BET Genius Talks - Learning That Taking Risks Can Lead to Great Opportunities
Saturday June 22 walking into the Los Angeles Convention you could feel the excitement from people of all ages enjoying the BET Kicksperience. The 7th annual BET Experience Fan Fest also known as BET X offered free wristband for people to enjoy live music, immersive pop ups, Genius Talks from industry leaders. BET X started from 11am Thursday and lasted till 8pm Saturday to get people ready for Sundays BET Awards.
Walking in the convention center your senses were immediately engaged to all the bright colors, the smell of McDonalds fries, and the multitude of textures .Right as you walk in Sprite was handing out samples of their new lymonade soda. This refreshing drink mixes the original sprite that fans know and love with lemonade. This soda debut is just in time for summer. Along with soda there were graffiti artist creating original pieces for fans drinking sprite to interact with. Sprite also used this time to share their love of sneaker culture. Sprite wasn’t the only brand that focused on sneakers, throughout the BET X floor multiple booths custom sneakers. Fan Fest guest were also lucky to have live performance. On the Coca Cola stage Megan thee Stallion got the audience hyped that afternoon, the crowd could even be heard from outside the convention center.
One of the most impactful events during the weekend was Genius Talk, where celebrities would share ideas that not only improve the life of the listeners but the world. The morning started out with an Olympian, business man, and former LA Laker Earvin ‘Magic’ Joshnson. Johnson talked about how once he ‘took off those hot pants’ he was ready to step off the court and into conference rooms as a respected businessman. One of his latest business moves is a partnership with Denny’s . This new partnership wants to help people save for college and help them forge a path into the career of their dreams by offering on the job training. Johnson stresses how important education is and that ‘ economic development go hand and hand with education.’ Johnson said we need to follow where the jobs are by looking into infrastructure, technology, and the healthcare industry.
Getting minorities in executive position was another value that Magic shared with the audience at Genius Talks. He talks about as he was transitioning from athlete to businessman the people in the boardroom looked nothing like him. When you get black people and other minorities in higher level position your business reaps the benefits of having a diverse team, that is why Magic continues to hire people of color. He says the Black and Latino community alone is a $3 Billion dollar industry. That inspired him into opening up Starbucks and his famous Magic Johnson Theaters to offer people a communal place that feels like home. He finished the talk encouraging people educate themselves on how to run a business and to partner with other black people and don’t stress who is the leader saying “ he doesn’t care who’s the ‘leader’ just get the check”. Magic was personable till the end, when he was posing for pictures a young boy came up to Johnson and asked him to sign a shoe. Magic didn’t just sign the shoe he spent a few minutes chatting with the boy.
Another great addition to Genius talks was the multitalented screenwriter, producer, and actress Lena Waithe. Lena started becoming a household name after co-writing and acting on the Netflix series Master of None. These last few years though she has really stepped into the spotlight to advocate not just for LGBT rights but for real inclusivity in media. Waithe was excited to talk about her latest project called ‘Queen and Slim’ staring Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith who are playing a couple on the run. A modern day and blacker version of Bonnie and Clyde. As excited as Lena was to get this project off the ground she said refused to start pre production on this film until there was black money backing this. She felt that is was important because even most films that star a predominantly black cast is funded by white owned companies. She feels like this is a great way to put money back into the black pockets and to tell unapologetically black stories without feeling like it needs to be watered down for the mass market.
Lena is also passionate about giving new talent a platform to shine. She feels like she has the opportunity to ‘Break a career’. Even while casting Queen and Slim, she felt like the list of actresses didn’t feel right because we see the same black actors and actresses in Hollywood. She states that “they’re already eating. It is time to give someone else the opportunity to eat.” Waithe also discussed her other projects like the new series ‘Boomerang’ based on the 1992 Rom Com and the Showtime ensemble drama ‘The Chi’ as she finds a way to tell as many raw black stories as possible.
One of the final Genius Talks starred in ABC’s Black-ish then went on to star in her own spin-off Grown-ish Yara Shahidi. While talking about her start on the show she talks about how grateful she is to work with the team she does. She feels that everyone on the set is so supportive of each other and always pushes each other to try new things. Yara really emphasized how important it is to be surrounded by such positive energy and how it has helped her stay grounded and perfect her craft.
Yara is also known for her activism, she even founded an organization Eighteen x 18, that encourages young people to vote. During the Q & A portion of this Genius Talks an audience member asked Yara if she knew who she would be voting for in the 2020 election. With a plethora of candidates, she says she has yet to figure out who she is casting her vote with. She still thinks it is important that not only young voters but everyone informs them self. She also discussed the topic of voter suppression, which really impacts black and brown communities. Yara thinks “we can get our power back” as we begin to understand this political landscape better.
The Genius Talks were engaging and brought up talking points that some might not get to discuss everyday. A point all three speakers touched on was investing in unknown talent Shahidi says ‘It isn’t a risk it is an opportunity.” It was great that BET was able to bring not just these Geniuses but host Jemele Hill who was brave enough to speak up about different injustices to moderate these trailblazers as well as inspire the audience. Click HERE and HERE to see further coverage from BET Weekend!