She took the stairs to the top!
Melonie Johnson grew up in a rural town in Louisiana called Lacombe, a small town that she says didn’t even have a traffic light, WUSA 9 reports. Always good at math, she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do when she got older but her parents pushed her to work hard, go to school, and do her best.
“There were hard times for me, but I had two parents that I could talk to. They told us if you’re going on a job - they were old school - to keep your head down, don’t get into trouble and do it the best of your ability because no one owes you anything
When she was 17, she left home to attend the University of New Orleans, graduating with a degree in accounting. Despite her accomplishment, Johnson struggled to find employment.
“I was a person of color and in the ‘80s, a person of color really struggled to find a career. And it was deflating. I ended up going to a headhunter and they sent me on an interview at a bank. I landed the job. I made a whopping $9,600 a year,” recalled Johnson.
Taking a chance with a staff recruiter worked and Johnson parlayed her career in the banks to a burgeoning career in casinos. Today, she is the first Black woman to serve as president and COO of casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey and Prince George’s County, Maryland, working with MGM National Harbor. She credits those early jobs with preparing her for the fast paced business she’s in now.
“My younger years were the formative years for me. It was managing having a courageous conversation versus being cocky, managing emotions without being labeled the ‘angry Black woman,’ managing being assertive versus being aggressive,” Johnson explained.
She focuses on really connecting with the staff at MGM National Harbor, overseeing BET MGM, the new sports betting arm of MGM resorts which she says is where all the action happens. Johnson says that for all she’s accomplished, she wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without a team, something she is very grateful for.
“I am the first person that will say I’m surrounded by great people. I do not know everything. But I do know that the team that we have at this property is magnificent, and this team carries us to the finish line. It’s not me,” she said.
Johnson hopes that her story can inspire others and she reminds herself no matter how high she climbs that she’s still that little girl from Louisiana.
“A title doesn’t make me. It just doesn’t. I am Melonie Dupree Johnson, that’s who I am at the end of the day,” she noted.
Congratulations Melonie! Thanks for being an amazing example.
Meet Melonie Johnson, the first Black president and COO of MGM casinos & Resorts/Photo Courtesy of Tracey Brown/MGM Resorts Newsroom