Karamo Brown, one of the hosts of The OWN Show (OWN)
Meet Karamo Brown.
He’s openly gay, a single father, he works with LGBT youth, and he’s one of the hosts of #OWNShow (the new digital series on the revamped OWN website).
Looking back, Brown’s biggest claim to fame could’ve been being a cast member of MTV’s The Real World back in 2004, but the Houston native was always looking ahead and with his hard work, perseverance and vision of where he saw himself going, it’s no surprise he ended up working for Oprah Winfrey and her network.
Brown invited us to hang out with him at the OWN offices in Los Angeles to talk over his journey to #OWNShow, the importance of being an openly gay man in his position and, of course, what he’s going to say when he finally comes to face to face with Oprah Winfrey herself.
So how did #OWNShow come into your life?
KB: Actually, I spent the night right out there, outside of the OWN offices and finally these two ladies were like, ‘You can come in today. It’s raining.’ No, I’m joking. I found out about the audition process through a casting director and I don’t know if they were looking exactly for me. I think they were looking for a white male, married with kids. I was like, ‘I’m going to do anything possible to get in here.’ And the first day I got in here, before I walked in the door, my mom said, ‘Just be yourself. Like Oprah says, be your authentic self.’ So I came in here with no pretense and then the rest is history.
What’s the goal of #OWNShow?
KB: I tell them it’s a way for you to escape through your day and find fun, inspiring clips that can just help you to be your best self, because literally that’s what we do. We talk about topics that are things that you can use, tools, to live your best life, but also we have some fun with like our own talent, with other topics.
Like I just did something about how to you know turn your morning commute into a great experience and normally when I first got it, I was like, ‘This is going to be the most boring thing ever,’ and then we just talked about, you know, how to work out in the car, dance, you know, how to have fun while you’re driving. It takes your everyday experiences and turns them fun and I love it.
Brown with his #OWNShow co-hosts Ami Desai (l) and Danisha Danielle (OWN)d
And you’re not doing this alone. You have some lovely ladies hosting the show with you. Tell me about them.
KB: They’re the most phenomenal women I’ve ever met outside of the women in my family. Literally, to go through this experience with two beautiful, intelligent, strong women who each have such a clear expertise, it makes this experience enjoyable for me and we literally have this kinship where we hang out outside of here almost every day and it’s not because of the show. We actually just sort of become family. They’re excellent. Danisha [Danielle] is a financial real estate expert and Ami [Desai] is a beauty expert.
How much have you been able to give your own input with the show’s producers?
KB: They’ve been great with us. Our executive producers, the network, they have really allowed us to put our own stamp on it. I’ve worked on stuff before where they want you to be a cookie cutter host and with OWN they’ve thrown that out the door. They’re like, ‘Tell us who you are. Tell us about your experiences. Be real with us,’ and I love that. So, if there’s something and I’m like, ‘Well as a dad, I just really would never say this,’ they allow me to throw it out.
And I work with LGBT youth and if I’m like, ‘I don’t know if this sends the right message,’ and that doesn’t happen often or ever, but if I feel that, I can speak up and they’re like, ‘Okay.’ So I love that because this is really truly how we feel about things so you’re not just getting someone feeding us information. You’re actually hearing what we would say to you.
Hey, Karamo, button that shirt when you meet Oprah, okay? (But not a second before!)
And talk about being an out host on a show that’s not necessarily gay.
KB: I think it’s groundbreaking. For me as an African American person who’s also gay, I don’t see my images on television at all. Or on the Internet. And, you know, for them to bring in the one male host and have him show something brand new…this is not tooting my own horn just because this is my life but you never see a gay black man who’s also a single father. And so it is a triumph.
It’s courageous what the network does and I applaud them every time…Oprah, what she represented at the time, you never saw a dark skinned woman who had different features, not European features. She’s a beautiful woman and she came in and she changed the standard of beauty. I just really hope that my presence can start to do that and start to inspire little boys who look like me or who don’t even look like me, who can say, ‘Wow, I guess I can do this,’ and I can already see it now because I get tweets daily from people who were like, ‘I did not know this was possible and now I know it’s possible.’ So, I’m like, ‘Job well done, OWN.’
What do you say with the kids that you work with at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center who may have aspirations but might think they could never attain them?
KB: The kids that I work with, I hug them and so they have access to me and I’ve been going through this process with them. So, I tell them ‘I’m going for an audition. I just got a call back. Now we’re filming something. We’re testing.’ Because I want them to know that there are true steps to this and I want them to know that they can do it. Because literally they have access to me. They can sit in my office. They can hold me. They can touch me so I’m not some fairytale that’s like, ‘well how do you just get there?’ They’ve heard my backstory. They know that I didn’t grow up in this peachy keen environment. They know that I was a teen parent…so I make sure that they know that they can do it and it’s working because they come in there and they watch the clips more than my mother probably watches the clips and they just say to me, ‘I love this. I can do this.’ And it’s changed a lot of their views.
Tell me about the first time you met Oprah.
KB: I have not met her yet! But hopefully that happens. I don’t want to be like the weird stalker guy and start Tweeting her and be like, ‘I do work for your network. Can we have lunch?’ But literally, on my vision board, I have a picture of her and her arms open and it says ‘affirmation hug’ because I know a lot of people are always like, when they meet her, they want to start a business or get a car or whatever else these people say.
But for me, again, as a host of color, I didn’t see a lot of people that told me I could do this. And I know this is cliché, we hear it all the time, but she was so impactful. When I do meet her, I’m going to run into her arms and just say, ‘Thank you,’ and I’m just hoping that she’ll say, ‘You did it,’ and that’s the affirmation I need. It’s already affirmed. I mean, we’re at the Oprah Winfrey Networks, OWN. So, I’m waiting to meet her.
What’s your hope with this show and what people get from the show and get from you?
KB: Well, I hope that people are first of all entertained because even though I’m on OWN, I’m younger and I love how our content is driven to more of a younger audience. I want people to be entertained and to have fun but I want them to walk away with a tool to be their best self and I know that sounds cliché because we’re with OWN, but it’s the truth. And what I hope with the show is I hope that people just continue to love it and they say, ‘Wow. What an amazing digital show. Let’s turn it into a series on air.’ I think we’re reaching an amazing audience right now and I would just love to continue to reach more and more people and help them to have fun and be inspired.
Since the show has been online for awhile now, what’s the feedback been?
KB: All the feedback has been really, really good especially from male viewers or gay viewers because some of our content is obviously driven towards women. So, it’s a lot about how to protect yourself from STI or how to wear your heels and they’ll still hit me up and say that they’re enjoying the content and I’m like, ‘Score. There we go!’
I still haven’t mastered heels. I’m trying.
KB: We’ll give you some great tips.