The entrepreneur and publicist tells Boardroom the inside story of how his life evolved from broken homes and mental health struggles to representing some of hip-hop’s biggest stars.
Derrian “Phreshy” Perry distinctly remembers when and how he developed his pop culture obsession. He loved watching E! and a show called Wild On… that went behind the scenes of over-the-top parties. It more or less became his gospel.
“I remember being 12 or 13, and there was this huge Playboy party that they were highlighting,” he told Boardroom. “It was a Halloween party. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! I want to be the person to throw a party like that.'”
The following March, Phreshy put that inspiration in motion by scouring the yellow pages and cold-calling company after company in hopes of convincing one to sponsor his birthday party. On one of these calls, his grandmother was lurking on the other end of the line. She was livid. Ultimately, he was not able to execute the birthday party of his teenage dreams (or escape grandma’s wrath).
But in the years since then, the hip hop publicist and lifestyle entrepreneur has made up for the disappointment.
On Dec. 21, Migos MC Offset celebrated his 30th birthday with an extravagant bash held at Sneakertopia in Los Angeles. Cardi B, his wife of four-plus years, gifted him a $2 million check — but Phreshy’s own contribution to the proceedings was priceless.
As Offset’s publicist for roughly two years, Phreshy had experience in orchestrating the more-or-less-impossible for the multi-platinum rapper, but Offset completing three decades around the sun was especially significant—and needed a party that rose to the occasion.
“It started with, ‘What can I do for Offset that hasn’t already been done? Who are people that he would want to party with? What is something that will leave a lasting impression?’” Phreshy explained. “He’s worried about who of his colleagues is going to come. You know people are going to show up. It’s Offset, and they know Cardi will be there, so people are going to show up. But are the right people—people that Offset wants to celebrate 30 with—coming? Thirty is a big milestone. Who are the people, over the 30 years of his life, that need to be on this guest list?”
Kanye West (who legally changed his name to Ye in October) topped the list. But landing an RSVP from the 22-time Grammy winner and fashion mogul was far from a guarantee, as Ye typically only publicly emerges for spectacles of his own unmistakable design.
“We were at the party,” Phreshy continues. “Kanye was walking toward me. I was like, ‘Oh, shit! This is really happening!’ Everyone was like, ‘Kanye isn’t showing up. Kanye doesn’t go to nothin’. But I was able to get Kanye West to pull up. I felt like that in itself was everything.”
All told, Quavo and Takeoff, Offset’s fellow Migos, as well as G-Eazy, French Montana, and The Game, were among those who came through. But Ye’s presence was the win and the validation Phreshy needed to cap off a challenging year.
“No matter how many moments I created, no matter how many clients I had, it just felt like people were demanding and demanding but not giving anything back to me,” the 33-year-old founder of the I AM PHRESHY public relations agency said. “In 2021, I was ready to throw in the towel. But I realized it was because I wasn’t taking care of me. I had put myself in this trap where my happiness was dependent on the next moment.”
This time, he had the tools and the experiences he needed to push through. His entire adolescence had been defined by sink-or-swim scenarios, and he learned what it felt like to paddle upstream.
Growing up in Houston, Phreshy did not dream of one day becoming a publicist to the stars. Actually, he dared not dream at all.
Phreshy began his life living with his mother and father, but after his dad went to prison, Child Protective Services took him and his siblings from his mother’s care. He floated around the foster care system for a couple of years before his grandparents found him and took him in. He was thankful, though his struggles were only beginning.
“I suffered from depression really bad going through so much so early on in life,” he recalls. “People thought I was crazy because I would lash out or not speak in certain instances.”
Phreshy was committed to a mental institution, and until he was 16 years old, he was prescribed seven different medications. It wasn’t until he identified ways to feel in control — activities to jolt him into feeling alive — that he turned a corner.
“I’ve just always wanted to leave a long-lasting impact on people’s lives and connect the dots for people, because I feel like people who are dot-connectors are very few and far between, but they are needed,” he said. “I was forced to grow up really, really fast. And so, because I grew up feeling unloved and incomplete, I always made it my mission that I would never make anybody feel like that.”
If Phreshy did have a childhood pipe dream, it was to be a rapper. He went to Texas Southern University to try and be the next best thing: a radio personality.
“I didn’t really like being the star,” he said. “I liked being the person who helped the star—gave light to the star. I am an introvert operating in an extrovert’s world.”
Throughout his time at Texas Southern and for a few years afterward, Phreshy cultivated a successful property management career at real estate developer Greystar. It was during this period that he began dabbling in fashion and production.
He was secretly battling drug addiction at the same time.
“I made six figures, but during that entire time, I never felt whole,” he admits. “I never felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.”
In 2016, Phreshy says he prayed to God that He would remove any and everything from his life that was not serving his purpose, nor guiding him toward happiness. Shortly afterward, he suffered so extremely from exhaustion that he was hospitalized. He lost his 9-to-5 at Greystar, but on the same day, he missed a call from a man named O’Niel at BET.
He needed a stylist to come work a Being Mary Jane special shooting in Houston.
