Tuesday, July 31, 2012

INTERVIEW: Justin Sylvester Talks BEVERLY HILLS NANNIES

Originally from Breaux Bridge, Justin Sylvester first got into the nanny business when was a tutor in Louisiana, and it just transpired into me becoming a nanny. He has been a personal assistant, stylist, life coach and consultant. He lumped all of those together and coined the term "Ladysitter." Previously a babysitter and Ladysitter for Kyle Richards Umansky, he is currently starring in ABC Family's BEVERLY HILLS NANNIES.

We Love Soaps recently caught up with Sylvester to talk about his career and new role.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Could you tell us about a scene from your life that for no other reason didn’t make it onto the show but you wish we got to see it?
Justin Sylvester: It’s a little to say because it’s only been two episodes and I haven’t seen the rest of them. I’m hoping everything gets put in. I don’t want to spoil anything. I think as of now from the first two episodes, everything I’ve done has been showcased on the show.

Maybe going through Marika’s closet. It’s a very fascinating place, that closet. That didn’t get put on the show.

I think the bickering and the banter between Marika and I, it’s more like brother and sister as opposed to employee and employer. I think that got cut out of the first two episodes. That’s sort of a letdown for me because it’s so funny and it shows the love that Marika and I have for each other. But, also we’re so different. We’re like brother and sister. It’s funny; it’s great and that got cut out.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It seems like you’re set up to be the break-out star of the nannies. But, do you know if any of the other people might be competing with you? Who do you think is your main competition for being number one nanny of the crew?
Justin Sylvester: I think everybody. The competition is up in the air. I think everybody brings something different to the table from Amanda who brings her home town humbleness and kindness with her to Shaun who’s an author and an illustrator to even Maggie. I think everyone has that certain something. I’m really excited for you guys to see how Maggie’s story unfolds because Maggie’s got so much to offer that you haven’t seen in the first two episodes that you’re going to be really surprised by at the end of this season.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It’s really cool to see an out man of color on TV. We don’t get enough of that. I’m curious has it helped your career and in what way being black and gay?
Justin Sylvester: I guess growing up in the South, being black and being gay was supposed to be a taboo. But, I didn’t see it that way. I’ve always been comfortable with who I am, so I never thought about myself as black or gay.

I’ve always just thought about myself as Justin. So, it’s really hard to even gauge that because I don’t even think about people looking at my color or my sexual orientation. I always feel like they need me and my personality. I was surrounded by great people growing up.

I always just relied on who I was and my character and my morals. I don’t know. It’s a tough question. I don’t know if that even plays a factor in my career.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Some of these other famous housewives and people like that have created these incredible careers. I’m curious what would you like to do? Where can we find you say in a year from now leveraging your success?
Justin Sylvester: It’s so funny that you ask that because the reason why I’ve always wanted to move to L.A. since I was 13 years old. When I was 13 years old, about two months before Christmas, I saw a GAP holiday commercial. I thought to myself, I have to move to L.A. because I have to be on like a GAP holiday commercial.

That was my dream when I was 13 years old. Every time they would come on, I would put on this cape and I would dance and I would learn the GAP holiday commercials. I would write to GAP and tell them I wanted to be in a holiday commercial. How corny was I at 13?

But, I have a degree in advertising from LSU and I really would like to be either doing something with my degree, or, my biggest goal to date is I would love to empower women, whether it’s through affordable clothing, coming up with a clothing line that’s affordable for the everyday woman with style. That’s a really big dream of mine. I think I’m going to make it happen, hopefully.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: A lot of people would love to see more of you on TV. So, I’m curious if you could guest star on any of the ABC Family dramas, which one would you like to be on?
Justin Sylvester: Girl, I already have this role picked out. I want to work on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and I just want to work as a hot barista at the coffee shop and have one or two lines every now and then and just hang out at the coffee shop because I think it’s cool. I would like my job on Felicity whenever I was a kid. I wanted to work with Steven DeLuca and everybody.

I think if I could be the sassy black gay man that works at the coffee shop and helps the girls figure everything out-that would be like my dream role.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: If you could work for any family, who would your dream employer be?
Justin Sylvester: It’s so weird. Everyone asks me that question. I think I already had my dream job. Working for Kyle Richards was such an unbelievable experience. It was literally a dream come true and it was the best job to have fresh out of college. I think I had my dream job.

My second dream job I think would have to be working for BeyoncĂ© because she traveled so much. She’s so creative and she has her hand in everything. To learn everything from her would be unbelievable.

