“When my brother was murdered, it emphasized how much more I need to be involved with young people. Helping others only speeds up your own success.”
Sitting down with London Brown at a quaint cafe in the West Village, he opens up about his work with youth outreach. Between filming seasons of Ballers, an HBO series that was just signed for a fifth season, Brown embraces his gifts as a comedian, a photographer, and a mentor.
“I’m the oldest of my siblings, so naturally my ability to lead has been there because I’ve always had to do it,” he says of mentoring, “I’ve always had a heart for young people.”
Growing up in the projects of Los Angeles, London relates to the youth he works with. He aims to give them a glimpse of light and let them know that they can make it big, regardless of the circumstances they’re born into. Brown inspires youth to stay focused and set goals for themselves.
I just want to give them a glimpse of some light and let them know that even though you’re from the hood, you can make it out. If you stay focused enough and set some goals, things will happen.
Right before filming season two of Ballers, London’s younger brother was murdered at the age of twenty-five. As London opens up about the tragedy, you feel the essence of his strength in finding light in such a dark place. Losing his brother only motivates London to dig deeper into his work with youth in Los Angeles. This curveball that life threw him has led London to magnify his focus and embrace his purpose even more.
“Maybe if somebody had gotten to [the perpetrators] in a youth program, they could have shaped them differently.”
London believes his work as a mentor can prevent further tragedies in the future.
With mentorship, guidance, and sharing success stories with the youth around us, we can bring light into their world and lead them down a different, positive path.
“I can’t save the world, but I want to at least save those around me.”
Ballers has become a major component of London’s life. He says, “The show has a really diverse cast. It’s not just talking about football, but the lifestyle of these characters away from the game in the off season, the value of solid family relationships, and what happens when you’re not responsible with the kind of attention as an athlete. I’ve gained lessons just from being part of the show.”
Often people overlook the path actors take to get their role in various shows. London didn’t follow the conventional route. He did not have an agent or manager when he landed his role in HBO’s Ballers.
“I’m glad to be an example of an nontraditional way to get into Hollywood,” says Brown. People know London for his role in Ballers and his place in the comedy world, but few know his passion for photography.
Releasing soon is a compilation of his recent photography work. One of the themes that arises is the issue of homelessness in our country, and a portion of the proceeds will be going to combat this epidemic. Through impactful imagery, he removes the blindfold on society’s misconception about homelessness.
There are a lot of talented and special individuals who just fell on hard times. We have to remember that anybody can be a few days or a few shakes away from being homeless. Anything can happen.
Part of London’s project is reflective of his experiences visiting the well-known area of Skid Row in Los Angeles.
“When I would go down to Skid Row, I would give the people who are homeless an apple, a sandwich, and just to see how grateful they were for these small snacks made me realize that ‘homeless people’ are people too. The dialogue I had [with them] created an openness, which led to some trust.”
That trust allowed him to be able to photograph these people in an intimate setting. Displaying a picture of one of the men he spoke with, London remarks, “I see people who are homeless smile in the photos. They are still able to find some space to smile for me and I find that to be amazing. It gave me the lesson that I need to be much more grateful.”
London has a light he carries with him. His energy is uplifting.
Do not push yourself into a box. Do what fulfills you. I think we put far too many limits on ourselves. If you want to do something, then do it. I don’t like to move in fear. Fear is so crippling and it stops people from reaching their full potential.
He goes on to say, “If you start trying to live by everyone else’s expectations, you’ll find yourself always disappointed. Being criticized doesn’t necessarily get to me because I always have my own set of notes of how to get better.”
Being authentic is a challenge, especially in today’s world of social media platforms. The authenticity in London’s personality radiates as he shares how he’s able to remain himself.
“People need to learn how to be honest with themselves. I purposely set up things around me to keep me very grounded. [My talents] are not mine. I’m just the vessel. I’m just a guy with the tools being used to manifest. Keep grounded people around you and stay doing grounded things. If people stay giving, it forces you to not think about yourself. When you do things that make you happy, your whole perspective changes and positive people are drawn to you. It’s just one circle of good vibes,” explains Brown.
As London’s success grows and fame rises, he renews his commitment daily to humility.
When asked who his biggest role model is, he remarks, “My mother is a very strong, solid, calm, collected and stable. She’s a very humble woman. I owe credit for my character to her.”
London reminds us, “Our gifts are not for us. I was given these abilities because I was supposed to give them away.”
He reiterates that we have to help lift each other up. Brown doesn’t feel ambivalent toward helping others reach their goals, as he is confident that his own will be reached in due time.
“People are people. I respect you just because you are a human being like I am, and in my opinion, that’s enough to earn respect.”
Keep up with London Brown on his personal Instagram account @reallondonbrown and on his photography account @londonbrownshots.