Voice and Vision: Braylin Jenkins
By Nikki Sue Alston
Who The Hell Is Bray-J?
Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard the name Bray J, or Braylin Jenkins. Braylin, a Lake Charles native, is non-stop; he’s like the Energizer Bunny. Somehow he appears to be everywhere at once, giving updates on Downtown Development, the music and art scene, and other local groups and events. After a few failed attempts at getting an interview, I finally got to sit down with Braylin and ask him all the important questions, like what does he actually do?
Always Moving Forward
First, here’s some background on this extraordinary character. I met Braylin Jenkins almost 5 years ago at Coyote Blues, where we worked together for some time. Back then he was painfully shy and just beginning his online radio show, ‘LA ON AIR with Bray J’. Things have undeniably changed since; a metamorphosis into the creative, smart, and savvy person he is today. While attending Lagrange High School, his business teacher, Tanya Miles, encouraged him to join FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America). Through FBLA, he became more aware and active. “To this day, I think that if I hadn’t joined, I wouldn’t be doing any of the things I am doing today. The whole 4-year-thing was a true awakening of me as a person. I discovered who I was. It got me out of my shell and my first job at the mayor’s office - generating my interest in downtown development and becoming active in our community”. September 11, 2001 was a memorable day in particular for Braylin, not just because of the attack on the Twin Towers, but because the event kindled his love affair with skyscrapers and safer building practices. His original plan was to be a real estate developer, which got him interested in the development of Lake Charles. “I was able to understand what was going on and use my voice. Because of my working relationship with the mayor, he, and the city council (for the most part), respected me because I was so young, yet interested in the meetings, sharing different ideas, and becoming more active in the community. At the time, there was a controversial proposal that needed to be voted on, a $90 million bond project to redo the lakefront. I created a presentation for the teachers of Lagrange High School explaining the project. The American Press caught wind, asked me to use my notes from the presentation and write an article for their Expressions page. From there, I was regularly writing for them”.
One person Braylin Jenkins admires most is Ryan Seacrest (very Calvin Tyler-esque); a true media pioneer. Be it radio, print, or television; Braylin puts his best foot forward. “Seacrest was told early on that you need to have a stake in what you do to have longevity. I’m not afforded that option here. Lake Charles is a smaller city and the entities herein (for the most part) want full control. I’ve watched many local media personalities, whom I really respect, stay in their positions or fields, even when new opportunities have come to them. I have too many interests to choose just one. Looking at the bigger names in media out there, they didn’t choose just one thing and stick to it, so I thought: ‘why can’t I start now’?
What Do You Actually Do?
Currently Braylin hosts the “Morning Wake Up" at 88.3 KBYS (which is volunteer-based) and his online show ‘Hey Bray J Live’ has been moved to KBYS Thursday nights, covering Louisiana entertainment, but more specifically musicians. Braylin also writes for The Jambalaya News; a member of the Arts and Humanities Council Board; the Ad & Press Club of Southwest Louisiana, and works with a number of other groups. If you have attended any local events, you’ve probably seen Braylin. He tries his best to make sure he attends as many different functions as possible; to the point that people almost expect it now. “If they don’t see me somewhere, at an event, meeting, etc., they think that, either, they just missed me, or I haven’t shown up yet. They never think I’m not coming. It’s always, 'I just haven’t made my appearance yet'”. If you wonder how he is able to do it all - before our interview - Braylin showed me around the KBYS station. In one corner of a conference room lies a stack of pillows and a blanket, his makeshift nap area. Even the Energizer Bunny’s batteries need to be recharged every now and then. One of Braylin’s major accomplishments came at 21, when he was able to do television, radio and print at the same time. He admits to not being the greatest at juggling all 3, but that it was an important moment in his life and career. “As small as our area is, there are some people who will never pick up a magazine, some who will never turn on their radio, and some who will never watch TV. The fact I was able to meet 3 different tiers of media platforms at one time was a big deal, not so much from an ego standpoint, but I really care about this community”.
Why Do You Love Lake Charles So Much?