You work as a real nanny and you get paid to be a real nanny, but does the show compensate you as well?
Justin Sylvester: Well, I work as a Ladysitter, and I do get paid. When you’re on reality TV and you have that time, you do get compensated. It’s not anything crazy. But, yes, you do get compensated for your time.

If you would happen to quit your nanny job or heaven forbid get fired, would the show follow you, or would you have to leave the show at that point?
Justin Sylvester: It’s so funny. I think at this point you will see there will be a change in my employment and they follow that. Obviously, you saw me on episode two interview Lindsay Faulk. Something changes in the next two weeks.

But, I think as being a part of Nanny and a part of something, there’s always some downtime. There’s some change. It’s my life and I’m a nanny no matter what, if I’m employed or if I’m unemployed. It will follow me if I were to be looking for another job or unemployed at the moment.

Being from the South, what do you find comparable in the people and culture of California to where you were raised in Louisiana?
Justin Sylvester: In the big scheme of things, I feel as if I’ve been very lucky to work for the people I have worked for. I think the main thing that brings me back to my roots and that reminds me of home is that no matter how rich, how poor, how busy, or how successful a family is I think the main theme is love throughout. I love every family I’ve been paired with in California thus far in the past few years. It’s been unbelievable.

There are so many different things that are not like Louisiana. There are so many different people. There are so many different jobs, industries, everything. But, in the grand scheme of things, it all comes back to the love that these families have for one another and how much respect they have for one another. The goal is the same, a happy, healthy life.

Being in California is there anything then that you really miss about Louisiana?
Justin Sylvester: Yes! The food...I miss the food. I miss the French Quarter in New Orleans. This is really weird – I miss the heat because for some reason, the heat brought everyone together. It’s just a fun place to be during festival season. Louisiana is an unbelievable place. It should be a country on its own.

What is one unique thing about you that makes you a great nanny?
Justin Sylvester: I think the one unique thing about myself that makes me a great nanny is that I’m a Ladysitter. As a nanny, you only care for the kids. But, as a Ladysitter, you have a multifaceted job. I’m a personal assistant; I’m a nanny; I’m a stylist; I’m a consultant; I’m a life coach. In this series, you’ll see it all unfold and you’ll see how I play a huge part in not only the kids’ lives, but in the mothers’ lives as well.

I like that a lot. That really makes you a bigger part of the kids’ lives because I have a five-year-old daughter and I’m all of those things to myself and her and my husband. So, it’s just a bigger part of being a part of their family, I think.

Do you like being nanny-sitter or a Ladysitter better?
Justin Sylvester: I like being a Ladysitter because it’s...everything put together and your day is very different. But, I think the most rewarding part about being a Ladysitter is every Ladysitting client I’ve ever had has hired me and has wanted to spend more time with their kids. So, what I do is remediate some of the stress for the mom. She can be a better mother, a better wife, and a better business woman.

So, I basically help women juggle it all, because in this day and age, women can have it all. That’s one of the most important things is being able to make someone’s life easier so that they can spend time with their kids. I know the kids appreciate it, I know the moms appreciate it, and I know the husbands appreciate it. It’s an unbelievable job and I would never give it up for the world.

There seems to be a lot of interest on TV these days about nannies. You have Disney Channel’s JESSIE, ABC Family’s MELISSA AND JOEY, and to a lesser extent, BABY DADDY. What do you think is the reason that the au pair profession has had an interest generated in them?
Justin Sylvester: I think the interest comes from watching other reality shows like REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS. You almost want to know everything. You’ve seen it from the housewife’s point of view. You’ve seen it from the husband’s point of view. But, you never see it from the help’s point of view.

I think the profession has been around for so long and it has evolved so much that everyone’s interested in it. I think it took shows like Real Housewives and Downton Abbey to really bring it to life and that the help actually had something to say. It was our time. I think the world’s just ready for it. They’re ready for everything – the truth and the nitty-gritty. So, that’s why they’re all interested in the nannies now.

How do you feel that the scripted shows like JESSIE and MELISSA AND JOEY portray the actual work involved in being a nanny?
Justin Sylvester: I don’t think they show a lot of the tough stuff. Being a nanny is really tough and it’s a lot of pressure because it’s someone else’s children and it’s someone else’s property. So, you really have to be careful. Some of them don’t show some of the real things that people go through being a nanny; like going through puberty with someone or dealing with divorce or single parenting.

It’s very tough to get the real reaction and the real interaction when there are problems and issues like that, like teen pregnancy and drugs and alcohol. I think that sometimes on TV it’s hard to address those things in a scripted sense because not everyone has the same reaction about the same experiences. So, that’s how I think it’s a little bit different.

