LA Style sits down with Ernest White II, host and co-executive producer of the forthcoming FLY BROTHER series on PBS .
We still hope to ignite your curiosity while currently stationary due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why–while we try to #flattenthecurve at home– we will be interviewing all sorts of game-changers, entrepreneurs, and inspiring individuals in the travel sphere.
OB: Tell us about your passion for travel how it began? Was this always a passion?
EW: My passion for travel started off at a very young age. I love geography, languages, culture, maps, flags, and anything having to do with places and people.
Reading books about different countries excited me. And I was fascinated by signs printed in Spanish on our frequent trips to Disney World when I was a kid.
I’d say that natural curiosity ended up carrying me to over 70 countries around the world. It was bolstered early on, though, by my parents and grandparents and my teachers, who stoked my desire to learn and explore. Once I took my first trip overseas at 16–I was a foreign exchange student in Sweden–I was hooked.
OB: How has being African American and openly gay in the travel industry impacted your business success? Did you feel you had to prove yourself or overcome?
EW: There may have been some prejudices that I’ve unknowingly come up against within the travel industry. However, no one has ever been overt in their prejudice towards me. I have heard stories from my fellow travel journos of color, and the travel industry, like many others, still struggles with diversity and representation.
In the cases where there might have been a bit of “funniness” about why I wasn’t chosen for an assignment or to speak at a conference, or where I was given the cold shoulder at a convention, I’ve had to remember the strengths and assets that I carry with me. I have to appreciate them, especially when others don’t.
OB: What professional advice would you give your younger self?
EW: I’d tell my younger self to engage more on social media, keep up that email list, and be sure to floss.
OB: Tell us about FLY BROTHER and how it differentiates from competing shows.
EW: FLY BROTHER is focused on friendship, connection, and the global community. Other travel shows incorporate a component of interaction with other people, of course, but they may be centered around food or dance or tracing your ancestry.
A show about human connection naturally includes those things as well, and I see my series as complementing those other shows. There is no competition; we all have important stories to tell.
OB: Who are you marketing towards? How do you market?
EW: We hope to engage anyone eager to go out into the world and connect with people, no matter the background or backstory. In a time when technology has brought us closer together than ever before, we have the opportunity to commune and communicate with people from every part of the world.
I want to spark that desire in people who haven’t considered that type of global connection and stoke it in people who already believe that the whole world is our tribe.
OB: What are you doing to grow your business outside of broadcasting?
EW: The mission of FLY BROTHER is to help people transform their lives through travel and friendship. Once we’ve gotten the all-clear to travel again, we’ll be taking small groups of people to our featured destinations. There, they’ll get to interact with the community and build their own network of friends, associates, romantic partners, whatever.
We’re also creating a membership community to help people around the world engage digitally and begin building communities online that they can take offline. We have merchandise, AR and VR guides, and immersive technologies. Actually, we have all types of fly, unique experiences coming down the pike, aisle, jetbridge, runway…haha!
OB: Where do you see FLY BROTHER as a company in five years? Ten years?
EW: FLY BROTHER provides an opportunity to build bridges beyond borders, and I certainly see us continuing with, dare I say, the fifth season of the show come Year 5. By then, I can also see several spin-offs happening, focused on bringing people who never thought they’d travel out into the world, transforming it and themselves at the same time.
We’ve got a few service initiatives that we’ll also be launching, including a project to increase the number of passport-holders in underserved communities in the South. In ten years, who knows? Maybe the show will be called SPACE BROTHER.
OB: How had the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the show? Do you think it is an appropriate time to promote travel?
EW: All the footage for Season One was in the can when COVID-19 altered life as we knew it, so we’ve only had to make some adjustments in the post-production process. We’re on hold, as is most of the planet, when it comes to filming Season Two, but we’re prepared to take off as soon as it’s possible.
I actually believe we promote friendship and connection more than we promote travel as an industry. But we will travel again, no doubt, and it’s our duty to keep the cross-cultural conversations happening. This may only be digitally, until we can safely and responsibly take flight once again.
OB: What is your advice for creatives hoping to break into travel broadcast? What shouldn’t they do?
EW: Don’t doubt yourself. Start wherever you are, with a podcast or videos, just to get used to the process and atmosphere of broadcasting. Definitely take courses or find a coach to help sharpen your talents. Even elite athletes and musicians have coaches.
Now is a great time to lay the groundwork and start building a brand that can be expanded when travel becomes possible again.
OB: Finally, where can we tune into FLY BROTHER?
EW: FLY BROTHER with Ernest White II debuts on PBS affiliates nationwide starting April 30th, but start dates and times vary depending on each local station’s schedule. We’ll list the scheduled dates and times on our website, flybrother.net.
In Southern California, you can contact KOCE, KCET, and KVCR to find out when they plan to broadcast the show. FLY BROTHER with Ernest White II is also airing on PBS’s cable network, Create TV, nationwide this summer. Check your local listings!
Interested in more #COVID interviews with LA Style? Check out our interview with Tara Cappel, founder of FTLO Travel.