Leo Q & A
GenLeo: Cheherazade Patel
The Executive Producer brings her passion for creating across mediums to form her unique POV
GenLeo: The newest class of inspired thinkers. Let Leo Burnett’s up-and-coming talent clue you in on the trends they’re forecasting, the work they’re creating and where the industry is headed with these creatives at the helm.
Executive Producer Cheherazade Patel brings passion and tenacity to her work for notable brands, but it is her unique perspective that sets her work apart. Drawing inspiration from her city while forging connections with the next generation of BIPOC creators, Cheherazade explores new mediums and ushers in new voices.
Here she shares her best advice and what she has learned throughout her career:
1. Tell me about your role as an Executive Producer. What’s your day-to-day like?
I’m currently the Executive Producer on three brands: Kellogg’s, Jim Beam and Feeding America. My days are never really the same. I enjoy producing on my own jobs, as well as being a sounding board and support system to the producers that work across these brands.
2. You were on the account side of advertising for the first seven years of your career. Which skills did you learn in account management that you bring into your current role?
The importance of being organized and responsive, how to present to a room and how to anticipate any questions or needs before they arise. Especially being a young account person at the time, it was just a great way to build confidence while learning to develop and use my voice.
3. What unique perspective do you bring to your role as Executive Producer?
I think my account management years have informed how I work with the larger agency team. Understanding that we each have an important role to play to make a great idea come to life has been essential to my success. I try to be a supportive presence to the producers I work with—I want them to know that they can tap into me for advice or questions. I try to let them own their jobs knowing that I’m always there if they need me.
4. You’ve worked for well-known brands like Walmart, Nutrisse and Tampax. Is there a piece of work that you feel specifically showcases your style?
I wouldn’t say there’s one in particular that showcases my style. There was a spot that I worked on that was extremely challenging to produce, but it’s become one of my favorites. It involved a really talented dance group, super cool choreography and a catchy music track, with lyrics that were written by our creative team. It started out as an online content piece, but after it received almost 10 million views within the first 24 hours, the spot made it to TV. That was something that I was super proud of. It showcased my style because I love dance, I love music, I love something with a little bit of “pep and zing” to it, so it hit all my buttons for me.
5. Creating a diverse talent pipeline is top-of-mind for many people in the ad industry. You were recently a panelist for the nonprofit Minorities in Film. Why are organizations like Minorities in Film so important?
Organizations like Minorities in Film provide an opportunity for BIPOC individuals to receive exposure and experience in the industry. One of their programs, The Branded Lab, offers mentorship through collaboration with agencies and production company partners. I was a part of a panel that spoke to The Branded Lab, offering insights into the inner workings of agency life and what it’s like as a producer to both bid and award a job to a director. There are so many talented BIPOC who are interested in breaking into the commercial space of advertising, so it’s great to work with organizations and programs like Minorities in Film’s Branded Lab. They’re providing those mentorship opportunities and a network of people who can help make a difference in the lives of individuals who are currently underrepresented.
6. On top of all you do at Leo Burnett, you’re an accomplished artist—you work with oil paints and photography. What role does art play in your life? How do you feel those artistic expressions impact your work as a producer?
Art is as much of a stress reducer for me as it is a hobby. It’s something I can lose myself in, it’s a time where my mind either has the ability to go blank, or to completely process whatever I have going on. I use color and texture, often like gravel or wood on canvas. In terms of photography, the idea that we can literally freeze moments in time is sort of magical to me.
As a side note, fire escapes, and water towers hold a very special place in my heart in terms of subject matter. I’ve spent the last 20 years in New York, and they’re both very iconic New York features, I think. It’s always been something I’ve photographed and they’re all so unique and different depending on what part of the city you’re in. There’s something about the majesty of them. The beauty of these stark, steel structures that just convey this raw quality that I love.
7. Who are some producers that inspire you?
Really early in my career, there were three executive producers that played pivotal roles in shaping me, motivating me and believing in me: Caroline Coleman, Bill Finnegan, and Mary Ellen Verrusio. I met all of them when I was a young producer in New York. They each have unique strengths that I observed and had the good fortune to learn from, and I know that I’m a better producer today because of all of them.
8. What would you tell aspiring producers who are early in their career?
Try to get as much exposure to as many things and as many people as you possibly can. You can learn something from everyone. Try and find a mentor, or at least someone you admire and respect and use them as a resource for all of your questions. Don’t become so entrenched in process that you’re not able to pivot and be nimble when it’s necessary. And finally, treat everyone with kindness and respect because as big of an industry as this is, it is also very small, and people will remember you.
9. What are three things that people may not know about you?
- I used to have a street vending license in New York, and I would sell my art on the sidewalk in West Broadway down in SoHo.
- I worked at Disney World for a summer as a part of their college program.
- I have run one full and two half marathons. I hate running, but I did it to prove to myself that I could.