In our long-running series “How I’m Making It,” we talk to people making a living in the fashion and beauty industries about how they broke in and found success.
Ah-Niyah Gold is a superhero of a fashion publicist. But this wasn’t a career she thought of pursuing until only a few years ago.
“It’s not that I didn’t see myself owning my own company,” she clarifies. “It just wasn’t something that crossed my mind. If anyone ever told me back then that this was what I would be doing, I would’ve a hundred percent laughed in their faces, like ‘Hell no, I will not.'”
She’s always been a self-described hustler — as a pre-teen, as a staffer at an agency, even as part of the touring ensemble of Disney’s “Lion King” on Broadway.
“I became a well-rounded person at a very young age, very understanding to the ways of the world,” she tells Fashionista. “It shaped me to look at things a lot differently.”
Following her time on stage, she had a few agency roles before opening up her namesake firm, A Gold Consulting, in 2020 with the hopes of connecting consumers to emerging Black-owned brands. The New York-based company currently represents the best of today’s Black fashion and beauty businesses: Theophilio, Brandon Blackwood, Homage Year, Topicals.
“We’ve been working very diligently to continue to grow,” she says. “I don’t glamorize the idea of entrepreneurship in any shape or form. I absolutely love the work that we do — the motivation and the fuel that honestly keeps me going. But I feel like people don’t understand how hard it actually is and what it means to operate that. I’m still learning and growing, but again, the passion that we have for our work is what gets me through the week and, honestly, through each day in an hour.”
We caught up with Gold to discuss her career, her time as a child actor, how A Gold Consulting came to be and so much more. Read on for the highlights from our conversation.
Before you started in fashion, you spent some time working as a Broadway performer. Tell me about that.
I have a very unusual background, but I feel like if you know me, it makes so much sense for who I am.
I got my first job when I was 11 years old, when I was cast in Disney’s “Lion King” as Baby Nala on tour. When I first started, I didn’t look at it as a job, obviously. I was just excited to be there. I was doing what I loved. I was in middle school, working full-time alongside adults. I feel like being a kid on the road is sometimes harder — we pretty much had double the schedule because we had to do both school and work. I learned how to develop a work ethic and a schedule during this time, though, which are things no 11-year-old is typically thinking about.
What role did fashion play in your life?
Aside from performing, I’ve always loved dressing up and being immersed in fashion. That was really me and my mom’s thing. I also used to sit with the costume designers backstage and see their processes. I was just interested in all the different archetypes of the show. That influenced me heavily — even now, because it’s shaped the mindset I have past just my career in PR.
What made you want to start your own PR firm?
I come from working for larger agency environments and smaller ones — that experience was essential for me because I was able to take away things that I either absolutely loved or absolutely knew that I didn’t.
I still feel like, as I continue to navigate through fashion, my knowledge is growing. But I make it a point to study. I’m always going to be a student. I always want to know how things are moving in the production space or on the backend, with actual materials and things like that.
Being a resource — not just in the sense of dealing with press, but a resource to help brands create longevity for themselves — is really the main goal. I really want to continue to help develop brands in all aspects, in getting them across that five-, 10-, 15-year milestone.
How do you choose brands to represent? Is there a vetting process?
I don’t think there are any absolute no’s. The only time that I would say no is if I just don’t feel like they’re ready for PR or need it at the moment. I’m not out to take people’s money — I want to work with people when they’re at their best place to actually do what needs to be done.
When I work with clients, I tell them that this is a partnership. We’re working together to make this happen and to do what needs to be done. I don’t want younger brands to ever feel overwhelmed, because it can be a lot.
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The best thing that I try to do for them as well is to continue to coach them, especially if they reach out to me. I’m such a fan of talking to younger talent and helping them understand what their next steps are — even if they aren’t directly a client of mine. That’s the only way to propel them forward and let them know that they’re not alone. It’s never really a ‘no,’ it’s just like, ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this yet. I think that you can use your money or the funds that you’ve acquired so far to reinvest in yourself and focus on these areas and get to that next step where you’ll be ready to start the process of PR.’
