"I’ve been in every economic stage out there: broke, dead broke, behind the eight ball, and I still made it," says Harvey.
It’s due time we start calling Steve Harvey the hardest working man in showbiz. On top of a successful morning radio show, Harvey also hosts Family Feud, launched season three of his daytime talk show on NBC this week, and now, a self-help book called Act Lie a Success, Think Like a Success (out today). He spoke with ESSENCE.com about his daytime talk show, diversity on TV, and his thoughts on the Michael Brown tragedy.
Season three! How do you prepare yourself for these things? How involved are you in the topics that are covered on the show?
I’m involved because if it’s anything I don’t want to do, it’s not going to happen. Now, because it’s daytime TV, I am conscious that things that are not important to me may be important to my viewers. I don’t have to know how to refinish a cabinet because I’m just going to go get another cabinet. I’ve got to remember that my audience may need this information.
I imagine the audience for the Steve Harvey talk show may be a little bit different from the Steve Harvey morning show…
Oh absolutely. I can cover a broader base on the TV show. Television, like the clothing industry, is very race based. It’s like if someone has a line of clothes made by a Black person they’ll tell me point-blank, ‘We already have an urban line.’ What the hell is an urban line? Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss and Donald Trump—they all make the exact same suit. Nobody says that to them. It’s frustrating at times but I’ve been trying to say to people that I can cross all genres and I can eradicate the race barrier on daytime television. I’ve proven it. I probably have the most diverse TV show on TV today. I’m very proud of that fact. There are shows with higher ratings, like Ellen and Dr. Phil, but as far as really being more diverse, more people coming to the table. I think I’ve been very successful at that.
There’s a lot of Black talent on TV this coming season, especially on primetime. We always have to ask the question: Are things changing in the television landscape?
It has changed, I think, for the better. I choose not to accentuate the negative and talk about the positive things. Queen [Latifah] is back, Tyra [Banks] was going to come back. I’m here. We’ve got Sherri Shepherd over on The Newlywed Game; Wayne Brady on Let’s Make a Deal, and I’m on Family Feud. There is some headway being made. We’ve still got a little bit of a fight but you’ve got Kerry Washington over there on Scandal… there’s some interesting things happening on television. I think it’s going to be fine. We’ve just got to keep up a good fight.
Are there any shows that you’re absolutely hooked on?
Steve Harvey Show and Family Feud—I’m hooked on them.
So, no Scandal for you?
I’ve never watched a single episode of Scandal. When I’m at home on the weekend, I get a Saturday off I might do a marathon of AMCs Hell on Wheels. I’ve done a marathon of Game of Thrones. I’ve seen House of Cards—I did a whole season in one day.
You’ve written about relationships before, why move into this new space with your new book, Act like a Success, Think Like a Success?
So many people wonder how I did it. Some many people who have followed my career saw what happened to me after 2005; how all of a sudden my career just took a huge leap after 2005. People saw me in a different way, a game show host, a talk show host, author of a book, movies and they went, ‘Wow, where did that come from?' What they have to understand is the whole journey. They have to be reminded that I was living in a car for a while; that I was homeless; flunked out of college; messed up two marriages; that I’ve been written off and was told I was never going to be nothing. I’ve been in every economic stage out there: broke, dead broke, behind the eight ball, bankrupt, completely out of money and I still made it. I can teach that.
What are some first steps that you cover in the book in terms of the attitude shift required for success?
First of all, the absolute critical part of this whole thing is to identify your gift. That’s the first thing. So many people spend their life in a rut, spinning their wheels because they keep pursuing passions and not their God-given gift. God never created a living soul that he didn’t give a gift to. When you identify the gift then it’s merely attaching your gift to the right vehicle. Who better to know what vehicle you should be attached to then the person that created you? That’s the key portion that people miss in their life and they keep trying to figure it out. There is not a single scripture that tells us as human beings to figure it out. No, it’s all right there black and white. There’s no figuring this out. You can’t figure your life out. You can go along with the life that was planned for you and created for you. That life right there is far better then any life you could imagine for yourself. You can’t think of a better life then the one he created you for. I did it for years. I was working my life for years. After 2005 when I said, okay I tell you what, ‘You gave me the career of my dreams, I’m a stand up comedian, I’m in my gift, but now what?’ I got fired from my biggest radio contract back out in L.A. Nobody knows it but I had no income coming in and then I just went and said, ‘Okay, what now’ because what I thought was going to work obviously ain’t working. He said, okay now watch this right here. You coming to me? I said yeah. Okay, you’re checking in with me the Creator? After that, all you gotta do is look at him. Talk show, game show, book, movie; it went crazy. I teach that and people got to understand the difference between your gift and what you’re passionate about.
You have sons. What are your thoughts on the Michael Brown tragedy, as a father?
I pulled my sons in. We went over it again. Listen to me, man, I said. Be completely compliant when these police officers stop you. Get in the car, I’ll come get you, but get in the car. Watch your mouth, don’t talk back, stay respectful, keep your hands in full view, don’t make no sudden movements. Quit wearing your pants sagging, don’t wear hoodies, I don’t care man, I’m sorry, I don’t. Let’s not give them a reason. The sad part of it is we are the only people who have to have these conversations with our sons. That’s tragic, but it’s the reality of the world. They’ve already started slandering [Michael Brown]. They’ve already started coming up with he stole something in the store. What no one talks about is there’s a kid that’s dead that did not have a gun. Where in all of their training is it to kill him over what originally was a jaywalk ticket? We go again and so I talk to my sons about all of this. I try to tell them what my father always taught me: Son, don’t give them a pin to stick you with.
Stave Harvey’s talk show airs weekdays on NBC. His book Act like a Success, Think Like a Success is out now.