'Queer Eye' star Karamo Brown remembers being told he was too black, too gay and too poor to achieve his dreams, but he did it anyway
Karamo Brown knows something about success.
The Queer Eye star was one of several celebs who shared what he’s learned with 16,000 students at WE Day California on Thursday at the Forum in Los Angeles.
Brown urged them to ignore the haters, because he remembered being told he was too black, too gay and too poor to achieve his dreams of working in fashion or even politics.
“But luckily, as I was finishing high school, I heard something that changed my life forever,” Brown said. “I heard, ‘Stop being afraid of the word ‘no.’ I realized that every time someone said that I wasn’t going to be able to do something, they were basically telling me ‘no.’ And what I know to be true about every human being is that when we hear the word ‘no,’ we start to believe we aren’t good enough.”
He told the young activists, who each earned their ticket to the event by taking action on a local or global issue, that they should use the negative feedback to fuel their dreams.
“Believe me, the word ‘no’ is actually helping you to get the life you want,” Brown said. “Anytime you are told the word ‘no,’ you have to think of it as a stepping stone toward the life you want. Trust me. I know it’s easier to get a yes, but… ‘no’ is actually getting you one step closer to your dreams. Each ‘no’ is a lesson.”
NBA legend and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told students that knowledge is power.
“Accumulate as much of it as you can and use that knowledge to make the world right, the way you see it to be right,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “That’s all, just take that power and use it the right way.”
He advised them to resolve their differences with respect.
“If we have to change some people’s minds, we’re not going to change their minds with our anger,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “We’re gonna change their minds with our rational complaint that makes sense. So we speak to them with respect, and if they listen with respect, we’re gonna get a whole lot done.”
He continued: “You’ve got to respect the people that you have to change. So, have the patience and take the time to talk to them like you respect them and, if you do that, they’re gonna respect you and listen to you and maybe understand what you’re complaining about. Then, that’s how you guys can change things. It takes time and it takes patience and it takes respect.”
In her time onstage, British supermodel Naomi Campbell led the students in saying, “Never give up.”
“We need to set goals for ourselves and then work on achieving them day and night, and never get disheartened if they don’t come right away,” Campbell said. “Never let anyone bring you down and never let anyone make you feel like giving up. So I’m gonna say to you, never give up.”
Campbell emphasized the importance of hard work and dedication.
“Once you do decide which way you want to go, just go for it. There’s no hesitation. Do everything 110 percent with conviction,” she said. “It’s a hard road to travel sometimes. It’s not always… you know, you don’t want anything that comes easy, because then it goes easy.”
Campbell cited her late close friend and adopted grandfather, anti-apartheid activist and South African President Nelson Mandela, as well as female education activist Malala Yousafzai and former first lady Michelle Obama, as examples of people who persevered and changed the world.
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