I think once this show grows, we’ll get deeper and the characters will get deeper and their relationships and the bonds will get deeper. I think it’s all going to evolve. You’re going to see how real life circumstances play a big part in this docu-series as opposed to the scripted.

Have you ever been asked to do something that you have been taken off guard by or you just refused to do?
Justin Sylvester: There are a lot of things that you are asked to do. I think sometimes taking to kids about divorce is really hard. At some point, a mom may ask you to do that. That was a request that was brought to me. She thought I would be the best person to talk her daughter about it because we had such a close relationship. She thought that she would take the news from me a little bit better because my parents are separated. It did catch me off guard.

But, I get where she was coming from. She just wanted her daughter to have someone to relate to and to talk to about it. She didn’t think her daughter would be open and honest with her. So, she asked me to do it. Yes, it did catch me off guard. I almost didn’t want to do it because I felt uncomfortable.

But, I’m happy that I did it and I’m happy that I gave that child a place to come and to talk and to vent. Four years later, I still talk to her daughter today about the same issues and about how she’s coping with her parents’ divorce because it’s an ongoing thing and it will be an ongoing thing for the rest of her life. I’m happy to be a part of her life and a part of that chapter for her.

Is there anything that any past employer or present owns that surprises you as over the top?
Justin Sylvester: I think at one time an employer had a G-IV jet that she would take everywhere. I But, that was the most extravagant thing. She actually got it for her 40th birthday as a gift.

What is the strangest thing you have seen so far on the show?
Justin Sylvester: Oh, my god. I think the strangest thing I have to say is Marika’s breast milk. The problem was you didn’t get to see the amount. I wish I could have taken out all of the bags for you because I seriously thought that Marika was hiding like six Guatemalan wet nurses in her attic. I knew she was lying to me and she was hiding them because there was no way Marika can make that much milk.

It was unbelievable. The deep freezer, the freezer-freezer; it was unreal. That to me was probably the gnarliest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.

What is she doing with it?
Justin Sylvester: I have no idea. She was giving it to her dogs. She’s going to save the world with it. She does her hair with it. It’s really unbelievable. But, more power to her that she feeds and pumps that much milk.

On the show, who are you friends with or closest to?
Justin Sylvester: I’m closest to Amanda. Towards the end of the season, there will be a divide. You’ll see it play out. It’s actually really, really organic how different groups come together for different reasons.

That’s one of the most exciting and important relationships on this show are the group of friends that are made through something like drama. You’ll see it all play out. I’m really excited for you guys to see it. It’s going to be great.

Who would you like to be closer to?
Justin Sylvester: I think I would like to get to know Maggie a lot better because I feel like Maggie has a lot to offer. She’s full of surprises. You’ll see every time we meet, I learn something new about her; every single time. She never ceases to amaze me. She is literally a jack of all trades.

I wish that she would channel that into something. I think she will. I think as the series goes on I think me and Maggie will have a strong relationship.

What do you really like to do with the kids?
Justin Sylvester: With the kids, I think my biggest motivation is going outside because as a child my grandmother raised me with my mother. Her rule was if you came in the house you had to take a nap. So, I spent a lot of time outside. As a kid, we ran everywhere in Louisiana because there was just so much land. You can run everywhere. It was basically like a Huckleberry Finn situation.

So, for me my childhood was made so much fun to just be outside with my friends. I think kids these days are in front of a TV, on an iPhone, on an iPad, or in front of a computer too much. I just want to remind them that some of the best times happen with a tree or with a bird and just to be outside because you will never get that time back. You have all this time during your adult life to sit in front of a computer. You’re just wasting it away.

I wish I could be twelve again to run outside and ride a bicycle all day. My favorite thing to do with kids is be anywhere outside: at a park, in the yard, playing basketball. That’s what I like to do.

What age range of kids you prefer; babies or toddlers?
Justin Sylvester: I have two age ranges. I like from the ages of three to six because they start saying the darnedest things. They say things that they don’t even realize. They start to mimic people. They start to get their personalities.

Then, I also like girls 13 to 16 because they a little sassy. I like a little fight. I like it when someone gives me a little fight. I like the sassy ages.

Do you feel that the cameras make your job as the nanny a bit more difficult?
Justin Sylvester: I think yes because there’s so much pressure. But, I think everyone’s nervous in the first three episodes because the cameras are there. Then, you get used to them. So, then it just becomes natural. It’s kind of scary that it becomes natural, that you have five extra people at your work and you don’t even realize that they’re there. But, yes, it makes it very hard because people will be judging you and not everybody will agree with your methods or how you handle things. It’s your call, it’s your job and they’re going to just have to live with it.

