Have you ever had a moment where you met someone and realize that you want them in your life, regardless of their position? Man, I have experienced that 4 times over in the last two months…I was allotted opportunities to meet some amazing guys due to a magazine project. When I took on the assignment of finding “Young & Successful Men” from Arkansas, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Out of the 4 guys, I knew Clinton and Brandon on a personal level; I knew Niguel & Epiphany through FB. Each guy seemed to possess qualities and features that stood out from most. Through the span of 2 weeks, I was able to create bonds with each guy, and their respective mates. I reached out to each guy and their responses were: YES!!! Let me take you through my personal journey as I ventured out to complete one of the most DYNAMIC assignments yet.
Niguel & Kristen Valley
My first interview was with Niguel and his lovely wife, Kristen. I had known Niguel for quite a while, but only through Facebook (FB). He and I would talk about him finding the love that would “stand until the end of time”. When I found out that Niguel was marrying someone, I got super excited for him. He was one of those cats that you knew represents “great” men everywhere, so you can’t do anything but become their personal cheerleader. During our interview, Niguel admitted to me that he had never been interviewed before. I took this opportunity to channel my “inner Oprah” and try to make them feel comfortable. I would hate to leave a sour taste about interviews in their mouth. WAIT. Can I just say that they are a GORGEOUS couple in person??? The chemistry and internal passion between them was HAWT! I couldn’t stop smiling because I fell in love with love all over again. RESUME. Here’s the thing about interviewing a photographer like Niguel….HE conducted a photo shoot during the interview; I loved each moment of it. A typical interview might last for about 30 to 45 minutes; however, ours lasted over an hour. When I walked out of Starbucks that afternoon, I knew this project would become a memorable one.
Lesson Learned from The Valleys:
Trust that LOVE will carry you through the ups & downs.
Brandon & Britta Watson
The second interview was as smooth as the guy I interviewed…I call him “B”. I’ve known B for almost 5 years and I am still in awe by the transformations in his life. B & Britta had just gotten married about 3 or 4 weeks before the interview, so I couldn’t wait to hear about the honeymoon. As I was seated at another Starbucks (I guess you can tell that I LOVE interviews at Starbucks…it’s like Oprah and her Season 25 runway entrance; it just makes sense), I noticed that B was alone. He informed me that Britta had just gotten off work and was prepping for another engagement, but she did her question assignment for me. I hated that I didn’t get to meet her, especially when I found out that she was a “K” (Skee-Wee Soror). B and I waste no time discussing his journey to become his current status…a self-made, young black entrepreneur. I actually learned so much about B that I didn’t know; a clothing/fashion line, how long he’s known Britta, etc. WAIT. I have always referenced B as a “mini HOV” due to their unique fashion sense. He told me that he was one of his inspirations, which isn’t too hard to believe. Now, does this mean that B might start a rap career????? RESUME. We reminisce about our days in Cancer Control (CCOC) together and how those times are basically a distant memory. It was a bittersweet moment, realizing that I might not talk to B as often after this interview…we don’t run in the same circle, but there’s always FB! J One of the funniest moments during our interview was at the end…B didn’t realize that he was taped.
Him: You should start recording these.
Me: I did
Him: (laughing) WHAT? When did you do that? I thought you were reading your magazine when I walked in.
Me: I closed it out and went straight to the RECORD button. Too funny…
Him: You got me good Tina!
Lesson Learned from B:
Decide that the best place to go is UP.
