Kensington Grey

Shannae Ingleton Smith, President & CEO

From her early days as an influencer and media sales account exec, to the launch of Kensington Grey, Shannae Ingleton Smith has been on a mission to fill critical gaps in the advertising world and empower Black voices. Today, that looks like a Canadian talent management agency known globally for their diverse talent and game-changing content. We spoke with Shannae to learn about her career, the latest social media shifts and where influencer marketing might be headed in 2024. 

Tell us about your career before the launch of Kensington Grey.

Before Kensington Grey, I was an influencer and Media Sales Account Executive at one of Canada's largest media conglomerates, where I managed a multi-million-dollar portfolio. However, the conservative corporate environment left me uninspired, and I saw that there was a bias gap on the decision-making side in the advertising world as well as a knowledge gap with Black creators when it came to pricing and knowing what to charge for their work. So In 2017, while on maternity leave, I co-founded "The Glow Up" —a private Facebook group for Black influencers. This group served as the foundation for what is now Kensington Grey, a talent management agency focusing on diverse creators - specifically Black creators. Our mission is to empower Black voices, ensure fair compensation, and provide top-notch education in the influencer space. While having a positive impact on the influencer marketing industry.

With the rise of new platforms and a quickly evolving social landscape, how has the agency evolved since its launch in 2019?

When we first started, creators were primarily focused on making money and working with brands. Now, securing brand deals is the bare minimum. So we make sure we are providing value in other areas like, strategy, brand building and opening doors for them in PR and entertainment. We’ve also expanded our firm to ensure we represent creators in every category, not just the usual suspects - fashion & beauty. The talent on Kensington Grey’s roster spans multiple niches, including fashion, lifestyle, travel, Gen-Z, beauty, career, family and more. Year-to-year Kensington Grey has helped our sought-after creators collectively secure 8-figures worth of brand deals and organic partnerships with leading brands, including Delta, Target, Tiffany & Co., Skims, Nordstrom, Nike and Sephora.

Given the fast-paced nature of social media, are there any constants that remain relevant no matter what (i.e. fostering good relationships with creators)?

In the dynamic realm of social media, trust remains a constant for successful community-building. Establishing and maintaining trust with brand partners, creators and their communities is crucial for sustaining engagement and success. We emphasize the importance of creators building genuine relationships with their followers through consistent content, responsive interactions and behind-the-scenes glimpses into their lives. Transparency is a cornerstone of Kensington Grey, and we prioritize authenticity from the onset by aligning creators with brand partners who share similar values. This approach allows creators to uphold their personal brand voice, foster enduring connections and curate genuine content reflective of their true selves.

Are there any nuances when it comes to working with talent in Canada versus the US?

We’re lucky to have a remote-first company and an eager, trusted team that’s always willing to connect with our partners virtually or meet with them in person in the US and beyond. If anything, our homebase in Canada expands our reach to global partners in Europe and abroad. We’ve always felt closely connected to our client and our talent, regardless of where they are based because we go to wherever they are.

What keeps you inspired and engaged professionally?

Knowing that we are changing the lives of the talent we represent and that we are disrupting an industry that never prioritized people that looked like me whether it be in front of the camera or behind the scenes. The work that we’ve done has made a huge impact - I take great pride in this and I’m very driven and motivated knowing that we are just getting started.

What are a few favorite spots in Toronto that we might run into you at?

Holt Renfrew (for shopping), Miss Likklemores or Simone’s for food, or The Danforth for walking around and taking in the beautiful city.

Do you have any predictions on where talent and influencer marketing is heading in 2024?

More Live Shopping
More AI
And Instagram will continue to lose relevance

In 2024, I feel that creators with unique and engaging personalities will continue to rise to the top. People that consume content will also expect more in terms of production quality and editing. I also see a world where creators will have more of a sense of mystery and don’t lift the fourth wall too high to reveal too much of their personal business, as audiences have started to feel entitled to know everything.

If you could give brands one piece of advice for working with influencers, what would that be?

We encourage brands to partner with creators that already use their product and resonate with their brand values and trust creators to do what they do best. Being overly prescriptive or heavy handed with revisions and brand brief direction typically ruins what could otherwise be a successful partnership. 


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