In the middle of a three-day workshop during Disney’s Dreamers Academy, ESSENCE.com’s Managing Editor Emil Wilbekin caught up with BET’s 106 & Park host and actor, Terrence J, to chat about the advice Will Smith gave him, his dreams were as a kid, and why it’s so important to give back to America’s youth…
ESSENCE.com: Why is it important for you to be here this weekend?
TERRENCE J: It’s important when you have any position of notoriety or power and a voice, to use that voice for something positive. That’s what God wants us all to do. Any time I’m able to speak to young people, and I’m open and available, I’m going to be here. For my own selfish reasons, these kids inspire me. These kids are motivational factors for me. They encourage me. I see the passion in their eyes and they make me want to be better. So for my own selfish reasons, I absorb their energy. They’re amazing.
ESSENCE.com: What was your dream growing up?
TERRENCE J: My dream was always to do something in entertainment. When I was at a young age I was singing the National Anthem and [speaking over] the intercom speakers in elementary school. So I always knew [my career would be] in the entertainment realm. And now I’m just so blessed that I am able to do all of those things — radio, TV, movies. Anything that involves entertaining people has always been my dream because I feel like the world is hard. There are a lot of negative things out there and a lot of rough stuff going on, so I’m just happy that I’m able to entertain people and get them away from [the negativity]. Even if it’s only for an hour and a half each day watching me on 106 [and Park].
ESSENCE.com: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
TERRENCE J: The best advice I’ve ever gotten was from Will Smith. He said, ‘Don’t have a plan B, because it only distracts from your plan A.’ A lot of people criticize me for continuing [to reiterate] his statement, but I firmly believe that anything that you want to do, you can accomplish. It might not be in the way you want to accomplish it.
ESSENCE.com: Do you have a example?
TERRENCE J: Say [for instance] you want to be in the NBA. You might not make it on the basketball court but you may be able to become a [sports] announcer or a general manager. You could be a team owner. There are several different things you can do. Don’t ever have a plan B. Whatever your plan A is, just go after it relentlessly. I promise you, you’re going to end up at your goal, or in a very similar place that God wants you to be in and a place that is going to make you really happy.
ESSENCE.com: How do you sustain your position?
TERRENCE J: I never get comfortable. Every single day when I wake up, I still feel like there’s somebody over my shoulder trying to get my job. I still feel like I’m an intern. I always tell people that I was poor a lot longer than I’ve had money. That’s still instilled in me and that’s the mentality of never being comfortable and never wanting to go back to that place. It keeps me motivated. I never get lax. I’m always thinking about my next goal, my next step, and how to buy my mom her next house. I just always stay focused on that.