Harvey J—commonly known as Chef Henny—makes some of the most hilarious videos on the internet. He recently sat down with Blavity for a chat about his recent success, thoughts on the importance of individuality, and trusting your creative process. Read the interview below.
Blavity: Tell us more about yourself, your upbringing and what influence it had on you today?
Harvey J: I grew up in Durham, North Carolina. Lots of death, lots of destruction. Lots of people making bad decisions. I grew up trying to stay out of the mix of that.
B: Tell us about the beginning stages of Chef Henny and your decision to pursue comedy.
HJ: It started around May, I don't really know how it happened or how it got so big, it just did it. Nobody planned it, no one was really ready for it, I wasn't ready for it. It just happened, and so fast. It was never really a joke, this is really how I cook.
B: How do you make strategic decisions about what social media platforms you use?
HJ: I try to stick with what works for me. Every time I try to do something the traditional way, it just doesn't work for me. Instagram didn't play it out, Twitter didn't play it out. This time a year ago, when I was trying to put my focus into Facebook, labels were calling me stupid, people were calling me stupid, when I was trying to find a manager, they were calling me stupid. Because when you try to do something that's innovative, it's always going to confuse people until its too late. I try to go a different route whenever I do something, no matter what it is.
B: Tell us more about that, what challenges do you face when it comes to doing what you want to do, and what people recommend?
HJ: That's the problem, thats why I'll never be famous because I don't collaborate with people. I just do me. Whenever I try to work with people it never seems to work out. But I take that in stride and in grace. My brand is about making it work so I try, but my goal isn't to be big. Even though I take this incredibly serious, I always try to make sure my fans know that I'm not a celebrity and I don't want them to treat me like one. I always try to do what's in my best interest. People call that selfish, but people don't care about themselves enough. Leading by example and always staying true to myself is important.
B: What are certain personality traits that you try to live by and embody?
HJ: I try to be HENNsational. I always try to stay positive and show that there's more to life than being angry and mad at everything.
B: Tell us more about how you come up with ideas for your videos
HJ: The longer I think about something, the more it won't happen. I try to just do sh*t, time and time I find myself overthinking things and I find myself in bed not getting sh*t done. So I try to be spontaneous and free. The most productive days consist of me just doing sh*t.
B: In your opinion what does it take to make a successful brand?
HJ: Being myself. When people ask me that, I feel like any brand can be successful if you trust yourself. Thats the hardest thing for people to grasp. You can figure out a way to sell anything. In our generation, HENNything can be done. We see everything from musicians copying the sound of other musicians to gorillas being as big as Kanye West—RIP to Harambe. Your brand is whatever the f*ck you want it to be, you can literally be anything.
B: What advice do you have for creatives who struggle with trusting their own ideas?
HJ: F*ck it. Thats the thought process you should have. Whenever you think its too hard, or too much, or too different, f*ck it. I'm guilty of this as well. Stop thinking about it and just do it, cause while you're busy thinking about it, someone else is out there doing it.
B: You have a great sense of self. Tell us more about how you've cultivated that.
HJ: This is a HENNteresting question, I spend a lot of time alone. And I feel like that's the best time you can spend to find yourself. And when you spend a lot of time alone, no matter how old you are, it allows you to find yourself. I had a lot of time to reflect.
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