EdFix Episode 21: The Hollywood Wingwoman - Hope, Heart, and Human Development

TRANSCRIPT

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
I don't just want to leave someone with something tangible, but I like to leave people at least with hope and resources and my number so they can follow up with me as well.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
Welcome to EdFix, your source for insights about the practice and promise of education. I'm Michael Feuer. I'm delighted to be your host and today to be speaking with Caroline Adegun, founder of the Hollywood Wingwoman, which is a nonprofit talent development firm, and she will tell us more about that. And also more recently, a new force on something called Clubhouse, which is a live audio chat app. It is really a pleasure to see you, Caroline. Happy to tell our listeners that Caroline received two degrees from the George Washington University, both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Her master's degree in human resource development from our graduate school of education and human development. But first of all, hello, welcome. It's wonderful to be with you.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Hello.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
So, Hollywood Wingwoman.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Yes.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
Give us a little bit on that.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Yes. I had been at GW my whole adult life, from 17 to 25, when I was given the opportunity to move to Hollywood to do some work with Kevin Hart. And when I was there attending events, I'm a very bold person. I have a very, not shy, very extroverted personality, but I also do not know celebrities whatsoever. So I was literally walking up to celebrities as you would a neighbor and just talking to them, asking them who they were and a really funny incident. One of them was just so shocked that I didn't know who they were and wanted to take a photo with me. And it turned out to be John Travolta, and I was-

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
John Travolta?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
He was like, "Have you not seen-

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
And did you do a good selfie?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Yeah, I do have a good selfie. I'll send you-