Potential. I hope to one day be a visionary, to see things that I feel should already be in our community come to fruition. Things I feel we deserve. Potential is what truly keeps my heart plugged into Lake Charles. We have our own identity but our residents haven’t discovered it yet. Tourists see it, but if you live here, you may not have necessarily discovered it. Not just our area; the state, as a whole, is a diamond in the rough. Our area doesn’t always appreciate the people who stay and put in the hard work, day in and day out to develop the area, and bring about change. It breaks my heart being who I am. I don’t get the local support that I hope for, but if I were to leave, only then would I feel Lake Charles would be cheering me on. All of LC is cheering you on to leave — yet, we say we want people to stay. So I’m here, every day, doing the hard work. It may look like I’m having fun, but it’s hard work to get people’s attention; to keep their attention; and then to get them to help you carry on your mission.
I choose to stay here because I want to be a part of the change I want to see. We are not meant to be left in yesteryear, watching the rest of the world move forward. We are the tomorrow, and I want to be a part of it. So instead of going away and sharing all my gifts with the world, - being one of the billion who chose to leave their hometown and go help the bigger city - I want to stay here and watch my city grow and develop into what it deserves to be.
What Would You Change?
Although I respect the leaders we have in our area, I feel like there is this huge disconnect that has been created by the people (which is rare). The public’s mentality has been so comfortable and content, not necessarily in the best way. When they complain about growth, improvement, or change: our leadership - whose job it is to better our area and look toward the future, not just keep and maintain - have almost, in a sense, stopped acknowledging the people. The people for years haven’t been bringing a newness or freshness of ideas for establishing a stake in the community. They just kind of reside here. I’ve watched leadership almost have to make the bigger decisions for the area and say ‘No, we’re moving forward’. Because of that I think the people’s voice has gotten lost. Leaders have put more weight on the people who are coming to Lake Charles because they have been forced in a way. My fear is the area is going to completely change, almost like it will be New Orleans after Katrina, where the people who truly make this area unique will be lost or forced out. Lake Charles will become another tourist spot. I think it is important that we embrace both. The biggest thing that I’m about is mindset renewal for the people of our community. We’re getting there, just very, very slowly.
What Has Been Your Toughest Challenge So Far?
Staying true to myself and knowing my own worth. In this business, in any city, knowing your worth is so hard and getting what you deserve out of that. I get taken advantage of all the time. Media is a Use-Use industry. I tend to get used a lot, but seldom do I get to ‘use’ my portion; meaning I do a lot of free gigs that people don’t know about. A significant amount of work I have done has gone unpaid. It’s usually just me; my heart; and my desire to do it. Many people think I get paid to do the morning show, but I do not. Not monetarily, at least. 6-10 am I try to get everyone’s day off to a great start and into the right attitude. It’s been hard. It’s no secret I have battled depression, but I use the morning show as an outlet to not only motivate and encourage everyone else, but to motivate and encourage myself. Although it may look like I’m very social, I’m not. The media platform has allowed me to be social on a larger platform. I get to engage with so many more people at once, but don’t necessarily realize it. I can be on the radio and have 20 listeners or 20 million and it makes no difference to me. I don’t see them; it’s just me talking to the people in the studio with me. I get to be social but without having to step too far out of my comfort zone.
What Can We Look Forward To Seeing From Bray-J?
I want to establish myself as my own brand (Bray J). Some people get and respect it, and others don’t; that’s ok. Some people think you are always supposed to work under someone else. I want to continue working toward establishing myself as my own brand, take on bigger projects, be statewide and syndicated. It’s not just about me. I want to help other people reach their goals. It’s really never about me, but I get to benefit from it. Tune in to KBYS 88.3 FM weekday mornings to hear Braylin Jenkins on the Morning Show and Hey Bray J Live Thursday nights.
A Note From the Editor
I don't believe I have ever met someone as genuinely passionate about the idea of community, as Braylin Jenkins.
We all look forward to the cultural transformation of our city, but many of us have comfortably assumed the role of spectators, not participants. Braylin, thankfully, has not. He selflessly pursues any and all endeavors that may accelerate this process. He is in the trenches daily; supporting our causes; spreading optimism; and exposing people to the possibility of our greatness. My biggest fear is that we will become the great city Braylin has believed in this whole time, but we fail to recognize his efforts. Not because we are unappreciative assholes, but because his most substantial efforts are behind the scenes. That being said, I am thankful that Nikki Sue Alston took the time to share his story with our readers. If you happen to see Braylin around town (you will), take the time to shake his hand, maybe even squeeze a thank you in there.
'Jenkins For The People'
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