[INTERVIEW] ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith Gives Life Lessons & Career Advice: ‘You’ve Got To Have Alligator Skin’

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He’s opinionated, entertaining and a regular on ESPN First Take, alongside Skip Bayless. Unfortunately, we didn’t talk much about sports (hell, we didn’t want to embarrass ourselves high cappin’ that we’re educated in that arena), but we did chat with Stephen A. Smith about his career and received some pretty dope advice for budding journalists and overall life lessons. Check out our interview:

Jasmine BRAND: I have to ask you about your professional career on television, talking about sports news – what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve received about working in this industry?

Well, first of all – love what you do because it can be incredibly tiring. You got to have alligator skin because you’re looking at instances, situations and scenarios – you’re going to be under attack because people don’t like being talked about. People don’t like feeling like they’re judged. People don’t like the news world, the media, the social media frenzy and all of the things that come with it that exists today. But what I keep my mind on is the fact that I’m an educated black man. I’ve been a journalist for 20 years and most of it has not been on television. I’ve started from the ground up – I’ve had internships. I started as a high school reporter and I worked my way through the trenches. I didn’t come on the screen over night and just, “Wow, here I am!” after not putting in the work. I pounded that pavement, I put in that time, I made $15,000 a year living of tuna fish and Kool-Aid. I know what that’s like. So you know, for me, the trials and tribulations that I endured, the things that I went through to get to where I am today, there was no easy road, there were no shortcuts but I persevered. And I persevered because I love what I do and most of the time it wasn’t even work to me. I enjoy what I do but when you’re going to put in 15, 18, sometimes 20 hours a day, like I do – the key to success is making sure that it doesn’t feel like work, that you’re in a position where you’re making a difference and you’re putting up – you do what you do. That’s what I do.

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Jasmine BRAND:  Give me three pieces of advices for aspiring sports journalists.

Know what you’re talking about, educate yourself! No. 2, love what you do. And No. 3, don’t be scared of adversity. You know, adversity reveals character and it exposes it. You don’t have any thing that you think you have if you haven’t faced some adversity. When you face adversity and you face challenges, you stand up and overcome – that’s when you know you’ve made it, you’ve arrived. Because until that adversity hits you, you just don’t know.

Jasmine BRAND: When was the last time you’ve cried?

The last time I’ve cried? I cried last year. My mother was battling cancer. She beat it but there was a time that we didn’t know whether or not she would and she’s my whole world. I mean, to not have her – eventually it happens to all of us but I can’t imagine. I don’t – my mother is my life blood, my source, my everything. I mean, it don’t matter what else in life because I have my Momma and I know I’m alright.

Jasmine BRAND: Superbowl predictions for next year?

 I don’t have one yet. When I have one, I’m going to say it on ESPN. But I don’t have one yet.

Jasmine BRAND: What does God mean to you?


Watch the full interview below.

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