Welcome to Influencers!
Today, we have with us Q. For those of you who were listening last episode, there were several hints to suggest who Q is. He grew up in Canada. The song that represents his life is Step Into A World by KRS-One. And as a hint, his name can be very challenging for people to pronounce, but once you get the hang of it you’ll love it.
Then, the second interview is anonymous. If you can figure out who it is before we reveal it in the following podcast, you could win a coveted invitation to the Influencer Salon.
Listen To The Podcast Here:
Be Clear About Why You Want To Do Something with TV Host, Quddus
Welcome back, listeners. For those of you who’ve been guessing what Q does professionally or who he is, Q, tell us, who are you?
I’m Quddus. I am a TV host and the co-founder and co-facilitator of the Camera Ready Experience. I’m very excited to be here. I can be completely forthright and fully expressed now that we’ve revealed. I love that part of your show by the way. I love that you give people the breadcrumbs and see just how quick-witted and clever they are in finding out who your guests are. That’s so great.
What’s amazing is that no matter how hard I make things for the listeners, there’s always somebody who seems to track it down. They could be from Skokie, Illinois or from Kuala Lumpur, but somebody always figures it out. It’s incredible.
I’m convinced that the way you interview is definitely very evoking. It brings out stuff that I think people have intuitive hit on because you do such a great job of bringing that out of people. It’s a testament to your interviewing, even as you’re trying to be covert.
First and foremost, where do most people know you from? I know where I remember you from growing up.
Most people know me from TRL on MTV. It was a really popular show. I was there for five years. Most people remember me from that or I’ve done a lot of entertainment news shows that I’ve worked on over the years. I also did a show called Duets on ABC in 2012 but most people remember me from TRL.
I remember that show. It was the bible of what to listen to.
It was definitely really, really popular at the time. It was the top ten videos that people requested. It had a really topline flavor to it. We had a lot of biggest artists come by, everybody from Stevie Wonder to The Backstreet Boys when they were popular and everything in between. It was great. It was really great because we oftentimes would change the landscape of pop culture when we identified an artist or amplified an artist. It became something that moved the meter for artist. A lot of shows nowadays, it’s just a place to promote and to some extent get your message out, but TRL really did amplify the virality even before the internet was really popular that people could have.
Was it your show that I remember everybody was told to request a New Kids On The Block song?
That might have actually made it to the countdown at some point. It was a request show. It was really amazing that way because it wasn’t about what we thought our agenda was. It was really about the people who are watching our show wanted. I think when you can include your audience that way and engage them in that way, your show is a testament to just how you can engage people, and knowing that their vote might have resulted in their favorite artist being on the top ten countdown was incredible to see, the investment that people had. We oftentimes were known for our audience members being really enthusiastic in the audience, screaming to the top of their lungs and that was probably a reason why.
I remember an email chain going around that told everybody to request some New Kids On The Block song and then it ended up as number one that week.
You’re saying you’ve got an email, was it from MTV or was it from the New Kids On The Block team?
No. It was from nobody. It was from just fans that thought it would be really funny to have all these super popular songs and then out of nowhere, a New Kids On The Block song that had been out for ten years already.
They ended up on the countdown because of it. That’s amazing. That’s the thing. It gave people something to galvanize their fans around, to activate them on, and fans an opportunity to really pump up their artist. Sometimes it’s hard to understand the impact of a fan and that was I think a real time example of where fans can really make a difference for an artist.
When people hear what you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished, what’s the most common question they have?
The most common question is probably who my most terrible interview was and who my most favorite interview was. I think that comes up a lot. Most embarrassing moment I think comes up a lot too. I think people have an association with live television. They know a bunch of stuff probably went sideways because it was live and they’re right, a bunch of stuff did go sideways. I think that was the magic of our show because we really were live, anything could happen and it inevitably did. There were a lot of moments that were formative experience.
What was the most embarrassing or craziest thing that happened live?
This particular moment didn’t actually happen on the live show but it’s certainly was part of the TRL atmosphere. We did a year-end review show. It was at the end of the year, January is about to be here, late December after the holidays, all these wrap-up shows happen. This is our wrap-up show. We’re taping it just before the holidays and then we’re going to air it during the holidays going into the New Year. We had basically all of the VJs and it goes the four of us that were most in rotation at the time. It was Damien Fahey, La La and Hilarie. We’re all sitting there about to interview Justin Timberlake for the show. Justin hadn’t arrived to the set yet, he was late. We were all sitting there. We knew we only had a few minutes with him. We had about I think fifteen minutes to get our heart out. He had another appearance to make or whatever.
