Who would work $4.25 an hour with a college degree?
Who would sleep in their car to follow their passion?
Who would quit their stable, good paying job to become a server living on tips?
Filipino American Marc Anthony Nicolas would. He spoke to a crowd of professionals at the annual Ascend gala, a nonprofit organization that’s about empowering Pan Asians to be tomorrow’s leaders.
“I wake up 30 minutes before my alarm clock goes off. That’s how much I love my job,” said Nicolas.
Today, Nicolas is a four-time Emmy-nominated producer of CBS’s The Talk. He’s also a host and co-executive producer of the first Filipino American Hollywood celebrity talk show on the Lifestyle Network, The On Your Marc Show.
He is a guest co-host of a radio show in Florida.
Nicolas’s story is featured in a book to be released in January titled Hustle Believe Receive.
How did Nicolas go from humble beginnings to media mogul in the making? The International Examiner caught up with him to hear his story.
Maureen Francisco: Tell us about your childhood.
Marc Anthony Nicolas: I moved to California when I was four years old and was given so much love by my family especially my mother. We were very close. My elementary and high school years were difficult. I was bullied, picked on, stepped on, and physically attacked. I came home crying every day but thankfully, my mom was always there to remind me how special I really was.
Francisco: Marc, you always wanted to go into the entertainment industry. Tell us about that.
Nicolas: My love for the entertainment industry came at a young age. While kids were playing outside with their friends and neighbors after school, I would watch TV shows indoors and wait for the end of credits to roll in after every TV show and dreamed that my name would appear on the rolling credits one day. And it’s awesome to say that decades later, I can see my name at the end of shows I worked on, such as, The Tyra Banks Show and The Talk.
Francisco: You were a pharmacist’s assistant. When did you have an epiphany it was time to follow your passion? How old were you when you came to this realization?
Nicolas: My mom’s dream was for me to become a pharmacist. Since I love my mom, I got a job at Kaiser Pharmacy as a pharmacist’s assistant in my mid-twenties. I worked there for four years. I was unhappy because I knew that wasn’t my career path. I wanted to use my creative side and my social skills in TV. I got the courage to quit and I sent my resumes to every TV network possible, but because I didn’t have any TV experience, I did not receive any callbacks. I was mortified.
Francisco: The entertainment industry is a tough business to get into. You quit your job as a pharmacist’s assistant to work as a waiter. How did you get your foot in the door?
Nicolas: While sending out my resumes, I accepted a job as a cocktail server for a restaurant to make money. I still sent my resumes out on a daily basis and never quit. One day, I was serving tables and my co-worker, Lindsay, told me she was leaving to work on a reality show. With wide eyes I told her, “Please call me if there is a production assistant (PA) position available.” The universe felt it was time. I quit the restaurant after four years and got my foot in the door as an assistant for a TV show.
Francisco: You did whatever it took to go after your dreams including sleeping in your car. Tell us about that experience.
Nicolas: As a PA I worked six days a week, 12 hour days, and was paid minimum wage, which was $4.25. I made more money in tips at the restaurant! I knew if I had to drive back and forth from my parents’ house (which was over 100 miles a day), it would eat up all of my paycheck. Without anyone’s knowledge, I slept in my car for six months. It was in that time, I was tested. I knew in my heart, I had to sleep in my car, brush my teeth, and take a shower at 24 Hour Fitness to reach my dream to become a producer.
Francisco: You worked at MTV and got an expected call that would change your life. Tell us about that.
Nicolas: The reality show got cancelled. Since I had made a connection with one of the producers, I was hired as a casting associate on MTV. Because of my strong social skills with people, I was promoted to a casting producer. My role model was Tyra Banks. I watched America’s Next Top Model and I was manifesting that I would work with her one day. Two years at MTV, I received a call from The Tyra Banks Show. They were hiring producers and wanted to meet with me. I interviewed with them and got the job. I left my family, friends, and California and I moved my life to New York City, living my dream in the Big Apple.
Francisco: Your life took a turn when you lost someone very close to you.
Nicolas: When I was working on The Tyra Banks Show in New York City, I was in my highest of highs. I was so in love with the life I created. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, my mom was at her lowest of lows. I got a call that my mom had stage 4 breast cancer. I was devastated. I had two choices: 1) Stay in NY and progress my career or 2) Resign, move back, and be there for my mom. I chose option 2 and put my career on the back burner. My mom was on hospice and I saw her take her last breath.
Francisco: What happened after your mom passed away?
Nicolas: When my mom died, a part of me died too. I fell into a deep depression. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I was unhappy and miserable. I didn’t want to communicate with anyone and I felt so alone. I didn’t go out and became anti-social. I became someone I wasn’t familiar with.
Francisco: How did you overcome the depression?
Nicolas: After a year of depression, I snapped out of it. I knew my mom didn’t want me to live my life like this. I wanted my passion for the entertainment industry back. I sent my resumes to every TV network possible (a road I’ve been on before), but the difference was that I had a solid resume with all the years in several TV shows. I got a call from CBS’s talk show The Talk and was asked to meet with the creator/host of the show, Sara Gilbert. She played Darlene on the hit show, Roseanne. I was thrilled when she hired me as a producer.
Francisco: We often hear, “Follow your passion.” What does that really mean?
Nicolas: It’s waking up everyday and living the life I’ve always wanted while helping people reach their dreams along the way.
Francisco: Who are some of the most favorite people you’ve interviewed?
Nicolas: As a TV host for The On Your Marc Show on the Lifestyle Network, I’ve interviewed so many celebrities: Olivia Newton-John, Sharon Osbourne, Margaret Cho, Denise Richards, Vivica A. Fox, Christina Milian, Lance Bass, and more! Every time a celebrity comes and sits down on my show it is a pinch me moment. Never in my wildest dream did I think I would have a platform to be heard. It’s amazing to hear them say, “The On Your Marc Show is one of the best talk shows they’ve been on.”
Francisco: What’s next for Marc?
Nicolas: Being ranked number 4 in the list of the “75 Most Influential Filipino Americans of 2015” reminds myself I’m living my life with a purpose. Everyone is destined for greatness and I want to be able to inspire, teach, motivate, and uplift everyone to reach his or her full potential. Believe in yourself and make your MARC.
To view photos from the Ascend gala, visit https://justinhebert.smugmug.com/Clients/Events/Ascend-Gala-2016/Web/n-9Bx3w3/