Back in 2009 I was asked if I wanted to host a tv show produced by Maryland Public Television, I was honored by the ask and since I wanted to do more tv show hosting (hint, hint networks out there :-) I jumped at the opportunity. After months of meetings, days of shooting and weeks of editing we wrapped production and we were reviewing the final version sitting in the editing room I remember the producer Frank Batavick (an awesome producer) saying “This show really turned out great, we have to submit it for an Emmy”. I was like really? You think its that good? He thought so much so that he ended up submitting for 2 categories – Best Show and Best TV Show Host. I was like wow that’s cool I guess it can’t hurt! Months pass by, you go back to working on other projects and you forget about it until you hear the nominations are out. Funny thing happened though, I woke up one morning and as part of my routine, right before jumping in to work I check twitter to see what’s happening and there is this message from @brandocash – his tweet has me almost do a double back-flip.
I’m like, what huh? No way! I was actually nominated, I mean I knew we submitted an entry BUT nominated as Best TV Show Host that was amazing! Not only was I nominated but I heard that the show was also nominated. I had to verify this news, I remember opening my email and seeing a message from Frank (show producer) and I was like holy crap this is really happening! I call Frank and he’s like, this is for real and then he tells me that there were close to 20 submissions for the Best TV Show Host category and it was one of the largest categories of submissions and then he drops a bomb and tells me “only you and 1 other person were actually nominated!” What? Out of like 20 submissions–are you serious? Only 2 noms?
I remember being paused by the news and I was quiet and at the moment it seemed that everything went into slow motion. I started replaying memories of all the years of busting my tail, trying to break in, trying to make an impact while trying to reach larger audiences! I recalled when I first got my start buy buying airtime myself on a little am radio station in Annapolis MD back in 1999. The station was WBIS 1190, the show was titled “Tech Talk” horrible name but at that time it seemed right :-). Back then the show was discussing email attachments, web design and interviews with local Baltimore tech co’s like Gr8 and E.magination. Then I recalled how I started working for FREE for YEARS at TV stations like WMAR-ABC and radio stations like WEAA–I mean for 2 years straight with no pay I would wake up on Thursday mornings at 4:30am to do a 3 minute segment on WMAR-ABC and then go to the day job! Many people also many not know but for several years, I hosted a 1 hour weekly radio show with no pay on WEAA. I started thinking about those 5am freezing cold and dark winter mornings where I would ask myself is this worth it? Many of days I had to remind myself of the bigger picture and vision, that I love this business of tv/radio and I love using it as a way to reach and help people. Fast forward several years later and my business partner Nicole took my passion and really paved the way to entrepreneurship – without her chasing this entrepreneurial dream just wouldn’t be happening!!!! I remember how she would push me and critique my on-air delivery as well as my approach to research (which she still does today :-). Not only could she run the business but she was also jumping in my sandbox helping me perfect it every step of the way!
So fast-forward to EMMY night at which our little company purchased a table, which was a big deal to our small biz, especially when the tickets are $150 a pop. It was a surreal moment but cool as hell to see our small business name on the seating chart surrounded by media heavyweight companies like Washington Post, WBFF TV group etc…we were like the little no-name underdog for sure!
The EMMY evening was awesome, they had the red carpet going, pro photographers shooting pics everywhere, everyone was dressed really stunning and everyone was smiling. We walked the red carpet and the host put my 8yr old son on the spot with a “red carpet” interview-LOL. I remember saying to family “let’s just enjoy the moment and the opportunity to even be here and not think about winning”. Frank (the show producer) had warned me that the night would be long but I had no idea it was going to be that long. There were over 50 categories to announce and our categories were close to the end.
They finally make it to our category and the cool thing is the MC that announced my category is Baltimore (my hometown) dude Chef Duff Goldman, star of Ace of Cakes tv show. Throughout the nite they were alternating MC’s, they had 4 that evening, so it was cool to me (being a Baltimore boy) that he was announcing my category. He starts off by saying “and now to the toughest category this evening” — my heart stopped, I looked at Nicole and we both mouthed in silence “you gotta be kidding me”, we took a deep breath and the next thing we know Duff opens the envelope and reads “and the Emmy for Best TV Show Host goes to Mario Armstrong for You Can Afford College, Maryland Public Television”. I froze for a second or 2 in my seat, all I recall was alot of screaming and clapping and the feeling of a heavy-weight being lifted (the anticipation is extremely intense). I’m still in my seat kind of on pause and then I remember my son Chris rubbing my back and at that moment I jumped up hugged my wife and kid, hi-fived Frank Batavick (show producer) and walked up to the stage to give the 30 sec speech, that was all the time you are allowed.
Speaking of speeches, I didn’t prepare notes ahead of time although maybe I should have because 2 nites before the event I had a crazy dream that I walked up on stage and started saying quotes from 4 specific people–Will Smith (calm and honored), Oprah Winfrey (and you get an Emmy and you get an Emmy…), Tom Cruise (guess I thought I’d be jumping up and down alot) and ready for this–Samuel Jackson (I was yelling and cussing with excitement). So a few minutes before my category was called I was getting a bit too excited and thought maybe I should write a few notes so I don’t accidentally go Samuel Jackson on anybody. So I started writing notes so I wouldn’t forget anything but if you look closely in the video of the speech below, you can see that I end up stuffing it in my back pocket on the way to the stage-LOL. Just spoke from the heart! You will also see that I almost forgot the actual Emmy as well!
The night was magical, I was wearing my favorite cuff links given to me by my late Uncle Carroll (who recently passed too soon), his favorite number was 23, which was the page my category was listed on and Duff my Baltimore dude was announcing my category. It was already a surreal feeling with the nomination but to actually win was unbelievable and certainly a life-moment I’ll always cherish.
But here’s the bottom line: We ALL want and should be recognized for the work we do! We want to know our purpose in life, what are we here to do and what is our role?! Most of us would just like a little recognition from our peers, our bosses and our friends and family especially when so many of you work sooooo damn hard juggling many hats and many responsibilities. You have dreams, plans and goals you’d like to achieve! List them out on paper and prioritize them ASAP, you can’t achieve what you don’t see! And if there is anyway I can help you towards your goal I’m easy to reach on twitter @marioarmstrong or message me on FaceBook. Many of you may have had to deal with life or career obstacles, doors closed and opportunities lost – all I can tell you is from my experience, you have to keep pushing, be willing to adjust, don’t let fear paralyze you and you must be relentless about achieving your goals without sacrificing your morals and integrity.
I certainly wouldn’t even be writing this post if it wasn’t for soooo many of you!!!! So, I just wanted to say THANKS to ALL of you! All of you in some way have made an impact on my career, have helped to shape who I am and have supported me, Nicole, our business, my content and my mission in some way over the years and I SINCERELY, SINCERELY appreciate that! I will never forget it and will continue to give back to others the way you have for me!
Here is a copy of the full press release which talks a little about new projects, like our reality tv show pilot and other things we are working on and below is a video of my speech (look for the white note card and how I almost forget the Emmy):