"So how's the chairman position coming along, man?"
This was my first question to Nick Cannon as he warmly greeted me and my partner for an interview leading up to the screening of the Teen Nick HALO Awards at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. As we piled into a reserved room at the tony Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Mr. Cannon accurately looked the part of his position of chairman at Teen Nick. Standing behind a desk in front of a window-view that overlooked the nation's capital as the peak of dusk coated the sky--and dressed nattily in a tailor-made suit that was accompanied by the blinding diamond wedding band he has on his finger at all times--Nick came off as a humble and down- to- earth guy. If you haven't followed his career for the last 17 years, you would never know that his success in television, film and music has made him a multi-faceted human conglomerate. But it seems that's just the kind of guy Nick Cannon is, and this balmy night in D.C. would prove no different.
When my partner and I started to ask questions about Nick and his relationship with his mega-star wife Mariah Carey during the interview--specifically when he came to his wife's aid when rapper Eminem started name-dropping Mariah in his songs--his publicist nearly started to shut our operation down. But she was right to do so, because tonight wasn't about Nick's relationship or his success in the entertainment business; tonight was about his concept to connect inspiring teenagers making a difference in other people's lives with the superstars who felt the need to acknowledge them. Hence we have the creation of the first-ever HALO (Helping And Leading Others) Awards, a unique awards show that forgoes fashion designers getting free advertising from the celebrities wearing their designs on the red carpet. This ceremony instead recognizes extraordinary young people using their specific gifts to change the world.
The screening room in the Newseum was filled to capacity with young people beaming with pride and showing support to four of their own. Even though Justin Timberlake, LeBron James, Hayden Panettiere and Alicia Keys graced the screen as presenters at the awards ceremony, the young people in the audience were just as excited to see the recipients of the awards. The soul-stirring chronicles of Leah Stoltz, Darrius Snow, Megan Kilroy and Brryan Jackson should really put all of our priorities in perspective. To witness the goals that these young people have been blessed to accomplish before the age of 20 is truly remarkable. Take the story of Ms. Stoltz, a 17-year-old young woman from Long Island, NY who turned her condition of scoliosis--a severe lateral curve in her spine--into a foundation called Curvy Girls of Long Island. With the creation of Curvy Girls, Leah has established an essential support system for young girls going through the condition of scoliosis at a time when their awareness of body image is at its peak. You can also look at the life of Darrius Snow, a 19-year-old young man who was reared in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Atlanta, GA. Mr. Snow is the president of BTEAM (Bankhead Teens Encouraging Action by Motivating others), an organization of teens devoted to transforming drug and violence-laden environments into hopeful havens where kids can thrive and live actively. Then there's 17-year-old Megan Kilroy, a marine advocate from Santa Monica, CA who is the captain of an environmental organization called Team Marine. Along with raising money for causes in her hometown and abroad, Ms. Kilroy's main focus is the protection of the ocean.
But the most heart-tugging story might have come from Bryan Jackson; an 18-year-old young man from St. Charles, MO. Mr. Jackson was injected with HIV-tainted blood by his father at the age of 11 months. It was an attempt by his father to avoid paying child support in the midst of a divorce from Brryan's mother-- a crime for which he is now serving life in prison for. Brryan has founded Hope Is Vital (HIV), an organization devoted to the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS. Even though all of these stories are diverse, the common thread of determination serves as the critical piece to the ever-evolving puzzle of the change, hope and leadership we need from the young people of this generation to lead us into a fruitful future.
This program was near and dear to Nick's heart, as he also volunteered his time to the Boys and Girls Club as a youth. And the end results of the HALO Awards--which features closing remarks from First Lady Michelle Obama--is what has made Nick such a success today, thinking outside of the box to bridge the gap between real life issues and the world of entertainment. He even had some help with hosting the event, with his beautiful wife greeting him on stage in an elegant red gown. With a kiss on the cheek, the power couple officially kicked off the night's festivities. So as Nick continues his various ventures in the field of media, he'll also be looking around the globe to find the next teenager looking to be the mechanism of change in their own community by using the influences of dedication and perseverance. I guess multi-tasking just goes with the territory when you're the chairman of the board.
The HALO AWARDS will air on Teen Nick on Friday, December 11th at 8pm (ET).