5 Questions With VH1 Save The Music’s Henry Donahue

Over the last 20 years, the VH1 Save The Music Foundation has provided millions of dollars in funding to music education programs at more than 2,000 public schools across the U.S.

We recently talked with Henry Donahue, vice president and executive director of the Foundation, about the positive impact the organization is having on students’ lives and how it’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Here’s what Donahue has to say about his work with VH1 Save The Music Foundation:

Created by Viacom Catalyst.

The BET Awards: A Star-Studded and Socially Conscious Celebration

As host of this year’s BET Awards, comedian Leslie Jones had a vision for what she wanted the night to be.

Leslie Jones at the BET Awards in Los Angeles, June 25, 2017

“BET was the first network and place where I was on TV,” said Jones in a press release. “I am looking to turn this whole experience into a joyful homecoming.”

This year’s ceremony, which took place at Staples Center in Los Angeles, brought recording artists, athletes and actors together for an unabashedly jubilant reunion. Among the top talent in black entertainment present this year were Bruno Mars, Solange Knowles, Chance The Rapper and all six members of New Edition.

It was both a raucous party and tender family reunion, as you can see from these highlights:

Beyoncé shouts out her family, BET and “BeyHive” after winning five awards

Last year, Beyoncé stunned fans with a riveting, elemental BET Awards performance, dancing through fog, fire and water alongside Kendrick Lamar. The superstar did things a bit differently this year, opting to stay home with her newborn twins and enjoy the BET Awards from afar. She nonetheless still won a whopping five BET Awards—more than any other performer.

Her protégés, Atlanta sister-duo Chloe x  Halle (Chloe and Halle Bailey) accepted the Viewer’s Choice Award on her behalf, and delivered her acceptance speech.

“Thank you BET for this award and your tremendous support of Lemonade,” wrote Beyonce. “This has been a journey of love, of celebrating our culture, honoring the past, and approaching the present and future with hope and resolve.”

Watch the full speech:

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The Next Normal, AV Cues & Fans’ Brains, South African Youth: Viacom Global Insights Digest, August Edition

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Welcome to the August issue of the Viacom Global Insights Digest, bringing you Viacom’s latest consumer insights from around the world.

This month, we unveil our latest project, The Next Normal: Rise of Resilience, as well as new research on how emotions influence viewing decisions, the effect of audio-visual cues on fans’ brains, and young adults in South Africa.

As always, the English version of our blog is home to these stories and many more. All stories are available in Spanish (LatAm) and Portuguese (Brazilian).

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Helping Immigration, Child Services, Hunger and Homelessness – Viacom, Catchafire Celebrate another Successful Year Collaborating

This spring, Viacom teams collaborated with nonprofit organizations from across the country and donated their time and skills through Talent for Good, Viacom’s skills-based volunteering program. These efforts culminated on July 10 when Viacom and Catchafire welcomed members from these four amazing nonprofits alongside the employees who volunteer with them in a celebration at Viacom’s New York headquarters.

This event, organized and hosted by Viacommunity, united everyone to share their experiences and celebrate their achievements. Adam Robinson, director of Corporate Social Responsibility, kicked the event off with a toast.

“Talent for Good gives our employees the opportunity to build and sharpen their skill-sets, and give back to the community in a much needed and impactful way,” Robinson said.

Adam Robinson, director of Viacom Corporate Social Responsibility, kicked off a Talent for Good partner event with a toast.

The first group to speak at the luncheon was a team of Viacom employees discussing how they banded together to create a pitch deck for L.A. based homeless youth shelter My Friend’s Place. As a native New Yorker, I felt a personal connection to this particular Talent for Good project. Manhattan, much like other large metropolitan areas, is riddled with homelessness. I see sleeping bags filled with tired bodies and men holding out cups filled with coins every day on my way to work in Times Square.

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Creating Reel, Impactful Films with Viacom and Reel Works

Any professional filmmaker will tell you that creating original films is a challenging process that requires great effort and skill. One may assume, therefore, that young high school filmmakers would find it an enormous challenge to produce quality, original work. However, walking into Reel Works’ Reel Impact event at Viacom’s 1515 Broadway headquarters two weeks ago, audience members would never have guessed that the nine students presenting their original work were relatively new to the world of film.

Reel Works is a New York City based organization that immerses young people in filmmaking programs free of charge. In the Reel Impact program – which was recently launched through a partnership with Reel Works and Viacom – students create original films examining social issues of their choosing. A heavy emphasis is also placed on marketing and finding a target audience for the student films.  Participants are given the opportunity to conduct research through focus groups and interviews to determine which audience facets best fit the social topics of their choosing. A mentor guides students through the filmmaking and post-production processes, covering everything from concept through promoting their films via social media.

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Jim Jefferies Thinks We Can All Do Better

I became familiar with Australian comedian Jim Jefferies after a college roommate showed me his now infamous 15-minute-long diatribe on gun control. It was a sarcastic, evidence-laden lecture teasing Americans for our wanton adoration of firearms.

“I am all for your Second Amendment rights,” said Jefferies. “I think you should be able to have guns – it’s in your Constitution. What I am not for is bullshit arguments and lies. There is one argument and one argument alone for having guns: F&%k off – I like guns! It’s not the best argument, but it’s all you’ve got.”