Well, I’ve never been a stylist, he thought. I’ve been pretending, so do I lie and say, ‘yes, I’m a stylist,’ or do I tell them the truth?
He lied and took the job. That eventually led to styling Tami Roman from Basketball Wives, Mathew Knowles’ since-defunct girl group Blushhh, background singer Montina Cooper for Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour, and eventually, Solange.
Still, something was missing.
Or rather, two somebodies: Cardi B and Offset.
Before Phreshy officially aligned with one of hip hop’s preeminent power couples, their individual paths ran in parallel throughout 2017.
For much of that year, Phreshy was homeless—couch-surfing and stashing his belongs in a U-Haul stationed in Augusta, Georgia—and hustling in Los Angeles to build a reputation he could stand on. After discovering Cardi’s then-publicist Patientce Foster on Instagram, Phreshy reached out and offered to help with whatever he could.
“I was a huge fan of Cardi because I always love the underdog story,” he said. And when the South Bronx MC visited Houston, Foster asked Phreshy to look out for her.
“I had never physically met Patientce yet,” Phreshy said. “It was all virtual. But she would tell me what the needs were, and I’d figure out how to make things happen. It’s a challenge to me. Can I make this happen?“
The true test came in June 2017.
Phreshy was working for Justin Combs, son of Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Cardi wanted to stop by the house. That impromptu party happened one week after Cardi dropped her Atlantic Records debut single “Bodak Yellow,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 by Oct. 7 and made her the first-ever woman rapper to have a diamond-certified single.
As Phreshy frames his relationship with Cardi, “I’ve been around since the beginning.”
He met Offset at the following New York Fashion Week, tasked with finding the multi-hyphenate artist a specific pair of Saint Laurent boots. Phreshy moved from L.A. to Atlanta six months later, and when he crossed paths yet again with Offset on the set of Migos’ “Need It” music video in 2020, the relationship organically turned toward Phreshy taking over PR for Offset.
“People always ask me, ‘Who is your favorite client?’ I really don’t have a favorite client. However, the truth of the matter is I thoroughly enjoy working for Offset because there is this story of a Black man that I feel needs to be told,” he said. “A Black man who has faced adversities, and still is facing adversities. It’s not something that we talk about, but it’s me being a Black man and knowing. We can pick up on things based on patterns and actions. And I don’t think rappers, a lot of times, get the profile of being good people, and Offset is just a really good person. I can’t help but stand 120% behind him and his decisions and want to help him connect the dots to be even bigger. It’s bigger than the rap.”
It was Oct. 30, 2017, when Phreshy bet on himself and left Houston, and it was ironically Oct. 29, 2020, when Phreshy felt validated in deciding to fight for all those years. Offset performed his solo Father of 4 track “Lick” for Global Citizen’s “Every Vote Counts: A Celebration of Democracy”—a performance for which Phreshy ideated the evocative creative direction.
“I don’t feel like Offset has ever judged me,” Phreshy adds, speaking to why they have been able to accomplish so much together in a relatively short amount of time. “Not a lot of rappers would be okay with having a gay publicist, but he has always respected me and trusted my ideas. I think that says a lot about me, and it says a lot about him and his character.”
“I feel like I am a source of representation—being an African-American man, being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, being someone who has battled mental illnesses my entire life, and coming from a broken childhood and broken home,” he continues. “I’ve experienced so much in my life that it almost requires me to be a representation of‘you can overcome, you can achieve, and as long as you wake up and deal with what’s going on for those 24 hours, you’ve done your due diligence in life.'”
The professional title of publicist can result in others stripping you of your humanity; you can come to be viewed as a conduit for favors. It can get lost that you’re ultimately a person who every now and then could use a simple “how are you?”
Owing to his own experiences, that humanity is what Phreshy specifically aims to infuse into his work. Imperfections and all.
“Although I may have mastered cleaning up the lives of other people or representing other people, as humans, we’re constantly changing, so I have yet to master who I am — because that is forever changing,” he said. “I just wish people wouldn’t assume that everything is perfect. I think social media has really ruined how people view other human beings. I just wish people genuinely asked about a person’s wellbeing. That would change the dynamic of this industry tremendously.”
While Offset is a primary focus for Phreshy, his client list runs that gamut from Jayda Cheaves to Krab Queenz Seafood to Canvas Beauty Brand and beyond. He served as executive producer on streaming reality series The Real Blac Chyna and has another beauty-based series in the works.
Every day takes a different shape than the one before, all depending on the needs of his roster. But every morning starts the same.
Phreshy wakes up and remains completely still for one hour. He says his prayers. He takes time to get in tune with his internal state before stressing about the press surrounding his clients. He has learned to make time to put himself first before spending the rest prioritizing others. And now that he loves who he is as a person—and not just the power moves he makes—he believes he is worth more than the infinite dots he can connect.
“I, too, have a story,” he says. “Everything I am is because of everything I’ve been through. I know it’s the cliche to say, ‘If a door’s not open, build one or kick it down,’ but I don’t want to do that anymore. I just want to walk into every door that was already built for me. And not only that, leave the door open for other people.”