As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Terron Brooks.
Terron Brooks is a 2x NAACP Award-nominated singer-songwriter, actor and writer. He’s widely recognized for playing Eddie Kendricks in the Emmy-winning mini-series The Temptations. His theater credits include The Lion King and Hairspray on Broadway and World Premieres of Sleepless in Seattle: The Musical and First Wives Club: The Musical. His role in Sweet Charity earned him an Ovation Award nomination. He’s the co-creator and star of The Soul of Broadway. Terron’s new single Tomorrow is available now.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I grew up as a pretty shy kid, raised in a predominantly white community but was rooted in a predominantly black church experience. The arts gave me a vehicle to help me find my purpose. I attended a performing arts high school where I studied musical theatre and a spark was ignited, not just in entertaining but communicating. My parents were not stage parents, and I’m glad they supported me but didn’t push me. It was a strict upbringing and very protective which informs my exploration of faith and taking risks today. I think I was a late bloomer. It was a time of innocence that I do believe we’ve lost today.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I fought the call to my career for many years. I just didn’t think it was possible. But the more I took stock of who I was and how I wanted others to feel, I surrendered to a certain nature of it. I was born to be an artist. I didn’t say famous or successful. But I was born to create.
Two pivotal moments I recall was high school when I was urged to audition for the performing arts school. I was fine with just singing and maybe pursuing music. I was encouraged that perhaps there was more to my potential than just one thing. That I should be open to theatre, dance, the full scope of musical expression. To this day I’m grateful because being so shy, the theatre opened me up to discover what it takes to truly communicate and embody a song or story.
The other moment was leaving college unfinished after getting my first major Broadway tour. Experience is the greatest teacher so that professional opportunity showed me what was possible. The real truth is God brought me to the yellow brick road, I trusted the way.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?
Honestly, there are so many lessons but one thing that always makes me laugh even though it’s more shocking is I had an audition for a Broadway show and of course you learn all the material they give you only maybe to do a fourth of what’s given. It was my birthday and I remember being nervous. I’m always confident in singing but sometimes I may get tripped up on dancing or the acting, let’s say more insecure. So I sang maybe one song out of the two or three given and did a scene which I think I felt I could redeem by singing the other choices. I heard the dreaded “Thank you very much, that’s all we need.” Then I did the unthinkable. Theater 101 no-no. I said the words that fell out quicker than I could shove them back in. “You don’t wanna hear the other songs?????” The cold would have bothered even Elsa. “No, that’s all!”
I should have been mortified at my behavior since I knew better at this time. I was a veteran. All I could do was, laugh. Hysterically. What I learned was it’s okay to be human. That it’s not the end of the world to make a mistake. I learned that no amount of stress is worth it, and I would never again get to that insecure place that I’d step out of my own dignity. Nothing is worth begging for accept maybe forgiveness, never a part on Broadway. Still cracks me up today. It’s my measure of personal growth that I could laugh at myself. I learned that I cannot give away my power to anyone no matter how important I think they are and I’m not. Because I am.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
Find out who you are. Define your own success. Live a balanced life. Surround yourself with good people who you allow to tell you the truth. Focus on character not fame. Be kind to yourself. Be flexible with what comes your way. There are many ways to get to a destination. Set boundaries, what are the non-negotiable things you won’t do. Find something bigger than yourself to serve.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
Being okay if it happens and okay if it doesn’t is a powerful place to be. Kate Eckman
I love this because it echos my favorite scripture in the Bible. Philippians 4:12 Learning to be content whether I have little or much is I believe the key to peace. It’s relevant because I live an unpredictable life, and I have to be prepared for peace no matter what life throws at me. It’s a choice for me that matters.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mentor and second mom, Stevi Meredith quickly comes to mind. She was instrumental in believing in me and truly seeing me. She was tough and nurturing and gave me a safe space to try. In high school, she cast me in two transformative roles that stretched me as a performer and person. I always attribute her faith in me and the tools she’s given me to believe in myself to the success I’ve achieved. I always say it’s incredible when you find someone who sees in you what you can’t readily see.
Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?
I always want anything I do to be inspirational, motivational and encouraging. I’m always for the underdog because I identify. I always desire to uplift people and be an example of a person living their impossible dreams. I think through the success I have I try to be transparent of the person behind it all. I recently was named Ambassador for Boys and Girls Clubs Metro Los Angeles. And my reimagined cover of Broadway Annie’s “Tomorrow” was the closing song to Covenant House Night of Stars. Both organizations aim to support young people who are disadvantaged (BGCMLA) and who find themselves with no home. (Covenant House) It’s my joy to share my passion and heart with our future. But above all of my efforts, the goodness in the world is not a reality until I continue to uncover what is good in me.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?
Things align with intention. I’ve always set an intention to support young people in stepping into their dreams. So no aha moment just opportunity presents itself to do what is intended. I’m always looking for those chances to fulfill my purpose.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
It always pays literally to be yourself.
You cannot trust everyone’s opinions on what you do.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
You’ll never be satisfied pleasing others above yourself.
Don’t wait to see it being done. You might be the first.
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. 🙂
I have no revolutionary ideas, but I’d love to have a company that produces music, television, film, and literature all aimed at bringing good and enriching content to the world. The movement would also advocate empathy, self-care and mental health and the importance of faith.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Well, let Oprah, Author/Producer Devon Franklin and Emmanuel Acho know I’m available:) They are my people. I’d love to hear about the setbacks that were actually setups for success. I’m curious their secret to endurance and the traps of self-importance. For fun, Babyface, John Legend, Anita Baker, and James Taylor can crash the party anytime.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!