It’s funny, if you ask someone what the “American Dream” was, most of them would likely either tell you its having a family, a good job, and a place to call your own or just the simple fact that it doesn’t exist, it’s dead, gone the way of the dodo, so to speak.
But then, there are others you’ll meet, who will tell you about a new American Dream, specifically their American Dream. They’ll be the first ones to tell you it isn’t easy and it isn’t handed to you. The struggle itself, the journey, is what ends up being important, essentially making how you got where you are all the more important.
Georgette Pierre, writer and radio/TV personality, spoke to YHM about her own journey to achieving her American Dream, the merit in hard work and sacrifice, as well as her own ideas on pop culture, New York, and just enjoying life.
YHM: You’ve come quite a long way in your career, interviewing people like Common, working with MTV, hosting your own radio show…what about your more humble beginnings? Did you foresee yourself doing something a bit different? Or was this life always in the cards for you?
GP: For me, it was funny, because when I was younger, I was hell-bent on working for a record label, I wanted to be an A&R rep, and I swore up and down I was gonna be an A&R rep, but all I knew was that I was gonna be a business woman that just owned it. Whatever I was gonna do, I knew it was going to be in entertainment.
So as I got older, you know for the longest time, I was very insecure about my voice and how deep and raspy it was. Later, I would realize that was actually part of my purpose and what I was supposed to be doing. Me wanting to be an A&R rep turned into me wanting to be an on-air personality. I just knew I had to be around music. I had to be around entertainment. Just things that I enjoyed for myself. I wasn’t looking for radio, but like I said, it was always going to be entertainment.
YHM: Walk me through your life post-grad – what were you doing to make sure you succeeded? What was driving you forward?
GP: I went to Norfolk State and that’s when I got into radio. I literally was told, “Georgette, you have this voice, you just need to audition” and so I auditioned for radio. The way my brain works is that I can mimic things that I hear and see just how I want it to be received and so I went in there and mimicked it like some radio personality and sure enough I got hired and so 2003 began my reins as a radio personality. After Norfolk, I went to graduate school in Boston at Emerson College and they had a more professional, laid out radio station and I knew I had to get back in it. I was hosting, producing, managing a small staff, news writing – I learned the gamut of everything broadcast.
Once I left grad school, that was the peak of the recession. When you’re in grad school, you’re paying all this money, so I thought a job was going to be handed to me, “Yeah I got my Master’s, you can’t tell me anything, I am going to have a job.” Sure enough, I did not get a job when I graduated. When you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, you have to figure out what happens next. Someone told me I need to start my own radio show. In 2009, I remember laying at my dad’s house and talking to two of my guy friends, Brendon and BJ, gotta shout them out because they are the reason I even looked into starting my own radio show and it was talk radio. I went from music radio to talk radio, which was something completely different.
YHM: Life’s full of obstacles, unknowns, and sometimes, just bad luck. What were some of the battles you found yourself having to overcome to get where you are today?
GP: So some of the obstacles I went through were more mental, mind over matter, and I had to tell myself how bad did I want this, how bad did I want to be here, how bad did I want to pursue my dreams? My first year [in New York], I lived in Brooklyn, over an hour away from everything, I was temping, and you know, it was just rough. Once I got my foot in the door, my second year I moved out on my own, but I was living in a 100 square foot space. I had a communal bathroom and had to share it with other people in my hallway. Nobody is willing to do anything like that, so you ask yourself what are you willing to sacrifice?
Pursuing my dreams and living in New York, I was willing to sacrifice a certain amount of financial security for a certain amount of time. I was there for about 2.5 years. Then, I’m in my 3rd year and I’m not being financially responsible. So now I’m 3 months behind on my rent all of a sudden. When working at MTV and VH1, I was a freelancer, a contractor, so when my contract ends, they can either renew me or not renew me. So my first year at Viacom, I came in at 2012, contract ended at 2013, and they didn’t renew my contract because they knew I wanted to go out there and “soar like an eagle,” be an on-air personality. But I didn’t know anything about the freelance world, so I didn’t maneuver that world very well at all.
