If you’re at all interested in the world of PR in the entertainment industry, look no further than Alphonso Reed. Serving as the founder of ARPR Agency, the North Philadelphia native has come a long way from working for two of the biggest PR companies in the world to now launching his own company.
What sets ARPR Agency apart is the fact that it’s a global 360 company, handling everything from public relations to brand strategy to talent management to event production to even celebrity wardrobe styling. Launched six years ago, his biggest clients to date include Kevin Hart, Christina Milian, Keke Palmer, Young Thug and Karlae, Kash Doll, Cordae, and more.
But things didn’t always come so easy for Reed. Some of the trials and tribulations he had to overcome including dropping out of college, surviving a bus crash, being held at gunpoint, and more. Regardless, it was Reed’s love and passion for PR that carried him through — and he has high ambitions for the new year.
Sheen spoke with Alphonso Reed virtually to discuss his background, being from Philly, love for PR, launching his own company, getting clients like Young Thug and Christina Milian, going global, and more!
For those who don’t know, who is Alphonso Reed?
I would say I’m a disrupter. For me, I always did things my own way. Everything goes my own way. From high school growing up, my brother and sister went to the same school, Mercy Career & Technical High School and I went to Cardinal Dougherty High School. I always moved to the beat of my own drum. I went to college in Miami. It didn’t work out, I couldn’t afford it. So I left and I moved back to Philly. I worked as a store manager for two phone stores when I was 20/21. Did my own thing.
I was tired of the same routine. I don’t like routines, everyday has to be different for me. I researched to find two PR companies that I love, the top PR companies in the world. I sent the emails. I didn’t know if they’d respond, but they responded to me and I moved to New York City. I interned for the top two PR companies: Karla Otto and KCD Worldwide. I was working with Valentino, Celine, Marni, Balmain, and some other brands.
What does it mean to be from Philly?
Philly is an amazing place. People talk bad about Philly, but for me, when you’re from Philly you just have this chip on your shoulder. Because we’re close to New York City, we’re close to everything. We’re in the middle, so everybody really comes through Philly. It’s hard, but to make it out of Philly, people don’t expect you to leave Philly.
Where I was born and raised in North Philadelphia, it’s a really bad area. But for me, I’ve never seen anything. I was really sheltered. My mom worked really hard. We got everything that we wanted, we lived a beautiful life. I never knew I was from North Philly. [laughs] I never thought there was anything wrong. It was very much a home, everybody took care of each other. You’ll see things. You’ll go to the corner store, you might see somebody get shot. You might see somebody get robbed or stabbed, but it makes you really tough.
In the industry, you need it because it’s really cutthroat. I was always the only male. People always came for me, but I had a tough skin so I really got through it. Owning a business is really tough as well. When you have resources and knowledge and access, a lot of people are threatened by you. Growing up in Philly really gave me a tough skin and helped me navigate in the industry. I didn’t have anybody, any mentors, anybody who really taught me which way to go, what way to do things. You really had to figure it out on your own.
Coming from Philly — nobody expected me to have a company that’s six years old, and have the ability to work with and add value to some of the most successful talents in the world. Being from Philly has really helped me to get where I am, have longevity and to be strong. Just keep pushing forward.
What was the first instance where you realized you love PR?
I could always see potential in people. I didn’t know what it was back then, I was really young. But I could always see how big and successful a person could be. The first instance where I thought about PR was the TV show The Hills and The City. The City was when Lauren Conrad and all those girls were working at Teen Vogue. They were working at the showrooms in New York City and building brands around their clients.
Kelly Cutrone is one of the biggest, most notable publicists in the industry. Me watching her on TV, seeing those girls and what they were doing, I needed to be in that world. I loved what they were doing and how they were changing people’s lives. They were working at the most exclusive events and they always looked good. Watching MTV The City really showed me that this is a job, this is a career. This is something you could do, and that’s where I explored.
The funny thing is it went full circle. I watched those girls on TV, then I ended up working with Justin Bobby from MTV The Hills. It’s crazy. I went from watching him on TV to having him as a client. The new season is called The Hills: New Beginnings, I got to work on a whole press run with them. Go to New York City, go to LA. Really be hands-on and help push the show, which was amazing. I got to meet the whole cast: Brody Jenner, Audrina, Justin Bobby, Spencer, Heidi. They’re all really cool, they’re all really sweet. It was great to see somebody you grew up on, and now being able to work with them and be around them was crazy.
Talk about launching your own agency and everything it does.
ARPR Agency for me, I want to be a representation of what you can become if you follow your dreams and never give up. I always get messages, DMs and emails, people saying “you inspire me. You motivate me.” I just want to be that example, let them know it’s possible. No matter where you’re from, no matter what amount of money your parents make, or how much you make.
I’ve built my company with nothing. I had no savings, no nothing. The great thing about PR is I don’t need an office space, so I have little to no overhead. The world is my office. I’m flying out to Paris on Monday, I work from coffee shops or hotels. It feels great to have my own PR and talent management company, we really are a 360 company, we do it all.