There we were and we were waiting on Justin and it was so long. Probably, we’re waiting about half an hour or 40 minutes and I’ve been drinking water on the set, and I need to go to the bathroom so bad, and yet our producers were really nervous about not having enough time with Justin. It was one of those moments where we basically felt like we needed to stay on set and hold our breath for Justin to show up and be ready to go right away when he got to the set. You could imagine me sitting there on the couch along with my colleagues squirming at this point because I had to go to the bathroom so bad. Here’s the issue. It was something that I could have brought to my producers and say, “I got to go to the bathroom.” I probably should have because it’s better than being totally uncomfortable and risking peeing in my damn pants but I didn’t. Justin shows up, sits down. At this point, can you imagine, my bladder is about to explode and I could not hold it in anymore. I didn’t admit to what I was going through to risk Justin not being on the air as much for us. What I did was I found a pillow right nearby and I put it over my crotch. I had dark jeans on so I thought about all of this as my strategy for survival in that moment. I proceeded to pee in my pants whilst we did this interview.
I was mortified through the whole experience. It could have been a very fun shoot. I’m sure it was for everyone else involved but knowing who’s the wiser, we ended up finishing the segment and then I proceeded to get up, look at my crotch area, and nothing. Nothing seemed to indicate that I did what I did. I was not completely embarrassed amongst all of my peers but that was probably one of the most devastating moments. It was not that publicly embarrassing per say but privately devastating.
You are my hero both for going that extra mile and for sharing that story. That’s absolutely incredible. I was cringing the entire time you were telling it hoping for anything that I would never have to experience anything like that. I’m in awe, so thank you for sharing that.
I’m glad that I could derive some inspiration from that story because I think it was just really, really terrible for me at the time. I think when you look back at that footage you could probably see I was by the least talkative of anybody on that panel because all I was thinking about was this damn pee along the side of my legs.
What’s the most interesting question people have asked you?
It seems basic on the surface level but actually there’s a lot there underneath the surface, when people ask me how I got my job on MTV. It comes at me a lot because becoming a VJ on MTV was one of the more rare occurrences. I think The New York Times did a write-up about how the chances and likelihood of somebody becoming a VJ on MTV are way less than becoming a New York Yankee. That’s one of those things. It was becoming a unicorn all of a sudden. Also the probability of me at the time because they weren’t even hiring VJs when I came along. They ended up figuring a spot for me and creating a job where there wasn’t one. The probability was even lower for me. When I think about what it took to get the job now in retrospect, it unpacks a lot of the things that are the special sauce of success in general. I always love talking about that because then it creates value for other people who are not necessarily in this specific lane in life. It’s really great because when I look at how I created it, it was an unconscious confidence at that point because I wasn’t necessarily that aware of what I was generating, why I was generating it, or how I was generating it. I look back at it and I say, “That was the law of attraction, quantum physics in full effect.” The way that I really had a clear vision and I held it possible, and I believed in it, and I threw my whole self in it, visualized it, really activated a lot of things that are that special sauce to create success. I love unpacking the story for people.
What are a few tips that you would give people who want to succeed in your industry? I don’t necessarily mean that you have to be talking about being a VJ on MTV but to be a public figure and to be able to host.
I think this seems general as well but I think it’s the starting point that I totally agree with Simon Sinek on. I think you’ve got to really be clear about why. I went in being an MTV VJ and I think my why wasn’t actually that strong. Ultimately, it led to a lack of sustainability in the way that I was approaching the job. That’s why I say looking back on it, I think really establishing why you would want to do something and having that top of mind, having that something that might even be a poster in your room to remind you when things get challenging, I think is really important. Things can get challenging in this business. There’s a lot of competition. There’s a lot of criticism because it’s so out there. There’s a lot of people that are, especially nowadays, have a voice that they didn’t necessarily have a way to chime in on given show that you do. People can comment. It’s really important to go back to why you’re doing it in the first place and make sure that soil is really fertile and you plant all the seeds of believing in yourself, why you’re uniquely gifted, and why you’ve been given that position.
