From YouTube to Primetime TV: Antonette Lovett Has Eyes Set for Media Stardom

In the day of Internet virality, it’s easily possible to become an instant superstar. Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube have taken over billboards, magazines, and newspapers. Studies prove it – the percentage of adults getting actual news from social media is staggering. Social media offers an abundance of opportunities, especially for those seeking exposure within the entertainment industry. You don’t necessarily need thousands of dollars and years’ worth of connections to pitch a TV show – you produce it yourself and share it on YouTube.

Nashville’s Antonette Lovett is capitalizing on this opportunity.

The Tennessee State University alumna has always recognized her natural talent for media. With a little extra push from professors and supporters, she’s officially launched her very own show: Cocktails and Convos.

Netta and I chatted about the origin of the show, her long-term vision for its growth, and overcoming fear of social acceptance.

This conversation has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Origin of the Show

How’d you come up with the initial idea for Cocktails and Convos?

When I was at TSU I produced three different radio shows. It was something I loved to do, so I always wanted to have a show. Originally, I didn’t want to be the face of the segment, I only wanted to produce the content. But, it was a struggle finding anybody who would take it as seriously as I would so I figured I’d just do it myself.

This wasn’t a passion that started at TSU. Even in high school, me and Audrey [Stewart – the funniest person in LA. Laugh at her jokes.] talked about having a show all the time.

I just kept coming back to this. My mentor at TSU knew that I wanted to do something like this and she’d always ask me, “Why aren’t you doing it? What’s the issue?” I think that I let my fear stop me from doing it for a long time. I graduated, got a good job, but still felt like there was something else that I should be doing.

Even talking about the show gets me excited! That’s why I know for a fact that this is what I’m meant to do. I just have to keep working.

When I watched the first episode, it seemed to have the same format as a podcast.

That’s because this was originally supposed to be a podcast. It eventually transformed into what it is now. I happened to know a camera guy who could edit video really well, so I figured I’d just let it be a YouTube series. It was like trial and error with these first three shows – I had a lot to learn and now it’s to a point where I see where this could possibly go. It’s been a process but it’s been interesting all at the same time.

There’s definitely something special about visuals. I love podcasts, but I always want to know what the hosts look like or what they’re laughing at in any given moment!

Right! You want a visual. You want to know who you’re hanging out with. People could be like, “this girl has a strong voice, I wonder what she looks like!” I figured I’d go ahead and show my face to share this blessing real quick! [Laughs.]

I know that’s right, girl! Tell me a little bit about your new segment partner.  

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I’m so excited about Terrance B. – he’s going to bring a pretty broad audience. He’s so smart and he brings so much to the table.

I consider Terrance to be the subtle life of the party. He’s not extra, but you definitely won’t miss his presence! He says what he means and means what he says. Whatever he doesn’t say vocally, you can read in his facial expressions! He’s also a little older so I think he’ll be a little wiser on certain subjects.

I’m really excited to have him on because I know he’ll bring a new perspective and help the show grow. He always takes the concept seriously.  When you’re investing yourself into something that you believe is going to be great, you have to have a partner who is just as passionate about it as you are. Otherwise, it won’t work.

When you’re investing yourself into something that you believe is going to be great, you have to have a partner who is just as passionate about it as you are. Otherwise, it won’t work.

Do you think TSU prepared you much to do this or was it mostly organic learning since you’ve always had a natural talent for entertainment?

I have to give TSU credit for all of this. I have an amazing support system there that’s just a call away. I think going there and having that support is why I was able to get off my feet and do this. They all believed in me. It’s amazing.

Outside of that support, TSU actually gave me the knowledge that I needed to do interviews and produce shows. I can’t say it enough!

That’s dope! The fact that you studied something related to your passion is cool, I don’t think that’s not the norm. People get stuck into what their parents tell them to do.

No matter what you study or whether you find a job in your field after school, I look back and realize that I gained so much from TSU. I learned so many life lessons. This is a part of my testimony! I don’t have a job in my field right now but I’m working everyday to find the next thing that I need to do to get to that point. You have to have a lot of self talks to tell yourself it’ll be okay.

“Girl, calm down.”

[Laughs.] Man! Like, “you’re spazzing for no reason!”

Long-term Vision for Growth

What’s the long game then? When will you consider Cocktails and Convos a success? 

Honestly, when it gets picked up by a network. My dream is to have a late night talk show on a a major network, all based on the success of my YouTube series. I can see this 10 years from now because by then I’ll have a growth in tools and resources.

So you’re trying to pull an Issa Rae?

Literally! Issa Rae is my inspiration for daily life! I watch all of her YouTube shows, I’m so into it. I remember the first time I saw Awkward Black Girl and I thought she was so weird, but she was funny enough to make it somewhere. After following her all of this time, I want somebody else to feel the same way about me as I felt about Issa. “This girl did a YouTube series how many years ago, and now she’s on a network!” How crazy would that be?

