Becoming an influencer is becoming an increasingly coveted career, especially for the younger generation. But what does it take to succeed? Phil Wright is an influencer, actor, and the executive producer and choreographer of Disney Fam Jam, the new family dance competition show on the Disney Channel based on his viral sensation, The Parent Jam. He has achieved massive success in the industry, but getting there wasn’t easy. In this episode, Phil chats with host Dr. Santor Nishizaki to share a story of perseverance and grit to get to where he is today. Phil shares the important lessons he uncovered throughout the ups and downs of his career and shares valuable advice to the new generation of aspiring influencers. Be inspired by his journey and learn how he’s creating a living doing what he loves and fulfilling his purpose.
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Leading Yourself: An Influencer’s Story of Perseverance and Grit
Phil Wright is an executive producer and choreographer of Disney Fam Jam, the new family dance competition show on the Disney Channel based on his viral sensation, The Parent Jam. Wright founded The Parent Jam in 2017 when he was inspired to bring kids and their families together through dance. Streamed online, his high-energy dance classes are designed to encourage positivity, love and understanding within families around the world. He has worked with some of the biggest names in music including Lil Nas X, Will Smith, MC Hammer, TLC, G-Eazy, and Cardi B. Let’s hear what Phil has to say about personal leadership and how he used these skills to get to where he is today.
Thank you so much, Phil, for joining the show. How are you doing?
I’m doing great, Santor. What’s up?
It’s going pretty well. I could probably throw a rock over to where you are. Full disclosure to the audience, we’re neighbors. We know each other in a little bit different light. This is our first professional interaction.
What’s up, Santor? How is everything going?
Everything is going great, Phil. Thank you so much for joining us. I’m excited about having you on the show. It’s a how-to guide for first-time emerging leaders. Phil, you are an influencer, an actor, and all these other major things. You’re a producer and a choreographer. Tell us how you got to be Phil or Uncle Phil.
To hop on that a little bit, I have been in this entertainment industry for a while now. I developed a following with the younger generation or the kids. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. I jumped to LA years ago. I was pursuing a dream to dance with all these high-caliber artists, performers, and everything. It turns out that I had a gift that I never wanted to pursue.
It organically happened but it turns out that I attract kids to me for some reason. Kids always do well with me. I do well with the kids. Things have been going great. I have a movie that’s coming out with Disney Channel on Disney Plus called Under Wraps 2, the sequel. I’ve hosted and created a TV dance show called Disney’s Fam Jam on Disney Plus as well. I’m a dancer and choreographer. I’ve done everything that you can think of in the entertainment business.
You’ve been creeping on my Disney Plus because all of a sudden, it says, “You may like Under Wraps,” and then I see Phil. I sent you a picture. Under Wraps is cool. It’s a remake of an older movie. It’s on Disney Plus. You’re the mummy in the movie.
Things fell in my lap that way because we finished doing the TV show. I had never acted in my life before. They were looking for a mummy with some type of different dynamic from the first movie that they shot. They said, “What if the mummy could dance?” That’s when they reached out to me. They had me do this Zoom audition. I was dancing in front of my kitchen doing some mummy moves. It turned out that they loved it and the rest is history.
Congrats again on the sequel. I’m looking forward to seeing when that comes out as well. Tell me a little bit about your core values. That’s why I asked you to be on the show. It’s interesting to hear who you are and how has that driven your decisions.
Work ethic is a huge deal for me. A lot of the things that I have now are what I prayed for years ago, not even that too long ago. I’m very attached to the hustle, the drive, and the willingness to upgrade and escalate. I’m always looking up, “How can we make this better? How can I do this better?” It gets so weird to the point where when I’m not doing something, I feel like I’m doing something wrong.
You talk about mindfulness, which is doing nothing but that’s hard for people like both of us.
For some reason, if I’m sitting still and I don’t have anything on the calendar or nothing to do, I find things to do like building a floor. To give a little context for the people, I’m not a contractor. I don’t do carpenter work at all. I am a dancer. I have a couple of days off and I ended up learning how to put down some floors. That all goes back to my wanting to better myself as an individual, a father, an entertainer, and a human being. I’m always wanting to get better and mold the sculpture as it is.
On that note, you are one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever seen. We think of influencers, you deserve it. When we’re thinking of influencers, we think they just take pictures and follow along with their life. I see you doing all types of stuff at all times of the day or night because I’m your neighbor. Tell me. What does a typical day look like in the life of an influencer?
