Sasha Brookner is ambitious, savvy and well-connected. The Los Angeles-based PR maven and founder of Helio Public Relations holds the keys to Hollywood and beyond. Her clients have ranged from celebs, digital influencers and artisans to thespians, activists and non-profits, making her an integral part of the global multi-media landscape. Brookner built her empire by taking independent creatives and small businesses from grassroots to serious industry players. Her firm has orchestrated strategic press coverage and brilliant positioning that have given truly gifted individuals exposure in between the noteworthy pages of Vogue Paris, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Glamour, GQ, Rolling Stone, and Architectural Digest.
Helio Public Relations’ commanding company title, symbolizing the energy of the earth’s infinite rotation around the sun and stars, embodies the magic of who they are and what they do. Their trademark doctrine “Quality over Quantity,” is a manifestation of their passionate belief that without direction and rationale, artists can easily fall victim to over-saturation. With this in mind, they reserve their roster for a select few, devoting limitless hours and creative energy to developing vitalizing and individualized publicity campaigns.
Helio PR continues to be on of the leaders in navigating the ever-changing media ecosystem, proactively responding to emerging shifts and diversifying the touch points at which information is consumed. Successfully impacting both culture and entertainment, Brookner has turned PR into an art form. Now, after nearly two decades of amplifying brands and their narratives, Flaunt turned the tables on this masterful powerhouse to get the inside scope on the history of her story.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was studying History at UCLA and while I was there I was needed more college credits to graduate so I began interning at various spots to obtain those credits with the goal of just graduating in time. I interned at LaFace, BMG, House of Blues and just haphazardly fell into PR. I was just good at it. Back then we didn't have e-mail options so you would just have to cold call editors but they all really liked me and after I graduated I was getting offers at PR Firms from publicists who worked with me while I was an intern. In the early days I was just doing music marketing working with artists like Sisqo and Usher. Eventually I created my own path, my own company and branched out to various other genres.
You’ve been doing PR as long as we've been publishing, talk about your relationship with Flaunt over the years.
I don't remember the very first client that we ever got in Flaunt Magazine, but I know you first published in 1998 and I started PR in 1999 so I assume sometime around then. I remember vividly seeing your covers on magazine stands in Los Angeles when I used to actually go to magazine stands. They were always super colorful and artistic. You supported a lot of amazing local based visual artists and I've always appreciated that. Over the years we've coordinated cover stories and features with Flaunt and the photo shoots always came out distinctive and unique. Flaunt is fearless, you guys have taken risks on featuring artists that other publications wouldn't and your creative team always seems to be on the cutting edge of newness. And I'm hoping we have another cover coming out with you in January! (That was a hint)
Do you have a favorite photo shoot you've done with a client?
Probably N'Dambi for the cover of Marc Baptiste's book Beautiful: Nudes which came out in Fall 2001. He's a giant in the photography world, he is the guy behind some of the most iconic shots from Prince to Erykah Badu. We actually set up a shoot with him and N'Dambi for VIBE Magazine that same year, he liked her so much that he wanted to shoot her for his book. I remember she was a little hesitant because of the nudity but it came out beautiful and sensual but in a tasteful way. He shot everyone for that book from Vanessa Williams to Rosario Dawson and N'Dambi was just an indie artist out of Dallas and she just ended up on the front and back cover.
Creatives have the reputation of being fickle, how do you choose which clients to take on?
I'm a boutique company so I only work with 4-5 clients at a time, purposefully. I used to work at corporate firms where I had a roster of 20 artists and I just couldn't do it. I don't have a lot of free time on my hands so I'm particular and it varies. Sometimes I'm in the mood to work with upcoming grassroots artists and other times I take on more established artists so I have a balance.
There’s no denying the media industry has drastically changed over the years, how has this shift affected your work?
Well I no longer go to magazine stands so I don't see Flaunt in print as often. Last time I went I think was like 2018 to pick up a hard copy of the New York Times and all the publications were dusty and dated. That pretty much sums up the shift. Maybe I have myopic vision or not super tech savvy because back in the day you couldn't tell me that blowing up on a corny teen app like Tik Tok would be more sought after than the cover of Vogue. The fact that I have had clients on Vogue covers not generating the type of money as someone like Khaby, it's crazy. Ultimately you have to adapt and that means I have to be on social media more that I probably would like.
6. Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career?
I read a lot, but nothing PR/Marketing related as I think once a book is published on that subject it's probably already dated. I just finished re-reading one of my favorite books Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age by A.C Grayling and really it's about finding mental peace in the midst of chaos and that's important in a fast paced industry like Hollywood.
You’ve literally worked with everyone, but is there a project you're working with right now that you're excited about?
We recently started working with rapper/activist Vic Mensa. I'm a huge fan of him and was introduced via Chicago poet and songwriter Malik Yusef. He's doing some incredible work throughout the African Diaspora and creating bridges with Chance the Rapper and others.
Last question tell us about this shoot you did with all these old magazines covers on the wall?
This was actually taken at The Jesus Wall in Downtown Los Angeles by photographer Djeneba Aduayom. She's super dope, now shooting covers for like Time Magazine. It's crazy because I'm not Christian but I loved the vintage aesthetic so we did the shoot then I had a graphic designer sub out all the photos of Jesus with magazines covers from the 50's and 60's