The New Yorker praised his “brilliant, hilarious, and astonishingly complete discussion” of the gun control debacle. Even pro-gun commentator Dan Zimmerman admitted, “This is best summary of the gun control lobby’s arguments that I have ever heard.”

GIF courtesy of Tumblr user Alan Macraffen.

GIF courtesy of Tumblr user Alan Macraffen.

Material like that propelled Jeffries career forward, and he is now part of Comedy Central’s stellar late-night roster, sitting behind the desk of The Jim Jefferies Show. Jefferies quips about politics, creates outlandish stunts and uses a mashup of news clips to highlight the ridiculous, repetitive buzzwords in mainstream news reports. One hilarious montage showed multiple news sources calling the GOP health bill “secretive,” leading to Jefferies’ astute conclusion that the bill is akin to the self-help pseudo-scientific book, The Secret.

Watch a clip:

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Viacom Signs Historic Legal Petition Defending LGBT Rights

No one deserves to be fired for their sexual orientation.

This is the logic behind Viacom and 49 other companies’ decision to sign a formal legal petition asking the U.S. 2nd  Court of Appeals to extend a federal law prohibiting employers from firing workers for being gay. This is the first time businesses have explicitly taken this position, according to Freedom for All Americans, a bipartisan campaign group that Viacom consulted with on this issue.

“All Americans deserve the right to go to work and provide for their families without having to fear that they might lose their job simply because of who they are,” said Freedom for All Americans Acting CEO Katie Belanger in an email to Viacom.

“Unfortunately, most states do not have laws explicitly prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT individuals. That is why this case is so important. We are grateful for the leadership of Viacom and the 49 other businesses who have called on the court to ensure the fair and equal treatment of gay and bisexual employees,” said Belanger.

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Get Schooled and DJ Khaled celebrate ‘Major Keys’ Success on Get Schooled’s Annual Yearbook Day

It was a digital yearbook thrust six stories over Times Square, with 400 high school students from 38 states grinning from the side of Viacom’s world headquarters. They had good reason to smile. These self-assigned “change makers” were about to be acknowledged by DJ Khaled for their commitment to improving their schools and communities.

Khaled Key Day – as the whole activation was dubbed – was part of Get Schooled’s Yearbook Day. In particular, they acknowledged the impact of the Shorty Award-winning Major Keys campaign and honored Khaled’s role in helping it to flourish. The program – which challenges students to master seven “Major Keys,” or focus areas via Get Schooled’s gamified online interface – has been immensely successful, reaching more than 250 million people in just the past year.

While the digital yearbook photos flashed on the billboard outside, several New York City area high school students piled into Viacom’s studio inside to watch a catered question-and answer session between Khaled and radio host Sway Calloway. The students waved their “Grateful Khaled Keys” in the air and learned a bit more about the program’s Keys to Success.

“I’ve never really experienced anything like this before,” one student told Complex. “Everyone’s really excited and hyped up, and I’m excited to be here. It showed me that you can be who you are, and I’ve always struggled with that, so learning to be myself has gotten me to where I want to be when I graduate.”

Students also shared their aspirations and accomplishments with Khaled. “I am grateful for the positive impact we have had on so many young people and even more grateful for their talent and leadership,” said Khaled. “I am excited to work with Get Schooled to inspire and engage even more young people next year.”

#GRATEFUL #JUNE23RD 🔑 bless up @getschooled

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled) on

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VH1 Celebrates 20 Years of Saving the Music with 20 Custom Gibson Guitars

Those passing in and out of Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters throughout June found a collection of Gibson Les Paul guitars nestled in a sunlit corner of the lobby. The exhibit flows effortlessly with the building’s groovy aesthetic, and could easily be an installation at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It’s the brainchild of VH1 Save The Music Foundation, executed in collaboration with Art at Viacom and over 40 renowned visual artists and musicians.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of VH1 Save The Music, the artists worked in pairs to create 20 stunning, ornate instruments—enough to make any music fiend, art collector or investor swoon. And they will get their chance to do more than just admire them when VH1 Save The Music auctions off these guitars in October, partnering with Julien’s Auctions Los Angeles as part of their Idols & Icons: Rock and Roll sale. The proceeds are expected to fund musical instruments for at least 30 school band programs in the U.S.

Until then, these guitars are on tour—starting at Viacom headquarters and touring the New York-metro area until the fall, so fans and admirers can appreciate the majestic endeavor.

The Gibson installation at Viacom Headquarters. Photo by Bart Stadnicki.

I spoke with VH1 Save The Music Executive Director Henry Donahue to learn more about what promoted this massive, creative collaboration, and what he hopes to achieve with such campaigns.

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5 Questions with Baywatch’s Priyanka Chopra

There’s so much to love about Baywatch. The surf, the sand, the slo-mo. After Paramount’s adaptation of the hugely popular show came to the big screen in May, we posed “5 Questions” to actress Priyanka Chopra. Hear her talk about what it was like working on the film, how Baywatch has become such a global phenomenon, and what’s behind the drama between her character, Victoria Leeds, and super lifeguard Mitch Buchannon, played by Dwayne Johnson.

Watch the discussion below:

Created by Viacom Catalyst.