I was on unemployment for 8 months and during that time, I went to LA for two weeks and thought I wanted to move out there and maxed out credit cards. When I came back, I noticed I was falling back on my rent. I fell behind to the point where my health insurance was cancelled, the final amount I owed to my landlord was over $3000 and I knew I couldn’t leave New York. I told one of my friends I went to Emerson with about it and she told me I could stay with her.
The year of 2013 was one of the worst winters in NYC and I had no real winter coat. But I moved out of my apartment, didn’t owe a dime back to them, moved in with my friend who allowed me graciously to stay with her for 3 months. Within those 3 months, I came back to Viacom and they hired me back while I was working retail part time just to get my money up. That’s when I started saving properly. I was exhausted working 7 days a week and in my mind, I didn’t see it any lesser than that. I couldn’t go home. I refused to go home. Now I’m in a great space financially, physically, and mentally. I have stability.
YHM: New York has become a kind of mecca for American pop culture; what is it you see in this city? Is this the “center of the universe,” so to speak, for entertainment?
GP: When I first moved to New York, it was a love/hate relationship. Now I’m five years in and I adore her. I absolutely adore living in New York. New York is one of those places that will humble you, but will build you back up if you allow her to. I’ve learned so many amazing things living here about myself, building character, and how immensely strong I am. There’s a camaraderie in the city and when it comes to certain things, people love it because it is New York. When you talk about NY, you’re talking about the Twin Towers, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Fashion Week. Yes, I think NY is the mecca of pop culture, among other things.
Music especially makes NY special, a lot of people look to here for music and inspiration besides just pop culture. A lot of things that are talked about start here. The world is watching New York. Everything is on NY time, not LA time. New York is the mecca of music, the mecca of pop culture, but also the mecca of the world. It’s a hard place to describe in words, but its just a wonderful place and I love, absolutely adore, living here, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
YHM: What is your favorite place in New York?
When I lived with one of my girlfriend’s on her couch, she made my dream come true. She lived in Union Square and anyone that knows Union Square knows it’s hella expensive. And I found out later how much she was paying for her apartment, because she didn’t ask me to pay for rent or anything, and I literally for 3 months got to go to work from Union Square and Union Square was the place I would kind of jet to when I wanted to get away from wherever I was living and then, with me being in Union Square, the other place I absolutely adore was Washington Square Park. Washington Square Park actually became my “new” Union Square, especially when its nice outside. That’s where I go and watch the street dancers, kids play, I just sit there, and it’s just so peaceful.
YHM: You are a bit of a pop culture connoisseur yourself. What’s your favorite aspect of pop culture, the one you really find a connection with and why?
GP: My connection with pop culture…it’s not enough to say that I wake up and know what Justin Bieber is doing for his birthday. It’s hilarious to me how much I know about pop culture. But, my connection with pop culture really started with music. I literally wanted to be an artist, I thought I was gonna be the next Lauryn Hill, I was writing rhymes, rapping, all of that. I veered off into broadcasting and on-air hosting, but music never left.
It started with me just being obsessed with the artists I was obsessed with and these artists just happened to be in the middle of popular culture. Rhianna, Drake, Kendrick, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, I mean I can go even to other artists, like the more obscure ones people don’t listen to, but I just had an affinity and love and interest in keeping up with these artists and actually learning their story because I’m pursuing similar dreams. I’m not looking to be an artist anymore, but you know, everyone wants to get to a place where they are waking up everyday and doing what it is they love to do.
