A Thursday night at the Thompson Diner, located on the corner of King and Bathurst, was a slower night for the restaurant; However, this made it just the perfect night for us to meet up and have a conversation with Lola Plaku, a woman who is now rarely ever in Toronto, but always seems to be elevating the city with the amazing work she is accomplishing beyond its borders. Lola showed up to the diner right on the dot at 5 o’ clock, dressed effortlessly in sneakers, jeans, and a toque, on what was one of the first true cold nights of the Toronto winter. “I’m starving,” she states, ordering a quesadilla and a coke, ready for what was a completely booked up evening for the in-demand businesswoman. Our conversation started off casually and jokingly about fake eyelashes and make-up, but it didn’t take long before we jumped right into the deep and intellectual aspects of relationships, the business world, and being a successful and respected female within the Hip-Hop industry.
There aren’t too many people whom are not familiar with Lola Plaku, whether it be through her brand iluvlola, knowing her as a female force in the business world, or perhaps just the girl who is photographed with possibly every person or celebrity within the Hip-Hop and music industry. This is exactly how the self-proclaimed artist marketer and branding event coordinator likes it, expressing that she makes it a point on Instagram not to discuss specifically what she does in her line of work. “The people who know, know. And the people who don’t know, I’ll let them keep wondering and keep guessing. I like it that way.” Lola has made it very clear whether through social media or through her relationships that her primary focus is allowing her work to speak for itself. “You know your purpose and you know your goal and you go after it. And you don’t need to explain to anyone what it is that you do. I’m not selling myself, I’m selling the product that I’m involved in.”
Lola works one-on-one with specific artists to build them and their music in regards to marketing their product and gaining awareness, as well as helping to create events from the ground up, including meet and greets and concerts. All of these aspects fall under her brand iluvlola, and are curated by her and her team. The now founder of her own company started with humble beginnings through interning for HipHopCanada in 2005, a time in which the power of marketing through social media did not exist. “If social media right now is the link between the people, I would have been the Instagram. I would have to physically go fly out and meet these people,” she states. After interning for six years with HipHopCanada, Lola started her blog by the name of iluvlola.net with the purpose of building awareness towards up-and-coming artists who didn’t necessarily have a big enough spotlight for a full article in HipHopCanada, but they had the musical content for her blog.
After writing for HipHopCanada for a long period of time, Lola became the “it” writer, being specifically requested by artists and interviewees to be interviewed by her. Her first real cheque came from CP Records, when she was hired to do the marketing for Canadian artist and the now Roc Nation signee, Belly. Lola’s professional relationship with Belly had been extensive, conducting several interviews with the artist over the years thanks to his hit album The Revolution in 2007, and his single “Hot Girl” featuring Snoop Dogg in 2011. After doing an interview with CEO Tony Sal, who now manages The Weeknd, Lola was invited on full time to handle marketing for the artists over at CP Records. At this time, Lola grabbed on to the opportunity full-speed, resigned from HipHopCanada, and started working full time for the label. “That’s when I knew that there was a future for me in marketing, and I could really build something with this,” she states.
With Belly’s recent news-worthy signing to the big players over at Roc Nation, we had to discuss Lola’s thoughts on the move that seemed almost inevitable, and the part she played in the success of the Canadian rapper. “When Belly released Up For Days he asked if I wanted to do the project with him, and for me it was a no-brainer,” she explains. Lola worked one-on-one with Belly on the marketing for his 2015 highly-acclaimed project Up For Days, as well as working on the release of the assets, including singles, videos, and press runs. “With Roc Nation, it was a conversation that we knew was coming. When it comes to Belly, we all know how great he is,” she states. “He’s an amazing lyricist and he’s an amazing song-writer, and his delivery is exceptional. After connecting with fans in a very organic way, I think Up For Days is what sealed the deal for him.” She explains the process as an “Evolution of Belly”.
A life-changing invitation for Lola during her time working for CP and marketing for Belly was the offer by French Montana for her to move to the U.S. and work full time as his tour manager. This was following the successful 2011 French Montana concert that Lola put on in Toronto. An opportunity that couldn’t be passed up, Lola picked up her life and moved it on over to New York. “By this time, I was used to it,” she said. Lola made the move in August 2012, however between 2011 and that time, she was regularly working with French. The New York move seemed inevitable, and by this time Lola had been traveling on such a regular basis that moving to the Big Apple seemed like just another day for her. “By the time I moved, I had already done [A$AP] Rocky’s concert, I had done Chief Keef’s concert [in NYC], and as soon as I got to New York I held Trinidad James’ first concert in New York on November 4 , which was incredible.” The move was nothing new for Lola, who already had a large database of contacts within the city, and was able to turn the concerts mentioned into mega-successful shows for the artists.
