“The Shop” Brings Ibtihaj Muhammad, Aldis Hodge and Darren Brand to N.C. A&T

By East L Dockery / 11/13/2023 Alumni, Students

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Nov. 13, 2023) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University hosted “The Shop” for the last stop of their HBCU Tour during the university’s 97th homecoming.

“The Shop” is the marquee franchise from LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s The SpringHill Company with an Emmy Award-winning unscripted show co-created by Paul Rivera and Randy Mims. Each episode is a barbershop experience featuring authentic conversations with various athletes and entertainers from around the world.

Guests for the taping at N.C. A&T were hosts Maverick Carter and Paul Rivera alongside fencer and Olympic bronze medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad, actor and activist Aldis Hodge and decorated entertainer Darren “Big Baby” Brand ‘07.

“Partnering with HBCUs to do a live tour was the easiest decision we’ve ever made at our company,” said Paul Rivera, co-creator of The Shop. “That’s because our entire foundation at The SpringHill Company and The Shop is one of empowerment and we feel empowerment starts with our own community. We wanted to make sure we came out to HBCUs to have live, two-way dialogue between people that come from where we come from and look how we look.”

The taping, hosted by Carter and Rivera in Harrison Auditorium, consisted of a conversation centered on faith and what the path to success looked like for each panelist.

Muhammad, the first Muslim American woman to wear a headscarf while competing for the United States in the Olympics – as well as for winning an Olympic medal while wearing it – offered her perspective of being a Black woman in a predominantly white field. She discussed how that experience developed her into the woman she is today and gave her the freedom to find her true passion and discover other interests, such as becoming an author and developing her own fashion brand, Louella by Ibtihaj.

“I think it’s OK (that) you may not know what your ‘why’ is,” said Muhammad. “You have the pen, and you get to write your own story.”

Hodge discussed his journey from beginning his acting career at 3 to maintaining and achieving even greater success. A Screen Actors Guild Award-winning actor, he has played significant roles such as MC Ren in the 2015 biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” Hawkman in the DC Comics film, “Black Adam,” and Alec Hardison in the TNT series “Leverage.” At 37, he said, he is just now understanding what it means to truly love himself.

“Learn to love yourself as much as you possibly can, unfathomably, where you create full armor and no one can penetrate it,” said Hodge. “Your struggles are temporary, but you are not.”

Brand, who has had success as a TV personality on the MTV series “Wild ‘N Out” and has done multiple stand-up comedy tours, discussed how A&T gave him a platform to find his niche and explore his talents. He encouraged students to follow their dreams and use social media to showcase their talents. 

“Your friends and family don’t have to believe in your dreams. You do,” said Brand. “We get so discouraged when your friends don’t support you, when your family doesn’t support you, when all actuality is it’s your life. So, believe in yourself.”

Brand, who credits A&T for his success, said it was surreal to return to his alma mater as a guest for The Shop taping.

“I can honestly say my success came because I chose this university and the people I met, the people who instilled positive energy in me and positive thoughts and made me believe in myself,” he said. “It feels good. It feels like I’ve come full circle.”

Caulin Avery, a junior from Atlanta who is studying journalism and mass communications with a concentration in mass media, attended the taping and participated in the activation that took place beforehand.

“I love all three of the special guests that came, and they gave really good tips about life advice and how their story impacted them,” he said. 

The activation, supported by AT&T Dream in Black, Toyota and Twix, offered students activities such as custom T-shirt printing, free haircuts and fun photo moments. The more than 300 students who attended were able to receive bags of free Twix, participate in a basketball shooting game and purchase limited edition The Shop HBCU merchandise. 

“I would tell you the support has been amazing,” said Rivera. “I wasn’t going to say this on record, but I will: The Aggie nation that came out and supported us blew us away. It’s by far the best stop to date.”

With the success that was achieved with the HBCU tour stops at A&T, Tennessee State University, and Hampton University, The Shop sees potential in getting back on the road to visit other HBCUs in the future.

“I think The Shop really feels at home on HBCU campuses,” said Rivera. “It’s all about having those conversations for the next generation so we’d love to explore not only coming back to some of the universities we came to on this tour but exploring other universities as well in the future.”

The recording of “The Shop UNINTERRUPTED” that was taped during A&T’s homecoming will be available to stream on Friday, December 8 exclusively on the UNINTERRUPTED YouTube Channel

Media Contact Information: eldockery@ncat.edu

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