It’s the phone is in your face all day every day. I get that response a lot, “We don’t want to see everything that you do. We don’t want to see what you eat.” You follow me for a reason. There’s a reason why you are subscribed to my channel and why you follow me because there’s some type of entertainment in there, whether it’s things that you agree with or you disagree with. There’s some type of exchange there, whether I’m entertaining people who love me or dislike me or whatever the case is.Don't spend too much time analyzing what's perfect and what's not. Click To Tweet
That’s not possible though.
We would like it to be that everyone agrees with whatever I said. That’s the real world. It is what it is. That’s what the life of an influencer is about. It’s steadily documenting everything. Honestly, for me, it’s hard to find documentation of my mother, my father, and the older generation of my family. We live in an era where everything is documented. My daughters will know who their father is or was. It’s hard to find pictures of my mother when she was 25. I don’t even think I have photos of my parents that young.
For me, it’s about leaving a legacy behind where my offspring can know this is where I come from. This is the reason why I act the way I act. This is the reason why I stand the way I stand. This is the way I speak because my father and my mother spoke this way. They can always go back and resurface. All the things that I put out online are what I have in my suitcase safe as well because if Instagram, TikTok, or all these social media platforms shut down, I can have all of that documentation for myself.
I never thought of it in that way. The legacy we do want to leave for our kids is what we do. I do that through my writing and this show. That’s an interesting perspective. Even though this is not a show about influencers, in case there are some side hustles going on here with the people, what advice would you give to them? You have over a million followers on YouTube. You sent me your Baby Shark video. I watch it because it’s pretty funny. It has a quarter of a billion views on YouTube or something crazy like that. What advice would you give to the would-be influencers or the people who are aspiring to become influencers in something they’re passionate about?
Content is king. We live in an era where content is king. There’s material. Put it up and don’t spend too much time analyzing what’s perfect and what’s not. In that quarter of a billion-view video that I sent you of Baby Shark, I was sick that day. I didn’t want to go to work. It wasn’t my most packed class. There were about ten people in that class. What people don’t know is that I have to pay for these videos to get shot. Think about how many people are coming to take the classes. It’s probably about $12 to $15. I have to pay $150 for the video. Do you think I’m making any money right there?
Not with those LA gas prices either. You’re losing money.
I am losing money, but you have to understand that especially in this industry, you have to be willing to sacrifice and invest in your craft. If you don’t see past the present times that you’re in, then your lifespan in this industry may not be as long as you think it will be. You have to think long-term. Content is king. Don’t overthink it, put it up and watch it. There will be another one. That’s why Santor sees me in the middle of the street.
That’s in the middle of summer too. I saw your Michael Jackson dance. It was 99 degrees or maybe more that day. You’re out there dancing and doing multiple takes.
Think about it. You’re putting out three pieces of content a week. I’m not great at math but Santor is. There are three pieces of content a week. You have 52 weeks in a year. That’s a lot of content. That can serve you well. You can release it however you want and draft them up. Content is king. That’s my message to the younger generation.
Thank you, Phil. That’s good advice. How have you been able to deal with adversity in your career? You came out to LA years ago. It sounds like your career has taken off already. You’re crushing it with Disney movies and everything else going on. How have you dealt with adversity through and through?
I’ve taken so many Ls. What I mean by Ls is rejections. A part of not just this industry but in general is you have to have thick skin. You can relate too. Rejection is a part of the process. You have to understand that. Once again, going back to my story, I moved out to LA to dance for these high-caliber artists. I never had the opportunity to do so, but I found more success in what I was naturally great at, which was teaching kids, being around kids, educating the younger generation, and things like that.
Once I started embracing what I was purposed to do, I ended up excelling. That’s when I started to book these crazy jobs working with MC Hammer, TLC, Cardi B, and Nicki Minaj. All of that started to come full throttle. It came right off the bat. Look within through those times of adversity and understand that everything is not permanent. It’s temporary. You can get over the hump. Keep pushing and keep working hard.
It’s so cool to hear you say that. Part of my big philosophy is focusing on what you’re good at. Even though our dream may be linear, it never happens. It’s like up and down rather than the 45-degree angle. We have these goals and we get those Ls or losses for how many shots. When you have a win, how many losses? We’re entrepreneurs.
I could write a book. I’ve taken so many pieces of rejection. It’s ridiculous. Through time, you get stronger.
You learn from it.It's because of all of those Ls that when the Ws come, it's so worth it. Click To Tweet
A lot of my friends don’t like to call them Ls or losses. They call them learning experiences and stuff like that. It helps them cope with it. It’s still an L. You’re learning from it.
They still cost us thousands of dollars or hundreds of man hours.
What did you learn from that investment there?
