Mona Scott

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Marketing somebody who didn't want to be marketed was the dilemma facing Mona Scott. The reluctant client: rapper Missy Elliott.

Ms. Scott characterizes Ms. Elliott as "painfully shy" when she took on the performer as a client in 1997.

How things have changed. As Ms. Elliott's record sales-and popularity-grew, Ms. Scott slowly ramped up the artist's in-the-public-eye appearances and marketing partnerships. By the time 2003, arrived, so had Missy Elliott. Her Gap TV commercial with Madonna made news before it had even hit the air-and made the artist-formerly-known-as-shy one of the most visible music stars in the U.S. (How well-known? The March 13 episode of Lifetime's biography series "Intimate Portrait" will focus on Ms. Elliott.)

In the early 1990s, Ms. Elliott and her group Sista were signed to Elektra Records, but their album was never released and the rapper turned to producing. In `97, guest performances on other artists' albums led to a production and label deal with Elektra, part of Time Warner. (Ms. Elliott heads up Elektra's Gold Mind imprint.)

"Her ultimate goal for herself wasn't as a frontman," says Ms. Scott. "It was as CEO." Elektra called in Ms. Scott, president of Violator Management, to help guide the artist's career.

"I knew she could be an innovator and set trends," says Ms. Scott, 37. "What she says, her look, she's pushing the envelope in a lot of areas."

After the release of Ms. Elliott's 1997 debut album "Supa Dupa Fly," Ms. Scott recalls, "everybody was wondering who this woman was who defied the standard with her look and her sound."


Ms. Elliott has released four more albums with total sales of nearly 7 million. She received a Grammy as best female rap artist.

"Missy is tangible to her audience. It's never been just about her songs," says Ms. Scott. "It's always been about being someone her fans could relate to and identify with."

In 2001, Missy Elliott's breakthrough deal came when Reebok International signed her. Other deals have included Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite and Vanilla Coke.

With the Reebok deal now over, the next big thing for Ms. Elliott is a partnership with iconic hip-hop brand Adidas. The artist's Adidas apparel line, the Missy Elliott Collection, will debut this spring.

"I didn't want her to just be another celebrity endorsing a line," says Ms. Scott. The collection's tagline plays off Ms. Elliott's name and image: "Respect M.E."

"They created a vibe we wanted to present," Ms. Scott says. The Adidas deal is the brand's first with a non-athlete since rap group Run-D.M.C.-creators of one of music's great brand love songs, "My Adidas"-was signed on in the late 1980s.

A few years back, Missy Elliott wasn't viewed by most marketers as the "ideal frontman," Ms. Scott says. Now, they're moving to Missy's rhythms.

"You have a heavyset black woman creating music and mesmerizing with her videos," says Ms. Scott. "To guys she's sexy and to girls she's empowering. That's rare."

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