Justin Sylvester —Funny, Unapologetic And Ready For The World!

Justin Sylvester is an admirable LGBTQIA media presence and role model for a new generation. As co-host of E!’s Emmy-nominated “Daily Pop” alongside Morgan Stewart, Justin’s pop-culture commentaries provided viewers with an escape full of his poignant yet relatable opinions, fun conversations, and a whole lot of laughter along the way. 

Curating the top entertainment headlines, Justin has also become a familiar face on TODAY, where he joins a weekly segment with Hoda and Jenna called “The Scoop,” catching them up on the week’s top trending stories.

I recently sat down for an interview with Justin, and it was immediately apparent why he was named on the “OUT 100” list in 2021. His impressive rise in media began with a stint on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” as Kyle Richards’ “ladysitter.” 

His quick wit and small-town likeability made him a fan favorite and led to a co-starring opportunity on ABC Family’s flagship reality show “Beverly Hills Nannies.” It also didn’t hurt that Justin is quite a good-looking young talent, and being easy on the eye is always a plus in the TV game. After appearing in just a few seasons of “Housewives” and “Beverly Hills Nannies,” Justin landed on national programs such as “Today,” “Good Morning America,” “20/20,” and “On-Air with Ryan Seacrest.

As his star continues to rise, Justin remains humble, never forgetting his humble roots and the positive impact LGBTQIA and ethnic representation in media can have on helping society progress more inclusively for everyone.

My interview with Justin Sylvester:

Corey Andrew Powell: 

Justin, thank you for joining me today.

Justin Sylvester: 

Thanks for having me!

Corey Andrew

You are working on multiple shows at once. So, what’s your day like, to get up and have to record all these shows?

Justin Sylvester: 

You know, it’s not as crazy as you would think. I’m fortunate that my shows are live; it’s a blessing and a curse because you do it once – you get in, you get out. There are no re-dos or retakes. No, “Can I do that all over again because I said someone’s name wrong?” You have to accept that there will be mistakes and keep it moving. You know, there were times early in” Daily Pop” when I beat myself up, and so would Twitter. 

Oh, the kids on Twitter would read me. And God knows I’ve messed up a thousand times on my show. But I just learned how to get to a place where I accept that I’m not perfect, keep it moving, and laugh at myself.

Corey Andrew Powell:

Well, you are a pro at this now. You began on Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and then parlayed that into the show Beverly Hills Nannies on ABC. And now here you are co-hosting on E and the Today Show with Hoda — That’s Crazy!

Justin Sylvester: 

Crazy!

Corey Andrew Powell:

You came from a small, Southern town in Louisiana. So how do you get from there – to Beverly Hills?

Justin Sylvester: 

I think it’s all relative, and any success I’m experiencing began with acceptance. I accepted early on that my life would not be fulfilled in my small town in Louisiana. I knew I wanted to be where I was seen and heard and where people would get me, you know? I’m fortunate that there were men on TV who I could look at and say, oh, this person figured it out. RuPaul’s on VHI one, right after Pop Up video at 11 a.m., or Ross Matthews’, who was ‘Gwyneth Paltrow’s gay’ and then went on to be on David Letterman and has etched out a substantial career in television. 

And another example is Queer Eye for the Straight Guy — these were strong examples of gay men on TV making it work, being paid for it, and getting that adoration. That’s when I was like, Okay, I need that. I need to figure out how to get that.

Corey Andrew Powell: 

I read an article about how you were a closeted high school kid who would discretely read The Out Magazine 100. Fast forward to years later, and now you’ve been named on that prestigious list. 

Justin Sylvester:

You know, it’s funny because when I say that I was closeted, I never had any mistakes about who I was. There was never an internal struggle with myself. You know, there was never this like back and forth and push and pull. I knew who I was from day one. I knew at five years old what my jam was. I didn’t know what it was called, but I knew I knew exactly what it was, and I never doubted that I would be able to live a fulfilling life. But it was so funny because I was on a flight, one of my first flights back from San Francisco, and I found a stray Out Magazine sitting in an airport. I just, I took it, I took it, and I put it in my bag, and I waited until, you know, I got to a safe place, like my seat in 32 F, <Laugh> and I read it.

Corey Andrew Powell: 

Okay <Laugh> in the tail of the plane.