Clinton McDonald (Bubba) & Alicia Jackson (LeLe)
Here was my third interview and I must say, it was quite different for me. Two elements were different: I didn’t conduct the interview at Starbucks AND there was another person sitting in on the interview. When I contacted Bubba to be a part of this issue, he didn’t hesitate. I’m not sure if our friendship of 20+ years had anything to do with it, but I was excited to interview him. He is the NFL player that most people didn’t hear about…the one that helps feed the homeless, visits children hospitals during Christmas (dressed as Santa Claus), and gives words of wisdom to at-risk youth. He doesn’t really like too much limelight to be on him, so I was shocked when he agreed to sit down with me. His girlfriend, who happens to be my 1st cousin, was willing to do her part in the interview, so it was beginning to mesh together. We decided to meet the night before Bubba’s first football camp back in our old “stomping grounds”. One of the trainers for the camp would be my homie, Michael Johnson (NFL Bengal #93); I had met Mike when I went to visit Bubba in Cincinnati back in 2010. I hadn’t seen Mike in about 3 years, so I was looking forward to having dinner and drinks with him, along with completing the interview. Well, I received the crushing news, an hour before, that Mike’s plane was still on the runway in ATL and he wouldn’t make it. Bubba just said that his trainer would be joining us…. WAIT. Have you EVER had that moment when you see/meet someone for the first time and you are taken back by how handsome/beautiful they are? I can’t say that I had, until the moment I met Abraham, aka “Memphis”(Bubba’s trainer). His skin was a smooth cocoa complexion, with a white smile that would put Crest, Colgate, and Rembrandt to shame! I needed a distraction for this interview, but I didn’t know that God would have sent it in this form….Okay, let me get back to the subject at hand; THANK YOU GOD FOR THAT DAY. RESUME. The four of us ate at a chic sushi restaurant in Little Rock; the food was pleasant and the interview went just like I expected. Most of Bubba’s answers were things I already knew. I just wanted to get it out on paper so that others could experience the guy I knew. The evening ended with sushi to go, a few laughs, and two backward glances from Memphis & I. In the words of Elle Varner, “Oh What A Night…”
Lesson Learned from Bubba, LeLe, & Abraham:
The FOUNDATION of my dreams can become the BLUEPRINT of my life.
Ephipany (Big Piph or SM)
I have to admit, I was happy that Piph (as most people call him, but I love to call him by his first nameJ) was my 4th and final interview. I didn’t really know him that well, only through FB acknowledgements. When my editor, Jas, told me that she wanted to feature Piph, I was a bit taken back. In my mind, I knew that I wanted to feature my cousin and his best friend; they were known through Little Rock and surrounding states, but God had other plans. Once before, I sent an email to Piph through FB and never got a response back from him….and I can’t really say that this time was different. Wait, let me take that back….he sent me a message, only because Jas had contacted him first. I couldn’t quite understand why it took her to spark his interest, but I knew there had to be a reason. I will admit that my first judgment/thought of him was: A dude that wore kufi’s, eating bean pies, while holding a fist in the air. Okay, don’t judge me…I knew that he was a Stanford University graduate, but I wasn’t sure how down to earth he would really be. I didn’t want to have a full conversation with someone that had a “stick up his butt”. Needless to say, he was the TOTAL OPPOSITE! When he walked up on me at (yes, you guessed it!!!) Starbucks, I was amazed at how calm his demeanor was and how gorgeous he was in person. WAIT. Ladies, this guy is HAWT! Let me also add that he is most definitely “Crazy, Sexy, Cool”. He’s like a guy that you could deem as “one of the fellas”, but you wouldn’t mind having him as a Saturday night date. He was friendly, courteous, and well educated. There were moments that he asked me questions, but I was staring into his eyes(fully lost in them…they are a hazel mixture, by the way) and didn’t understand the question….LOL! Trust me, it was an experience that I won’t forget. RESUME. We discussed his family background (they are literally the modern day Huxtable’s), the world’s struggle with his outer appearance as a teen (notice that I didn’t say HIS struggle…he seemed to gain so much confidence behind it), and his current stages of life. I walked away from our conversation very empowered; it wasn’t like “I am Lion, Hear me Roar”, but more of “I am Tina, I Have a Voice & Vision” moment. Our evening ended with me guessing his car in the parking lot….and let’s just say, I GUESSED RIGHT! If you were to ask him, he would say that it wasn’t a fair game….however, I disagree!!!
Lesson Learned from Piph:
Keep an equilibrium lifestyle.
So, there you have it…a simple magazine project that turned into an experience of a lifetime. I have a few friends that don me as the “young Oprah” (hoping God will speak that into my life), but I simply love what I do. I didn’t imagine meeting each guy and being able to take away much; little did I know what was actually in store for me. In my life thus far, I have met some phenomenal people and it will only get better from here.