Choose faith over fear. I wish I told myself that when I was younger. I think as creatives with imaginative ideas running through our minds all day, we tend to quiet ourselves. First we think we’re brilliant. A minute later we make ourselves believe our ideas are stupid and that no one would like it. I used to be slightly scared of success. When you do one good thing, you have to maintain that greatness. Now, when something fails, I roll it off the shoulder and carry on.
As a part of our series about Stars Making a Social Impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Erman Baradi.
Erman Baradi is a blossoming screenwriter and Hollywood event producer often referred to as “Top Networker in Hollywood.” His brand, Ermantourage, finds creative ways to give back to his community of creatives in film and music. He is currently represented by Emagine Content.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. My parents and three siblings and I have been in the same house since the beginning! Growing up in the area where Pharrell, Pusha T, No Malice, Missy Elliott, Chad Hugo, Timbaland, and other big names in entertainment are from, you get a sense of that creative culture here. It’s all around us. I didn’t always know I wanted to be in entertainment until middle school. I started watching movies more analytical and started writing stories in my notebooks. Even when listening to music I would pay attention to structure and lyrics and storytelling. My dad is an artist and is great with 3D art, painting, and stippling art. My twin brother is also great with visual arts. My sister grew up playing instruments. My older brother has an imaginative mind as well and likes to throw ideas my way. My mom has a storyteller’s mind when talking to her friends as well! So I was always around creativity. I’m no pro but one of my hobbies is dance. I am part of a dance crew in Virginia Beach with friends. I think storytelling is all around us if you think about it. I made it out to LA for the first time in 2012 for an internship in West Hollywood with Mosaic Media Group. For years after that I networked, networked, networked, and made a name for myself by networking. It’s kind of a funny thing to be known for, but through networking I have lined up huge names in the industry I intend on working alongside.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? Can you share the story with us?
This is the cliched answer but I think a lot of people in our position want to give back to their parents when they find success financially. For me, that’s still the end goal. I know this sounds cheesy and also cliched but I would actually like to give back to the world when I’m in the position to do so. I hope to put out the creative content and collect the check, but with that check how cool would it be to sit around on GoFundMe and pay it forward to those in need? As a storyteller it would be ideal to add another Asian American voice to the industry. I’m not the type of person who’d want to check off a box just to hit a quote, but I truly feel like I can offer a unique voice. There was this special moment that links the creative and conscious. From time to time I host entertainment industry events that spotlight mental health awareness and suicide prevention. When this started happening I had friends reveal to me their own struggles that you wouldn’t expect just by looking at them. One day, I wrapped up a general meeting at this big production company we all know and love. I am in the lobby and a friend of mine messages me on Instagram out of the blue. She mentioned how she was going through a really dark period a few months back and that I hosted one of these events at a time when she considered suicide. It inspired her to keep going and share her story with others to inspire them.. She thanked me for indirectly saving her life. That completely took my breath away. It made me realize how much change a “person of influence” can make for someone. That being said, part of what inspires me truly to pursue a career in the arts is that I can ultimately use my creative platform to not necessarily advocate for world issues, but to engage others to want more, to be more, to live for more.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Oh man! I hope this doesn’t get me in trouble down the line. Here’s one that really sticks out to me that I love to share. Back in 2018, I met a friend who worked in advertising. Around LA you see these bench ads. Well, my buddy likes what I do, so she offered me five bench ads in LA for three months for a good deal. I wasn’t going to turn it down! For a while I mulled over doing a “cool” ad, but ultimately thought it would be funny to kind of do a humorous ad, or something that would get a laugh out of my followers and supporters. The ad we went with used an unprofessional picture of me, and it literally had my name with the phrase “Google Me!” Instead of the ad saying what I do, I literally told people to look me up. My followers got a kick out of it. I’d get notifications all the time from followers taking videos and pics on the benches. And it was timed perfectly the day they launched. My parents