HOW I GOT HERE
Right, so it goes like this...
I’m Malaysian Indian, brought up around black people while hustling in a white man’s world. It was always going to be messy. On top of that, I’ve grown up in Newham, East London. A great place to start 😎
During primary school at parents evenings, my teachers would say the same thing every term: “Reuben's a bright boy, but he just plays around too much". In secondary school, I kept getting detention for ‘having too much fun’. In college, I’d receive a bollocking for making others have too much fun. So I made sure uni was different. I didn’t turn up for much as I was out having fun. Somehow though, I passed. In 2001 I bagged a Foundations of Engineering degree at Brunel University, then graduated with a BSc in Multimedia Technology at the University of Greenwich in 2004 😅
So now I’ve got a degree, yay, but no damn clue what to do with my life. I just knew that I wanted to enjoy it. I figured that if a third of my life would be spent working, then I had to make that fun, or so much of my life would be a drag. I’ve always been hyper aware of my mortality, which made that decision a no-brainer. F*ck that. So I ignored career advice from friends, family, the media and the educational system and instead decided to side-step security in favour of following my curiosities, unapologetically, to wherever they led me, in hope that I’d find my thing. I started trying out EVERYTHING that remotely interested me. And so it began 🤞🏾
Since that commitment, I’ve been (take a deep breath) a retail sales assistant, stylist, telesales-man, image consultant, stockroom specialist, writer, blogger, actor, club promoter, model (don’t), dancer, graphic designer, creative director, videographer, gardener (stop), marketing executive, radio presenter, music producer, singer, public speaker, digital content creator, presenter, stand-up comedian and workshop facilitator, from what I can remember. I’d switch jobs when things got too boring, or if I got sacked. For having too much fun 🕺🏽
In January of 2008, I entered a national MTV competition called “Pick Me MTV” to become an on-screen news reporter. I created an edutainment show called "Stratford Survival Skills". Out of thousands of online video entries, I was shortlisted in the final 100 and got invited to their studios in Camden to showcase my skills in front of celebrity judges Trevor Nelson, Alesha Dixon, and Emma Willis. I got down to the last 20 but didn’t win, Laura Whitmore did, and her career took off. However, the feedback and feeling that I experienced was great. I was hooked. I had found my thing and decided that I wanted to be a presenter, working within entertainment. It sounded fun 🙌🏾
I then put all my focus into honing this craft. I started with a comedy vox pop show on Youtube called UK Talk To Me , then progressed to hosting live stages, before trying stand up for a few years. During this time I also created a lot of edutainment shows/brands (all outlined by the thumbnails on the home page, under my showreel). I’ve been signed to and eventually left three different agents, had many TV/radio meetings and have self-cut over fifteen showreels in ten years. I’ve been racking up experience and getting better at what I do, yet haven’t had any TV opportunities in the UK. Interesting 🧐. I digress…
While on this journey, I’ve experienced the near full spectrum of human emotion; happiness, self-doubt, joy, exhilaration, jealousy, fear, anxiety, bliss, shame, loneliness, the list goes on. Now here’s the thing, although the journey has been exciting, due to my explorative nature and the inability to stay in one place for too long, it wasn’t always lucrative. Companies want commitment. I’m an explorer 🎒
Constant financial pressure led to some of my darkest times, where I’d burn out, break down and cry, questioning my nature. I started to hate my wondering creative spirit, but re-trying became habitual, so I kept going. Then mid-2017, after grinding for nine years (near full-time) as this presenter/comic hybrid kinda dude, the biggest low knocked me for six, leading me to seek psychotherapy, where I began to unpacked everything. Meticulously. Every week. For 18 months.
This is where sh*t got interesting 🔍
Psychotherapy was the first time in my LIFE where I was forced to stop sprinting, take the blinkers off, look around and analyse my life thus far. It taught me the most. I learned about my emotional self, my value systems, my triggers, my unconscious bias, masculine ideals, how my past shapes my present, as well as a load of narratives that I’ve inherited obliviously. The kind of shit we’re not taught at school.
I consumed as much information on emotional intelligence and psychology as possible, with a heavy focus on work from The School of Life. I then stumbled across a TEDx talk by Barbara Sher which led to me to her book Refuse to Choose , where I learned about multi-potentiality; “the ability and preference of a person, particularly one of strong intellectual or artistic curiosity, to excel in two or more different fields”. That was it! I wasn’t a career-commitment phobe, I was a'"multipotentialite", commonly known as a polymath, and I’ve been living in accordance with my own nature. That ‘playful kid' in the classroom was doing what he was designed to do - remain curious, explore and create. I just needed clarity, some support and a little guidance, FFS 😡
SO MUCH WEIGHT WAS LIFTED OFF MY SHOULDERS!
I stopped hating myself and started to slowly re-celebrate my creative curiosity. I kept unpacking in psychotherapy.
OK, so now I understand my nature and how it came about. Nice. But what about my lack of industry career progression? If i've been reading all the relevant books, locking in all the good work habits, working flat out for over a decade and getting better at what I do, why the f*ck was I not progressing? The self help books taught me to be courageous and try new things. They said that if I attack my fears and become good at what I do, then I’d be rewarded. What they didn't tell me however, was that the game is rigged.
This hit me in the tonsils like a ton of bricks covered in cactuses. Ouch.
I learnt the truth; that talent, hard work ethic, tenacity and a positive attitude is useless in a world full of glass ceilings. Society isn't meritocratic. Due to my social class, area of residence and (as much as I don't like to admit it) race, I've been on a treadmill since the start. I lack certain privileges, industry knowledge, access, support and connections. People like myself are up against nepotism, systemic oppression and a lack of real opportunities. I've been trying to kick down a door...painted onto a brick wall. It was both infuriating and consoling, simultaneously. At least I'm not to blame. As that's when people get suicidal.
I took many (many) deep breaths, and after smashing then re-building my garden to channel the anger, I got back to analysing my past efforts for further insight.
I noted down all the past projects that energised me. The ones that really connected with my soul, forcing me to dive in without hesitation. A clear pattern emerged. They all had a very strong altruistic backbone with an extra focus on community and nurturing self-knowledge. I've been creating what I felt the world needed and in turn inspiring and providing practical solutions to under-represented talent to explore their authentic potential.
Without knowing it, I’ve been fighting for what I personally needed. I learnt that I’ve been on a mission CHAMPIONING THE DREAMERS SINCE 2006. Me being one of them.
And THAT is how I got here 🙌🏾
As you were .
*violently bursts into the running man*