This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience.
by Clayton Perry
Kwame Jackson is best known for the business savvy he demonstrated on the first season of Donald Trump's Apprentice. Although several years have passed since his “boardroom” experience, Jackson has successfully capitalized on his entrepreneurial skills and newfound celebrity. In April 2004, he co-founded Legacy Holdings LLC, a private investment firm with diverse interests, including real estate development, fashion, television and film production. Concurrently, following his Apprentice experience, Jackson’s expertise allowed him to blossom into an in-demand speaker and advisor for Fortune 500 firms and universities, as well as community, civic, and political leaders. To date, he has given over 250 lectures. Squeezing some time out of his busy schedule, Kwame Jackson settled down for an interview with Clayton Perry, reflecting on life, the Apprentice experience and race in America.
After going through the Apprentice experience, what have you learned about yourself? How has your life changed?
I’ve learned to have confidence in myself, better utilize my skills, and make opportunities for myself. I have also learned how to discern what’s important to me and what’s not. In life, I want to make a difference. Sure, I want to make a little bit of money and have some fun. With time, however, I found that money is not as important as I once though it was. I’ve also found great value in owning my own time. Moreover, I have also learned not to judge myself by other people’s yardsticks. It took time for me to realize that dollar signs behind it are not reflective of the passion behind. I made a conscious decision to step away from Wall Street. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that important.
As opposed to other Apprentice alumni, why do you think you were better able to maximize your experience in the way you have? How did you do it?
One key difference is my mentality. Looking at reality TV, as a whole, you have your Chances and Tangos, and your New Yorks and Flavors and, then, you have me on the other side. When you look at reality TV, as a vehicle towards any new platform or springboard towards something positive, you have to frame your reality for yourself. On the Apprentice, I framed myself and didn’t get caught up in controversy. I always had my dignity and respect — something that’s hard to come by in celebrity culture. Losing either was not a trade-off that I was willing to make. Some people on the Apprentice were just happy to be on TV and, as a result, their experience led to negative depictions and limited opportunities — forever! Things were not just handed down to us. All of a sudden, you have 40 million people watching you. What are you going to do with that? What kind of opportunities are you going to create? For me, life on the Apprentice experience was a journey, although it was not a blueprint for success.