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
Well, you're going to send it to me.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Yes. And he's like, "Have you not watched Greece?" And I was like, "No." But he was so happy and humbled that someone didn't know who he was. And at that point I just became known as someone who attended red carpet events and just meeting a lot of entertainers and a lot of people who are just naturally shy at social events. And I wasn't, I was like, "I'm literally the female Hitch. I could do this as a career." So I decided to become a professional wingwoman. And since then on 2016 I've been offering wingwoman services to people who struggle with social anxiety to help them build their competence to network in social settings. So people who are looking to date, make friends, as well as new business owners who are just shy and need support marketing their products, getting their services out there. I attend events with them, and that is the Hollywood Wingwoman.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
I've been to California a bunch of times, I have never bumped into a celebrity.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Oh, I wasn't bumping into them. I was working for Kevin Hart.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
You were working for Kevin Hart, I see.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
I'm very social, so I was making friends. So me just naturally being friendly to celebrities and treated them like the normal people that they are, I just started to be invited to industry events.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
Some of our listeners I'm sure are already beginning to ask themselves, "What does this have to do with education?" And I think I know part of the answer.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Yeah.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
That education is a very experiential kind of phenomenon, and that both teachers and students and learners of all ages have to get over certain amounts of social constraints and deal with environments. And so there is a connection here.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Absolutely. When I talk about human development and adult learning, for a lot of people social anxiety gets in the way of so many aspects of their lives. Their personal lives, their career lives. And knowing that some people need a hand holding experience. I don't just attend these events with people and then help them meet people and then leave them. It's really the teach someone how to fish concept. So I'm teaching my clients how to build their confidence so that they can do this on their own eventually. So for a lot of them, a lot of them just spending a few weeks with me attending multiple events, competence is contagious. And when you see someone interacting with someone and not being shut down, or it takes away that pressure for others to see that people are friendly and that you have value to add to every room that you enter and you have a unique story. And so empowerment, confidence building is something that is very important to my brand and to me as a person. And that's really what the Hollywood Wingwoman stands on.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
Do you think to some extent that confidence is something you're born with?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
It is passed down by generation. My confidence comes from my culture. I'm Nigerian and we are just signaturely really known to be a very confident, but also prideful, sometimes arrogant culture. But I know my confidence comes from being Nigerian. My mom is very confident. My dad is very confident. Just as you can pass down generational trauma, there's some good qualities that you can pass down to your children as well.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
So say a little bit more about the Nigeria. Were you born there or in the States?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
No, I was born here. I'm first generation in America. So my parents came here when they were in their 20s. Very huge part. I understand the language, my parents don't speak to me in English. They speak to me in Yoruba, but I don't speak it. But I could if I tried, but it wouldn't be good.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
Did you find as a young person growing up, Nigerian, black, in the United States that you had to overcome certain kinds of barriers because of those differences? Is that an understatement?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
I have talked about this. For all weekend I've been talking about this. Yes, what barriers haven't I had to overcome? It's unfortunate that I ever have to, even while working at GW and being in school that I would ever have to wonder if I'm not getting an opportunity because of my race. It's devastating. A few days ago I talked about cultural mental health issues. There's some cultures that as a culture we have mental health issues that we have to deal with. When I don't get job interviews I always have to wonder if it's because of my race. It's unfortunate.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
And you know, the way I'm coping with it is, as I've shared with you, I'm a very God affirming God loving person. And there was no mistake in me being born, who I am, the race that I am in this country. I've always shied away from race relations, because I never wanted to be the one to have to take on that responsibility. But with my new community, we are now at 31,000. I think I was at 20,000 when I talked to you. As a few days ago we are at 31,000. So you will see more from me speaking on race relations than I've ever had.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
But when you say the 31,000. Now this is with your new venture?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Yeah, so Clubhouse is an app that I believe launched April of last year. They've been in beta and just have slowly been bringing people on through invite. So there's about a few 100,000 on now, and it is a live podcast app. So it's somewhat like going to TED Talks and there's people on stage, but you're represented by your image in a bubble. So you actually see bubbles at the top, that's the stage, and then bubbles at the bottom. And it's audio, so you unmute your mic, mute your mic, unmute your mic. You can come on stage if you want, or you can stay in the audience. So it is a way for people globally to come together and have conversations. So you'll see people on Clubhouse all throughout the day, no matter what time. People from Dubai, Australia, everywhere. And they allow you the opportunity to create clubs. That's why it's called Clubhouse, so you're able to create your own club.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
So I one night I was going through Clubhouse. It was early morning. I spend my mornings in prayer and worship with God, and I just didn't find anything faith-based, it was just all a bunch of rooms that weren't faith-based. And then in my spirit I felt led to start a club. So I started a club with a few of my friends, just like five of us, to do wake up in the morning and do devotionals. You know, it's been, being quarantined alone has been particularly hard on me. And a lot of us are dealing with pandemic fatigue right now, and it's having a lot of mental, emotional consequences.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
So first of all, the Clubhouse app is so timely that I literally when I feel alone, I can just get onto this app and I know people are there. And there's people there to talk to about different topics. Today is our two month anniversary. We just hit 60 days today. And every morning for the last 60 days I've been waking up at three in the morning to get ready to host our morning devotional, which is ministry by way of fellowship. So from being in my master's program and just learning the different ways that people learn, peer education is huge. And so this isn't, my platform, my club is not one where it's just me speaking. I briefly give an overview of the topic, a devotional, and then I have discussion prompts. So then we invite people to the audience, to the stage. One of those discussion prompts, if the topic for the day is patience I'll start out with a devotional on patience, what the Bible says about patience, and then have people come and talk about, for example, what are some times where you did not exercise patience, and how did that impact you?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
What are some strategies that help you become more patient? So we are having self-reflections. And now within 60 days, I think today we hit 32,000, from eight to 32,000 in 60 days. And I met my members for the first time via Zoom today. Because normally we meet via audio on the app and I decided to have a Zoom party. And I was crying, like just everyone was crying. It was so emotional because to have a community of people who love you that you don't know that are strangers around the world that really love you and that you meet with every day when you've been struggling with depression or suicidal ideations, it's just so meaningful to people. So I got to meet my members face-to-face today.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
And how many of them typically get on every morning?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Yeah, I would say our most we're probably had 400.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
Wow.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
400 at a time, but different people. Some people are like regulars and then others aren't, so yeah.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
You know, it's kind of interesting that you've been able to do this and also motivated to do this, partly because of the loneliness of the pandemic. And if we didn't have the pandemic and we didn't have all of this kind of all these reasons to get online all the time, you might not have these 30,000 new friends.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
No way. If I didn't leave corporate America on October 1st, I would not have had the time to do this whatsoever. And people wouldn't have been on the Clubhouse app. It wouldn't have been popular if it wasn't for this pandemic, and people having had lost their jobs and having more time and being at home doing nothing is why it's so popular.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
So that's kind of reassuring, even though I wish we didn't have to do it as a kind of reaction to this horrible pandemic. But it is nice to see that people are getting together.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
And my community being a value of mine became prominent while I was at GW. So I was actually the work-life and wellness specialist, which is GW's employee engagement department. And my mentor, Erica Hagan, I want to say her name, because she took me on as a freshman, as an intern. And then when I graduated she advocated for me to get a job as a recruiter. And then she brought me back into her department as an adult. And I am applying so much of what we created at GW into this online community. So at GW we had the Proud to be GW Festival. So we do virtual family reunions through Clubhouse. At GW we had a bi-annual baby shower, which was a strategic way to celebrate new parents, but to let them know what benefits information they needed to know. So on Clubhouse I'm going to be doing a quarterly baby shower, bring on lactation consultants, other parents to give advice. Everything I've learned from GW is being applied to this community.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
When you say you start the morning with a devotional, give us a little bit of a flavor of that?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
So morning devotionals, similar to affirmations devotionals are about a variety of topics that we go through as people. And they recenter it back to you shifting your perspective on God and purpose. So for me, when we open up the room, so when I open up the Clubhouse in the morning every day, we moved it to 6:00 AM now, PST, there's music playing, allowing people to get into the room. And then my friend Shaday opens us up in prayer. And then I present, I read the devotional and usually ... I create the devotionals. I reflect what our needs are of our members and then create the topics. And then I look for biblical verses and empowerment and other resources and tips and make that into a devotional that I read to set the tone of the conversation. And then I look for self-reflection and self-exploring questions and discussion prompts that are then presented to our members.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
We did a therapy, a topic on therapy last week, which was very emotional, because I myself was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2015. I'm just starting to talk about it now because it was the most horrible time of my life. But I have used my own experience. I know that I went through depression and I went through mental health issues so that I could really connect with others going through it. Because others tell me that because I've gone through it and I'm out of it I serve as an example that they will get out of it too., and that that's not the end for them. And I talk a lot about, I no longer call that season of my life depression, I call it my cocoon. And a lot of the time there's a quote that says, "The caterpillar thought the world was over, until it became a butterfly." Sorry, I tend to go on motivationally.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
This is so wonderful. I wish, our podcast is of course only audio, but I wish people could see also your enthusiasm and your spirit and your energy.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
And to mention, just so you know, Clubhouse is an audio app that allows us to meet and talk, but that there is no features to build community. So I have built our own community off of Clubhouse, which is www.butgod.community for our members to meet, to post, to share resources, to put prayer requests and testimonies. And so our members, we're really, our community is really building on that social media platform. And I like to say we are a virtual safe haven for people who love God and love others, to me.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
I do want to just touch on a couple of other things so people get to know you through this short little audio clip that they will have. The Lion's Den LA, tell us, what motivated that and what that's going to be about?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Yeah. When I initially moved to LA with the project work, I had to come back to D.C. to finish my masters, because I had dropped out because I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I knew that I had a calling in LA. I had started the Hollywood Wingwoman, had met so many homeless entertainers, who they moved to Hollywood, and they have to choose between eating or acting classes, or headshots or rent. And LA is very expensive, so it's hard to make it here. So I moved back, I could have stayed at my mother's house after my master's program and had looked for work and it started a regular nine to five job. But I made the choice and I moved to LA and I was homeless. And I was homeless and I had shelter, but I was living in an artist house with 40 other artists and one bathroom. And I was undercover a struggling artist, because I wanted to get to know what they needed. What are resources that you need to thrive in LA?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
And I took everything I learned from them, and I then developed the ... I just launched the Hollywood Wingwoman Talent, we're a 501(c)(3). And I'm in the process, my biggest goal this year is to purchase a home in Hollywood where we can house 10 entertainers, low-income and homeless entertainers twice a year, provide all of their survival needs and a space for them to focus on their talent and their skill. And the goal is to reverse this narrative of being a struggling artist and help entertainers, when they come to Hollywood they're starting out in luxury and with everything they need, and really being able to focus on their talent.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
So we are currently fundraising for this home. It's going to have a recording studio, a dance studio, five double bedrooms, a fully stocked kitchen, a dining room area so that we can have dinner together as a family. And we're going to have industry events there. And my goal is to become a premier. We are the first nonprofit entertainment talent development firm and training facility and home for low-income and homeless individuals in the history of Hollywood. There's some unique things that you need to know to be in entertainment. What does it look like to create commercially viable content? Performance, excellence, getting a good manager, your brand, your image, finances, emotional health and wellness in entertainment. I'm currently becoming a public figure and it takes a toll on you mentally. So when you are in entertainment, you need to be developed and develop the strength to deal with the public, being in the public eye.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
And the people who you've already been able to help with this, they're comedians, singers, actors, dancers. What kind of-

