As founder of her own publicity and marketing firm, Jada Russell represented high-powered clients and was passionate about promoting unsung heroes in Chicago’s African American community.
People who knew her said she was a dominating presence, rooted in community service.
Mrs. Russell died Tuesday of breast cancer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She was 45 and had been diagnosed in April.
She grew up on the Southwest Side and founded High Style Marketing & PR, where her clients included NBA star Dwyane Wade, Common, Rhymefest, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.
For nearly two decades, she created and promoted events including soirees for A Tale of Two Chefs, her husband Julius Russell’s food and catering service.
Mrs. Russell graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked as an assistant executive for GUESS? Jeans, an account executive assistant for Conde Nast in New York and a publicist for Johnson Publishing Co. before starting her business in 2001.
“Jada was known to many as one of Chicago’s PR geniuses,” said Juan Teague, her business partner. “She used her talent to help not only celebrity foundations but helped push for economic development in underserved communities, creating a platform for corporate, government and community to develop relationships on creating a better Chicago.”
“Jada always pitched stories about people who were often unheard of, and she wanted to make sure there was a space for those to tell their story,” said Deborah O. Farmer, who met her in the late 1990s when Farmer was a WGN-TV producer.
“She had a lot of clients who were mission-driven and wanted to give back to the community,” Farmer said. “From her work with Congressman Bobby Rush, being a faithful member of Apostolic Church of God and a loving wife, I just admire how passionate she was about everything.”
Rhonda McFarland, a friend and client, described Mrs. Russell as a brilliant marketing strategist who, no matter how busy she was, “whenever she worked with you, she was 100% focused on you and her work. She was a woman that made it happen and never asked to be in the limelight.”
Mrs. Russell loved fashion, the arts and traveling, especially to Miami, Barcelona, London and New Zealand.
Mrs. Russell took ballet classes until high school with Homer Bryant, a former principal dancer with the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Mary Datcher, another friend, said Mrs. Russell was an inspiring figure.
“When my niece was 3 years old, I enrolled her into the very school Jada went to because she told me if it wasn’t for dance and being in that world, understanding discipline, poise and how to carry yourself as a young black women, then it would not have opened other doors for her,” Datcher said.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Russell is survived by her sister Sybil Goodlett Smith and father Bill Goodlett.
Visitation will be from 3 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Taylor Funeral Home, 67 E. 79th St. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave.