This month, all of us at REALM Fine + Fashion Jewelry are celebrating Women’s History Month in the USA and joining the world in recognizing International Women’s Day on March 8th.  We’re also continuing our own ongoing celebration of women we know, love and admire as Real Women of REALM. With her powerful work ethic, playful spirit and soulful style, Richelle Payne is an Empress who inspires us every day.  Find out why we love her in this Real Women of REALM (RWR) interview.

REALM Founder + Designer Ann King Lagos on set with PR Exec/Real Woman of REALM Richelle Payne.

Family, faith, friends, fun and a very full workload are the core of Richelle Payne’s world.  A PR executive who advises C-level clients on critical aspects of their communications strategy, Richelle has also been known to join her sisters in impromptu renditions of the Hee Haw theme song.  Our team here at REALM loves how Richelle balances powerful intelligence with a playful spirit, combining strength with kindness in everything she does.  We are proud to introduce her to you as one of our Real Women of REALM – women who are Playful, Elegant, Modern, Thoughtful, Powerful; and who truly embody what it means to be an Empress.

Read on to find out more about Richelle’s life and work, her book-in-progress and why she loves being in her REALM.


“Richelle is a go-getter who is powerful in business yet also playful in spirit. Her combination of strength and kindness, her thoughtfulness and her timeless yet modern style really embody what REALM is all about.”


REALM:  How would your best friend describe you?
Generous, smart, funny.

Tell us a bit about what you do for fun:
Dance salsa, sketch, take photos, watch movies, read books.

… and for work:
I’m an entrepreneur.  I’ve spent 30 years working in public relations, teaching college-level English literature, writing stories for a newspaper and running nonprofit organizations.  I organized those experiences into a very focused approach to helping CEOs and change makers find and fix their brand challenges for greater impact.  What that means is playing chief of staff and sometimes confidante to some of the most well-known, high-profile personalities looking for ways to do good while doing good business. There is no shortage of good ideas; many of them need good strategy, sound advice and strategic solutions.  That’s what I deliver to my clients.

Describe a typical work day:
There really isn’t a typical day.  But most often I am asked to quarterback plays to help my client win the championship.  For example, on any given day, you could find me leading an intense, chaotic strategy session with a client and their teams, coaching an entrepreneur on ways to get unstuck in their business or their brand, evaluating the market position for a book concept or negotiating a book deal, writing a creative treatment to help a client express their visual voice, fixing a broken value chain, researching or presenting metrics, sourcing new business or brokering a strategic partnership.

We hear you have an upcoming book of your own. 
Can you tell us a bit about it?
I’ve been settling into new realities now that I’m in my 50s and reflecting on my drive to reach the T-O-P. I see this interesting formula taking shape: Talent, Opportunity and Performance and it suggests to me the process of climbing the ladder of success is repeatable, whether you’re a Mom, a manager or a mogul. You set out to match your talent to opportunities and then you perform the hell out of those tasks until your work earns you a promotion. Rinse and repeat. Success, therefore, is iterative, not a straight line. There are twists and turns, and certainly no shortcuts. How fast and how far your performance takes you is not solely up to you. I believe climbing to the TOP is a factor of many forces, and how we view the climb at 20, at 30, and at 40 – and who comes alongside to help or hinder how far and fast we rise – is a curious thing.

I don’t have a title yet, maybe something like “Maneuvers” or “Decades Decoded.” Stay tuned!

Family, faith and a whole lotta fun: Patriarch Richard Payne (back row), his daughters (L to R) Ruth Payne, Laura P. Chunn, Richelle Payne, Charlene P. Covington, and his wife Barbara Payne celebrate their faith following Easter Sunday service at Garden City United Methodist Church, their childhood church located in suburban Pittsburgh, 2018. Photo Credit: Samanthe Stevens

What are three things we should know about you?

  • I was the first African-American woman crowned Miss Independence Day and Homecoming Queen in the same year in high school.
  • I love country music--the old school artists, especially Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Barbara Mandrell.  In fact, the first 45 record I bought with my allowance was Dolly’s “Two Doors Down.” I watched Coal Miners Daughter a thousand times and we would watch Hee Haw and The Mandrell Sisters variety TV shows as a family, faithfully.  Every now and then, me and my sisters will bust out singing the songs from those shows!
  • I collect coats:  vintage fur, faux fur, boiled wool, cashmere, leather. I’m into the Teddy Coat craze right now.

 … and one thing maybe we shouldn’t?
I believed I was destined to marry Leif Garrett or Michael Jackson.


“I love REALM because it celebrates the beauty in the things that touch your skin and touch your soul.”

— RWR + PR Exec Richelle Payne

SHOP Richelle’s FAVES

What’s your current fave REALM piece?
My Domain Luxe Portrait Hoop Earrings.

Next REALM piece you’d like to add to your jewelry box?
The Empress Insignia Luxe Ring
It’s a symbol of authority:  an Empress governs her world with grace and she’s very clear to leave any situation better than how she found it.

Empress Insignia Luxe Ring

Empress Insignia Luxe Ring

Domain Luxe Portrait Hoop Earring

Domain Luxe Portrait Hoop Earring

Reign Thoughtfully Cuff Bracelet

Reign Thoughtfully Cuff Bracelet

Sceptre Python Collar

Sceptre Python Collar

Insignia Signature Medallion Earring

Insignia Signature Medallion Earring

Sceptre Linea Luxe Corset Bracelet

Sceptre Linea Luxe Corset Bracelet

March is Women’s History Month in the USA as well as International Women’s Day on March 8th.  This year’s 
IWD hashtag is #EachForEqual.  Can you share with us what that means to you?

#EachForEqual is a challenge to get in the fight for equality, and start swinging at injustice, marginalization and disenfranchisement. We must always send the same messages about ambition, agency and autonomy that we’ve been telling our boys.

Is there another Cause or Charity that’s especially dear to you?
In 2006, my family established a Laity Scholarship named after my father, who has served as a leader in my childhood church for more than 40 years. Every year, we offer scholarships for graduating seniors and a stipend to cover fees for members to attend a summer camp, a conference or complete a short-term course of specialized study.

Hashtags come to life: the 2020 International Women’s Day #EachForEqual symbol portrayed by REALM Fine + Fashion Jewelry Founder & Designer Ann King Lagos and PR Exec / Real Woman of REALM Richelle Payne. Find out more about the movement at 

What makes you an Empress? 
There is a line in the blockbuster movie Titanic where Rose says to the dive crew: “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.”  I’m on a dive, too, enthusiastically excavating and embracing all the things that made me blush from embarrassment and beam with excitement.  My journey is a coming of age story filled with beautiful contradictions and complexities that I handle with care and courage, and I think that’s what makes me an Empress.