It still stings.
It’s because of all of those Ls that when the Ws come, it’s so worth it. It feels so good. You have to be chill about the Ws too. You can’t over-celebrate and overextend yourself at some point. Once again, when you book a tour, you’re on tour for how many months as a dancer. That tour bus is going to stop and then you’re going to be out of a job again. You’ve got to get back to the grind again. You’ve got to go out and hustle again. Keep calm, embrace it, accept it, love what you do, and keep moving forward.
That’s great advice, especially for the younger generation. As we’re figuring out our life, there’s no straight path for what we do. I want to pivot a little bit. I’m looking at social media. Yours is always so positive but there’s a lot of negativity out there. How do you keep a good frame of mind? What advice would you give to other folks as well from a social media perspective?
I usually tell my students this, “A hammer can knock someone out cold and put them in the hospital, but that same hammer can build a house.” It’s the way you use it. You are what you eat. You have to be careful of what you consume. No one is going outside anymore to pick up the paper on their front lawn and read the funny pages in the morning. Maybe you still do, Santor, but the younger generation is like, “We don’t do that. We’re on our phones. We’re trying to figure out what’s going on in the world.” Because of social media and how dominant it has become, it’s ‘86 in a lot of things like TV.
Streaming is barely hanging on by threads and movie theaters. Social media has changed the game for a lot of people. You have to be careful about what you consume, what you bring into your house, and what you’re reading. I suggest that for the things that you decide to follow and things like that, you have to be careful of what you consume because that can change your day honestly. If that’s the first thing that you wake up to, read or see online, that can set the tone for your day. I advise everyone out there to be careful of what you consume in the morning. The first thing in the morning, be careful and cautious.
I remember when I was in the corporate world. I used to read my emails first thing in the morning, especially when I was overseas because our other office was in the opposite time zone. I get to see all the emails at the end of their day and the beginning of mine. I usually get irritated. I’m like, “I don’t want to start my day on a bad note.” It has made a big difference in my mental health not to look at any work emails until I work out, had my breakfast, and had my coffee. On the way to work, I took public transportation, I would check my emails. It sets the tone for my day. It’s more of a positive mentality.
Back to how social media has changed how we consume information, here’s a funny story. I was featured in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago and I wanted to get a physical copy. I was like, “How do I get a physical copy?” It was a two-page story. I took my son, Thomas. I get it mailed to me but then I’m like, “I want to show to Thomas, my son, that I was featured in this newspaper.” We found a Barnes & Noble. They still have Barnes & Noble where Phil and I live. It’s still open. He’s like, “What’s a newspaper?” He’s almost eight years old. Going back to consuming information, social media, apps, and things are helpful to push right to our phones, but making sure we’re getting it from good sources.
Times are changing before our eyes. Santor and I are lucky enough to see the transformation. We went from phones with cords in the walls, dragging them into our rooms, beepers, two-way pagers, and payphones. When was the last time you’ve seen a payphone?
I don’t even remember the last time I’ve seen a payphone. I’m going to keep an eye out for that because I remember calling. Sometimes I have to call collect if I didn’t have any money with me. I called my mom to pick me up after school.
Remember caller ID. If you had caller ID, you were rich back in the day.
I remember that. We didn’t.
We didn’t either.A hammer can knock someone out cold and put them in the hospital but that same hammer can build a house. It's the way you use it. Click To Tweet
A caller ID was a luxury. Now, we have caller ID on our cell phones. It tells you even where they are or what city they’re calling from. It’s spam. We’re also using AI. You could get rid of telemarketers, which is a cool service. That’s good stuff. It’s all about saving time. The next question is going to be about Gen Z, the young people or the generation that you’re amazingly connecting with. What would you say Gen Z’s greatest strength is? What advice would you give to those folks who are interacting with them at work or in general?
It’s being youthful. I’m so jealous. They’re fresh and vibrant. I love how energetic and creative the younger generation is. It’s inspiring to see it unfold. You’re seeing artists being able to make hits from their homes. Before, you had to go out, get signed, and get into a recording studio. To get into a recording studio, you had to be signed. Now, these kids are making hits from their phones.
The access is incredible.
Everything is accessible. That’s the reason why you should work so hard. How can you lose? You can’t. There’s no excuse for you to even say, “I can’t do this.” You have all the answers. Let’s take directions as an example.
I used to print out MapQuest.
I didn’t have colored ink. I had black and white ink.
I had the same ink. Did you have the ones with the holes on the side from the laser printer?
Yes. There are no excuses. Look at the younger generation now and see how hard they’re working and taking advantage of those things is inspiring to see. It’s good.
