Meet Tavis Smiley’s Right Hand Woman

February 17, 2012  |  

Ever wonder what made Tavis Smiley the household media personality he is today? Denise Pines is the wonder woman behind the Tavis Smiley brand. She’s been his business partner for the past 15 years and used her skills as a marketer and financial planner to create a solid brand for The Smiley Group, Inc.

Pines has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and earned a master’s in international marketing from John F Kennedy University, and a master’s in finance from Stanford University. Aside from her career with Tavis Smiley, she previously worked in management at The Gap, AT&T, Neiman Marcus and Louis Vuitton.

She and Smiley met while exercising at Baldwin Hills and have been inseparable friends ever since.

“It was the one day of humidity, and we would start running and stop. At one point I stopped and he stopped. I asked a generic question about running, and he said he usually runs over at Dorsey, but decided to come here,” she told Los Angeles Wave.

“Even when he told me who he was, I didn’t believe him because a girlfriend [back in Oakland] had warned me about L.A. guys — they’ll tell you anything. But for the next two hours we talked and I just found him fascinating. I told him that I was interviewing for a [public relations] job at Pac Bell and he said he knows the vice president of the company and suggested I look him up in the phone book. Those were the days before cell phones and Twitter.”

About a week later, the two ran into each other again.

“Today we consider ourselves like Mutt and Jeff. We’ve had this great friendship that we’ve been able to turn into a business; I’m profit-driven and he’s completely the social activist, and about Black people 100 percent of the time. Even when he was flat broke and got a little money, he would tithe 10 percent of that,” she said.

Pines discloses that in the future, the Smiley Group hopes to grow the business and bring diversity to their Speakers Bureau by adding Latino and White women. They also hope to bring more Tavis Smiley specials to PBS.

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