I think what happened with me is I had a notion that I love music and I saw the impact of it, and I really wanted to make a difference with being able to share it, but it wasn’t something that I kept top of mind a lot of times. When things like my insecurities would come up, I oftentimes would feel really, really down about myself. I’d go ahead and party the insecurities away and it burned me out. I think that was the biggest thing I would share with people is make sure you’re clear about why and have it be something bigger than yourself. Ideally, you’re clear about the impact that what you do has. Make sure you remind yourself of that as much as possible because sometimes fans will make it explicit to you with the impact you’re having on them. They’ll say it in so many words, “The way that you did this show, interview this way or whatever have you, really impacted me this way.” Sometimes they’ll just say, “Great job,” and you’re wondering what was great about it, “Is that real? Is that just you hyping?” I would say be that for yourself.
I think that’s really interesting especially because the number of times that I see people walking up to public figures or celebrities and say, “I’m a huge fan,” and I have this question in the back of my head if they actually know who the person is or if they just recognized them from television.
That’s why it’s not really fulfilling for anyone hearing that either. It’s like, “Great. What does that mean?”
I personally have never done it but I’ve been around celebrities as people approach them to shake their hand and ask for selfies and all that. I am completely unclear if people actually know who they are half of the time. Let’s switch gears. What are a few secrets that nobody talks about in your industry? What are the unexpected pitfalls or the public secrets?
I think the thing that I notice the most and this is why we started Camera Ready, the training company that we have now, is that people don’t necessarily know how insecure a lot of the people that are seemingly confident on camera actually are. There are countless people that I’ve had private conversations with about this. Ideally, they ended up sharing about these things in interviews and really support people who are out there thinking that they are just floating on a cloud of confidence to really get that perspective. That’s the biggest thing. That’s the biggest myth. There are so many dynamic people on camera that seem like they are completely on top of things.
At the time, I was referring to the insecurities that I felt on MTV. Most people who would have seen me on MTV and thought, “So cool,” or whatever, that was the commentary I get a lot, “You seem so cool and confident.” Actually, I was privately very insecure. I think that’s something that is a by-product of a deeper conversation, a lot of stuff from childhood, but also not having really gotten much training, not to practice before all of a sudden I was put out there in front of millions of people. My trial is by fire and it was really not a learning environment to actually develop, practice, and hone in that confidence and authentic voice. I had to figure that out the hard way. That’s one thing I think that people don’t really know is how much people struggle privately who are seemingly really confident on camera.
Can you tell us a little bit about your company, Camera Ready? Personally, I do a lot of public speaking. I used to have a policy that I would practice for an hour for every minute I was going to be on stage. My first talks were ten minutes, so I’d literally prep for ten hours. I think it made a world of difference because now I feel I can get up in front of the crowd and talk about any topic you tell me and deliver it in an intelligent way. I know that most people don’t have a practice in place and you also need feedback from somebody who’s a professional, who understands what works and what doesn’t.
That’s really why we created Camera Ready because we noticed that even people who practice, sometimes they would practice in front of mirror or they would practice with friends who didn’t necessarily have the wherewithal to tell them the things that are uncomfortable to say sometimes, the things that aren’t necessarily working and provide that in a really clear way that gives people constructive actionable steps to be able to do something with that. My partner, Carmina, and I had experiences being on camera. We’ve both been television hosts for years and felt there was never any training, never any meaningful coaching to support us to really be our best selves on camera. We realized after we did a personal development workshop and loved it and got so much from it, it was very experiential. It was something that wasn’t just talking about it, going over what some media trainings do already. There’s a lot of media trainings out there that are way more cognitive than really experiential so you end up walking away with a bunch of bullet points about what could be your sound bites but not necessarily a real, incredible practice, different experience of yourself, something that could be muscle memory that you can access later. That’s really the value of experiential learning.
That’s really what Camera Ready is about, is experiential learning and learning in a space that’s safe, that is not going to affect your bottom line and really, really affect your bottom line ultimately. It’s about setting ourselves up to win because oftentimes if you have a TED Talk, you won’t get another opportunity to do a TED Talk. It’s really important to set yourself up to win in that case. We’re really happy because we created something that we had really taken a lot of time to develop, making sure that we as people are vessels to be able to support people in that way. We did years of training in the personal development world, really cutting our teeth as coaches and facilitators in that world and then bringing it back over into the world of a media training to really support people with that modality, to have as deep, enriching experience as possible.
