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Cathy Hughes

Source: Cathy Hughes / UrbanOne

When it comes to Black-owned media, Cathy Hughes is both a veteran and an inspiration in a business sector that is notoriously and exclusively white in positions of leadership.

But beyond the racial implications in media leadership, those mostly white folks who have dominated the game are more times than not male, facts that compound the systemic barriers that prevent the likelihood of a Black woman from not only working in the business but also ascending to its highest heights.

As Hughes marks her 75th birthday on Friday, it’s impossible not to marvel over the formidable empire she’s built from Radio One’s humble beginnings in 1979 to Urban One’s current media dominance that reaches more than 80% of Black audiences in the U.S. When you take into account that she was able to achieve all of that with sustained longevity after being a teenage mother back in her native Nebraska, Hughes’  accomplishments are all the more remarkable and underscore the importance of Black mothers in positions of leadership.

It’s no wonder that Hughes, the first African-American woman to head a publicly traded corporation, was born during what would ultimately become Black Women’s History Month.

Considering the obstacles she faced in the media business as a Black person and a woman, in particular, Hughes has long said that she never let racism or sexism affect her drive for greatness.

Recounting the time when she was just starting Radio One, Hughes told ESSENCE that she refused to allow gender and race to affect her resolve.

“When I got my first million-dollar loan, the bank bills would come addressed to ‘Mr. Catherine Hughes,’” she said. “I say this all the time: Get past the slights. You’re an African-American female — deal with it. Don’t view it as, ‘Woe is me — they stopped me because I’m a woman.’ That may be true, but that’s their problem.”

Embellishing on that sentiment, Hughes later told the Baltimore Sun that she viewed such occurrences through a filtered lens that allowed her to see business matters as being anything but personal.

“It’s the law of averages,” Hughes reasoned. “For every 99 people who tell you ‘no,’ the chances are that the 100th will say ‘yes.’ My daddy was an accountant and he used to always talk about the law of averages.”

It’s that type of logical approach that has helped Hughes amass ownership of dozens and dozens of radio stations in a broadcasting business model that flourished digitally to include an impressive suite of websites, including NewsOne, and expanded with a popular television network in TV One – all under the still-growing Urban One umbrella.

Read the full article on NewsOne.

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