Harvard Told A Black Girl She Couldn't List Jay-Z As A Role Model

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Back in 2005, a Harvard freshman filling out a profile for an on-campus recruiting program listed Jay-Z as her business role-model.Chanequa Campbell claims she was called into the Office of Career Services and told to name someone else.

“It’s not appropriate. I don’t think people will respond well to this,” the career counselor told her.

Campbell, who grew up seven blocks from Jay-Z in Brooklyn and idolized the drug dealer turned rapper turned entrepreneur, refused to name someone else. She argued with the career counselor a while longer, finally offering as a small concession to use her role model’s given name, Sean Carter.

Note: This anecdote was told to us by Campbell and has not been confirmed by Harvard.


Seven years later Campbell, who ended up getting kicked out of Harvard, still gets upset telling how Harvard didn’t respect the businessman from her community.

If it wasn’t clear back then, it’s clear now that Jay-Z is a damn good business role model.

“I know his resume,” Campbell told me. “He made most of his major respect—Wall Street respect—since ’04.”

But he was a businessman from the start.

“Hov [another nickname for Carter] started as an independent artist with Reasonable Doubt in 1996. Even though he wasn’t going platinum, at the beginning he was making money because he owned his own label, he was his own business,” Campbell said.

Then he got big. Fourteen Grammy’s and over 50 million album sales were just the start. Jay-Z invested in all kinds of ventures—including the Brooklyn Nets, ad firm Translation, cosmetics company Carol’s Daughter, Rocawear, and the newly revamped 40/40 Club—earning a networth around half a billion dollars.

Still he never changed who he was.

“To be successful and never change who he is, that’s the important thing for me,” says Campbell. “It’s rare he’s ever lost his cool. He never lets a situation bring himself out of character. He’s someone who can articulate any position he has.”

He’s a good role model too.

“Most of Jay-Z’s songs, if you understand his vernacular, he’s telling you how to be cool, how to be good at life,” Campbell says. “He’s promoting things of content, things to aspire to. He mentions Warhol, he mentions Basquiat. He mentions people you’ve never heard of. He brings this light to our normal conversation.”

Campbell repeats from memory a great Jay-Z quote from a couple of years ago. Here’s what Jay-Z said after meeting Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov at the Four Seasons: “I’d been staying there for 10 years, and I always thought I was at the top level. But when I met Prokhorov, they took me up to this extra, extra room that I had never even heard of before. Now there’s something else to shoot for. There’s always an extra level you don’t know about.

Jay-Z hangs out with Barack Obama and parties with Warren Buffett. He trails only Sean “Diddy” Combs on the Forbes’ list of Future Hip-Hop Billionaires. If either makes the cut, he will join the short list of currently only five black billionaires in the word.

As Jay-Z says: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”

So yeah, we think Harvard got it wrong. Meanwhile Campbell has bounced back from her legal troubles and is teaching in New York City. She’s thinking about working at a think tank and is also writing a memoir.

“That’s why I love Hov,” Campbell says. “He’s a prime example of how they can’t hold the past against you.”


UPDATE: Thanks to Harvard Crimson’s Amy Weiss-Meyer for linking to this article. Here’s what she said:

As of 2012, Jay-Z is worth a few hundred million, and Forbes says that’s no accident. Also, he’s married to Beyoncé. As another wise poet once said, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Whatever you want to call Hova, he’s definitely a legitimate role model.

Let’s forget about the shooting for a minute and disregard all that would transpire between Campbell and Harvard in the years to come. Campbell was absolutely right and whoever it was at OCS who made this call was just plain wrong. May we kindly suggest some (required)reading?

Put your diamonds up, OCS. Can you hear him? Good.

Now Check Out Financial Wisdom From Jay-Z’s Two Best Albums >

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