How Beyoncé’s Director of Social Responsibility, Ivy McGregor, Got Her Dream Job
From getting laid off from her first gig to helping one of the world’s biggest pop stars give back.
Long before she was traveling the globe on a mission to change the world with one of music history’s biggest pop stars, Ivy McGregor was helping to give back with…brownies.
As a kid—the youngest of five siblings living in section 8 housing in North Minneapolis—she’d often wake up early to bake brownies, and then sell them at school for a profit. Later, the elementary schooler would quietly offer her earnings to her mom to help with the bills.
“From there, my need to give back just kept growing naturally—I’d think about all the other kids out there like me who were seeing their own mother or parent struggling, and I decided I wanted to help other families, too,” she remembers.
Of course, back then, McGregor had no idea she’d one day turn that desire to give back into a full-blown career. Several years after graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in business and marketing, McGregor decided it was time to leave her home state and follow one of her older sisters to Houston, Texas, where she got a job at a consulting firm. But just one year later, the company unexpectedly had major layoffs—and McGregor suddenly found herself unemployed for the first time in her life.
“I had everybody telling me all those cliche catchphrases, like: ‘Don’t worry, everybody loses a job at one point in their career!’” McGregor recalls. “But I’m like, ‘This wasn’t supposed to happen to me now!’”
It didn’t take long, however, for McGregor to get herself back on her feet. Having grown up in the church (“Every Sunday, Friday night, and sometimes even Saturdays!”) McGregor began to consult for small businesses in the Houston area, helping them better connect with the faith-based community through marketing and events. In 2007, she was hired by a company called Music World Entertainment, owned by an entertainment manager named Matthew Knowles. Yes, that would be the same Matthew Knowles who managed an R&B group called Destiny’s Child as well as his own daughter’s rising career as a solo artist: Beyoncé Knowles. ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
McGregor’s first assignment with the company was to find a philanthropic charity initiative that could easily intersect with The Beyoncé Experience concert tour. McGregor worked closely with Beyoncé’s longtime pastor, Rudy Rasmus, to come up with a campaign they called “Ring the Alarm on Hunger,” inspired by Beyoncé’s hit single “Ring the Alarm.” For 12 stops on the tour, if fans arrived at the venue with non-perishable canned goods, they would receive raffle tickets for a seat upgrade. View this post on Instagram
“It was my first gig ‘in the industry,’ so to speak, finding a way to bring together a celebrity and a community activation—and I loved it,” McGregor says. “The results far exceeded our expectations. I think the younger generation gets a bad reputation for not caring about social responsibility, but I’ve seen the exact opposite. Yes, it helped to give it a catchy name and offer fans a little incentive. But since then I’ve seen time and time again that after someone does good once, they genuinely love the feeling, and want to keep giving back, however small.”
Beyoncé is a legend—I literally pinch myself every day.
McGregor continued to work with Beyoncé’s team and her company, Parkwood Entertainment, over the next decade. Eventually, she was named Parkwood’s Director of Social Responsibility, a job title that means finding unique ways to use the superstar’s platform to give back—and inspire her fanbase to do the same. Under the philanthropic umbrella that Beyoncé calls “BEYGood,” McGregor has overseen projects including relief efforts in Houston after Hurricane Harvey in 2017; partnering with UNICEF to provide safer water in both Flint, Michigan and Burundi, Africa; and coordinating scholarship programs, including the Homecoming Scholars Award which benefited students at four Historically Black Colleges and Universities for the academic year.
“A day on the job for me is identifying issues and the places where people are in need, then working to create programs or partnerships that will provide real opportunities and solutions,” McGregor explains. “I meet a lot of people and read a lot of proposals, hear what people need, and then do the research and brainstorming to answer the question: Can we make real, significant change happen here—and if so, how?”
In addition to her work with Parkwood, McGregor is also the CEO of the boutique consulting firm, Ivy, Inc, which helps companies develop their own social impact strategies. She also teaches yearly at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and serves on several boards—including Global Citizen, where she spoke on stage in South Africa in 2018. Earlier this year, McGregor earned a standing ovation for her opening Tedx Dartmouth Talk about how we can all “awaken our moral consciousness.”
But McGregor is also passionate about spreading the message that you don’t have to have a career focused on philanthropy like hers to help others.
“So many people hear my story and tell me ‘I wanna quit my job to do philanthropy.’ And the first question I always ask is: ‘Why would you want to quit—why can’t you start with creating impact where you are?'” McGregor says. “It starts as simply as volunteering, whether it’s at a nursing home, or with a youth group, or for a shelter for battered women. And who knows—maybe when you start there, you will be inspired to focus on that kind of work full time. But to start, I encourage people to think about what it’s important to you, what you’re passionate about, then begin with the small ways you can create impact where you are.”
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Still, constantly encouraging people to give—especially when many feel they don’t have anything to give—can be tireless work. And while McGregor credits daily meditation and her religious foundation with keeping her centered, she admits that she does feel an added level of responsibility representing one of the most well known women in the world.
“Beyoncé is a legend, and I’m honored to be a part of her team—I literally pinch myself daily,” says McGregor. “But knowing who she is and that she’s such a leader in not just music, but the space of giving back, of course that means there is a greater level of scrutiny, of awareness and responsibility on me. But to be perfectly candid, I don’t walk with it as a weight or a burden—I walk with it humbly. Because at the end of the day, I do what I do because I love it.”
I truly believe if you keep putting good out there, good will come to you.
Up next, the now 53-year-old is working on a book set to be released in 2020, a work that she describes as a combination of “fiction, non-fiction, mystery, and inspiration.” And at the beginning of next year, she’s also planning to launch a video series with her colleague, Parkwood’s Head of Publicity, Yvette Noel-Schure, which will “share inspiration and light” for working women; the duo hopes to eventually turn it into a podcast as well.
A small town girl from the Midwest who grew up to make the world a better place—literally. It’s a dream job, indeed. But McGregor believes that behind all of the glitz and glamour that comes with the gig, her job is just like anyone else’s.
“I think my life is honestly no different than most people—you work, and you try to incorporate things you’re passionate about in that work, and you try to leave some kind of legacy behind,” she says. “Oprah often quotes Maya Angelou, who told her ‘Your legacy is every life you’ve touched.’ And not one of us stops touching lives after we go home from our 9 to 5. Whether it’s through your job or in your spare time, being good isn’t a trend, or a fad, but something that’s sustainable, that will always be cool. I truly believe if you keep putting good out there, good will come to you.”