ESSENCE.COM: Don't let Nick Cannon's baby face fool you. He's a grown-behind-man with grown-behind-responsibilities as the chairman of TeenNick (formerly known as Nickelodeon). But he's not your average fuddy-duddy-white-collar dude, Cannon, who jump-started his career as a comedian, actor, producer and writer, will manage to do close-ups on camera, get busy behind the lens, and do a little Web work. ESSENCE.com caught up with Cannon, who turns 30 next month, to talk prophecy, how he's preparing for fatherhoood, and why discovering the fountain of youth works for him.
ESSENCE.COM: Mr. Cannon, it appears that you were destined to head TeenNick, especially since it now bears your first name. How prophetic is that?
NICK CANNON: (Laughs.) It's just one of those things. If I was named Babs I don't think it could have worked, so it had to be in the making. No, seriously, I'm grateful for the opportunity because I consider them family because they gave me my first opportunity when I was 17. Now, at 28, it allows me to explore it through different eyes. It's my training and playing ground.
ESSENCE.COM: All work and no play isn't the move. Is that how you stay connected to the young'ns?
CANNON: I try to stay in tune as much as I can. It's one of the reasons I continue to deejay at nightclubs and I'm always on the Internet because I like to be in the know and on the verge of the next thing. Every aspect of my life focuses on staying in the know and I don't plan to lose that any time soon. It's definitely one of my assets to be that ultimate tastemaker. I'm not taking any of this for granted nor am I taking it too seriously. When I was younger things always seemed like they were life or death but now that I've mature I know that as long as you wake up every morning you have a chance to make things happen for the better.
ESSENCE.COM: Indeed, but this is also great preparation for fatherhood.
CANNON: Absolutely. To be in a leadership position at a corporation allows you to understand the kind of management skills that can also be useful in parenting. You learn when you have to be stern and when to let things roll off your back. I'm the oldest of five kids so even before this job I was raising kids because I grew up with my grandmother and as the eldest it was my duty to keep an eye on everyone else.
ESSENCE.COM: And you continue to look out for teenagers by acknowledging their service to the community through the TeenNick Halo Award. How essential is it to pay a respectful nod?
CANNON: TeenNick Halo Award recognizes everyday teens. More importantly than that this generation is more in tune with service and making the world a better place way more than we give them credit. We always want to entertain them with celebrity and gossip but when you really do the research this generation really wants to get out there and inspire others and the only way you can do that is by giving them more opportunities.
ESSENCE.COM: It's all about paying it forward. So before you go, have you finally grown into your youthful appearance?
CANNON: (Laughs.) It used to bother me and get on my nerves when I was 21 and looked 15 but now I'm happy to look the way I do, and it works for me.
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