Let’s give the listeners a few takeaways, something that they could apply right now especially if they’re going to do public speaking or they want to run a YouTube channel, or they want to be even the next MTV VJ. What are some things that you can really tell them right now and suggestions to build that muscle memory?
Come to our damn workshop is one. I think oftentimes we confuse excitement for being nervous. You being someone who has done all the work you’ve done in research that physiologically, the difference between excitement and what seems to be nervousness, there is no difference. It’s actually the exact same thing. It’s just that we interpret those things differently sometimes. Knowing that going in, if you’re feeling “nervous,” what about actually pausing and realizing that that may actually be excitement. That’s a really great indicator that you care about what’s about to happen, that you’re exactly where you should be because the stakes are there, it matters to you such that you feel the way you’re feeling. If I feel nervous, that’s the best sign in the world. That means all of my juices are flowing, all of this is percolating to really be able to pop out there for people, and have the energy that I ought to have for people. That’s one thing is really making that distinction.
It’s really interesting that you said that because Adam Grant, in his book Originals talks about a study where they had people tell themselves that they’re excited before they got on stage versus, “I’m nervous.” Independently, when judged and rated, the people who said that they were excited presented better. They had something like 7% or 17% higher marks just by telling themselves that they’re excited versus nervous.
One of our mentors talks about how the story lives in the telling of it. If we’re telling ourselves the story that we are nervous, then that’s what we’re going to manifest. We’re going to feel nervous. We’re going to be nervous. We’re going to occur as nervous. At first, it may feel you’re faking it until you make it. You may be telling yourself something that you don’t necessarily believe or feel but there is something to be said about the neuro-linguistic programming of telling ourselves we’re excited, “I’m excited. I’m excited,” and just see what happens. You’ll be surprised.
Now, I’m going to switch gears a little. I want to get a little bit more into you and what it is that you’re really committed to and interested in. Is there a non-profit organization or something that you’re really passionate about or committed to?
Yeah. I really, really think mentorship is an important thing. I have a friend of mine named Brian Larrabee started a really great non-profit called Good City Mentors. They are based in LA and they serve and rescue through living neighborhoods like Watts and Compton, the kids that really don’t have a ton of great role models in their life. A lot of them don’t have fathers. .They don’t necessarily have an educational system that’s really on par with the way that we’ve been educated certainly. It’s really great to be able to have at least one person in their life that they can count on, that they can feel safe with, that they can have a relationship with that inspires them and Good City Mentors does that. I’m really proud of Brian at what he’s created there. I’m really excited about everybody having somebody that can be that sounding board, that can be that shepherd for them in getting to the next phase of their life. It could really make the difference.
I normally ask guest to share a very human secret that they feel comfortable sharing. Anything from they suffer from anxiety to they didn’t have their first kiss until college whatever it is, so that people realize that the life of a well-known personality isn’t really that much different than their own. You shared a story already if you want that one to count.
I have unlimited vulnerability. I am an open door at this point in my life. The more secrets we keep, the more we’re imprisoned by them. I definitely feel it’s a great thing and I’ll be happy to share more. One of the things I don’t think I’ve ever said in public or shared about is actually around when I was a kid. When I was younger, I had major insecurities and oftentimes delusions really about myself relative to the world. One of them was around my physical prowess. I didn’t know, I only knew seeing my dad walk around the house naked what a man ought to look like. Imagine, I had major insecurities in general but here I am with the only frame of reference for what a man’s prowess down there is supposed to look like being my dad. My dad is like Mandingo. My dad is like a freaking Zulu warrior in that respect. It’s like halfway down his freaking legs. That’s my reference point for what a man is supposed to look like. Meanwhile, I’m this kid, I’m a young teenager and I’m so petrified at that point because I don’t stack up to my dad. I think, “Oh my god,” and here I am in delusion all the teenagers around me are like my dad.