Justin Sylvester: 

Yes, I was in the tail of the plane. And I read that thing! Oooooh, I read that. But I made sure it wasn’t in my backpack when I got off the plane. But yeah, it was this crazy moment where I thought, oh, I hope I get to meet a man. I hope I get to meet a man who’s prestigious enough to be in OUT Magazine. I never thought in those moments that I would ever be a part of something like that. I just wanted to meet a dude, be with a guy in Out Magazine, and be proud of that man. And it was so wild that almost 20 years later, they asked me to be on the list, and it was, it was fast, quick. The turnaround was three days to get that photo done. But you could swear I’d been waiting for that thing my whole life like I had been waiting for my bar mitzvah into the gay world. But by the way, let me tell you something, when we’re talking about gay publications and gays accepting other gays, we have marginalized ourselves so much.

Corey Andrew Powell: 

Yes, that is so true.

Justin Sylvester: 

When you’re doing something out there, there’s this saying, “Well, if the gays are into it- first, then everybody else picks it up. And it’s hard for sometimes for gays to give other gays their roses.

Corey Andrew Powell: 

Yeah, of course. There’s a lot of competition. 

Justin Sylvester: 

Yeah, and I had to break that in myself, you know? And it’s just tough because the wave is the wave. Like the girls will like the ‘body girls’ one month, and a year later, the girls want you to be ‘non-binary,’ and a year later, the girls want you to be this or that. But it’s just is what it is. And I never, ever really fit into any of those boxes. So the fact that Out Magazine was like, screw it, “We’re gonna have an array of people from different colors to different backgrounds, to different ethnicities, to different- the way we, we see ourselves,” I was like, this is it! It was just a really great moment for me to have a gay publication say, “You are THAT gay right now!”

Corey Andrew: 

Do you ever get worried about the up-and-comers in television, the competition?

Justin Sylvester: 

Oh, no. I believe in passing that torch — even if I think he might be better than me. Sometimes they’re like, who do you want to replace you? And I will recommend people. I’m not afraid. But many girls are scared to have the younger version of themselves come through. As for me, I hope the younger version comes through and even teaches me a few things, you know? I hope the new kids come in and teach me; give me a challenge.

Corey Andrew Powell: 

It reminds me of the expression about not always needing to be the smartest or, in this case, the youngest person in the room with all the answers. Nurturing and supporting people around you will keep you current and relevant. 

Justin Sylvester: 

Exactly, And by the way, the smartest bitch in the room is never the smartest one, really, anyway. It’s always the one who hires the smartest people around them. Because four other people are making that person look good —that’s always the jam. I’m of the mindset, too, that it’s like monkeys in a barrel. If you get somebody into this door, you never know when they will be in a door, you need to walk through. So you always have to be ready to bet your money on someone who may not be in the same place as you or on the same level. But if you can see the potential in that person and say, okay, I’m going to push you up because at some point you will pass me up, and then I will need you to pull me up.

Corey Andrew Powell:

You’re right. And I think that’s important. Yes. And that also goes back to what you said about how the community can be very divisive. So I love that you’re saying, you know what, within our community, I’m going to try to uplift another LGBTQ person if I can. And if they’re talented. Yeah. And that will be your preference over someone who might not be from the LGBTQ community. And I think that’s okay.

Justin Sylvester:

Oh, for sure. For sure, it is. Because lemme let you know something if a network has in their minds that they want a woman, they’re going to get a woman. It’s not going to be, like, “Oh my God, it’s between this gay guy and this woman.” No, it’s never going to be that, you know? But if someone has in their minds that they want someone from the LGBTQ plus community — it’s happening, whether you like it or not, that’s it. So yeah, but then you’ll hear some people say, “But don’t you think they’re using you, or they’re just, you know, trying to make a quota?” 

Corey Andrew Powell: 

Like tokenizing?

Justin Sylvester: 

Yeah, tokenizing. But I’m like, as long as they’re paying me, I am good. As long as we are all in line, my pay is comparable to the girl next to me, and hers is comparable to the straight guy across from her — as long as we’re in alignment, which is enriching me and my pockets, I’m good. I am Gucci. Because no matter what, if you’re in my line of work, they are looking for something specific. They are. So everybody’s getting tokenized.

 

Update:  E’s “Daily Pop” recently announced the show’s cancelation. Justin can still be seen on ‘Today’ and various other television appearances.


Watch Corey Andrew’s full interview with Justin Sylvester:

 

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