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How Tenacity and Fearlessness Builds CEOs


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Jahylin McKee is a communications expert and the founder and CEO of J.McKee & Co., a boutique PR firm. In this episode of Motivational Mondays, we discuss the importance of tenacity and fearlessness in achieving your career goals.

Undeterred by a disappointing situation, Jahylin transformed her mindset from defeated to focused, helping her achieve a successful career. Don’t miss her inspiring story.


How Jahylin Ended up at Savannah State University

Jahylin’s cousin attended Morehouse College so she got a chance to experience the feeling of stepping foot on an HBCU campus. Jahylin was in ninth grade at the time and felt completely at home so she made it her mission to attend Spelman University.

With such a specific intention, she didn’t apply to many other colleges. But when she ended up on Spelman’s waitlist, she was disappointed.

When August arrived, time to enroll was running out. Jahylin had to choose an alternate option: Savannah State, Albany State, or Fort Valley. She realized she could attend one of those colleges Freshman year and then transfer to Spelman.

She rolled with the punches and chose to be flexible when Spelman wasn’t an option and she ultimately selected Savannah State for one reason—they had palm trees. 

Savannah State quickly became her family and she was enthralled with campus life, student activities, and even went on to become Miss Savannah State University. As a student orientation leader and member of student government, Jahylin was incredibly involved. She will forever consider Savannah State home.


From English to Marketing & Communications

Jahylin originally wanted to be an English major. But her mentors encouraged her to look into journalism. Once Jahylin realized she wanted to go into communications, Savannah State was one of two universities in Georgia that had an accredited journalism program and Spelman didn’t. So, when given the opportunity to transfer to Spelman, she turned it down. 

Through her communications studies, Jahylin fell in love with the art of language and publicity. It speaks to who she is as a person and a leader. And as Miss Savannah State, she was a walking brand ambassador. She got placements and headlines in the media, including Ebony magazine.

It was evident that she was already becoming the high-performance person she was going to be after graduation.


Continuing Olivia Pope’s Legacy in Real Life

Scandal was all Jahylin watched in college. Many people don’t realize that Judy Smith—an African-American crisis manager, lawyer, author, and television producer—was the publicist that inspired the Olivia Pope character. In real life, Smith handled a lot of PR nightmares, including the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Paula Dean’s fall from grace, and she was also Michael Vick’s publicist.

Jahylin loved Scandal so much that it became her campaign’s inspiration when she ran for Miss Savannah State. She treated her run as a real publicity strategy to see if she was capable of pursuing PR as a career.

She made a bet with herself: If she won, she’d become a publicist. If she lost, she’d make a career change. It should come as no surprise that Jahylin is now a successful business owner and publicist.


Listen to this episode to learn about...

  • [0:58] How Jahylin ended up at Savannah State
  • [7:40] How she went from English to Marketing & Communications
  • [10:13] Continuing Olivia Pope’s Legacy in Real Life

Listen to the bonus episode to learn about the power of taking chances in unknown situations and how to fearlessly pursue the internship you want.