Also how optimistic they are about the world and trying to help make it a better place. They’re going to leave it in a better place than even our generation.
That’s exactly what we want. That’s our job. Before we leave, we have to make sure that they know to leave it good for the next generation. It’s legacy.
It’s for our kids too. My last question is what advice would you give to someone who’s just entering the workforce or someone who wants to step into a leadership role? You have your teams. I see them all the time over at the house. They’re nice people. I could tell by the interactions. They are very authentic. You seem like a good leader even though you have your business. I haven’t seen you on the road and deal with all of that and the stage crew. Another reason I asked you on the show is that I see how well you get along with people who are working with you or for you. You would probably say with you. What advice would you give to folks who are just transitioning to a leadership role?
There are a lot of different ways that you can address this question but one of the main points that I stand by is addressing everyone as we, us and together. Even if they make a mistake, we made a mistake. Whenever I need my assistant to make a phone call or send out some emails, I always text, “Can we make a phone call. Can we do this?” It’s an us thing. Whenever I win, we win. I don’t think I have ever pointed the finger at anyone or a part of my team.
I use the word we a lot. That changes the game 100% because once that starts to happen, there’s a trust and bond that gets stronger overnight. When we win, we did this and that. We struggle and win together. That comes together as a team. That’s what anybody wants. No one wants the full workload on their backs and feels like they’re responsible for making mistakes. Everyone is wanting to be the hero when we win, but we all know we catch more Ls than Ws.
I always address my team as we. We moved together. If we make mistakes, we all make mistakes. It’s okay. We just move forward. You get a couple of bad apples here and there, and it doesn’t work out. For me, life is too short to get hot-tempered or angry over things. You and I both know. We’ve got kids. I do what I love because it brings joy to my life. Coincidentally, I make money from it.
That’s the sweet spot. You do what you love and you can make money from it. You don’t need to be struggling financially to do what you love. Sometimes we will. That’s okay. When you were first starting off, it was tough financially but we don’t post about that. We post about the Ws.The key thing is effort. You've got to put forth the effort. If you don't put forth the effort, you might as well hang it up. Click To Tweet
I post everything.
I was going to say, “I’m talking to Phil who posted about making floors.”
I post everything because I want people to see that it’s not always peaches and cream or have your cake and eat it too. We go through the struggle together. I’ve developed this relationship on social media where people are attracted to what I put out because it’s relatable. It’s not all Ws like, “Phil, you messed up this floor,” and being a dad, crying in the middle of the street. You’re being vulnerable to a certain standpoint. How do you think I feel when neighbors are walking out of their homes and see a 35-year-old man in the middle of the street dancing?
I’m going to have to bust some moves later. I don’t think viewers would want to see that though and I don’t think my audience would either but it’s cool. Honestly, another reason I asked you to be on this show is you’re one of the nicest people I know. You’re super humble and authentic. I didn’t even know you were an influencer. You’re like, “I do dancing and these and that.”
Eventually, you sent me a link. I’m like, “Let me see what this Uncle Phil is up to. This is so cool.” You are who you are on social media in real life. That’s hard. A lot of the stuff you do yourself is what you told me, as far as your editing and things like that. It’s cool to see. Kids want to be you when they grow up, “I want to be an influencer.” I remember when I was growing up, it was like, “I want to be an astronaut or a firefighter.” They were very noble professions but now you hear this next generation, “I want to have a YouTube channel.”
Comparing those from lawyers, firefighters, and police officers, this sounds so much more fun. Compared to two years of combat training in the police force, you want to be an influencer. It’s lucrative. People are making money from these strategies and stuff like that. I can’t even tell you how many times I get emails, “Would you be able to do a dance video for my product?” It’s so easy but the key thing is effort. You’ve got to put forth the effort. If you don’t put forth the effort, you might as well hang up.
Thank you so much, Phil, for being on the show. If anyone does want to follow you, what’s a good way to do so?
This is the plug. You can find me on Instagram @Phil_Wright_. You can find me on Twitter @PhilWright7. You can find me on YouTube as Danzemachine. It’s YouTube.com/PhilWright. I’m not going to tell you my address but you can also watch my movie that’s coming out called Under Wraps 2. It will be dropping I believe in October 2022 on Disney Plus and Disney Channel.
October is looking good. We have Hocus Pocus 2 and Under Wraps 2. It’s going to be a good October. Thank you so much.
Don’t forget about TikTok @PhilWright_. Follow me on TikTok. Thank you, Santor.
I appreciate it. Have a great rest of your day.
I’ll see you soon.
You take care.