Even coming from Indiana!

Exactly! In Indiana you can’t get anybody to think outside of the box. They’re focused on what they can do for the now, nobody thinks about the future.

There’s a little bit of growth there, though. Have you heard about Chreece festival?

No, what’s that?

It’s a music festival in Fountain Square where artists come together and support each other. Not just musicians, but all kinds of artists. It was the last hope I had for our hometown because it showed that people can be open-minded and supportive.

See, I love that! Another one of my goals is to host a networking event here in Nashville. I want to connect young entrepreneurs with experienced ones. We get discouraged easily and need reassurance so I think it’s necessary to have an experienced group speak up and help the up and coming. Even just words of encouragement!

Once you start something you might as well keep going. The hard part is putting yourself out there. Once you’ve done that, the rest is just working.  I’ve been working towards figuring that out and I hope to have it together by the beginning of the year.

Do you think Nashville is a good setting for your show or do you think you need to go somewhere bigger?

Nashville is growing so fast, so I think it’s a good setting for now. A lot of my resources are here and it’s easier to grow something here in Nashville than it would’ve been back in Indiana. I have to work a little harder since it’s growing, but if I were to go to Atlanta I feel like I’d have to work even harder.

You could have opportunities anywhere, you just have to find them! In fact, bigger cities are harder because the opportunities are being taken by people who are already poppin.

Exactly. That’s so true – when people get to big cities, they assume they’ll be successful because so-and-so made it there. But so-and-so probably had to go through so much to get to that point and they’ve already made their way in. Now you’re starting literally from the bottom and you’re trying to make it. You could’ve done that already in the city that you’re in.

So you’ll stay in Nashville awhile?

For sure – at least for 3-4 years while I get my Masters. I want to get my MBA because I already know the media side but if I want to take this concept seriously I need to understand the business and branding. I don’t know much about that. I’m going back to school to brush up and know what I’m talking about.

Overcoming Fear of Social Acceptance

What helped to stop your initial fear of producing the show?

I’m still scared. Everyday! When I put something new out, I’m terrified!

What are you so scared of?

When you’re an artist and you’re putting something out there, you’re scared of how people will receive it. I’m not sure how they’re going to like it – I don’t know if I’m doing too much or not enough! Really, the power of prayer helps me overcome my fears. I can’t let my fears stop me from doing what I want to do. If I keep being scared, I’m never going to have the opportunity to grow. It’s either be scared or make the move. I think it’s worth it to make the move.

It also helps that my mom was on me. She kept saying, “you know, you’re talking about this a lot, but you’re not doing anything!” You know you get sick of hearing your mom talk about it! If she keeps saying something, I guess I really need to make something shake.

If I keep being scared, I’m never going to have the opportunity to grow.

That’s awesome that your parents support you and take you seriously! A lot of parents don’t understand why you would pursue something creative.

The crazy thing is it took awhile for her to understand. When I was in school she’d be like, “what do you mean you’re going to do an interview? Why are you going to school for this?” The generation before us is so focused on earning a good corporate job and growing within the company. It was a transition for her to understand that this is something that I care about.

It takes a great deal of convincing people when you have a truly original idea.

Yes! For sure.

We all kind of look for that extra reassurance from friends and family… makes us believe in ourselves a little bit more.

Exactly! I had to make sure that the idea didn’t just sound good to me.

End of interview. 

What’s most admirable about Antonette is the strong recognition of her own fear, but her determination to risk the failure anyway. Antonette is living proof that no matter how far you pursue your passions, fear of acceptance is always looming. Twitter will have you believe that the most successful dream-chasers found success after they stopped caring. On the contrary, true creators use this concern as fuel to drive the quality content that they release. Even Netta’s role model, Issa Rae, reads black Twitter’s weekly Insecure commentary to drive her next writing session.

Antonette has the guts to stare her fears in the face just long enough to hit the Upload button on YouTube. No matter how many views or likes Cocktails and Convos generates, the fear won’t walk away. Instead, Netta’s self-confidence in her own dream will continue to grow. This perseverance is solidly admirable. And, quite honestly, it’s enough alone to garner my unlimited support.

Whether or not you have enough courage to put fears and societal acceptance aside, you can learn something else from Antonette’s Cocktails and Convos initiative: there’s power in a supportive team.

Antonette recognizes the importance of supporters and back-spotters. These are folks who will encourage you more than you’re willing to encourage yourself. Their talents complement your own skills so when you fall short, there’s always someone to pick up the slack.

Cocktails and Convos is for the culture, with a mission to serve as the platform for cultural news and A1 happy hour recipes. The strong black woman (and Indiana native) as the face of the future network television show is just the cherry on top.

Tune in to the show.

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