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The rapper Jibbs was one of the celebrities Brandon (left) had fun interviewing.
Photo courtesy of the Challengers Boys & Girls Club

There was sweat on my forehead. I was standing a foot away from singer Chris Brown. I had just finished interviewing him and I wanted him to critique my singing. I started to sing and the first thing that came out of my mouth was “Let me talk to you/ Tell you how it is,” from his hit song “Run It.” He started beatboxing. I got excited and I started to sing louder. I never wanted the moment to end.

When I started going to Challengers Boys & Girls Club I never thought I’d get to interview famous people like Chris Brown and Kanye West. It’s been fun meeting celebrities, but the best part is that I’m more respected, have gotten to know teens at the club and feel I can do anything I put my mind to.

I’m not shy, but sometimes I get nervous around a bunch of people. I wanted to get involved at the Boys & Girls Club, where I go every day after school, to get to know people, make a name for myself, earn respect and have fun, so I decided to do video production.

Famous people have been coming to the club for a while, but no one interviewed them before. Kellen, the coordinator of the video production program, had the idea to record interviews with them. He said we would show the interviews on the TV in the lobby of the club for the parents and the kids to see. I was the only one who volunteered. No one else said they wanted to do interviews until later when they saw the cool people they could meet. I’ve interviewed rappers Kanye West, Three 6 Mafia and Jibbs; singers Chris Brown, Sean Kingston, Lloyd and Stevie Wonder; comedian Katt Williams, and civil rights activist Amelia Boynton Robinson.

Kellen taught me how to interview and how to work a video camera in case I had to film something. I learned the dos and don’ts of interviewing, like don’t waste a question by asking someone how old they are because it should be in their bio. You should ask if they’re working on something new or who they’d like to work with, because people might want to know what to look for from them in the future. It took me about a month to learn and I kept practicing and practicing. Sometimes I speak too fast and people can’t understand me. I slowed down and practiced my enunciation. I would read a question out loud and ask Kellen if it was good enough. He would say, “Keep practicing, but it’s very good.” It made me feel better about myself because a lot of people at school said I couldn’t do it, because they didn’t believe I’d really get a chance to meet celebrities.

My first interview was with the hip-hop group Three 6 Mafia. That day, when I got to the club, Kellen told me that Three 6 Mafia was in the building and that I would be interviewing them. I couldn’t think straight. I was so nervous because it was last minute and I wasn’t prepared. Kellen was looking up stuff on the Internet about Three 6 Mafia. He found out they won an Oscar for their song, “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp.” Kellen told me to ask about the Oscar and why they were at the club that day. Kellen said he was going to test me so I couldn’t use my note card and had to remember my questions. I was worried because I thought I was going to mess up my first interview, but Kellen told me not to worry. That made me feel better because he had faith in me. I had never met a famous person and when they walked in I was so excited. I almost cried because I was happy.

I met the group in the video room. I introduced myself and talked to them as Kellen set the camera up. I asked them what they did before they became famous. One of the guys said he was in high school. The other one said he worked at a pizza place. He asked me if I liked pizza and I told him I loved pizza. He asked me if I liked pepperoni. I said I was more of a cheese guy. The other guy was cracking up. I asked them what advice they had for the kids at Challengers, which is how I now end all of my interviews. One of them said, “Keep your trust in God. If you get knocked down all you have to do is get back up, and don’t let anybody put you down.”

I felt proud, but I wanted to do better

After the interview I felt good about myself because I felt that I’d done something important. I learned I needed to have my questions written down on the note card because I forgot one of them. I also needed to practice them before the interview.

Last November, I interviewed Kanye West. I talked to him for about five minutes. I asked him what his favorite CD was and what was his favorite song on it. He told me the reason he wears the teddy bear suit is because he thought it was cool and wanted to put it on his album covers. It was fun because every time I asked him a question, I would put the microphone too close to his mouth and his friend started laughing and it made him laugh. 

Now when I meet a famous person, it’s like, there’s nothing to scream about. I used to think interviewing them would be like a dream where you’d be dancing and talking with them and they’d become your best friend, maybe you’d even get to spend the day with them. But they’re just people and knowing that makes me less nervous.

People at the club know who I am now. They see my interviews on the TV at the front desk. They come up to me and tell me, “You did well.” It makes me feel good about myself and now I’ve started talking to a lot of people at the club who I wouldn’t normally talk to. 

I feel like the possibilities of what I can do are unlimited now. I want to sing R&B professionally and I believe I can do it. I feel like I can pretty much do anything if I put my mind to it.