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Yep, models.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
Models.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
I would love to tell you all about something that happened two days ago.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
Please.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
I was at the beach and these brothers approached me who were asking me to buy candy from them because they wanted to buy equipment for their own studio. So create their own social media studio. And it broke my heart that these two young black men are here at the beach every day, having to sell candy to afford to buy a ring light, or a tripod, or just simple stuff. And so I asked them, I just transitioned from corporate America to being self-employed, I'm financially restrained myself as a new CEO. And I had just cashed out my stimulus check and I had asked them, "How much do you usually make doing this?" And they told me, and I paid each of them the amount to sit with me. To sit with me, I want to hear your story.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
And it's on my Instagram and these two young boys, so well-spoken were like, "Our house burned down and we're just trying to help our parents. We live in a hotel right now. So if we become social media stars, we could help our parents." And I recorded them. And I knew I had this amazing community that I have now. I was like, "I'm going to record you all and I'm going to share this video so that my community can help you." But I also, I'm glad because not only can I help them tangibly, I just signed them as the first clients to my nonprofit agency. So I'm going to be their brand consultant, and I'm going to make them millionaires.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
I'm saying that out loud and putting it into the world that these two little boys are going to be millionaires. And that was ordained. That whole encounter was ordained because now people are stepping ... People have sent me ring lights and tripods and phones for them, for them to use to my house, to give to them. And I'm really big on, I don't just want to leave someone with something tangible, but I like to leave people at least with hope and resources and my number so they can follow up with me as well.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
What kind of talents do you see in these two boys?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Actors. They do TikTok a lot. They love acting and music and dancing.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
And so in the Lion's Den, when you have, this will be a real physical home-

