofit organizations included Woodlawn One, the Obama Foundation, the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation, Wade’s World Foundation, the Westside Music Festival to her communications services on political campaigns working with then-aldermanic candidate Michael Scott, Jr. and U.S. Congressional Representative Bobby L. Rush.
Marketing consultant and co-founder of the Westside Music Festival, Michelle Benson, recounts how their friendship began.
“In 2012, she [Jada] came aboard to do PR work for the first Chicago Westside Music Festival and immediately prioritize us. She didn’t let the limited funds we could pay her reflect in the service she gave us. From there, we started to hang out since we had mutual friends in common. Jada immediately shared her love for fashion with me–even helped to style me at times,” says Michelle. “She would invite me into her home, shared her husband’s food with me, and we traveled together. Jada was a ‘girlie girl’ but could go toe to toe with the best of them–she was real.”
Jada’s love for her husband, Chef Julius Russell, never wavered becoming his best cheerleader, and the two were a dynamo couple hosting numerous dinner parties along with organizing his sold-out pop-up dinner parties around town.
So, when the news hit the social media network after Chef Julius revealed his wife’s health battle with Stage 4 breast cancer two days before her death–it was a shock to many lives Jada had touched. It was another wake-up call to the many of us who had not gone for our health and mammogram check-ups. How can someone so young and vibrant have a progressive form of breast cancer?
According to the CDC, compared with white women, breast cancer incidence rates were higher among black women who are younger than 60 years old but lower among black women who are 60 years old or older. Early detection is important and utilizing the proper resources regardless of limited healthcare coverage is recommended.
We dedicate this issue of Bronzeville Life to Jada Russell, whose presence is sorely missed. Without her eagle eye, we know typos are inevitable because she was just that great at her job.
Michelle Benson says it best. “Jada encouraged and motivated you to do and be better. She had an infectious laugh, and I miss my sister-friend beyond words.”