Oakland’s Oprah: Chamia LaRae, host of The Just Chamia Show, speaks

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

One thing that I love about the internet is that it gives everybody who has access to it a voice, allowing the public to break the cycle of being mass programmed by corporate owned newspapers, radio, video and television stations.

Chamia LaRae of The Just Chamia Show
Chamia LaRae of The Just Chamia Show

The Just Chamia show is a locally produced television talk show that is formatted in much the same way as the Queen Latifah and the Wendy Williams show. Local flavor is what makes the Just Chamia show stand out to me.

She interviews interesting people, some whom I have never heard of, as well as well known figures with mass appeal. You never know who the guest will be or what they might say in these carefully crafted productions. Check out Miss Chamia LaRae, on her YouTube channel as well as in this exclusive Q&A …

M.O.I. JR: How and when did you conceive of The Just Chamia Show? What interview shows were you inspired by?

Chamia: I created The Just Chamia Show almost five years ago. I’ve always been a creative and have had several TV show and film concepts in my head for years.

I was inspired by Oprah’s creation of Harpo Studios in Chicago, and after visiting the studio (before it closed down), I said that is what I want to do! My dream is to do for the Bay Area what Oprah did for Chicago.

I want to build a media production enterprise right here in the Bay Area and to provide a platform to showcase the abundant talent that is underground, undiscovered and/or underrepresented. The Just Chamia Show is the flagship program produced by my company, Chamia LaRae Productions.

I originally planned to release the show as a web-series, but after talking with some friends “in the industry,” they convinced me to film a pilot and shop it around to networks. It received some interest, but no paperwork! After the murder of Mike Brown in Missouri and all the negative media surrounding Black men, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and I launched the series online.

Like many Black girls, I grew up watching and loving Oprah. She was Black like me, thick like me, educated like me, bold like me – and I thought she’s blazed the trail, now let me walk it and expand it for those coming behind me. However, I watch, listen and read global content and I’m inspired by this great big world and all the unique people in it.

I haven’t seen a true representation of me on any “mainstream” network in over a decade. There are no independent, whistle-blowing, super-sleuth journalists on TV right now.

I grew up watching and loving Oprah. She was Black like me, thick like me, educated like me, bold like me – and I thought she’s blazed the trail, now let me walk it and expand it for those coming behind me.

News, music, political forums, even film all follow the same formats and for the most part, share the same content. I want to do something different. I am doing something different!

M.O.I. JR: What is the mission of the Chamia show?

Chamia: The Just Chamia Show challenges the notion of what’s “popular” or “newsworthy.” This is the era of social media, popular culture and entertaining news.

Whether watching basic TV, broadcast cable or viewing any major news website, you are likely to see and hear the same “trending stories” on all channels. On this show, I ask for and discuss the opinions of everyday people on local, national and global news stories that either aren’t being discussed enough in the “mainstream” or aren’t being covered at all.

The Just Chamia Show challenges the notion of what’s “popular” or “newsworthy.”

Our mission is to provide exposure to those you should be hearing from the underground, underrepresented or undiscovered voices from our community.

M.O.I. JR: What do you hope regular viewers get from your show?

Chamia: The Just Chamia Show is a real show, for real people, with real opinions! It is for anyone seeking something of a break from the monotony of the mainstream, anyone seeking to hear independent, non-scripted opinions, and anyone who wants to chime in on what’s going on in the world we all live in.

My hope is that viewers will learn about the extraordinary, everyday people who live among us who are doing great things. I hope they will finish watching my show with an elevated level of consciousness about themselves, their community and our world – and that they are inspired to be the change needed in our communities!

M.O.I. JR: How do you pick your guests? Who have some of your past guests been?

Chamia: Oddly, I’ve only “picked” one or two guests for the show. The word-of-mouth buzz about the show and support for what I’m trying to do has been amazing.

Several of my guests have sought me out directly, or people have said, “Hey Chamia, you should check out such and such. They’re doing XYZ and would be great for your show.”

My motto is, “Have camera, will travel.” On the show we feature people from all walks of life, in all kinds of industries – visual and performing artists, politicians, fashion designers, community leaders and so on.

BUT, anyone who is on The Just Chamia Show will have global appeal and global perspective and will be in one or more of the categories I mentioned before: underground, undiscovered and/or underrepresented.

A few of the guests we were blessed to have on the first season of the show included Nina Fabunmi who is a noted, award-winning Nigerian painter. Her work can be seen at respected galleries throughout the Bay Area, Chicago and Africa. She has also been a docent at the MoAD museum in San Francisco, and is very talented – she draws, sings, makes jewelry and so much more.

My motto is, “Have camera, will travel.” On the show we feature people from all walks of life, in all kinds of industries – visual and performing artists, politicians, fashion designers, community leaders and so on.

Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson-McElhaney is a dear friend and another guest we’ve had on the show. She has been a leader in our Bay Area community for many years, advocating for fair housing, education reform, equality and much more. The City of Oakland is so blessed to have her voice and passion on their council and she continues to do great work.

Another guest we had on the first season of The Just Chamia Show was Marilyn Jones, author of “From Crack to College and Vice Versa.” My interview with Marilyn was one of my favorites to date! She has such a powerful testimony, she is so R-E-A-L and her book was a page turner!

I loved her book so much, I bought like 20 copies and gave them away as gifts. She is another Sista who is doing great work in our community. She’s working with men and women in their “re-entry” into society after being incarcerated. She is a superstar!

M.O.I. JR: Where do you see your show in five years?

Chamia: My prayer is that in five years The Just Chamia Show will be a flagship show on a major online network, like Amazon Instant Video, Netflix etc., with syndication to television networks worldwide. I pray that we will have featured underrepresented, undiscovered and underground talent that then garnered the attention they deserved from society.

I pray that five years from now, at least 5,000 people will be “awakened” to bigger, brighter consciousness about themselves and the world around them from watching my show, and that those 5,000 reach 50,000, who reach 5 million more and they all take action to be the change we needed globally on so many issues.

M.O.I. JR: Who works with you on your show? In what capacity?

Chamia: For a long time, I did everything myself – which was both crazy and unsustainable. One of my mentors, Bay Area native Tracie Collins – who is #everything and another Sista who has her own media production company and is very successful – advised me to build a team of people I trust, who believe in the dream and are willing to put in the work!

I listened to her and now I have a small but mighty team working for Chamia LaRae Productions. My business partner and friend Michelle Dixon helps with a lot of the script writing and handles all of our social media and operations.

Gyvonne “GG” Alexander is my executive assistant, does all of our scheduling, is our production assistant on every project and is your modern-day Girl Friday. If something needs to get done, GG will help me figure out a way to make it happen! She keeps me sane!

I have several other people that we tap into on a project basis, but it’s us – Chamia, Michelle and GG – aka Earth, Wind and Fire that make it happen on a daily.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.