For the past three decades, Lewis has guided the careers of hip-hop and R&B royalty: Public Enemy, Tupac Shakur, Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Jay Z, the Roots, Iggy Azalea.
From Run-DMC’s groundbreaking 1987 arena shows with the Beastie Boys to Eminem’s 2014 stadium tour with Rihanna?—?which grossed $31 million?—?she has been behind some of rap and R&B’s most bankable live concerts.
More recently, she’s commanded her own attention — and it’s far from celebratory. When Page Six dropped the bombshell last November that she was being dumped by her employer, Creative Artists Agency, the move was met with both shock and glee.
Lewis has earned a “Devil Wears Prada” reputation in music for unleashing her fury.
Muhammida El Muhajir, now a creative director at communications agency Sun in Leo, saw it back in 1995, when she worked under Lewis at the William Morris Agency. “She was a yeller. You didn’t even want to leave your desk and go to the bathroom — out of fear that you would miss something and get in trouble. You would see assistants go home in tears and quit all the time.”
“You could never do anything right in her eyes,” says an ex-employee. “You couldn’t send an email without it being approved by Cara. It was too much.”
So how did a Jewish girl from The Bronx end up in hip-hop, anyway?
“I started college when I was 16 and dropped out at age 17,” Lewis told Pollstar. “I wanted to have a good time. The career found me.”
She took a receptionist job at Norby Walters’ booking agency in Manhattan, and was promoted to agent in a couple of years. As a junior staffer — and the rare woman — Lewis took on underground acts others dismissed.
In those early days, rap was still viewed as a novelty — and largely feared because of security concerns over youth violence at the concerts.
“I was picked on and ridiculed a lot because people didn’t understand what I was doing,” Lewis has said.
Insiders speculate that such treatment could have prompted her to cultivate a rep as a ball-buster — and one of the most feared people in music. After she left Norby Walters for William Morris in 1989, Lewis didn’t come into the office until noon or later, hours after her co-workers. And once she got there, hell broke loose.
“If you made a mistake, Cara would .?.?. tear you down,” says a former co-worker. “She was doing that to maintain power.”
Part of Lewis’ power is maintaining an air of mystery. Almost no details are known about her private life, including marital status and age — though her work timeline suggests Lewis is in her 50s. (She did not respond to the New York Post’s request for an interview.)
Marcus Washington worked for Lewis in 2008. “She told me from the beginning: ‘Don’t internalize anything that I say or do,’ ” he says. “Cara was aware of how difficult she is.” But he insists that Lewis’ take-no-prisoners approach scores lucrative deals.
“LL Cool J was getting $100,000 in 2008 to perform at an arena that he wasn’t even going to sell out,” Washington says. LL’s album, “Exit 13,” wasn’t exactly burning up the charts at the time, and yet Lewis was able to fight her way to huge deals for him.
While Lewis has no shortage of critics who find her style degrading, her artists remain loyal. In 2012, when she left William Morris after 23 years to join CAA — reportedly over money — Kanye West followed her out the door.
Although it’s unclear if West will continue to be repped by Lewis — or what her business plans are — rapper Angel Haze tells The Post she is “still with” Lewis. Since the agent left CAA, Iggy Azaela and Eminem have exited as clients, leading to speculation they will also stay with her.
Even those who feared her see the bad behavior as a suit of armor donned against sexism.
“There’s a double standard,” says El Muhajir. “Most of her clients are men; most of the promoters are men; the people operating the venues are men. If you want to win, you have to be hard-nosed. People look down on that when it’s coming from a woman.”
Date Posted: Monday, January 25th, 2016 , Total Page Views: 877
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