There is no doubt that throughout the years, the popularity of reality television continues to grow. Nonetheless, as each network continues to thrive off of the inception of their new shows, there is always a show that has helped pave the way. Many of you may remember the reality show “Baldwin Hills” that aired on BET from 2007 to 2009. The show highlighted the lives of the wealthy African American teenagers that lived in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. Throughout the series, we were able to see each cast member flourish as they worked towards their goals in life.
It has now been 10 years since the show last aired, and I decided to catch up with some of the prominent cast members to see what was it like being a reality star back then, the pros and cons of their experience, and what they’ve been up to over the years.
Catching up with Moriah Johnson, Gerren Taylor, Justin Walker, Ashley Calloway, and Etienne Maurice will allow you to relive that moment of reality television in the mid-2000s, and also take a look at the amazing things they’ve done since the ending of the show.
Q: It seems like most teens today would love to be on reality television. You had that opportunity during your teen years. What was it like for you to be a reality star back then?
Moriah: It was tight! Definitely an adjustment at first, but it was an exciting time for me. I had to get acclimated to being famous, all while trying to maintain grades, a normal social life, and my ambitions with basketball at the time. It was a balancing act. It was literally having the whole world viewing and judging my personal life decisions as a TEENAGER. Everyone isn’t ready for that kind of attention at such a young age as it can be a gift and a curse. Thankfully, my experience with it helped to mature me. I recall getting a lot of love from people, all for representing a positive image for my city and black youth all over.
Gerren: Being on one of the first reality shows was a gratifying experience for me. When I was approached for the show I didn’t know if I would have time to do it, but I’m so glad I did. The spotlight wasn’t new because I was one of the youngest models in the game during my career. I started modeling at 12.
Nicknamed “Baby Naomi,” I was the first African American girl to do the Marc by Marc Jacobs campaign. I traveled around the world doing LA, NY, London and Paris Fashion Weeks. I modeled for the hottest designers like Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Jeremy Scott, Alexander McQueen, etc. I was also a judge on “America’s Next Top Model,” and more. I graced the covers of international magazines, guest appearances on the hottest shows, news and entertainment publications. I even got a chance to be on Oprah where she had me “show her my runway walk” and interviewed me.
When the opportunity was presented to me to star in Baldwin Hills I was 16-years-old, and a junior in high school. We had 3 successful seasons before the show ended. Being cast in the show helped me to gain a whole new group of fans my age. I had the opportunity to meet some of my fans and interact with them. I love giving advice and words of encouragement to my peers.
Justin: Even though reality tv wasn’t as big as it is now, to be honest, it was an eye-opener. Millions dream of being in that position & I definitely appreciated the opportunity. However, the switch-up was slightly uncomfortable. I never sought out popularity before, after or during the show. I always just wanted to be Justin Walker, not Justin “the guy from tv”. I’m grateful that I was able to share pieces of my life, especially the pieces that were able to inspire others. To this day people come up to me and share how I helped them especially when it comes to their relationships with their fathers and that’s what makes me happy.
Ashley: Being a reality star back in the mid-2000s was a lot different than now. Although scripted to some extent, our scenes and scenarios were a bit more natural and authentic; storylines actually played out based on how we felt. There was less fighting and cussing and not everyone had a huge personality. It was much easier then than it is now!
Etienne: Being a “reality star“ at that time was actually a really fun experience. I was 16 at the time and I had just done an episode “My Super Sweet 16” and then “Baldwin Hills” right after. Being on TV had its perks for sure. My Myspace account was going up and getting girls numbers at the mall wasn’t as hard as it used to be lol. That was my first little taste of fame. I was in high-school and I was on TV? You couldn’t tell me anything. I felt like I was the most lit teenager.
Q: What would you say were the pros and cons of being on a show that gained so much popularity?
- The influence that it brings (depending on how you use it).
- Having the opportunity to shed a positive light on black youth and giving people my age something to relate to. Whether it was going to Mama J for life advice, discussing with my dad which college I should go to, and as we all remember, dealing with relationship issues.
- It was motivation to live with solid character values knowing that I had all eyes on me.
- The sometimes overwhelming attention.
- People believing they know all about me without ever meeting me.
Gerren: Pros– For the most part it was all positive vibes from being on the show. I made tons of new friends and contacts working with BET for those three years. I’m friends with a few cast members TIL THIS DAY. There were the perks of being on television, Lots of FREE stuff 🙂 One of the most satisfying pros of the job was that I was blessed to have the opportunity to travel around the world helping young girls with self-esteem issues and self-love.
Cons– There were no real cons, but toward the end of the show there was a perception from some people that I was a stuck up model. That is the opposite of how I am in reality, which many people found out when they met me in person. When I would be out in the streets and run into people my age, especially girls, they wouldn’t know how to talk to me thinking I’m this conceded diva. Once they would strike a conversation they would realize I wasn’t that way at all. I’m probably the goofiest, loving, down to earth person you will meet. I have a soft spot for babies and small animals lol.
Justin: I believe every opportunity is a good opportunity if you are given a platform that can help others. The “Baldwin Hills” production team and BET did an amazing job of allowing us to be us and focusing on topics that needed to be seen and talked about. Our drama factor back then wasn’t based on us fighting or showing our ass. Our drama was everyday issues, whether you lived in the hills or the flats in any city, somebody was going to be able to relate to something happening on the show. Being on a popular show back then didn’t pay as much as they do now lol, but it did open doors and has allowed me to meet amazing people and build relationships that still flourish to this day.
