Photo credit: Priscilla Graham Photography
By Rebecca S. Jones
A connoisseur for hosting and producing extravagant and elaborate functions throughout Texas and well known for embracing multiculturalism before it was ever popular; Judy Foston-Stanford has developed an exceptional track record spanning over 30 years in the media, community, sales, marketing, public relations, advertising and entertainment industries. Although she has been successful in all her endeavors, she remains meek and modest, just as her humble beginnings. While she has created the platform for countless celebrities, she is still just as down to Earth as she can be. So, in this edition of African-American News & Issues, it’s JUST about JUDY…
Judy is the middle of nine children born to the late Mattie Cunningham Foston and Pastor Alexander L. Foston. Born in Houston, her family relocated to Baytown when she was just a newborn baby. Her father, known to many as Rev. A.L. Foston was a prominent pastor of his day, who led the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Baytown. Reared under such tutelage, engendered her with exceptional organizational and leadership capabilities that would later serve as a secret to success for her. Throughout her childhood, she worked diligently in the church with her parents and siblings – singing, teaching and coordinating many of the church’s functions and programs.
As a student, Judy worked as hard in school as she did at church. The manifestation of her efforts truly begins to unfold at Robert E. Lee High School. It was there, that she was involved in numerous activities, spearheaded several initiatives and implemented historical and social change. Judy was responsible for initiating the first Black History program at Robert E. Lee, with Pastor William Lawson as the featured guest and she performed a dramatic interpretation of Harriet Tubman. The following year, she brought in the Conrad O. Johnson Big Band to perform at the Black History program.
In another instance, Judy was encouraged by a teacher, Mr. Bill Solomon to establish a Human Relations organization for students on campus. Attending a school with one-percent representation of Blacks and in an era where it was uncommon for Blacks and Whites to socialize, Judy and others within the group were able to bridge the gaps and unify the two. Undoubtedly, her gregarious spirit was contagious, as she was voted 1st runner-up for Miss Robert E. Lee.
During her stint at Robert E. Lee she made impeccable strides. Judy was one of the key students responsible for the removal of Confederate flags around the campus. She was also a member of the Student Government; was a member of a couple of singing groups and participated in other extra-curricular activities. After graduating in her junior year, she went on to enroll at Texas Southern University, where she majored in Sociology.
The Corporate Life
At the age of 20, Judy entered Corporate America. One of her first jobs was working for RC Cola in Corporate Sales, where she created the “pre-sale” solution that bottling companies throughout the industry still use until this day. Although she was still in the tender stages of developing and fine-tuning her corporate marketing abilities; her previous leadership and organizational skills equipped her with the “know-how” to roll with the best. As such, she quickly advanced in the industry.
Having perfected the art of “switch sales” along with other consumer marketing techniques, she went to work for Boise Cascade Corporation, Composite Can Division. Through her experience in the consumer product industry, she was then transferred to work on the East Coast and later in Kansas City. During her tenure in the Corporate Sales industry, she was able to secure scores of multi-million- dollar contracts for various major corporations.
Eventually, Judy returned home to Houston, where she became an entrepreneur. In one of her first ventures, she established a private interconnect company, which she sold and installed phones. Afterwards, she pioneered Foston International in 1984. Foston International, Inc. is a full-service boutique marketing, public relations, advertising and special events company. As she worked to build up clientele for her newly established enterprise, she would lend her expertise to work on varying projects for businesses, organizations and the community at large.
It was in this season of her life when she started working with Howard C. Harris, Jr. and the Peoples’ Workshop for Visual and Performing Arts. Judy became one of the most integral facets of the Peoples’ Workshop. She helped Harris develop it by securing a great deal of the capital. From the Peoples’ Workshop, the Sammy Davis, Jr. Awards and the Houston Performing Arts Expo were birthed. The venture consisted of competitions throughout Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Finalists would return to Houston for the finals which took place at the Wortham Center.
In her role as creator and executive producer for the Sammy Davis, Jr. Awards TV Show, benefitting the Peoples’ Workshop for Visual and Performing Arts; her expertise led to the airing of the show on Channel 2 (NBC Affiliate) and Channel 13 (ABC Affiliate).
Through these efforts, some of the world’s greatest talents got their start. A few of its past participants include Beyoncé, Yolanda Adams, Kirk Whalum, Dvonne Parker, John Norman, Robert Glasper, Ashley Támar Davis, Bryan-Michael Cox, H-Town, Ben Vereen, Mrs. Sammy Davis, Jr. and countless others. Judy, through a partnership with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble of Denver, Co., local churches and others became the inventor of Praise Dance in Houston.
In the mid-80’s, she began working with Cleo Parker Robinson. During our interview, she shared how they were able to pioneer the spiritual art expression we presently enjoy during worship today.