and I were in LA after my cousin’s wedding in Vegas, and the day they came in was the day the bench ads launched! So I surprised them with that and we took pictures. Anyway, one day I’m sitting at home and my notifications are going crazy on Instagram. Turns out, the creator of “Entourage” the television show took a picture of my ad on Instagram and basically said “Who does this kid think he is?” but in different words. Mind you, my brand is Ermantourage, which is an homage to “Entourage.” He was low key hating on me, and so his followers were posting nasty comments saying I was a fraud or a loser or the bench was ugly. My notifications were going on because friends of mine who followed him on Instagram were defending me! I was grateful to them for that. Here’s what I learned from that experience. I could have felt awful about the situation or been embarrassed or been impressed. Instead, I laughed at it. I saw the humor in all of it. I actually messaged the producer and explained who I am and what I did. The thing is no matter what part of the race you’re in, there is always going to be someone hating. I’m not even famous and already had people dogging me for something that was lighthearted and intended to be fun. Imagine the level of negativity for when I’m a lot bigger than I am today. I’ve learned to laugh at this stuff because one day these haters may see you down the line and go, “You know what? I was wrong about him.” Sometimes you just have to let the situation diffuse on its own and win someone over later by continuing to be yourself. Hell, look at Adam Sandler. He didn’t get nominated but he got Oscar buzz this year after two decades of being trashed by movie critics!
In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
I’ve been open about my Christian faith. I serve at church in Los Angeles every Sunday. What non-believers don’t understand about prayer is that prayer isn’t asking God about something you want and expecting to get it, and if you don’t get it then God doesn’t exist or is mad at you. Prayer is actually a conversation with God and a relationship with God. Here’s where I am in life, here’s where I’m lacking in life, and here’s what I pray for next. I’ve learned to put worries aside and give them to God, such as finances. Certain things are just out of our control as human beings. Every morning I wake up and I don’t immediately jump out of bed (I work from home so I’m in no rush!). I like to play an emotional song that can be either happy or sad. I do this to get in touch with my emotions from the start of the day. Sometimes I’ll listen to an inspiring podcast. We’re surrounded by negative news articles and slander all the time. I avoid those at the start of my day. I go to the gym regularly to treat my body physically. Something I did recently on Instagram that I shared with followers is my “What I’m Grateful For” list. Amid the Coronavirus quarantine there is a lot to miss, but this allows us time to consider what’s important. So I created a list of things I miss, followed up by things I am grateful for. I tend to be more creative at night so a lot of writing I do before bed.
Ok super. Let’s now move to the main part of our discussion. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?
I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of what’s to come. The last few years through our platform we’ve spotlighted the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention LA, Fuck Cancer, Beyond Freedom (a non-profit offering resources for victims of trafficking), and most recently Inner City Arts LA. That’s not saying we have been able to drop millions of dollars into these causes. We give what we can when we can, but our goal is to put focus on these causes for our audiences to look into and possibly advocate for them. I personally believe entertainment is the most influential medium. You escape to it and get influenced by it. When life beats you down, what do you do? You play a song or put on a movie. You wake up in the morning and see what your favorite artist is posting. Nowadays, news spread through people’s posts, not always directly from the source. The entertainment world has a lot of that power. With that, what I see with my platform is one that entertains you but still invokes deeper thoughts. You know those movies that blew you away and you still think about it when you get home from the theater? Whether we make you cry, laugh, or scared, to me at least the most powerful content is one that sticks with you long after consumption. My platform is entertainment for social good. Even if you look at my posts it’s part promotion and part inspirational quotes. People love the quotes! Farther down the line there’s a fun project my church friend Charlie and I are developing. I am turning 32 in the fall of 2021. We’re developing “32×32,” a short reality doc series in which we creatively impact thirty-two lives by the time I turn thirty-two. It’s not all just handing out money. It’s going to be a fun and thought-provoking series that focuses on the nuisances of life and the human experience.
Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up these particular causes?