Ashley: Interesting enough, there were few pros for me. Coming from an entertainment family with a famous mother (Vanessa Bell Calloway), I knew what fame was and all the attention that it brought and for some reason I was not expecting that with the show. When the show became super popular it was a bit overwhelming for me and became a huge deal when I went to Spelman College for school. The pros were that people already knew my name and felt connected to me in some form but the cons were just that, people already knew me and had a preconceived opinion on who I was. This made me even more mindful of being in the spotlight and how I chose to maneuver.
Etienne: When you get that kind of attention at such a young age you’re prone to let all that get to your head. Fortunately, I had very supportive friends and family (especially my mom[Sheryl Lee Ralph]) that were able to keep me grounded.
It was a really beautiful, empowering moment in my life to be on a show that people loved and gave a platform to young black kids to inspire and entertain a generation of young black and brown kids like myself during a monumental time in America. Obama had just been elected as President and was campaigning for Hope. We were the shining example of that.
Q: It’s been 10 years since the show last aired. What have you been up to since then?
Moriah: Since the show ended, I’ve graduated from Tuskegee University with my Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy which I currently do for a living. I’ve been preparing to get back in front of the camera, with great appreciation for the journey and all that comes along with the process of being an actor. Since the show, I’ve also been jet setting! I’ve been to 8 different countries taking in the different cultures and all they have to offer (vlog coming soon). Generally speaking though, I’ve been focused on attaining financial freedom, training to keep myself healthy, and most importantly growing spiritually and mentally, all while enjoying life one day at a time.
Gerren: Nowadays I’m enjoying mommy-hood. I have a beautiful baby girl named Miyoko Amor (@miyoko_amor) who is 5. She is my whole life and takes up all my time lol. Now that she’s a little older I’m venturing out more. I’m working on my online children’s boutique Miyoko’s Closet (@miyokoscloset ), selling the cutest kid’s clothes and accessories, and I’m starting my management company back up called TaylorMade Models (@taylormademodels). I also work exclusively with a few Hollywood clubs PH Day Club & Ballet Hollywood. I’ve recently gone back to college to fine-tune my business expertise and improve my craft. I’m super busy and blessed at the opportunities God always presents to me.
Justin: Well being that it has been 10 years since the show I will say there’s been the talk of a reboot (but you didn’t hear that from me lol). I think it’s safe to say that over the years I’ve been making babies and baby-making music lol. I am now a father to 6 of the most intelligent, talented, beautiful and handsome kids on this planet, Kassidy, Alexa, Santana, Breeze, Blaze, and Bear. In 2017 I was blessed to marry my oh so beautiful and amazing wife Marilee Walker.
Musically, I am half of the production team “SoufWest” with my brother Gumbo and most recently we did production on 10 songs for Eric Bellinger’s “The Re-Birth 2,” which is currently being considered for a Grammy. Some of those songs feature Jeremih, Victoria Monte, and the late great Nipsey Hussle. Also we’ve produced or have written for artists Armon & Trey, PartyNextDoor, ELHAE, Lyrica Anderson, Mario, Wale, Stacy Barthe, Ciara, Leikeli47, Pleasure P, K. Mitchelle, Candice Boyd, Brittany B, Moniece Slaughter, Knotch, Jada Arnell, Watr, Ezelilem, Rauziel, Derrius Logan and Flash Garments.
I’ve been blessed to receive multiple awards including a BMI Award for Danity Kane’s – Damaged. I am still signed to Sony/ATV but also very fortunate to have an awesome team to help advance my career, like my new rep Danielle Middleton who goes over and beyond for me. 2019 has been an amazing year, I recently started a label “Classic Entertainment Label” with Kevin W., that will be run by me, Rosemarie Tan & Gumbo.
Outside of music, I am also keeping my acting skills fresh with an upcoming play: “Hello America” by Brandon Rainey. I am traveling the nation as a Youth Motivational Speaker with the organization Sandy Hook Promise. I work closely with friend and business manager Justin Brimmer (Unorthodox Inc), Ivan Jones, Darille Marrow, Joshua “JoJo” Joesph, Neiman Johnson, Chris Porton and publicist Tyra Nicole on 2020 business ventures, ranging from clothing brands to legal marijuana.
Last but not least I am bringing modern black businesses to Leimert Park with my brother Joesph Gaspard. It may not seem like a lot, but all of this combined with my kids and wife, I got my hands full and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Ashley: Since the show aired, I have graduated from Spelman College with honors in Economics and began working at Delta Airlines Corporate in sales development. After my time there, I started working in entertainment at Creative Artists Agency in TV and Film then on to Brand Partnerships at Studio71. Now I am a literary manager at Color Creative working with writers, producers, and directors of color. On the side, I run my family business the Regency West located in Leimert Park.
Etienne: First of all, I can’t believe its been 10 years. So much has happened within those years. I’m still acting and producing films. I‘m now CEO & Founder of my production company, WalkGood Productions (www.walkgoodproductions). We just closed a deal with a major studio on a show I co-created and star in. I also have a short film that I co-produced and starred in alongside Loretta Devine and Aisha Hinds called “The First Day Back. It’s a powerful story directed by Deshawn Plair and co-written by Sade Oyinade about the aftermath of a school shooting in Philadelphia and how this community will be forever changed after such a traumatic incident.
All I can say is that at the end of the day, I am blessed beyond measure and I am honored to have made an impact on people’s lives whether it be big or small. I just want to continue to make meaningful art, influence a generation, and make my family proud. Forward ever, backwards never.
TSR STAFF: Jade Ashley @Jade_Ashley94