“I remember when we brought the Cleo Parker Dance Ensemble in, and I was like, ‘how am I going to fill this big hall?’ We started off at the Tower Theater. We sold it out so fast. So, the next year I brought Cleo Parker Robinson back in and we did it at Jones Hall. Sold it out! I said, ‘I got to figure out a way to get the churches involved.’ So, I asked Cleo Parker to tell me which Suites she was doing? So, when she got to the Gospel Suite. I asked her, ‘Can you do the Gospel Suite with live voices?’ She started screaming, and Cleo was excited and said she’s been wanting to do it. So, I called Jackie Scott – a big time gospel producer and asked him if he could put together 100 live voices. This is how praise dance started. We got several voices from Brentwood, Wheeler and other churches and we had over 100 voices in the pit of Jones Hall singing while the dancers were performing. It was shouting going on in that audience! People was shouting, it was such an experience.” – Judy Foston Stanford
As the years passed, Judy would go on to make a prominent name for herself. A large part of her resume is on her position as the Executive Producer for the Wash Allen Shows (Radio and TV). Wash Allen is a successful broadcasting on-air personality, who has worked in Memphis and Nashville Tennessee; Cleveland, Ohio and Washington, D.C., before rising to Operations Manager in Detroit, Michigan. He came to Houston in 1969 and worked at KYOK Radio and was at KCOH Radio (1430 AM) from 1971 to March 2013. Presently, he is the host of the popular, “Confessions With Wash Allen” show on MJWJ Global Radio Network – the only 24 hours, 7 days a week urban talk radio network. Judy is one of four founders, who established the network. Together, she and Wash have worked together for over three decades. For over 15 years, the Wash Allen TV Show has been syndicated in Houston, the Golden Triangle (Port Arthur, Orange and Beaumont/Lake Charles), New Orleans and parts of Mississippi.
Through this dynamic partnership, Judy has performed work for some of the greatest entertainers in the industry, including the “Godfather of Soul”, James Brown. It was Judy who negotiated the contract for James Brown to perform in Las Vegas for the first time. She later brought the renowned legend to Houston. This feat was only the beginning to building a business relationship with other affluent talents. In fact, she and Wash were last recognized on Bobby Womack’s latest album.
Additionally, Judy has been the Creator and executive producer for Coca-Cola Variety Celebrity Revue TV Show which benefitted Variety The Children’s Charity of Houston. This show also aired on Channel 13 (ABC Affiliate). Through Foston International she: created, produced and implemented H-E-B Pantry’s ethnic marketing and advertising campaign.
She has also been Organizer and Promoter for several local and national projects such as: Coca-Cola Share The Dream Essay Contest; Houston Forward Times Newspaper’s Visionary Pastor’s Awards and their 40th and 50th Anniversary Celebrations; International Financial and Leadership Summit and Awards Gala benefiting Texas Women Empowerment; Texas Business Alliance’s One Woman Conference; American Tennis Association National Championship; Colgate’s Bright Smiles Bright Future National Kickoff Campaign; Houston Community College System First Black History Gala Honoring the Laws Family; organized the Communications Workers of America (CWA) 2014 Breakfast “Get Out the Vote” for Pastors, Precinct Judges and Community Leaders and developed an alliance with R.W. Productions, which develops and produces compelling content for the Entertainment and corporate industries.
Other projects, boards and organizations Judy has served on include: 2015 Chairman-Elect for the Advertising Federation of Houston (AAF); National Board of Directors for Sisters Network Inc., H.I.S.D. Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy Advisory Board Member and a former board member of the NAACP – Houston Chapter. Judy also served as the President of the Board for Variety, The Children’s Charity of Houston. During her tenure, she personally raised over $300,000 plus for the organization.
Furthermore, Judy has donated many hours of public relations and marketing services to a variety of local organizations such as: Helping A Hero, NAACP, Let The Fashions Begin, Hispanic Women in Leadership and many others.
Throughout her career, Judy has been recognized and honored by numerous organizations for her tireless efforts, Some of the awards she has received include: the Audrey Lawson’s Impact Awards, 2013; named one of the “Top 25 Women of Houston” in 2009 by Rolling Out Magazine; was voted Phenomenal Woman of the Year at the Phenomenal Women Conference; the “Trendsetter Award” by the National Women of Achievement; Presidential Citation winner, Variety International; “Yellow Rose of Texas” presented by Governor Mark White on behalf of the State of Texas and served as Co-Chair of Public Relations for Mayor Lee P. Brown, Mayor’s Transition Team. Additionally, she has been honored by many other elected officials such as: Commissioner El Franco Lee, State Senator Rodney Ellis, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, State Representative Sylvester Turner and many others in community service.
In recent years, Judy has been contracted to buy advertisement for Communications Workers of America (CWA) for over seven years. And most recently she performed work for: Beto O’Rourke for Senator of Texas, Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and First Tuesday PAC, which now has nineteen African-American Women Judges in Harris County.
Today, Judy is proud of her siblings, who are all successful in their respective careers. She is also the beautiful wife of Dr. John Stanford, Jr. a distinguished and retired engineer of NASA, who is and has always been supportive of her in all her endeavors.
“One of the things that has really made me who I am, is my upbringing. My mother and father had rules. You see, a lot of these kids today haven’t been trained. My mother and father trained us, ‘No mam, yes mam, excuse me, etc..’ We were trained to do all of those things. My father used to tell us, ‘You look at a man in his eyes, because a man doesn’t trust you, if you don’t look at him in his eyes.’ So, I would say my parents and my work has been my inspiration. Because a lot of the things I have done, I have created and after seeing it formed, it motivates me – I get happy, excited. When I see my work that I put effort into and my ideas – what I come up with and it works, that inspires me even more. Whatever it is… If I believe in it, My God! It’s going to be successful!”
A Word from the Wise
“I don’t see No, as a No. No, is just the beginning of selling. Most of my clients I have had for a long time, because I give them more than what they ask and pay for. I tell young people don’t do mediocre work, especially if you are in business for yourself. You can’t afford to. You have to give people more than what they expect so they can talk about you to other people and call back on you.”