BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University alumna JoCinda Benjamin ’94 said she believes almost every successful child performer has one thing in common: a parent or an adult advocate at work backstage. Benjamin should know, as she left her own career in radio promotions 15 years ago to manage the acting career of her daughter, Jaida Iman Benjamin, who has appeared on television shows and in commercials and movies.
When her adult daughter no longer required her mother’s presence during shoots, Benjamin started Momager On-Set LLC, which provides concierge services to showbiz families in the Greater Los Angeles area.
Momager, Benjamin explained, is a term to describe a mother who is a business manager for her child — handling tasks such as social media posts, photography, styling, transportation, correspondence with industry representatives, contracts and finances.
“Balancing auditions, callbacks, booking, travel, coaching sessions and time on location can be daunting. Oftentimes, parents sacrifice their careers, personal time and savings to support a working child,” Benjamin said. “I am using my own experiences to provide a service to parents who need to work full time or who have multiple children in the industry and can’t be in two places at once.”
Benjamin said her work promotes diversity in show business by leveraging her connections within the industry and looking for opportunities for actors who may not have otherwise been given the chance to compete for roles.
“As an African American woman, a business owner and a former talent agent, diversity and inclusion are high on my radar. Because I work in the field and see so many kids on any given day, I am able to scout and refer top minority child performers to agencies seeking to diversify their rosters,” she said.
“While we’ve seen some growth, Hollywood executives must continue to make room for all minorities to tell their stories and also include minorities as decision-makers to open the doors to new talent,” Benjamin added.
Prepped for success as a Mountaineer
Benjamin said she knows the value of having an advocate and cited her own history as it related to App State.
She shared, “I was more on the artistic side and not an academic standout in high school, so I wasn’t sure I would be accepted to any four-year university. My high school guidance counselor, Charlotte Cannon, encouraged me to apply to Appalachian anyway and wrote my recommendation letter. She saw my light and knew that if given the opportunity, I would be successful.”
Benjamin was accepted to App State through the TRIO Student Support Services program in the Student Learning Center (formerly known as the Learning Assistance Program) — through which she said she received tutoring help and encouragement. “It was the break I needed,” she said. “I hit the ground running.”
Benjamin earned a Bachelor of Science in communication studies, which led to positions in Charlotte as a news writer for a television station, an events director for a top-rated radio station and a promotion director for another radio station.
Activities outside the classroom at App State helped Benjamin build skills that she said have helped her throughout her life:
- As a member of the App State Dance Team, Miss Black Culture ’93 and a representative on the ’92 and ’93 homecoming courts, Benjamin said she gained confidence to perform and speak in front of large crowds.
- As president of the Ladies of Black and Gold — the community service “sister group” to the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and a member of the Student Government Association and the Black Student Association, she said she developed leadership skills and a passion for serving others.
- As a liturgical dancer with the App State Gospel Choir, Benjamin said was able to express and build upon her spiritual foundation.
“I graduated from App State feeling like there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. I felt prepared to deal with all types of people from different backgrounds — and didn’t mind breaking down barriers if needed,” Benjamin said.
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About the Department of Communication
One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department of Communication at Appalachian State University focuses on preparing students to succeed in the varied fields within the communication industry. The department offers five majors – advertising, communication studies, electronic media/broadcasting, journalism and public relations – and a minor in communication studies. Graduates work in a wide range of positions in media, corporate, agency, government and nonprofit organizations. Learn more at https://communication.appstate.edu.
About the College of Fine and Applied Arts
Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theatre and Dance. Learn more at https://faa.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.