Music was my first connection, and then fashion had to be the next. I’m not gonna lie, I probably dressed like a herb when I was younger and I always had dreams of wanting to be a fashion designer (that didn’t come to fruition because I was like “no, I’m not doing all of that”), but when I came to New York and started seeing people stepping out in their boots and their fall accessories and coats, I was just constantly inspired and when you live in New York, you have access to go buy these things. I literally just started going HAM. I’m connected to pop culture through music and fashion and I have to attribute that to New York.
YHM: You said before you had the opportunity to host your own radio show, no small feat. What was that experience like and how has it inspired your work since? Obviously you were doing much more than just being a voice on the airwaves.
GP: I started my show in 2009, my podcast “Off the Record with Georgette Pierre,” and at the time was called something different, but for me when you start your own podcast, you are the one doing everything. At least for me, I was executive producing it, I was hosting it, I was writing it, I was coming up with topics, I was doing all of that. I’ve always been the kind of person that when I want to do something, I’m gonna do it and no one’s gonna stop me from doing it and I just…it was almost kind of like drinking water, it just came so natural to me and I’m so grateful for that. As I started doing my show more and more, the caliber of guests started getting better. I was able to interview some of the artists that I used to listen to, I had connections with people at labels, publicists – I mean a lot of people actually started coming to me.
YHM: What’s been occupying your time currently?
GP: So I’ve put my podcast on hold because I ended up getting hired as a new morning show host for a new network called Women’s Radio Network. The show’s called “The Wake Up Show with Georgette Pierre,” it broadcasts off IHeartRadio through AM 1100 in Georgia, so people can find it just by searching WRNW on IHeartRadio, AM 1100, so you’ll find me there. That’s Monday – Friday, 6am – 9am, so I’m actually back to working 80+ hours a week. I’m still at VH1, working on promos and production management. I was writing for VH1.com at one point in time as well.
YHM: What about your future projects?
GP: I have a web-show coming out that I’m really excited about and I’ll reveal the name to you, #DearGeorgette. It’s almost like your modern day Dear Abby, but more for millennials. You know I’m very crass and blunt on how I speak, I like to use a lot of “choice” words, but it’s literally going through the motions, like guests and viewers are writing to me and want me to resolve this problem for them, and I show them how Georgette would do it, and if you know Georgette (or you’re going to learn Georgette), then you know my personality is a bit different from most people. I’m not afraid to say what’s on my mind; I’ve dealt with heartbreak, people trying to play me, being obsessed with social media, you know, it runs a gamut of different topics. I’m really excited about it.
YHM: Words to live by. Everyone’s always got a quote they think back on. Is there any you ever found yourself living by? Why do you think these words are so important to heed?
GP: The biggest quote that comes to mind is “energy begets energy.” I’m really big on what you put out there is going to come back to you. So what I mean by that quote is to just always speak into existence whatever it is you want. I don’t care if it seems impossible, I don’t care if people try to project their fears onto you, don’t allow them to knock that. Remember there’s always a consequence for everything you do, good, bad, or indifferent.
The reason that was so important for me was when I was going through those times of unemployment and being alone with my thoughts, I had to tell myself something different. So when I was mad or sad, I had to flip that energy because the longer I stayed in that space, I would continue to attract things that made me mad or sad. When I was in a space of happiness or gratefulness, I attracted more things to be grateful about. So at the end of the day, “energy begets energy.”
YHM: One final question – if you can interview anyone in the world, alive or dead, catch is you only get one question. Who’s the lucky person? And what do you end up asking them?
GP: One person that still fascinates me to this day…I would have to say is Jay-Z. The question I would ask him would be, “What is the last book you read?” Because when you look at someone’s book collection, it brings you into their thought process and I think Jay is a genius beyond rapping. When I read his book Decoded, there was a lot of Jay’s voice in there, but at the very end of the book, he says him and Oprah met because they shared that they both read the Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. I literally bought that book because Jay said he read it and I’m really into spirituality and that book was kind of echoing those same sentiments in my beliefs. So I ask, Jay, bruh, what is the last book you read?
By David Grom / Courtesy Photos