In the changing room after Phys Ed, I would avoid changing in front of other guys in the changing room because I thought, “They’re going to find out that I’m way smaller than them.” It took years of dating and finally getting to the point where I was being intimate with women and they’re actually sharing with me about how I’m actually well endowed. I’m good in that respect. For so many years that was a painful insecurity and misconception. That was such a revelation. I remember the first time a girlfriend told me that I was like, “Really? You sure? Are you just saying that? Are you just being nice?” I really didn’t believe her because I held that story that limited belief for so long. That was definitely a secret. That actually held me back from having sex. I think I had a narrative about it at the time, just an avoiding mechanism about how I was being really precious about wanting the person I make love to for the first time to be someone that I really love and respect. I think that was the fear above all was that I wouldn’t be able to please her. I actually didn’t have sex to lose my virginity until I was twenty years old.
First of all, thanks for sharing that. Second, I think that there’s probably that all of us have something like that, a complete unrelatedness to reality. Especially when you’re young and you’re developing, there aren’t that many frame of references. Now if you Google stuff, especially when it comes to that stuff there’s no way whatever image you’re going to come across is going to be accurate to anything normal.
You hope the internet was the ultimate leveling of perception that you can trust and count on, everything you see on the internet being the reality. Unfortunately, that’s a slippery slope.
If you could be any comic book hero, who would you be?
I think I’d probably be Batman.
It’s so funny, almost everybody says Batman. People love Batman.
I love Batman. I think it’s the whole shadowy side of him that really intrigues people. He’s not this cookie-cutter superhero. I think that’s interesting to me, somebody who’s that complex and complicated.
If you could meet anybody maybe at a private dining experience, which three people would you like to eat dinner with? They have to be alive.
The Dalai Lama seems amazing, really joyful and insightful. I’m actually really curious to sit down with Bill Cosby at this point too because of all the things he’s done. I wouldn’t want to just have a pleasant conversation with the Dalai Lama. I would want Bill Cosby there. I want the Dalai Lama to support Bill Cosby to understand the crisis he’s going through. That’s what I want to facilitate. Maybe Bill is not even open to that kind of conversation, but I’d want to say at least explore that because he’s a guy that brought so much joy, inspiration and laughs to people for so long and now he’s been villainized. Obviously, he did what he did. It’s not like he’s a victim but I’m just saying I think everybody deserves to have some conversation even after they’ve been damned like that, to see what kind of redemption that could be had. I just would be really curious about that. I’d want to just ask him, why and what does he think about it now? I’m just really curious about that.
Quddus, you have been an absolutely delightful guest. Thank you so much for coming on. If people want to find out more about you, do you have a website? I know also people want to find out more about the program that you run so that they can be camera ready. Where can people find you?
CameraReadyNow.com is the website. I’m at Quddus.TV as well but CameraReadyNow.com is the big focus right now. My personal website has probably atrophied at this point because I’ve been so focused on Camera Ready Now. I’m really excited to support everybody out there who’s looking to be more inspiring and comfortable in front of people.
Do you have Instagram, Twitter and Facebook where people can find you?
Quddus, thank you so much for participating. Listeners, stay tuned because we have another anonymous interview.
Quddus brings out the best in people, from interviewing stars as a TV host to developing them as a media coach. He burst into the international spotlight as a host on MTV’s hit show “Total Request Live”. His reputation as a tastemaker led to consulting artists at Interscope Records and even directing music videos. Quddus also broke ground in new media, hosting record breaking live-streams like the inaugural Global Citizen Festival, the world premiere of “Avatar” and the Grammy Awards red carpet. Known for connecting with any audience, Chris Rock once said, “If Oprah and Ryan Seacrest had a love child, the kid would end up being like Quddus.”
His joyful personality lit up a wide range of networks including NBC, ABC and CBS, even inspiring The Associated Press to call him “the coolest guy on television.” Quddus’ passion for coaching others to be their best selves on camera started with the launch of MTV in his home country of Canada when he trained their new hosts who went on to have award winning careers. Inspired to empower everyone committed to leveling up their positive impact, Quddus recently launched the innovative media training, Camera Ready.
Anonymous Guest Interview
I hope you’re as excited as I am to be hosting Jon today because I love, love, love Jon’s work. I normally don’t get giddy at my dinners to meet people. The people that I do get giddy about are like the voice of Optimus Prime or Jon. It’s people who bring to life something that I really cared about, especially in my childhood. Jon, thank you so much for not only cooking me dinner but coming on the show.