Do you feel that the cameras maybe have a negative influence and create situations that might not normally occur?
Justin Sylvester: No. I actually think the cameras subdue the kids that I was watching because they didn’t want to embarrass themselves on camera. But, again, I think once you get used to them being there you kind of open up and you let it go. I think a lot of my time was spent with the lady that I ended up with because I am a Ladysitter.

We opened up a lot. I get really personal about my life and she gets really personal about her life. We figure things out together and we work on our business. We’re just very open and honest. I don’t think the cameras really make a difference toward the end. I think you just want to be yourself and you forget that they’re even there.

I just saw on Twitter that you use Craig’s List, which I think is super cool and down to earth. I just was curious if you have a budget when it comes to things that you do with the kids or is that just kind of a free for all?
Justin Sylvester: It just depends on the family. I always try to budget because I’m very weird about money. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money and as a nanny I don’t have that much money. I’ve been balancing checkbooks since I was 15 years old. So, I budget through life no matter what. If I can get a generic brand or secondhand, nicely used something, I will do it before I buy something brand new. That’s just how I am. I’m going to be that way my whole life.

That is something that I would like to bring to the kids that I work with: a sense of responsibility in money management. Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you necessarily have to have it. That’s my motto. If I can find something that’s secondhand, I would do it in a heartbeat. It has so much more character and it comes with a story.

Do the employers that you work for like it when you want to take interest in their kids like that; teach them life skills and not just be their babysitter?
Justin Sylvester: I think that is probably why I’ve held jobs for a long time. I think they do appreciate that. No one wants someone just to come in and see their kids as a way to pay their rent. That’s not what people want. When I’m invested in a job, I want to give 100% of it. I want to give myself wholeheartedly and I want to dedicate myself to my job.

With kids, it’s extra important to do your best and to always be on point because these kids are defining themselves at this moment. They’re looking to you for guidance and to know what to do in life. You’re their role models. You become a part of who they’re going to become. So, for me, yes, I want to put all my heart and soul into it. It’s such a great thing to say that you had an impact on someone’s life.

I think it’s important and I do love it. I think that’s why my Southern hospitality and my Southern upbringing is a testament to that. It’s why I am the way I am.

Where you see yourself in five years?
Justin Sylvester: In 2017, I see myself previewing my seventh or eighth collection for Ross or Marshalls or something somewhere where women around the country can afford to be stylish and look good and be great, and just feel great about themselves. That’s really what I want to do is to bring that L.A. flair and that California style to every woman in America at an affordable price.

Go a little deeper and where do you see yourself in 25 years?
Justin Sylvester: In 25 years, I see myself going to my daughter’s graduation from Princeton. I see myself going to my daughter’s graduation from Princeton and talking about the three right behind me, because I’m going to have a Brady Bunch.

You touched on this a little bit earlier, but can you tell us maybe your most embarrassing or most disgusting moment that you’ve had being a nanny?
Justin Sylvester: I think my most embarrassing moment of being a nanny was I was 17 years old. When I was 17, I babysat this little girl who came everywhere with me. She was literally like my daughter and I thought it was unbelievable.

I was walking around and I see this guy I have a crush on and we talk in the mall and we’re hanging out. He goes, “Do you smell that?” and I was like, “No, I don’t smell anything.” At this point, the baby was probably about 13 months. I’m holding it against me. I finally started to smell it. I looked down and the little girl had pooped through her diaper and it’s all over me.

It was probably the most embarrassing moment of my life because I thought I was too cool for school. I had this cute baby that I babysat. We were at the mall and I got s**t on my shirt.

Where would you draw the line and say no, I’m not going to do this. I’m out of here.
Justin Sylvester: Oh, rubbing Marika’s feet; rubbing Marika’s feet 100%. That was the line. But, you know what? It’s so funny. I have rubbed plenty of wives’ feet when they need it, when they’ve had a long day at work or whatever. I don’t know. If it’s immoral or illegal, I won’t do it.

But, I’m pretty tolerant of a lot of things and a lot of people have a lot of outlandish requests. There’s not a lot I wouldn’t do. I mean if it’s legal and sane, and I wouldn’t get hurt from it or throw up, I’m fine.

Kevin Mulcahy Jr. is a Harvard alum who is currently working as a staff contributor at welovesoaps.com writing theater and web series reviews as well as other in-depth features. Read all his Web Series reviews here. To contact Kevin, email kevin@welovesoaps.com.

1 comment:

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