Once you sign a client, what are the very first things you tackle?
The first thing is walk them through the whole, ‘This is what we do, and this is what we would need from you to make it happen.’ We really help them build up those initial things for brand development, like lookbook, flat lays and a brand bio.
I’m also big on strategy. That’s the key to our success as an agency: hammering down a strategy and figuring out overall what our plan is for this specific client — whoever it may be — based off of what they have lined up and execution. I look at it as a partnership because it truly is. I can only help you as much as you decide to help yourself, but in order for us to do our best jobs, this is what we need. I make sure to communicate that before we do anything else.
You’ve recently expanded into beauty. How have those clients been a different challenge for AGC?
I’ve always been interested in beauty, but I think I was waiting for the right moment and the right client. I’m very much one of those people that goes by that energy between myself and the brand. I really have to be passionate about it, because that’s really the best way that we’re going to be able to do our best work. I ask myself: How do we see our influence, our connections and our responsibilities being carried out to take this brand to the next level?
Being able to do that with Topicals has been such an incredible experience. [Founder] Olamide Olowe has been building her brand and telling her story. We’ve been able to take some of our playbook and a little bit of our rules from working with fashion clients and applying that to beauty, which has been a lot of fun. I recently found out — in an interview she was doing — that that was pretty much the reason why she hired me: to bring in other thinkers from other industries that still have innovative visions.
What have been some of the most rewarding moments for AGC?
Edvin Thompson and the Theophilio team winning the CFDA Award felt like the World Cup. It was just really beautiful to see the love pouring out across the industry and from peers that were so supportive of the win. It validated the work that they had done so far to get to that point. I want that level of recognition for all my clients equally as hard, and I feel like those opportunities for Black creatives are still so few and far in between. So when we do have a moment to really champion them and allow them to receive this type of recognition, I don’t ever think it’s anything to be taken lightly.
Also, I’ve done two Met Galas now, and I feel like that’s my reset: Actually doing something in that space with the talent and those designers is so special, because we’re here alongside all of these legacy brands, and we’re making a statement. I never take those moments for granted, and I always look forward to the next one because it’s something that I want continue to keep growing, bringing more designers into the fold, in any capacity.
Getting our clients included in season two of “Gossip Girl” was a big moment, and having that actually written into the script was major. Luna was spotted in Homage Year, Julien in Theophilio and Brandon Blackwood. The fact that everyone was so excited to see our brands — we’re all over the moon about it.
What are some goals you have for AGC?
My goals for in 2023 are expansion across all different industries. We work closely in fashion and beauty, but the driving factor for our success is making sure that we’re fully immersed in the culture. I definitely want to do that in the art space and the hospitality space, working with hotels, venues, spirits and more lifestyle brands. You’ll be seeing a lot of that from us this year.
We’re also aiming to do more philanthropy. We have Black Fashion Fair, but I want to continue to figure out how we can not only amplify the work of creatives and designers, but how we can support them. I also really want to go overseas! I’m so ready for us to branch out and start touching clients over in Europe and in Japan.
What advice do you have for aspiring publicists?
The industry itself is a game, so knowing your ‘why’ and knowing who would be the types of clients and people you want to serve. I’ve literally spent more time with my industry than with my family. It becomes personal, and you have to love it. You really have to be ready give a lot and understand that sometimes PR is a thankless job — but as long as you know the work that you’re doing is changing the landscape and you know you’re making a difference, that’s okay.
I really make it a point to befriend other publicists and check in on them, whether they’re pursuing the entrepreneurial route, like myself, or an agency or in-house [path]. I’ve done it all, and it doesn’t take away from the job or the stress of the job. I feel like that has truly been the key to my success, cultivating really tight relationships.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.