From MTV to M-Lisada: How My Career Led Me To Africa

Photo: (Malika Quemerais)

Photo: (Malika Quermerais)

By Malika Quemerais

Malika works in the talent department at MTV and is taking a sabbatical for several weeks to travel and learn in Africa. Here’s the start of her inspiring journey.

First, let me say how excited I am to have been given the opportunity to take you on my journey as I travel and work in Kampala, Uganda, this summer.

Photo: Malika with the cutest girl in the world, Adikini. (Malika Quemerais)

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My hope is that you will get to have a little window into my world and see what’s like to work for MTV, what it means to really believe in music and its power to change people’s lives, and how if you really put your mind to it, you can achieve just about anything.

Like many people, I grew up watching MTV and wanted nothing more than to be inside the walls of “Total Request Live” (TRL), watching how it all went down. Watching that show each day, every week, was how I came to fall in love with MTV and how I knew I wanted to work here.

How did I end up here? I had interned here the summer before my senior year at McGill University. To this day, I am convinced that without the internship, I never would have gotten my foot in the door. I was not one of those people who had “connections” or “knew someone who knew someone” so it was based on my internship alone. So if you get anything from this post, let it be that: INTERN! And just don’t intern for the sake of interning. Make it count. Work hard, make a good impression, and appreciate the fact that you get to be within the walls of the place you have dreamed of — whether it is MTV or elsewhere.

About two years into my time at MTV, I started to notice that musicians were increasingly joining foundations or creating their own to lend their status to improving the lives of people, animals and places. I found the notion of using one’s power and talent for social good to be really fascinating, and decided I wanted to know more about how and why celebrities got involved with certain issues, and how the organizations that benefited from this “celebrity currency” operated on a daily basis.

I have always been the type of person who strives to see the full picture, not just a piece of it, so when the relationship between celebrity, music and cause piqued my interest, I knew I had to learn more.

Photo: Some pretty happy students at M-Lisada (Malika Quemerais)

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This ultimately led me to enter into a Master’s program in non-profit management at the New School in New York City. With the full support of my department and the rest of the company, I embarked on what will soon be a three-year journey toward earning my Master’s degree.  Working full-time and going to graduate school has been anything but easy, and I have had my share of sleep-deprived days and nights, but it has all led me here. And by here, I mean Uganda!

So you’re probably wondering how this happened, right? Well, this past spring, I was lucky enough to be offered a scholarship to finish my Master’s thesis in Kampala, Uganda, and to work with an organization called the M-Lisada Children’s Home. The org teaches orphaned children how to play instruments as a way to build their self-esteem, help them to express themselves, and, most importantly, give them a sense of pride.  Throughout my graduate career I have been studying that intangible link between music and changing the world. I realized how strong this connection is from working at MTV, and now I get to see what it looks like, feels like and smells like in its purest form: when children are introduced to the creation of music for the very first time and it transforms their lives. The positive influence that music has here at M-Lisada is palpable — and man, are these kids talented.

Photo: Students at M-Lisada showing off their skills! (Malika Quemerais)

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So I hope you will join me on this exciting ride as I work for M-Lisada for the next few weeks and explore the power of music halfway across the world! Stay tuned for more updates from me as I wrap my head around this incredible, new adventure!

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Check Out M-Lisada

Check Out M-Lisada

M-Lisada is focused on reducing the number of children living on the streets in Uganda through education and music.

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Malika's Tumblr

Malika's Tumblr

Follow MTV employee Malika's inspiring and exciting journey in Africa to make an impact.