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
House.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
It's a house. You don't have it yet, but you're working toward that?

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Fundraising has been slow, but I'm hoping someone will buy the house for us and just say, "Here's a house." That's my hope. And if I could just touch before we end, my community, well I love the ministry, which is the outreach arm of my community. On Valentine's Day we spread love to the homeless community every year. So I've been funding that myself. So every year we go to Skid Row and we sit with the homeless, talk to them, give them hugs, give them roses and cupcakes and dance with them and just shower them with love. And so this year, because of COVID, I'm having to figure out how we can do it safely. I have been funding that outreach myself with my own salary for the last three years. And now that I'm full-time self-employed, I'm seeking people to sponsor what we need for that.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
So we're in need of a food truck for the day so that we can do socially distance outreach. We're in need of a megaphone so that we can yell out words of encouragement and prayers out of the megaphone. I need a stick so we can hand people stuff at a distance, and cupcakes and flowers, and MantraBand always donate some bracelets, encouraging bracelets. So just looking for people, if people want to sponsor those specific items, that will be awesome. Like, "Let me buy the cupcakes or the flowers." I would love that.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
It's our fifth anniversary and some people, because of COVID they would just say, "We're just not doing it." But this day of love is the only thing that has been consistent in my whole life my last five years. The only thing that has been consistent and I can't not do it. And if no one does it, I'm going to figure out a way for me to, if no one donates, I'm still going to do it. But it'll be great if people do donate so that we can ... So many, the homeless right now, the love has been reduced because of COVID. So many people aren't doing outreach like they used to, and they're still there. They're still homeless and they're still there. So this day is going to be so special for so many of them.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
If people want to know more about the project and your work, the website, if they could Google Hollywood Wingwoman, they'll find you.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Yes, thehollywoodwingwoman.com.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
Okay, terrific.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
If people want to donate to our day of love or to the Lion's Den LA, which is our entertainment development house, they can do so through Cash App. Give to, IAMLOVED is a cash app, or you can email me at caroline@thehollywoodwingwoman.com, and I can reach back.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
Well, I have a funny feeling that people who have tuned into this podcast are going to start looking up LA Hollywood Wingwoman pretty quick.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Yay.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
I hope they do. And I just want to thank you, because this has been an utterly enriching and enthralling and energizing interview and conversation. And we're very proud of you because of who you are. And the fact that you went to GW also makes us proud of you. You're a part of our family and we love you. And we wish you very, very well-

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Oh, I love you too.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
... in all of your endeavors. People who have listened to this and want to know more, they can subscribe to the EdFix Podcast. It's on iTunes and Spotify, iHeartRADIO, Player FM, other places where you listen to your podcasts. We also have a website called edfixpodcast.com on behalf of our production crew, which includes the executive producer, director, engineer, technical coordinator, editor, and the microphone maven, Touran Waters. We thank you for being with us for this episode of EdFix-

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Thank you.

MICHAEL J. FEUER:
... and we will see you soon and stay healthy and long life.

CAROLINE ADEGUN:
Thank you, you too. Thank you so much.