Published by The Toronto Star on Friday, January 13, 2012, Reported by: Emily Jackson, Staff Reporter:
Jesse DeCosta never really talks about his career — no one believes him, anyway.
This Mississauga man quietly works behind the scenes managing the brand image of Hollywood’s stars, including Michael Jackson’s family, Jamie Foxx and comedian Kevin James.
“It is ridiculous when you hear a Canadian in Mississauga is doing this,” Decosta said of DeCosta Marketing Inc., which has offices in the GTA and LA.
Serendipity, he believes, led him to his career rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. He advises his star-studded clientele on a variety of things, such as which public engagements to accept, how to design a website or what a movie poster should look like. (Less glamorous clients include the Ontario Municipal Insurance Exchange.)
But it hasn’t always been jetting to LA to accompany Will Smith to appearances at the Grove.
The 40-year-old grew up in Edmonton, where his father struggled to find work as a draftsman during the recession. After five years of unemployment, his dad moved to Mississauga for a job, leaving his family behind. He died unexpectedly four months later. DeCosta’s mother had to sell everything and move her family to Toronto’s suburbs.
DeCosta, 15 at the time, started working right away. Creative, design-related projects appealed to him, as his father was also an artist. Around 1989, he started working for Sony Music in Canada, helping DJs and promoting artists any way he could.
His serendipitous moment came in 1999 when he met singer Deborah Cox through a lawyer. Cox hired him as a brand manager, and he’s worked with her ever since.
The tipping point came later that year when Cox’s manager started working for Will Smith. DeCosta says Smith became his client soon after — and his best salesperson.
“Will is a pretty big calling card,” DeCosta said.
Over the past 12 years, DeCosta’s business has grown organically, he said. He has no salespeople, and he doesn’t make cold calls.
“Hollywood is very tight-knit — it’s all based on trust and word of mouth. If you work hard and do good for one individual, it spreads.”
Decosta’s most recent project is a website for the Jackson family. A fan of their music, he met them through his work with Tupac Shakur’s estate.
“You meet with a lot of people and you talk with a lot of people,” said Marlon Jackson, one of the Jackson 5 members, in a phone interview. “We liked what [DeCosta] was doing and decided we would move forward with it.”
The Jackson’s had never had a website before, making it hard for the people to know the “one true authentic side” of the family’s story, Jackson said. As entrepreneurs (Jackson has plans to launch a fashion line), he and DeCosta share a special understanding.
DeCosta spends 70 percent of his time in Canada with his wife of 20 years and their two children, he said, although he travels frequently to New York and LA. A Mississauga native, his wife doesn’t want to move south but is “enjoying the ride” of DeCosta’s career, he said.
Working with superstars does have its perks. When his family goes to LA, DeCosta’s children, aged 9 and 11, can visit the sets of TV shows they like. “The kids love it,” DeCosta said. They’ve also been to celebrity birthday parties.
Considering DeCosta is a brand manager, it’s surprising few back homes know about his career advising Hollywood icons.
“I don’t know why,” DeCosta said, joking that he’s more popular in California than he is in the GTA. “I guess we’ve never really promoted ourselves locally.”
Photo by: Rick Eglington/ Toronto Star