I think mental illness is big in the entertainment community. We are a group of people who experience loneliness and rejection and self-doubts on a daily basis. As mentioned earlier, I get a lot of people who come up to me and share their experiences. When it comes to cancer-related causes, I’ve had friends who’ve lost loved ones to the disease. More specifically, it’s actually why I started doing benefits in the first place. Back in late 2017 I hosted an event featuring a big casting director, and there was this actress who came up from San Diego for the day to attend. I met her on Instagram and invited her to check it out thinking nothing of it. After the event she pulls me aside and thanks me for inviting her. She had the biggest smile ever, but proceeds to tell me that she lost interest in acting for a while after losing both her mother and grandmother to cancer in a short period of time. However, her attending renewed her interest in the arts. That hit me hard. It made me realize the impact my platform could have on people. Hence, Ermantourage was born a few months later. I also want to do more with young students and the arts. It’s important to drive their creative skills from an early age. For a few years now I’ve been a guest speaker for the LA-based non-profit The PLUS ME Project which inspires students through a series of talks and special guest speakers, helping the students recognize their own potential.
What are your 5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Erman, choose faith over fear. I wish I told myself that when I was younger. I think as creatives with imaginative ideas running through our minds all day, we tend to quiet ourselves. First we think we’re brilliant. A minute later we make ourselves believe our ideas are stupid and that no one would like it. I used to be slightly scared of success. When you do one good thing, you have to maintain that greatness. Now, when something fails, I roll it off the shoulder and carry on. For the longest time I was scared of people reading my writing. How silly is that considering I want to write. Eventually, I’d like to act and direct. The fear of failure now shouldn’t overshadow the inevitable success I know is coming. I just have to throw myself out there completely. Another thing I would tell myself is there is such a thing as emailing too much! Relax, people have lives, too. Don’t barrage them with messages. My friend Kanica reminded me that it doesn’t matter what age you make your dreams come true, because once they come true, you’re just happy you made it in the first place. When I was closing in on thirty, I felt like timing was running out. But whether things happen at 30, 31, or 32, it doesn’t matter in the greater scheme of things. On that same note, life is already short, so enjoy the scenic route. This goes with a lot of things in life. I get it, we have to make rent so we’re chasing the dollar. We’re in such a rush all the time. Last year, I flew to Seattle to see friends and I took the Amtrak back down to Los Angeles. That was thirty hours on a train enjoying the company of strangers and hearing their stories, watching the sun rise and set on the Pacific coast. There’s nothing like it. It’s simple but beautiful. The fifth thing would be to count the moments, not the days. We can count up to 365 days, but the moments are unlimited.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This one isn’t even that serious so don’t judge me! I think it would be cool for influencers and celebrities to bring humble brag to an extreme. It would be cool if for a moment in time the rich and famous would take off the designer clothing, the jewelry, drop the fancy cars and live like “regular people” do. Maybe that’ll remind them of the simpler, finer things in life. I am neither rich nor famous but I wouldn’t mind going to Joshua Tree with my friends for a few weeks and live off the grid. That would remind us of what really matters in life: the good company of others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
There’s a line I used somewhere in my writing that I use as my personal mantra: “I don’t model clothes, I model role.” To give you context, I dress nicely and people tell me I dress nicely. I’ll even tell you I’m a good liking guy (because I am). But I’d rather be a role model than a clothing model. To be honest in the beginning I was chasing some type of notoriety, to get credit for doing something dope. Over time, I humbled myself and became less about chasing stars and more about doing good things because it’s who I am. You can be known for modeling clothes (external) but you’ll go much further with what you bring to the world based on what’s on the inside. Another thing I tell people is “Don’t chase money, chase change.” Money comes and goes, but changing a life is eternal.
What are the best ways our readers can follow you online?
Check me out on social media at @ermanbaradi. My sites are ermantourage.com and ermanbaradiofficial.com. Direct message for dating, email for business (half-joking).
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!