By Darlene Donloe
LADERA HEIGHTS — After decades in the entertainment industry as an actress, an insider and finally a highly successful motion picture publicist, Rosalind “Roz” Stevenson laid bare her soul and put her experiences — good, bad, and on the edge — in a book, she titled, “Look At God! My Hollywood Walk of Faith.”
In the book, which she wrote, rewrote, shelved, then rewrote again over several years, Stevenson, 78 this month, talks about the time she looted during the Watts uprising, a failed marriage, raising two sons on her own, bad credit, being fired, working behind the scenes of classics like “Good Times,” dealing with divas, being blessed and highly favored, becoming a mother, working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and, ultimately, meeting the love of her life, Robert Louis Stevenson, an award-winning industry veteran, best known for being Samuel L. Jackson’s hairstylist on most of his movies.
A statuesque woman with an easy-going personality, Stevenson, who grew up in Compton, but now lives in Ladera Heights, is the first to tell you that hers was and is a life well lived.
She’s had ups and downs, but it all led to a fulfilling marriage and motherhood, the respect of her colleagues, and a grateful nation of seasoned and up-and-coming Black journalists and publicists for whom Stevenson opened doors and presented opportunities and access that, until she took the reins, had remained padlocked.
“My whole purpose for writing the book was for my grandkids,” Stevenson said. “I wanted them to know who I am and some of the things that happened in my life, and because so many of us have had fulfilling careers. They usually only write about stars and filmmakers.
“Some of us have had an interesting life behind the scenes, but people don’t know about it. I didn’t realize how many powerful moments I’ve had in my life until I started writing this book. I really lived my life.”
Stevenson began writing the self-published book by thinking of the vast stories that made up her life.
The book’s title pays homage to God because Stevenson said that’s how she “made it through.”
“It’s called, ‘Look At God! My Hollywood Walk of Faith’ because I truly believe that God shows up in your life when you’re pushing for things and it’s not the right thing for you,” she said. “I had to pray about things. I asked him to show me where I should be. I was determined to work in the film industry, but I didn’t know where I fit in.”
The entertainment industry beckoned Stevenson at an early age. In 1964, her father, Roscoe Steverson, was given five tickets to the Academy Awards. The family even walked the red carpet.
In her book, Stevenson said, “That night, a firestorm was set ablaze in my soul that could not be extinguished. I was determined to somehow find my place in the glamorous world of Hollywood.”
Stevenson went on to work on numerous television shows both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Eventually, she moved away from acting and found her calling by promoting films at MGM and Universal for two decades before launching her own Roz Stevenson Public Relations firm at age 57.
Some of the motion picture public relation campaigns Stevenson worked on include “The Help,” “Bad Boys 2,” “Jurassic Park III,” “Bring It On,” “Jungle Finger,” “8 Mile,” “The Hurricane,” “The Bourne Supremacy,” “2 Fast 2 Furious,” “Talk To Me,” “Schindler’s List,” “Transformers,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “Last Holiday,” “Meet the Flockers,” and “Ray,” the PR campaign she said she’s most proud of.
That was the year Universal and Roz Stevenson Public Relations won the Publicists Guild’s award for “Ray,” the Best Marketing Campaign of the Year.
She also worked with A-listers like Sidney Poitier, Jaime Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Denzel Washington and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Stevenson was living her dream.
After a successful campaign for the Denzel Washington film, “American Gangster,” Stevenson decided she had enough.
“It was too much,” she said. “It got to be too much. Running my business, staffing, and doing payroll. Other things were happening in my life as well.
“The last year of my business, I did it all by myself. When you keep running after movies, it gets tiring. I decided to retire. I’ve been retired since June 2008.”
Stevenson’s said her stint in entertainment was gratifying.
“When you see the results in the box office, that’s rewarding,” she said. “As a publicist, everything we do is for the first and second week a film is released. When the word of mouth takes off, it’s a great feeling to know you had some involvement in making that happen.
“I never got over seeing the magazine covers of things we worked on.”
While her career was soaring, Stevenson’s family suffered several tragedies.
“My son’s stepdaughter was murdered,” she said. “And my granddaughter killed herself. You try to go on with your job, but a lot of things take a toll. It wasn’t the job. Actually, I wanted to spend time with my mother. She passed two years after I retired.”
Since her retirement, Stevenson said she has spent more time with her children and prior to COVID-19, traveled with her husband, who is also retired.
Asked if she misses being an entertainment insider, Stevenson said, “No.”
“I had my time,” she said. “ I had a good run.”
On the back cover of Stevenson’s Tinsel Town tome, Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay wrote, “Roz Stevenson set the bar for Black publicists in Hollywood. For many years and many movies, her work was the gold standard on the West Coast for Black film campaigns. Roz garners the respect of her fellow publicists and journalists alike for her unwavering commitment to her clients and to press professionals of color.”
The publicists and Black journalists she helped along the way, continue to applaud Stevenson for being a trailblazer in the industry and for opening countless doors.
Miki Turner, a journalist, who is also an associate professor of professional practice at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said having the support of Stevenson was invaluable.
“It was everything,” Turner said. “You always knew she was going to take care of you, which you didn’t know going into situations with people who don’t look like you. There was a trust factor. Roz was about diversity and inclusion. She saw the benefit of having different voices in the mix.”
Sandra Varner is a Bay Area journalist and publicist who met Stevenson in the early 90s.
“She was doing the junket for “Pure Luck” with Danny Glover,” said Varner, founder of Talk2SV. “She reached out to me. It meant so much to have someone to advocate and value what we did and didn’t diminish who we were. It still means the world to me.”
Stevenson credits Varner with being “inspired by God to give me the title of this book.”
Both Turner and Varner consider Stevenson to be a “trailblazer.”
“I’m comfortable with being called a trailblazer,” Stevenson said. “That’s the award I get all the time. I don’t think there were others before me. For this generation of people, I’m all they knew.
“I speak at a lot of career days now. If a journalist or publicist asked me if it was a good idea to go into the business, I’d say, ‘yes.’ If that’s something you really like — then you should do it.”
“Look At God! My Hollywood Walk of Faith” is available in hardback, paperback, and e-book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, and everywhere books are sold.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.