Just being a representation that anything is possible. No matter where you’re from, your background, you can make it happen. You can do whatever you want to do, you can travel the world. Two years ago, I wanted to get paid to travel. l’d love to see every part of the world. Now I’m flying to Europe and the Middle East. I have clients from Serbia, London, and Paris. Really manifesting your dreams and making things happen. Anything’s really possible, I want people to know that. You can live your dreams. Your wildest dreams are possible, and that’s what I’m living.
What clients have you had that excited you the most?
I love them all. From Christina Milian, I love her because she was a child star. I got to work with her, really rebrand her and get her in Vogue magazine. What I love about her is her family, her background. They’re from New Jersey. Christina wanted to act, her mom moved the whole family to LA. She hired her kids, she gave them all a job. One sister’s going to be her hairstylist, one sister’s going to do your makeup, and her mom styled her at the beginning of her career. She really made it happen. I love Christina, I love how her parents operate and their whole business. They know it’s a business behind the talent.
I love Young Thug. He’s an amazing person, I love how he takes care of everybody. I love that he understands the industry. People don’t know: Young Thug can be off the scene for 10 years, come back and he’s on top of his game. People respect him. He’s helped so many people’s careers. He’s one of my favorite clients.
Cordae just announced he’s having a baby with Naomi Osaka. He’s a real person. I just love real, genuine people. It’s always a pleasure working with people that come from nothing that understand they’re living their dream and remain modest. The industry didn’t change any of them, they’re helping other people. I had the ability to work with a lot of different people, from all different backgrounds.
For me, it’s great just thinking of my upbringing. Going to Catholic school, growing up around different cultures and different people really helped me to this day to be able to communicate. Because if I went to public school, if I were just around African American kids, I don’t know if I’d be able to handle communicating on the level I do today. I work with people from all walks of life, and I love it. I’m trying to branch into Japan, Qatar, and Dubai. Being able to work with different cultures is amazing. Philly really helped me, everything is a building block. I am where I am because of my journey.
How do you get in touch with someone like a Young Thug?
What’s great about my company is from the very beginning, all of my clients are from referrals, so I really never had to reach out to anybody. I met Thug through his girlfriend Karlae at the time. I met her mom and we connected. From there, I got them to walk in New York Fashion Week. They closed the V-Files runway show. My company set up their whole New York Fashion Week experience and they went viral and really owned the entire week.
Once you’re in it, you’re in it. I don’t really have to reach out to anybody, they’re all knocking on my door. It’s all referrals. People see your work, then your clients are really marketing your company for you. I really don’t have to reach out to anybody. If I see somebody that I like, I can shoot them an email. I’m six years in now so once they see my work ethic and what I’ve accomplished the sky’s the limit. I can work with anybody I really want to at this point.
How’d you get in touch with Christina Milian?
One of my friends was a celebrity hairstylist. He saw me working and moving around in the industry when I was at Karla Otto and KCD. He said “I have three clients, they love you. They love what you’re doing. They want to go to Fashion Week. I want to connect you.” What he did was he connected with Young Dolph, Dej Loaf, and Christina Milian.
Christina’s mom called me like “Christina’s been researching you. She’s seen your work, she loves you. She wants to fly you out to New York for New York Fashion Week, she wants you to move her around.” Funny thing was she wanted to hire me as a stylist, and I’m not really a stylist. My company does wardrobe styling now but at the time, I was a Publicist. That was my background.
I have all the relationships in the fashion industry so I set up the appointments. I got her a custom outfit for the event, she went to the Angel Ball. I got her a custom dress from Nicole Miller, I styled her. I got her press from attending the event and made sure all of the fashion editors knew Christina was back on the scene.
From there, it blossomed. Every media outlet from Vogue magazine to Harper’s Bazaar to Elle, they’re all like “Oh my god, Christina was Best Dressed! She looks amazing. She’s back on the scene.” It’s great to see you’re adding value. No matter where a person is in their career, you’re still adding value, which is amazing.
What’s one thing you want people to know about your company?
My main thing is I want people to know we’re really a 360 company. We’re global. We don’t just do PR, we do styling. We do talent management, we’re agents, and event production. We closed deals with Barbie. I have clients walking at Fashion Week, get them TV deals, movie deals. Fashion brand partnerships, we’re really doing it all.
That’s what I want to be known for, I don’t want to be known for one thing. I want my company to be around long after I am gone. It’s a global 360 agency. We tailor our services to what our clients need. If I have a client who’s doing great at acting, but maybe they need to build a brand. Because if the acting doesn’t last, what are you gonna fall back on? We can come in, and create you a clothing brand or connect you with a brand for a collaboration. Whatever you want to do, we can tailor our services towards your needs. We tailor our service to fit your long-term goals and to give you longevity in your career.
Photo credits: Dyns Lens Photography