Lola now works with French on a day-to-day basis, handling and managing the schedule, and recently was his [French’s] tour manager for Chris Brown’s One Hell of A Nite Tour with special guests French Montana, Kid Ink, Migos, and Fetty Wap. “Chris Brown’s tour was incredible,” she explains. Instead of being an opening guest, French Montana was a guest during Chris Brown’s actual set on the tour. Lola describes the show as exceptional: “We had the full stage, full lighting, and we had all the support from Chris’ production.” She goes on to explain it as “a family tour”, stating that “After every show we’d all hang out in either Chris’ room or Chris would hang out in French’s room. Migos would hang out with us, and Kid Ink would hang out with us. Wherever they were going we were going, and wherever we were going they were going. It was super, super tight.”
As a female being around men within the industry all the time, we wondered how much of it Lola actually enjoys. She jokingly states “I hate it all the time.” During the tour, Lola is the go-to person to deal with the majority of the issues that occur. “It was cool up until I had to deal with people being upset or shit not being done, and that’s when it can take a toll on you. But I love it, I love being on the go. After the tour was over I was like, ‘Can we go back?’”
In regards to being around men the majority of the time, Lola doesn’t necessarily see herself as a girl. Her assertive personality and dominant presence is one that cannot be ignored or dismissed, and she rarely feels threatened or uncomfortable. She describes the feeling of being on tour as nothing short of amazing, with the experience of seeing the crowd’s reaction to the events she contributed to the success of so greatly being her favorite part. “The lights would go down and we had a video intro playing in the background while the arena was dark. Then French shows up on the screen with a mask and when he takes the mask off, everyone in the arena starts screaming. He would come out with ‘Ocho Cinco’, a song that everyone knew, and the entire arena would start bouncing. It was such an amazing feeling, and you don’t even realize you’re working at that point.”
Lola’s personal and work life has become one, with little to no separation in between. With little time for dating or personal moments, she also touches on the subject of dating within the realm of her work: “As a woman you want to be untouchable”, she states as she explains the importance of being respected as a female within the industry. We touched on the topic of being happy versus being great, in other words, whether people must choose between being great at their careers or being happy within their personal lives. With a busy, on-the-go lifestyle where she is needed nearly every minute of the day, it’s hard for Lola to focus on her personal self. “That quote is my life story; Some people are meant to be happy and some people are meant to be great, and I feel like I should be great.”
However, Lola expresses that she has nothing to be depressed or upset about, due to the fact that this is the life that she chose for herself. “If I’m not happy about something, I have the power to change it. If I don’t change it, it’s on me.” We went on to discuss what the root of unhappiness could be, in which Lola believes a lot of the time is social media, solely due to comparisons that are made by people viewing these sites. She stays true to her view of the unrealistic world that is portrayed by social media, in which she states that nothing is what it seems. “People get motivated by the wrong things. You should get motivated by the goals that you want to achieve and that you want to accomplish in life for yourself.”
Even Lola is guilty of comparing herself to others on social media, however, the woman who is always ahead of everyone else in terms of the next move should barely sell her accomplishments short. Lola and her team at iluvlola have started a movement that she has had in mind for quite some time now; this movement is Girl Connected, a concept that revolves around bringing together empowered women who want to make a contribution in one way or another and leave a mark in this world. “There’s so many women out there who are influenced by what I do, but they don’t necessarily know the struggles that come with doing all of this,” she said. “Girl connected is a way of me getting to know all the women who want to be a part of what we do, and all the women that I’m surrounded by.” Lola held her first Girl Connected event just recently in Toronto, an event that invited 50 women from Toronto whom have shown interest or are influenced by the events that iluvlola curates and the movements that they make. The successful event in Toronto was only an introduction to what is to come; Lola plans to bring more women like herself to inspire and speak at these events, and she’s planning to do it on an international platform. “The purpose is to start a discussion; let’s build and create a communication between women who want to learn from women like me, and want to learn from one another as well.” Lola’s goal is to create a conversation worldwide, and her vision for Girl Connected is just as big and endless as anything else she has accomplished or is involved in.
Lola concludes the conversation by excitedly telling the story of her favourite memory during her extensive time within the industry, a rather humbling memory that shows the true passion and love that the multi-talented woman has for what she does. She tells the story of being backstage at a past Weeknd concert at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, in which she spotted the famous New York Times writer Jon Caramanica, someone who she greatly looks up to and who’s work she has carefully followed. “A$AP Yams was a very good friend of both of ours, both a good friend of his and a good friend of mine,” she said. Lola explains to us in detail the moment in which she nervously walked up to [Jon] to introduce herself, “I walk up and I’m like ‘Hi, I’m Lola’. He’s like ‘Hi Lola, I’m a huge fan.” Lola could barely hide her excitement even when reciting the story. “I was like: what?!”
Lola goes on to explain the significance of the writer and what he and his work mean to her on a personal level, explaining that no other moment could amount to the night that she met the man who’s work is consistently moving the culture forward.
“That was the greatest moment. I’m a fan of Jon because people like him move culture. He wrote about [A$AP] Rocky and the A$AP Mob in The New York Times before anyone else, and before anybody knew who they were. He inserts himself into culture and he spins culture. For somebody like him who has interviewed the f*cking greats and who writes incredible articles to be like ‘I know who you are’, that was the greatest moment for me.”♠