It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Let’s give the listeners some hints on who you are. Tell me, where did you grow up?
I grew up in Silicon Valley, Los Altos, California, when it wasn’t quite the Silicon Valley yet but just becoming what it would be today.
Was there a teacher or an experience that inspired you to go into the career you have now?
Yeah, I think there were a lot of people. My father owns a restaurant and he’s had it for 49 years now. It’s a local place in the Bay Area. Watching him rule the kitchen, he was creative. He was an artist. He had to maneuver a lot of people, talk to customers. All of that was something that affected my job, what I wanted to pursue very much so growing up, seeing how hard he work and how much he actually really loved it, even if you’re working really hard. I’d also say an Art teacher. We didn’t have all the resources necessary at my school. This Art teacher bought all the supplies of these giant canvasses, extra supplies because we would make puppets. We would make big cardboard things. The dreams expanded when the teacher decided that the tools that we had in the school weren’t enough and that we can dream bigger. I always clock that as a kid and has remained with me because if it wasn’t for that, to know that you could dream bigger than the canvass that was in front of you, it really inspired me and allowed me to find bigger canvasses than that.
If there was a movie about your life, who would play you in the movie?
It would be great if someone like Harry Shum Jr. or John Cho would play me in a movie because they’re very good looking men, and very charming at the same time. Movies make everything always better. If you’re really going to cast it, it’s probably like Kim Yong-gun that would play me, to be honest.
Are you Korean?
I am not Korean. I am Chinese.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done that led to your success?
One, I think being really naïve. Going into this business in Los Angeles, it’s pretty crazy to think that a lot of people want to do what I do and to think that you can actually make it a living. I just had a child, so thinking about her journey in the future, you always think about the choices that you made and how amazing that some of those choices that you actually make, they’re sort of silly. That really helped me think that, “Of course I can make this. I can gather these people and convince to help me out. Of course I can call up that film maker or that actor or that artist and just talk to them.”
Ultimately, that led to me being able to make stuff in school that other students didn’t know they could actually have access to this stuff. I was able to make short films that was able to get me attention and got me into the business in a way that jumpstarted my career. There are little things, like I snuck into the Oscars one year. I made my own fake pass and got all the way backstage. That weren’t necessarily what made me successful but that habit of saying, “If I want something, I should just go and get it,” and have that lack of fear. I think it really guided me to where I am today. I wish I still had that. That’s what I struggle with every day because the more you’re in it, the more you realize how fragile it all is. I struggle every day to remind myself to not have fear, to not be scared, to be naïve in a lot of ways.
It’s interesting because now on your phone I’m sure is 30% of all the talent that anybody would ever want to meet. Was there a moment or experience that made you feel like you had arrived to some degree? Like, “Okay, now I’m on the inside.”
I think in the business, you never fully feel like you’re on the inside. You always feel like you’re chasing it, which I think is a good thing. I do remember certain moments when I was working with Bruce Willis. Looking at him on the monitors and forgetting that this was something I was involved with and forgetting that I had to call cut. You’re just watching and you’re like, “This is the movie I’m watching because it’s freaking Bruce Willis.” I think that was pretty surreal. When I’m eating Pinkberry in the middle of a dessert at 114 degree weather with The Rock and he’s giving me a dirty look. He doesn’t think I should be eating Pinkberry because it’s unhealthy. Also, when I first got discovered. I got a call from Steven Spielberg. I was really young. That jumpstarted a lot of stuff. That first phone call, I felt like it was Dawson’s Creek, The Finale where Dawson gets a call from Steven Spielberg. It happened the same week that that episode happened. That was really weird. Not that I was watching Dawson’s Creek at that time, but I did watched the finale.
What hint or riddle would you give people to figure out who you are?
I would say I’ve travelled with the Biebs. I’ve been sandwiched between Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. I’ve done magic with Jesse Eisenberg, and danced with Channing Tatum.
I think every woman in America right now is drooling and jealous. I was like, “I have an awesome life, but I’m really jealous of you right now.” Listeners, you have plenty to go on. If you can figure out who Jon is between now and the next episode, you could win an invitation to Salon by Influencers. Good luck.